- MBA Real Estate Program
- Research & Media
- Areas of Research
- Public Policy Proposals
- Debt Relief and Real Economy
- Executive Education
What inspired you each to run for co-president of the REA, and how did you decide to join up as a team?
Jessica Rosner: Lisa and I were introduced by another CBS student during the first week of orientation because we both were interested in real estate. Within a few weeks’ time, we were good friends and not shortly after that knew we were going to run for co-president of the Real Estate Association together. It was something I personally knew I wanted to do to not only make the most out of my experience at CBS, but also to add value to other people’s experiences as well.
Lisa Weingarten: During my first year at Columbia Business School (CBS), I benefited immensely from the events/programming hosted by the Real Estate Association (REA) and the Paul Milstein Center. With programming centered on financial modeling training, opportunities to network with alumni/industry leaders and social events with peers interested in real estate, you could generally find me at an REA event. My goal running for co-president was to build on the existing momentum from our predecessors (Federica Burelli ’20 and Jason Segal ’20) and provide valuable professional and social opportunities for MBA students interested in real estate. I believe the best way to do that is to leverage all the talented people within the REA. I also ran for co-president with the goal to empower the board and general members to run with their ideas to create the best organization possible.
Jess and I have well-balanced backgrounds and skills. Jess came to CBS as a career switcher coming from a background in entrepreneurship, whereas I had experience in the real estate industry working in real estate development and asset management. During our first year, Jess served on the REA Board as AVP of Careers and I had leadership roles in other organizations at CBS, such as serving as Cluster Chair and AVP of the Government and Business Club. We took every class together in our second semester and proved that we could continually work together effectively. We also shared a similar vision for the future of the REA. It was a no-brainer to run together.
What do you hope to accomplish this year?
JR: Our biggest emphasis is on education, and we have set up numerous trainings and information sessions to prepare all the students as much as possible for recruiting. This year in particular we also have new resources available to the club such as Wall Street Prep—much thanks to the Milstein Center; so our goal is to have first and second year students enter into internship and job recruiting as prepared and confident as possible. Also, we have a very engaged incoming class of first year students, so making make sure that we are all connecting and networking through this virtual world has become very important.
LW: Jess and I have ambitious plans for the REA, many of which are well underway. We want to prioritize education initiatives so, for example, career switchers can join the REA and be prepared to excel at their interviews for summer internships and full-time opportunities. Partnering with the VPs of Education, we are already in the process of adding excel modeling trainings, opportunities to access live deals/additional cases, and peer mentorship for guidance throughout the recruiting process.
We also aim to provide opportunities to give back to our community while we are gaining so much from our MBA experience. Jess and I have partnered with the founder of Project Destined, Cedric Bobo, to create a program in which REA members can volunteer their time. Project Destined connects REA members to serve as mentors to students at Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx and coach them through bi-weekly real estate case competitions. Jess and I are excited to serve as mentors ourselves this Fall.
Finally, we hope to keep up the momentum of the REA and all the incredible programming that is already in place. To do this, we need to execute a successful transition into a highly virtual environment. So far, we have found that much of the programming seamlessly translates to a virtual setting, but we will continue to get creative to make sure that our members benefit as much as possible from their experience.
What previous roles did you have in the REA or other student organizations?
JR: Last year I was AVP of Careers for the Real Estate Association. The role entailed reaching out to alumni and real estate companies to invite them to the career fair. It was a great experience to learn what companies students were interested in working at, and reach out to them and invite them to participate.
LW: During my first year at CBS, I was elected Cluster Chair of Cluster B’21 and served as an AVP for the Government & Business Club. I am excited to continue serving as Cluster Chair this year, VP of Finance for the Government and Business Club, and, as of this summer, Cluster Lead Peer Advisor for the incoming first years in Cluster B’22. My leadership roles at CBS have been an incredible opportunity to partner with peers to put together great programming and execute on our unique visions for each organization.
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
JR: Before business school, I owned a furniture store, A Charmed Life at Home, that I started right out of undergrad with just a credit card and with no experience. The store grew into a full home design center, and we went from selling furniture to selling everything for the home. We began working with real estate developers to design new construction projects, and very quickly realized we could also do this. The combination of my passion for real estate and having a very talented team of designers at ACL led us to renovate and build residential homes. Pretty quickly I started to realize there was only so much that could be self-taught, and I could greatly benefit from a formal real estate finance education at business school if I wanted to continue growing the business. It was clear to me CBS was my first choice for the real estate classes available as well as the entrepreneurial options, plus being in NYC. I have since sold the store, and through CBS been able to explore other opportunities to follow my passion.
