Real Estate Clubs Connect Students with Industry Pros, Inspire Careers

Real Estate Clubs Connect Students with Industry Pros, Inspire Careers

The Center for Real Estate Studies supports growing student clubs in New Brunswick and Newark

The skyline in the city of Newark
Photo: Arthur Paxton

'It started with an interest in the history of Newark and the pieces kind of fell together in the right way.'
– Kai Cogsville

As a Newark resident, Kai Cogsville looked around a few years ago at the buildings being renovated and new ones rising and wanted to know more about them, especially in the context of the city’s distinct history.

“There were no classes where we could learn about the real estate market,” says Cogsville, a senior majoring in history with a minor in entrepreneurship in the College of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-Newark. So he asked the late Rutgers Professor Clement Price, the well-known Newark historian (and his godfather), to help him learn more about Newark’s buildings, old and new. Price opened his chock-full Rolodex for Cogsville and introduced him to several real estate professionals to help him start a Rutgers-Newark real estate club for other like-minded students.

“Students would come onto campus, see a 100-unit building going up and wonder, ‘who’s behind it, what’s the story?’ ” Cogsville says. “I thought a club would be a cool networking tool for students.”

In the past three years, the club has invited real estate professionals to talk about their experience at three to four well-attended events a semester. The connections have helped some of the 20 club members secure internships while piquing others’ interest in the business. Yousef Khalil was so inspired that the accounting major set a goal to buy his first investment property after graduating in December and going to work at Cohn Reznick.

Soaking up advice from real estate leaders, including PrimeLerner Companies’ Gerard Barrett, Hoboken developer George Vallone and Samer Hanini of the Hanini Group – developer of the Hotel Indigo in Newark and the firm bringing a Whole Foods to the renovated former Hahne & Co. building – Khalil is buying a multi-family house in East Orange, where he’ll live and rent two units. “I’ve already learned a lot about lenders, closing costs, regulations with the city, inspectors. I learned how to value a property by doing market research and observing surrounding developments,” Khalil says.

The students were ahead of their time, or right on time, depending on how you look at it. Their club efforts dovetailed nicely with the opening of the Center for Real Estate Studies at Rutgers Business School (RBS) 18 months ago by Ronald M. Shapiro, executive director. The center is co-chaired by Carl J. Goldberg and James E. Hanson and is developing a real estate curriculum. Students are taking the first undergraduate and graduate real estate finance classes this semester in the nascent curriculum planned by Morris A. Davis, the Paul V. Profeta Chair of Real Estate and the center’s academic director.

Additional courses in real estate development and valuation will be offered in fall 2015. Shapiro says that the center is planning two real estate student career fairs at the end of April and a major real estate conference on May 1.

"We have excellent relationships in the real estate industry,” Shapiro says.  “We’re bringing in high-profile, experienced real estate leaders and executives who have decided to connect themselves with the real estate program at RBS. Members of the center’s executive committee and industry leaders who work in all sectors of the real estate industry are meeting one-on-one with RBS real estate students, mentoring and advising them on careers, jobs and internship programs.

real estate club
Members of the Rutgers-Newark real estate club – Omar Obdelrahim, Yousef Khalil, Kai Cogsville and Nate Hitchcock – on a tour of the Indigo Hotel in Newark.
Photo: Courtesy of Kai Cogsville
Meanwhile, the center is guiding and helping fund the student real estate clubs in Newark and in New Brunswick. Lee Konviser, a senior finance major who is taking the real estate finance class, founded the New Brunswick club in the fall semester after completing an internship with American Realty Capital. The $3,000 contributed by the center has helped the club of 20 students pay for meetings with industry experts and take trips into Manhattan for property tours of newly developed commercial properties. “We got insight into why they chose to buy the building, what it takes to renovate a building, and how to take it from partially occupied to fully occupied,” he says.

The East Brunswick resident has been interested in real estate since he watched his grandfather transform a house in the Poconos, breaking down walls and adding bedrooms, doing the work by himself over three months. He is drawn to the stories attached to structures. “People are living and working in these buildings,” he says. “You affect lives directly.”

This spring, the New Brunswick club is hosting speakers from Prudential Real Estate Investors; Michael Schonberger, an adjunct professor who has taught real estate finance at Rutgers for several years; and a panel of real estate professionals who will discuss real estate topics.

In Newark, Cogsville is happy that the group he and an interested band of campus entrepreneurs started will live on, thanks to the university center.

“It started with an interest in the history of Newark and the pieces kind of fell together in the right way,” Cogsville says. With the Center for Real Estate Studies offering its help and guidance, this is a club that’s going to keep on growing and getting bigger.”