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By Tricia Philip-Rao
The Paul Milstein Center sat down with Nicole Atoyan ’17 to discuss her entrepreneurial spirit, leading J-Term students in the REA, and her favorite restaurant in New York. Nicole is Vice President for January Term in the Real Estate Association (REA). Prior to CBS, she worked at IDS Real Estate Group in Los Angeles.
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
Two years after finishing my undergraduate program, I began researching MBA programs. I developed an entrepreneurial idea that intersected finance with senior housing and health care real estate: a space I’m very excited about. I knew a top-tier MBA program would help me advance this idea into a business model. I began researching MBA programs with strong real estate curricula. I also spoke with alumni who launched successful real estate ventures with partners they found at CBS. After comparing programs and speaking with at least a dozen students from each school that interested me, it was obvious that students at CBS had a better academic experience and a better community.
Tell us more about your role and position in the Real Estate Association.
As the Vice President of January Term for the Real Estate Association, I ran the organization during the summer semester and I’m currently preparing the kick-off events for the incoming January term students. My favorite events during the summer semester were the tour of the Empire State Building with Jones Lang LaSalle, the asset’s broker, and the meeting with Marty Burger of Silverstein Properties followed by the tour of the World Trade Center towers with Silverstein’s Chief Marketing Officer.
Are you a member of other student organizations? If so, which? Do you hold any other officer positions?
In addition to my role on the board of the REA, I am co-president of the Christian Business Fellowship (CBF) which is a weekly Bible study led by and for CBS students. I’m also the VP of Curriculum for the Public Speaking Association, an organization I feel is critical to the personal development of all CBS students!
What events or speakers have been most meaningful or impactful to you while in business school?
It’s impossible to choose a favorite guest speaker at CBS. Almost every speaker who visited my Real Estate Finance and Real Estate Transactions courses imparted practical wisdom that I put into practice now, even as an intern.
Describe your in-school internship. Role, responsibilities, highlights.
I’m currently interning at a boutique private real estate investment and operations firm in Midtown Manhattan where I build valuations for potential office and retail acquisitions. I’m sharpening my modeling skills, understanding the real estate acquisition and due diligence process, visiting potential acquisitions to refine my assumptions, and absorbing the nuances of the New York City market. I’m also enjoying learning from incredibly smart people!
How did your first year at CBS help prepare you for your internship experience?
During my first year, Real Estate Finance was critical to prepare me for my internship, but Global Economic Environment was equally helpful. I really like that real estate demands working knowledge of the local and global economic and political environments, market trends, knowledge of demographics and psychographics, and capital market trends. The asset class brings together so many disciplines and requires you to understand the interplay between them. I find that challenging and rewarding.
How do you define and measure success?
My experience as a Peer Advisor for the Class of 2018 helped me realize my personal definition of success. I measure success by the number of people I serve and the quality of our interaction. If I can say I’ve helped someone advance toward any of his/her goals, I’ve been successful.
What is your favorite restaurant in NYC?
My favorite restaurant in NYC is Almayass: delicious Middle Eastern food!
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
If I had a superpower, it would be to heal people.
What three words best describe you?
Three qualities that describe me are direct, ultra-competitive and appreciative of good practical jokes.
Tricia Philip-Rao is the Assistant Director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School. Prior to the Business School, Tricia worked in Faculty Support Services at Columbia Law School. She holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.