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Real Conversations features current MBA students discussing their experiences in the Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School and beyond…in their own words.
By Tricia Philip-Rao
The Paul Milstein Center recently sat down with Kenny Thompson ’19 to discuss what drew him to Columbia Business School, being a member of multiple student organizations, and his experience as a J-Term student. Kenny is Co-Vice President for Alumni and Mentorship in the Real Estate Association (REA).
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
I was drawn to the program because I knew from my previous work experience as a Real Estate lender that CBS students were highly thought of for post-MBA career opportunities across various subsectors of the industry. I knew this would be the most holistic Real Estate MBA experience in terms of coursework, networking opportunities, career development opportunities and student backgrounds. I also knew that CBS had a strong foundation supporting its Real Estate Program due to the strength of the Real Estate Association, the Paul Milstein Center and the broader CBS alumni network.
Tell us more about your role and position in the Real Estate Association.
As a VP of Alumni & Mentorship this upcoming year, I hope to continue the progress that has been made with our two mentorship initiatives—the First-Year/Second-Year Mentorship Program and the Alumni Mentorship Program. I love the REA because in my opinion, it is the most tight-knit career group on campus and much of that is driven by the interaction between first-year and second-year REA members as well as members in the EMBA program. We are also focused on continuing to engage our alumni through different events with a focus on increasing turnout among alumni that have graduated within the past five years.
Are you a member of other student organizations? If so, which? Do you hold any other officer positions?
My friends joke that I am way too many clubs (11 this past semester) but I really enjoy meeting different students and having access to great events, career opportunities and industry resources. In addition to my role in the REA, I will serve as the VP of Education for the Hospitality & Travel Association and the VP of Corporate Sponsorship for the Black Business Student Association this upcoming year. I am also a member of Columbia FinTech, Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization, Social Enterprise Club, Private Equity Club, Arts Society, Sports Business Association, Gourmet Club and Microbrew Society.
What events or speakers have been most meaningful or impactful to you while in business school?
The Real Estate Association sponsored a Chazen trip to Hong Kong and Shanghai over spring break which has been one of the most impactful experiences I have had in my time at CBS. We had an amazing lineup of speakers and site tours which gave us first-hand insight to the dynamic Chinese real estate market. My favorite speaker from our trip was Ronnie Chan of Hang Lung Properties who surveyed our perspective on other international markets—only to share his view that China presented the best investment opportunities throughout the globe if you can navigate the local bureaucracy. I also enjoyed building relationships with second-year and first-year Fall Term students that I hadn’t known previously and exploring Hong Kong and Shanghai with them.
Describe your experience as a J-Term student.
The J-Term class is incredibly international, and I learn so much from my classmates and their diverse experiences every day. Because our class is smaller than the Fall-entry class, I have come to know a large portion of our class in addition to becoming close to my cluster-mates in Cluster X19. Now that the summer semester is upon us, I see our class dynamic becoming even stronger through elective coursework, travel opportunities and abundant rooftop happy hours.
What is the best thing about living in NYC?
The food. My girlfriend and I love to try out new restaurants and have enjoyed exploring Upper West Side and Harlem spots now that we live in a new neighborhood.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
The power to stop time for an hour every day. Life can be so hectic, and it would be amazing to have an extra hour to myself every day to do things that I enjoy like read, work out, cook or even grab an extra hour of sleep.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my family and the love and support that they have bestowed on me throughout my life. I am extremely close with my parents and my brother Malcolm and I always enjoy the large family gatherings we have together.
What three words best describe you?
Positive, outgoing, proud
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
My dream is to lead a real estate investment platform that can make an impact in underinvested urban communities of color. Over the years, I have become more informed about controversial issues such as gentrification, public housing and the role of GSEs in the housing market that effect these communities. At the same time, I appreciate importance of being continually invested in the communities which we hope to improve. Ultimately, I hope that my work will reverse the trends of a widening wealth gap and diminishing access to capital in these communities.