Seeking a way to introduce culturally diverse high school students to the study of commercial real estate, the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) has created a 12-day, in-residence course and welcomed 28 juniors and seniors to campus this past summer. Participants came from high schools in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.
To develop the program, which launched in July and will run again in summer 2020, CRE collaborated with the nonprofit NEXUS Summer Programs. The Real Estate Executive Council (REEC, a national trade association established to promote the interests of minority executives in commercial real estate) and NAIOP Massachusetts (the local office of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, formerly the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks), provided support to bring the student participants to campus.
“We exist to provide college-bound teens with the tools needed to thrive on campus,” says Ric Ramsey, founder of NEXUS Summer Programs. “Alongside a focus on both academic and career development, NEXUS also provides immersive experiences in self-discovery, including opportunities to build confidence and self-sufficiency away from home.”
In addition to learning about the fundamental aspects of commercial real estate, participants received SAT prep and presentation coaching from industry experts, and were introduced to the many career opportunities available within the industry. In their post-program evaluations, the student participants gave the program’s modules consistently high ratings.
“The NEXUS program is a critical component in helping our industry attract new talent from a diverse population,” says Reesa Fischer, executive director of NAIOP Massachusetts, “We were so impressed with the potential of these students and their enthusiasm about commercial real estate.”
Residential housing, hospitality, and commercial real estate development projects are booming in the Boston, Massachusetts area, largely in response to shopping trends and the shifting needs of area residents. In addition to traditional classroom instruction about commercial real estate, participants toured the sites of two local commercial development projects, organized by CRE alumni.
A tour of Hub on Causeway, a dynamic, mixed-use property at the original Boston Garden, was organized by Melissa Schrock MSRED ’12, vice president of development at Boston Properties. Closer to campus, Amanda Strong MSRED ’02, director of asset management for the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo), coordinated a tour of Kendall Square at MIT, the massive redevelopment project taking place on and adjacent to the MIT campus. The program also featured site tours of the Fenway by Samuels and Associates, a local development firm working in that area, that included a tour of Fenway Park.
In addition, Marcella Barriere MSRED ’13, a real estate project executive at Google, organized a tour of the corporate office and provided presentation space. After coaching, site tours, and discussion, the student teams formally pitched their commercial real estate project ideas to a panel of judges at Google headquarters.
The institutional collaboration enabled the participating organizations to advance shared goals. “REEC is very excited to have NAIOP and MIT join our efforts to transform the composition of the real estate industry,” says Kirk Sykes, the chairman of REEC’s board of directors.
“It was important for CRE to host NEXUS,” says Kelly Cameron, CRE’s career development officer. “We need culturally diverse students to see MIT as a viable school choice when it’s time to start applying to colleges and universities, but also to see commercial real estate as an actual career option — I think we accomplished both.”