Cornell Takes Second in UT–Austin National Real Estate Challenge

Baker UT Austin team

University of Austin staff join Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate students (third from left, from left to right) Farrell, Woodworth, Henderson, Lookman, Trussell, and Chao as they receive their second place award. photo / provided

February 1, 2016

In late November, students from the top real estate and M.B.A. programs in the country gathered at the University of Texas at Austin for the 13th annual National Real Estate Challenge.

Hosted by the McCombs School of Business, the competition puts teams head to head in a case-based real estate challenge presented in front of accredited professionals from leading real estate firms. Joining Cornell were teams from University of California–Berkeley, Chicago University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, MIT, Northwestern University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, University of Texas, UCLA, University of North Carolina, University of South Carolina, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin, and Yale University.

The Cornell team, comprised of students from the Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate and Johnson, beat out 18 other schools to place second. This is the best finish the Cornell team has achieved at the UT–Austin competition — Cornell placed fourth in 2013 and third in 2014.

The team was led by co-captains Annamaria Lookman (M.P.S. RE '16) and Will Woodworth '16. Team members included Ryan Chao (M.P.S. RE '16), Ben Trussell (M.P.S. RE/M.R.P. '16), Jason Henderson (M.P.S. RE '16) and Matt Farrell (M.B.A./M.P.S. RE '18). The team was coached by advisors Michael Tomlan, professor of city and regional planning; Brad Olson, senior lecturer emeritus in CRP; and Jon Minikes '60, J.D.'62. Additionally, John Strosser (M.B.A./M.P.S. RE '17) served as a team understudy, and will partner with Farrell as co-captain for next year's competition.

The case for this year's competition was prepared by investment managers at Invesco and involved the repositioning of two underperforming office assets. Cornell's response to the case centered on the potential of creative office conversions as a means of achieving opportunistic returns in the latter stages of the real estate cycle. The team received the case a week prior to the competition and had 72 hours to prepare and submit a response, including a finished slide presentation.

Once in Texas, they presented their case to a small panel of judges in a closed room before being chosen as one of four competition finalists, along with the universities of Wisconsin, Chicago, and Texas. A second presentation occurred in front of the full panel of competition judges and an audience of students and other real estate professionals. Judges included professionals from firms including Invesco, Lionstone Investments, Alliance Residential, Blackstone, Greystar, and Prudential Real Estate Investors.

The University of Texas won the competition, with the University of Chicago placing third, and the University of Wisconsin placing fourth.

—By Matthew Farrell (M.B.A./M.P.S. RE '18)

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