Monday, August 23, 2010 Wisconsin Real Estate Viewpoint Blog
New MBA student welcome from our new Academic Director of the Real Estate MBA Program by Graaskamp Center Staff
Morris A. Davis, Associate Professor, Real Estate and Urban Land Economics at Wisconsin, is taking on a new role this year as the Academic Director for the Real Estate MBA Program. He met the new class of 2012 MBA students during orientation and shared these thoughts on their partnership with the Wisconsin Real Estate Tradition.
Welcome Class of 2012!

Here is my brief story: I was born in Philadelphia -- a long time ago. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993 with a degree in economics and stayed on at Penn to get my Ph.D., also in economics. I completed my studies in 1998 and took a job at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. After a brief sojourn to work for a small high-tech company in Reston, VA, I returned to the Fed in 2002 to take a position as Alan Greenspan’s housing analyst. I then left the Fed (again) in 2006 to join the Real Estate Department here at UW.

When the Real Estate group first approached me about the possibility of becoming a faculty member, I was honored to be considered. For two reasons. First, it is widely known among academics that the faculty here are the best in the world. Second, the study of real estate essentially started at Wisconsin. James Graaskamp is a name we know and admire, for the right reasons, but much of our current culture begins with Richard Ely. Ely started real estate studies at Wisconsin. Most importantly, Ely shaped our current value system. He would not back away from what he believed in – discovery and integrity – even in the face of long odds, in perhaps the best known episode of his life, being accused of “sedition” that could have lead to his dismissal from the university. Ely’s tenacity and greatness are inspirational.

Given this background, I view my new position as having two complementary objectives. First, I – rather we – must prepare you for the next step in your career ladder. Second, we must prepare you to be alums, and to assume and contribute to the tradition of Wisconsin Real Estate.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into these preparations. We must make sure you have a coherent course load that teaches you the basics of business while offering in-depth study of all facets of real estate theory and practice. We must provide you opportunities to study global business practices and to network with local and global business leaders. And we have to help you decide what the next stage of your career looks like, and help you plan to get there.

We must also teach the basics of what it means to be an alum of the Graaskamp Center. Respect. Honesty. Integrity. Values. Leadership. We did not become great because some otherwise forgettable people lucked into a few good deals. Our greatness comes from our history of outstanding human capital. Wisconsin Real Estate alumni are great men and women. I’ve met them, and they are leaders. They deserve and command respect in their business dealings because of their innovation in the field, their savvy in their deal-making and partnerships, and their integrity and their treatment of others in their business and personal lives.

So, we want to immerse you and your class in the basics of leadership, starting with dressing professionally inside Grainger Hall and on any Real Estate functions. Well-dressed men and women have an edge in any business situation. They are more likely to be treated with respect by their peers and are more likely to speak with thought. Even in 2010, the old adage that “the clothes make the man” rings true.

Next is something I learned from my experiences in business: carry yourself and speak professionally and with respect at all times. Most importantly this includes
respecting the thoughts and opinions of those who disagree with you. Look to your own business experiences–in law, health care, finance, or development. Who were the individuals who got promoted? How did they act? In my experience, leaders in successful organizations lead everyone, not just the people they like. They may not agree with everyone, but they always respect the thoughts and ideas of others around them. Talk with our alumni, and you’ll see they follow this rule. It is part of our tradition.

The final guideline is to act like a leader. If something bothers you, do not simply complain. Work with your peers and with Center staff and faculty to solve problems and create opportunities. In the business world, employees who complain get fired. People who identify problems and then work to solve them get promoted.

Think of today as the fresh start to your new career. What do you want that career to be? How do you want to represent yourself? I know what I expect from you. At the end of your two years here, I want to be able to call up any of our alumni, friends, or contacts on your behalf and be able to truthfully say that you are now qualified to maintain the Graaskamp Center tradition of excellence, integrity, leadership, and values.

I look forward to working with you.
UPDATE: You can view the new partnership agreement with the Wisconsin Real Estate MBA Class of 2012 here.