Alumni Power UVA Darden’s Expanded Real Estate Education Offerings
By Sally Parker
With a gift of $100,000, three alumni who have built successful careers in commercial real estate have started a fund to help University of Virginia Darden School of Business students with similar aspirations.
Scott Adams (MBA ’92), Tom Robinson (MBA ’73) and Anthony Smith (MBA ’87), partners in the Colliers International office in Norfolk, Virginia, made the collective gift to expand real estate education at Darden. They are hoping fellow alumni with interest in real estate will join them.
Fund goals include hiring a full-time faculty member and more professors of practice; peppering real estate cases across the curriculum in marketing, finance and other courses; cross-listing courses with other UVA schools; and capitalizing on Darden’s extensive global network with international treks.
The new gift builds on growing momentum in the real estate space for Darden. In 2019, David Walentas (MBA ’64) and his late wife, Jane, pledged to fund the new Walentas Professorship in Real Estate at the Darden School as part of a $100 million gift to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. Alex Westra (MBA ’12) also made a $100,000 gift to create the Westra Family Fund in Real Estate, which will advance Darden’s real estate offerings through the student experience, including stipends and enhanced career development support.
“This initiative is going to be huge because it legitimizes what Darden students are capable of accomplishing in the real estate industry,” says Chris Moore (Class of 2021), president of Darden’s Real Estate Club. “It opens up the doors to much more than what we’ve already accomplished.”
Darden’s Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management started the process last year by bringing the School’s real estate activities under its umbrella. Alternative assets, including real estate, are garnering more attention from investors, “and students are increasingly interested in pursuing careers in alternative investments,” says Rodney Sullivan, the center’s director.
The Real Estate Club is the hub for some 40 students exploring real estate careers. For years, members have paid their way for case competitions, treks and training in Argus, the industry’s standard financial-modeling software. Last year, the Mayo Center started covering these costs, creating a way in for more students to get involved.
Darden students consistently places among the top teams at case competitions.
“For a small real estate program to compete against others that have true concentrations or even majors is really great,” Smith says. “So the ability to support them in attending and preparing for these case competitions is important.”
Smith teaches Darden’s real estate course, “Introduction to Real Estate Finance and Development.” Beginning in the spring, he will teach a second course, “Hot Topics in Commercial Real Estate,” covering trends such as affordable housing, environmental sustainability and mixed-use projects.
Pathways for Diversity
Building the fund would mean opening the door wider to opportunities that many students may not have considered, Adams says. This could have meaningful implications for both students and donors.
“A lot of students haven’t been exposed to real estate through their families or as undergrads,” Adams says. “By having more class offerings, we may invite a broader diversity of students — male and female, different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Potential donors may look at it as a talent pipeline opportunity for their own businesses.”
While philanthropy will fuel the new fund, alumni can contribute in other ways — sharing lessons learned in case studies or becoming a mentor in their niche, for example.
“We’re looking for ways to take real estate to the next level at Darden,” Smith says.
The time is ripe, says Adams, who co-led the Real Estate Club and took the real estate class when Smith’s father, Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA ’58), taught it in the early 1990s.
“We’re building the bridge to find ways to pay it forward to the next generation of Darden students,” Adams says.
For more information about the real estate initiative, contact Rodney Sullivan at SullivanR@darden.virginia.edu.
To support the real estate education fund, contact Corley Raileanu at RaileanuC@darden.virginia.edu.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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