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Message to a prospective student

by Graaskamp Center Staff Friday, September 30, 2011
Since we launched our blog in 2009, we have asked MBA students in the Graaskamp Center to contribute to a series called Meet Our Current Students. In their posts, they share their impressions and experiences of their first-year in the program. In his first post for us, Andrew Toby has a message for prospective students:

It’s that time of year. The leaves are beginning to change color, the weather is cooling down, football season is under way, and, for prospective MBA students, the first round admissions deadline is rapidly approaching.

For me, this took place a year ago, although it seems like just yesterday. My intent for this message, however, is not to get nostalgic about the endless hours of program researching, resume refining, and essay editing that I experienced. Rather, it is to reflect on my experience during my first month with the program.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that I’m enjoying about the program (and living in Madison) so far:

Specialization classes begin immediately. No waiting until your second year to finally get to the material you came back to school for. The first year MBA class is taking Real Estate Finance with Erwan Quintin this semester. The class is challenging but incredibly informative and applicable to the industry, and we often spend a good portion of class time just discussing current events (which are abundant given the current financial condition of the economy). I can honestly say that the material being covered in this class is precisely what I was looking for in Real Estate MBA education.

The alumni are interactive and supportive. One of the program’s greatest strengths is its alumni, and there was no time wasted in getting linked into the network right as the program began. We have registered as student members of the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA), which allows us access to alumni events, job postings, etc. Each student has also been paired up with an alumni mentor for more in-depth, one on one interaction and support.

The high regard for the program draws visits from other prominent industry professionals. Our interaction with prominent industry professionals is not just limited to our alumni. Within the first few weeks of the program, we have already been fortunate enough to receive a visit from Brad Olsen of Atlantic Partners, Ltd, who gave a thought-provoking lecture on global real estate. We also had some face to face time (via Skype) with Jay Lehman, Director of National Recruiting at Toll Brothers, Inc. for some direct advice on career preparation. Jay has interviewed thousands of candidates and reviewed even more resumes from applicants hoping to crack into the real estate industry, so the advice he was able to share with us was invaluable. The Wisconsin Real Estate Club also presented the Innovator Award to Michael Ashner of Winthrop Realty Trust, who took time to share his thoughts and advice about succeeding in the industry.

Madison is a great city. There hasn’t been any shortage of activity in Madison - so much, actually, that I could write an entire post solely discussing all the things that I’ve had the opportunity to do since I moved here. Even more specifically, as I consider myself somewhat of a foodie, I could also dedicate a post to the plethora of delicious restaurants I’ve dined at during the last month. From the activities on the lake (sailing, kayaking, fishing, skiing, etc.) to live music (including many free shows and festivals), Madison is sure to entertain. (The Madison Experience, video)

These are just my some of my first impressions, and I’d like to tie them together with a huge emphasis on how happy I am with my decision to attend the Wisconsin School of Business. Making the decision to go to b-school is tough, and choosing which school is right for you can be agonizing. As a guy who had previously spent his entire life in California, I know that the adjustment can be intimidating. Rest assured that Madison, UW, and the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate combine to make a welcoming place that you’ll be happy to call your new home.

Andrew Toby is a first-year MBA student in the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. A CPA from California, Andrew hopes to utilize both his accounting background and the knowledge gained in the MBA program to pursue a career in private equity investments in real estate.