LW: There is no better place in the world to prepare for and connect to New York real estate companies. I have been amazed at the access students get to industry leaders and companies. Not only do we get an incredible real estate education, we also get the broader lessons to learn how to be leaders in the industry.
Describe your summer internships. Role, responsibilities, highlights.
JR: I originally had recruited and accepted an offer, but the company had to cancel their summer internship program due to COVID. The turn of events ended up working in my favor, and I interned in development at Anchor Health Properties, an operator, owner and developer of medical facilities. I was able to work on many different projects that afforded me a well-rounded overview of the entire development process.
I worked on a multiple development projects at various stages, one being The Villages, the largest retirement community in the U.S. I also learned the ins and outs of RFP’s by analyzing their RFP process and creating a best practices guide to improve the process. In order to do this, I read through about 40 of their past RFP’s and used smartsheets to collect data that then generated a dashboard of different metrics and charts to easily understanding the information. I also learned the development process from start to finish through implementing Procore, a development project management software, to the entire development team. Lastly, I created an updated system to keep track of potential RFP Leads by moving the current process from Excel to smartsheets. This enabled the team to receive automatic emails to update documents before meetings and connect all data to a dashboard to easily understand potential revenues, potential leads by project manager, and next steps for potential leads.
LW: This summer, I worked for Hines in their (virtual) New York office. I joined the team working on the re-development of the existing building at One Madison Avenue on Madison Square Park and the development of a new tower above topping out at 26 stories. The project will span 1.4 million square feet and will house ground floor retail and commercial office. Working on a project of such scale with talented professionals was an incredible learning experience and re-affirmed my goal to work in real estate development in New York post-graduation.
How did your first year at CBS help you prepare for your internship experience?
JR: As everyone knows the core can be intense, and I realized what a great community and support system the other students at CBS were through those challenges. When I joined Anchor, I made an effort to get to know as many people at the company as possible and learn from them to add as much value as I could to my role.
LW: In short, skills enhancement, lessons from presentations from thought leaders and network building. CBS helped me refine and build my financial modeling skills and prepare for the trickiest technical interview questions, through both coursework as well as the events hosted by the REA and the Milstein Center. Industry leaders and real estate professionals were constantly on campus, sharing with us lessons from their careers and perspectives on the market. We built great connections with professionals across the industry and with our peers. Working together with other students on projects or simply preparing together for interviews also helped prepare me for my internship this summer.
In what ways do you expect your second year to differ from your first year? Both regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and as your second year in business school generally.
JR: I am really looking forward to this year. I have a bunch of real estate classes I am taking, as well as Launch Your Startup. Last year we built a subleasing app for students, and I am excited to continue to work on that this year. This year is about really exploring what I am passionate about and building upon that more.
In regard to COVID—I actually think this virtual world provides access to many more people and resources, so I plan to tap into that more.
LW: Lots and lots of Zoom. I prefer to see this as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage. We’re already finding that we can source exciting speakers from across the country that can easily dial in and share their stories. This virtual world also forces us to be more intentional about how we spend our time and maintain/build our relationships. Second year will also be more real estate focused for me in terms of coursework. I am taking four real estate classes this semester that I’m really excited about.
What is the best thing about living in NYC?
JR: It is hard to say only one thing, but right now I would have to say the food. I am vegan, and there are so many vegan restaurants in NYC—and that is not the same with other places. It is also the case with any type of food.
LW: The people. New York is such a vibrant multicultural city that attracts so many unique and fascinating people. Not only are these amazing people to get to know, they also bring the best food, art, and music from around the world. As a New Yorker I’m certainly biased, but my love for the city has only grown since joining the Columbia community.
Favorite place you’ve traveled?
JR: Also hard to choose just one place, but if I had to choose: Japan.
LW: During my time as an undergraduate at Cornell I was lucky enough to study for a semester in Florence, Italy and I fell in love with the city. The architecture is beautiful, and the city has such charm. I honestly still dream about the food and wine. I took a cooking and food/wine pairing class while I was there and got to bring a little bit of Italy home with me. I’m certainly not a professional but making home cooked pasta is a really fun activity to share with friends. I’ve traveled back to Italy since undergrad, and I still love it there. Once traveling is safe, I can’t wait to find a time to go back.
What three words describe you? And what three words describe your co-president?
JR: I would describe myself as determined, resilient and compassionate. I would describe my Co-President Lisa as assertive, charismatic, and ambitious.
LW: I would describe myself as driven, inclusive, and reliable. I would describe Jess as entrepreneurial, optimistic, and an empathic listener.