My Incredible Related Scholar Experience Thus Far
On July 31, 2020, I was sitting in an auditorium waiting for the high school graduation ceremony to begin. I was shocked when my phone rang (I almost never received phone calls) from a number I didn’t recognize. It was the Ross School of Business informing me that I was accepted into the Related Scholar Program.
Looking back, I realize that I did not know a lot about real estate or what the Related Scholar experience would entail when I accepted the offer that day. However, I would soon learn about this unique program — which includes a full-ride scholarship — and what opportunities it would allow me to pursue while a BBA student at Michigan Ross.
About the Related Scholar Program
Established by a major gift to Michigan Ross, the Related Scholar Program creates a cohort of students who are pursuing a real estate career. With support from the Weiser Center for Real Estate at Ross, scholars attend informational events about the industry and network with current real estate professionals and leaders, which opens the door for them to understand the industry more broadly. They are also supported in their search for internship positions across the industry, including with Related Companies, the largest private real estate company in the world, located in New York City.
When people think about real estate professionals, many may think about popular TV shows like Fixer Upper or Selling Sunset. However, these shows provide a narrow view of an incredibly broad sector. Real estate is just as diverse as business itself. In my time as a Related Scholar, I have met a swath of people who are considered real estate professionals. This includes lawyers who specialize in zoning laws, marketers advertising for condominiums, and developers who double as construction workers. I have learned they all concentrate on different aspects of the real estate industry.
This concept was illuminated during a Related Scholar Real Estate tour I went on with others in my cohort that was organized by the Weiser Center. During this event, Scholars walked through Ann Arbor and learned more about the development of various buildings and restaurants. Our guide was Marc Norman, former faculty director of the Weiser Center, and he highlighted the many people that were involved in the development and management of each property. Each building is touched by city officials, construction workers, leasing agents, and owners. Everyone must perform their role to make a property successful.
By being able to view different aspects of real estate, I learned that I was highly interested in real estate law. I enjoy the intersection between government regulations and real estate. The government heavily influences where buildings are constructed and how they are developed. For example, the government offers tax advantages for apartment buildings that offer affordable housing options. Due to this, it’s common to see affordable housing in expensive neighborhoods. Private real estate companies make decisions based on the tax advantages available. Both government and private companies shape the communities we live in. It’s fascinating to know how and why certain decisions are made!
My internship with Related Companies in NYC
This past summer, I participated in the Related Internship Program after being awarded the Blau Internship Scholarship through the Weiser Center. I was interested in the internship because of its broad scope. Interns were able to shadow various teams at Related. I liked that I could learn more about various niches within real estate. I was able to meet members of the finance, marketing, asset management, and development teams. I was even allowed to ask them questions about their roles. My favorite team was asset management. Real estate managers are given a budget and must decide what upgrades are necessary. They learn and supply tennant needs based on their budget. It was interesting to learn which choices gain priority and why.
The part of the internship I enjoyed most was the group interviews. Interns were able to meet with leaders at Related Companies and ask them questions. Each one offered so much wisdom I will remember for the entirety of my career. My favorite session featured Jeff Blau, BBA ’90, the CEO of Related. He talked about his experience investing in real estate while an undergraduate student at Michigan Ross. As a student, he introduced himself to then CEO Stephen Ross, BBA ’62, at the annual Real Estate Conference held at our business school every year. After this initial meeting, Ross became Blau’s personal mentor and boss. Blau was named CEO of Related when Ross took on the role of chairman 22 years later. This story heavily resonates with me. Blau started investing in Ann Arbor, but now oversees the most powerful real estate firm in New York. Additionally, it’s inspiring that Blau met his future mentor through a Ross event. The Ross community has always been an inspiration to me. Their success has challenged me to work harder and become a better student. Blau’s career has particularly influenced me because his career interests are very similar to mine. Attending his interview and hearing his life story was very rewarding.
Adding to my experience in the Michigan Ross BBA Program
From my journey so far, I believe the uniqueness of the Related Scholars Program cannot be undervalued. This program has improved my BBA experience at Michigan Ross by offering action-based learning within the real estate industry and providing access for students to learn and network from professionals who inspire them. I will always have fond memories of the people I met and the properties I learned about.