(as published in the WREAA Equity Kicker)
Letter from the Department Chair
November 22, 2011
I'm honored to have been asked by my fellow faculty, and our new Dean François Ortalo-Magné, to once again chair the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics at the Wisconsin School of Business. Together with Graaskamp Center Academic Director Morris Davis, Executive Director Michael Brennan, and all the faculty, staff, students and alumni and friends that comprise the Wisconsin Real Estate Program, we face an exciting and challenging time.
Primus inter pares among faculty, the department chair succeeds when all of us, faculty, lecturers, staff, alumni, students, and the rest of the UW and WSB, pull together. During my two decades in Madison I have observed a lot of pulling, a little pushing, mostly together, from all our stakeholders, not least our alumni; always with the greater good of the program in mind.
In some key respects, the nature of the department chair's job is much like the CEO or other titular head of most other organizations, public or private. Even in nominally hierarchical business organizations, if the CEO has to depend primarily on her formal authority to motivate others, rather than persuasion; if she relies primarily on top-down promulgation of strategy and tactics rather than collaboration; if communication is in one direction rather than two; and if the firm's vision is not well articulated and widely shared; then it's likely the battle for that business' long run success has already been lost.
Much of our real estate program's success to date, the strength of our tradition and its continued evolution through innovation, comes about because we have pulled together so well. Now we're pulling together especially strongly with the mother ship, the Wisconsin School of Business. As François takes up his new duties as Dean, we in real estate give up a leader who was of the first rank among department chairs, compared to the leaders of our program or any other; an academic innovator (the Global Real Estate Master's is only the latest example); and no less important, a truly world class scholar and teacher. But in return we get back a school leader who, building on the accomplishments of Mike Knetter and others, and with help from a wide range of faculty, staff, alumni and students, will help all of us move the entire WSB forward.
François has hit the ground sprinting. He's already in the midst of several key initiatives on budgeting, staffing, marketing, improving the undergraduate curriculum, and further strengthening the research climate of the school, as well as the key external relations that any dean must tend to. These are not as mutually exclusive as they might appear. The key to healthy relationships with alums and other external stakeholders is to make sure the internal machine is humming, that we're producing the best teaching and scholarship, and that all of us embody the Wisconsin Idea, taking the best of the University beyond the friendly confines of campus to the wider world.
We have lots of news, besides François' ascension to the deanship. As you may know, Dean Ortalo-Magné retains his appointment as a professor of real estate; at Wisconsin, all deans, chancellors and other top administrators must pass muster as a full professor as well as an administrator. But naturally, given his decanal duties, François will not be able to take part in the normal life of the department. Therefore at the moment our highest priority is the ongoing search for a new faculty member. It's a challenge to find the right person, someone who combines the highest standards of scholarship, a deep commitment to teaching, and who embodies the Wisconsin Idea, with its emphasis on service to the community, local, national and global. But it's a challenge we've met before, and I know we will do so again.
In January, Professor Abdullah Yavas will return to Madison from the leave he took to serve as the founding president of Antalya International University in its eponymous city in Turkey. We welcome Abdullah back, and we recognize the importance of his contributions to the cause of higher education. The goal of Antalya University is to provide Turkey with a world-class institution of higher level teaching and research, that can hold its own with comparable European and North American universities. As Abdullah returns, Professor Tim Riddiough will take a leave to undertake a program of research at the University of Miami. We're grateful to alum Mike Dubis and long-time friend of the program Adjunct Professor David Shulman, who will be taking on extra teaching responsibilities so there's no drop-off to the AREIT program and our other finance courses during Tim's leave. I'm especially appreciative of Tim's work over the past year (and more) with our PhD students; on his return Abdullah will take on special responsibility for this small but key aspect of our program.
Of course with our small faculty we need to maintain a core presence here in Madison, and we owe a special thank you to Morris Davis, who has deferred his scheduled sabbatical for another year, in order to ensure continuity in the management of the Graaskamp Center and of the teaching program. The purpose of sabbaticals is not a "break" or time-out as such, but rather to give productive faculty a regular opportunity to develop research projects and teaching materials that require larger chunks of uninterrupted time. Thus there is a real cost to the department of such a deferral, as well as to the faculty member involved, but given our temporary constraints I endorse Morris' decision. I look forward to supporting a fruitful sabbatical for him in the near future.
Our teaching is a team effort between the faculty and our terrific cadre of lecturers. We've recently added two alums, Mike Hershberger and Robert Schwarz, to that lineup. Hersh will focus on valuation and market analysis, and Robert on development.
We're continuing to develop case study materials, with the dual objectives of strengthening our own curriculum, and, in due course, making these materials more broadly available, furthering our brand and giving a wider audience the benefits of "real estate the Wisconsin way." Mike Hershberger is currently leading this effort, with a range of faculty, lecturers and alums providing input. If you have a potential case, Hersh would love to hear from you.
Speaking of case studies, under the leadership of alum Arif Qureshi, the undergraduate team of Andrew Berger, Laura Bodine, Pan Pan, Jason Udoff, Jane Van Eerden and Jimi Xie recently finished hot on the heels of host team Cornell to take second place in their annual real estate case study competition. I recently caught a recap of their outstanding presentation to Tom Landgraf's development class. Our friend Professor Dan Quan of Cornell praised their work, and he'll shortly put up links to our team's presentation, as well as Cornell's and third-place finisher Penn State.
I'd also like to thank our Faculty Associates Sharon McCabe and Joe Walsh for their many contributions. Sharon is now taking on increased responsibility for assisting our undergrads with their internships and job searches, along with her MBA duties. Joe has substantially expanded his role within the GREM, managing the relationships with our partner schools as well as overseeing the student experience here in Madison; Assistant Professor Erwan Quintin is providing additional high level support to the GREM program.
Since the last chair's letter, the Graaskamp Center has put on another terrific Board of Advisors meeting, with an excellent keynote address by UW Professor Jon Pevehouse on "Global Transformations in Our Decade," and panels on a range of global and national real estate and economic issues. Congratulations to Michael Brennan and his program committee, and all the others that work hard to make these events so successful. Among other benefits, these board meetings provide high-level networking activities for our MBA students. That's been so successful that going forward we'll be bringing selected undergraduates to the board as well.
There's so much else to relate, as anyone who's visited us recently can confirm. As department chair I will of course continue the tradition of writing regularly for the Equity Kicker, and I greatly appreciate the many opportunities the WREAA gives us to communicate with you directly. But don't wait for the next letter to stay in touch. Check out our program blog, Wisconsin Real Estate Viewpoint; recent pages include several postings by current students, a link to Francois' recent keynote to MIPIM Asia; and of course my own "Chart of the Week." Email us with your thoughts, or even better, leave a public comment on the blog so your ideas get the widest possible dissemination. Let's get the "sifting and winnowing" under way!