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Weiser Center Continues to Break Barriers to Real Estate Industry

Group of students from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business holding a Michigan Ross maize and blue flag standing in a building in New York City.

In May, a cohort of 19 students from across campus traveled to New York City to participate in the third annual Real Estate Academy hosted by the Weiser Center for Real Estate and the Ross School of Business. This four-day immersion aims to break down barriers to entry in the real estate industry through networking, knowledge, and access.

The Academy is the premier program offered through the Blau Initiative for Diversity in Real Estate and Infrastructure. The Initiative was established by a $3.5 million gift from Jeff T. Blau, BBA ’90, the Related Companies’ chief executive officer, and is focused on creating access and practical experiences for students from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The week began at Related Companies, where students participated in individual resume reviews, speed networking, a financial modeling workshop, and explored potential internship opportunities with U-M alums. The two days were highlighted by a Q&A session with Blau and an excursion to the Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere.

Group of Michigan Ross students wearing hard hats standing outside of a building in New York City. Moving on to H.I.G Capital, students delved into an examination of a private equity acquisitions case study, deepening their understanding of real-world business strategies. The journey continued at Blackstone, where students gained invaluable insights from both seasoned veterans and emerging talents within the organization. Perspectives from senior and junior employees offered a comprehensive view of current projects and industry trends. Students then headed to Torchlight Investors where they were walked through a day in the life of several different roles. The trip also included a networking session alongside the Weiser Center’s esteemed Advisory Board members, marking a high point of connection and collaboration.

The final day of the trek was spent at Terminal Warehouse, where students donned hardhats for an exclusive tour hosted by L&L Development Group. The experience offered a tangible glimpse into the world of real estate development. The Academy concluded at Vornado Realty Trust's state-of-the-art Penn 2 building, providing a fitting conclusion to an exploration of real estate landscapes and professional prospects.

Building a Network and Making Connections

Throughout the four-day program, the cohort was introduced to an array of industry leaders and innovators who shared their knowledge and experiences and provided a comprehensive look at the industry. By connecting students to established professional networks, the Academy attempts to spark and cultivate students' interest in commercial real estate by increasing their understanding of the industry and building their confidence in navigating their academic and career pursuits.

“The Real Estate Academy was an eye-opening experience,” said Karthick Chitturi, BBA ’25. “I had some preliminary real estate knowledge from my classes, but to speak with and learn from industry professionals in the context of where they conduct business was a different experience. My favorite part of the trip was the networking session with the advisory board; it was my first time attending such an event and it was an amazing experience where I met many people with whom I hope I will cross paths again.”

Group of four male representatives from the Ross School of Business standing and wearing suits and smiling in New York City.

Gaining New Knowledge 

Throughout the experience, students engaged with both professionals and each other, forging bonds and sharing their personal goals and aspirations. 
“The NYC Real Estate Academy allowed our students to get introduced to a great collection of leading real estate companies and take away real life, practical skills while learning about current real estate issues in the economy,” said Bill Bubniak, BBA ’81, faculty director of the Weiser Center. “I was so proud of our students for the insightful questions they asked. They exemplify the leaders and best in real estate.”

Gaining Access

In shaping the next generation of real estate innovators, the Academy and the Weiser Center attempt to introduce students to the breadth and depth of the industry, including its intersections with factors like population trends, policy, and transportation, to create better communities. 

Group of Michigan Ross students sitting around a table in New York City.

“It was amazing how we got the opportunity to meet C-suite executives and people who had progressed extremely far into their career,” said Delisa Troupe, BBA ’27.  “I liked speaking with them about their career progress over time and how they got to where they are today. I also found it really helpful to gain an insider view into the culture of each company and how it was run.”

Through its emphasis on networking, knowledge dissemination, and access to industry powerhouses, the Academy aims not only to inspire but also to equip the next generation of real estate innovators with the tools and confidence to shape the future of the industry. By breaking down barriers to entry and providing a platform for growth, the Weiser Center's Real Estate Academy continues to pave the way for a diverse and dynamic landscape in commercial real estate, one student at a time.