The City Where it Happens

George Washington University capitalizes on its locale to bring students a one-of-a-kind undergraduate experience.

By: Helena Madden

Location, location, location. An age-old real estate mantra, sure, but one that holds true not just for the tried-and-true house hunt, but for the industry’s educators as well. Just ask the good people at George Washington University (GW).

“Our campus is the most strategically located in the country,” said Robert J. Valero, executive director of GW’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis (CREUA), which is part of the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB). “We’re three blocks from the White House, and on the other side of our campus is the State Department, right in the heart of Washington D.C.”

And it’s hardly a bad place to be, as D.C. boasts a historically strong real estate market. So it’s perfect for a program like GW’s—one that offers coursework for both graduates and undergraduates.

“We’ve always had graduate level real estate courses at GW,” Valero added. “But around 2010 and 2011, we started to see new demand from undergraduates, so we opened up some of our graduate level courses to them.”

This demand for undergraduate real estate coursework eventually led to the launch of GW’s undergraduate real estate concentration, which to this day includes many graduate classes. In the interest of an interdisciplinary, holistic education, the concentration also offers finance courses, as well as electives in geography, architecture, international business and sustainability.

GW’s program specializes in the study of walkable, mixed-use urban development. And, not-so-coincidentally, the D.C. area happens to be a leader in this space. This allows students to practice what they preach (or hear in the classroom) by going on site visits in the city and its neighboring suburbs. In the past, students have even helped inform and advise bids in downtown D.C.

Additionally, thanks to the robust real estate marketplace in both D.C. and New York City, many of GW’s alumni stay close to home. This unlocks a powerful network for students, in an industry where networking and connections are key.

“We spend a lot of time connecting students with alumni in the real world,” Valero noted. “For example, we offer two mentorship programs—one for juniors and one for sophomores. These programs are very competitive, as they provide students with a number of alumni mentors. It’s a boot camp of sorts, one that offers technical and behavioral training and interview prep—overall, it allows mentees to open up their rolodexes and connect with others in the professional world.”

Even on-campus, GW is rife with networking opportunities. For instance, the university offers a “day in the life” series where alumni can come speak with students about their day-to-day in their professional world. In addition, GW coordinates frequent “lunch and learn” sessions, whcih bring students into an office and amidst working real estate professionals.

“Our alumni have been terrific about mentoring students, engaging students and hiring students,” said Valero. “And it’s very easy to engage with them, as many are just a few blocks away from our campus.”

And it’s all in the spirit of preparing students for the real world of real estate. Having an interdisciplinary degree, especially one that allows students to participate in graduate courses at an undergraduate level, can certainly give them an advantage.

“The bottom line of our program is that we have a great location, we do cutting-edge research and we provide students with a ton of opportunities outside the classroom in terms of networking,” Valero concluded. “We really try to make the program very holistic, so it’s not just inside the classroom, but in the real world.”

For more information, please visit creua.business.gwu.edu.

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