Each fall and spring, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) holds a meeting to bring together leaders from the multiple disciplines involved in real estate to share ideas relating to ULI’s priorities:
• Creating resilient communities
• Understanding demand and market forces
• Connecting capital and the environment that is built through value
• Promoting intelligent densification and urbanization
• Integrating energy, resources, and uses sustainably
Luckily for me, as well as 10 additional real estate MBA students and three real estate faculty members from the Wisconsin School of Business, ULI’s fall meeting was held within a short drive of Madison at McCormick Place in Chicago on November 5–8. Our group worked a booth promoting the school’s real estate program, which also served as an opportunity to connect with UW-Madison real estate alumni. Working the booth was a great trade-off for being able to sit in on a variety of panels and keynote speakers, connect with alums and other industry leaders, and attend a few networking receptions.
With 10 different panels during four time slots over the meeting days, each of us was able to tailor our experience according to our interests. Some of the interesting panels I attended were:
• Places of Magic and Challenge: Water as the Anchor
• The Value Proposition in Second-Tier Cities
• Urban Infill Retail: The Current Fad, But Hard to Get It Right
• Redefining and Recharging Hospitality: New Models to Drive and Shape the Industry
While I certainly learned a few things at the panels, my favorite scheduled conference events were the Mentor Mart for Emerging Leaders and the keynote address by legendary real estate investor Sam Zell. At the Mentor Mart, five attendees under the age of 35 were paired up at a table with five attendees who had been involved with ULI for over 30 years each. I had the opportunity to connect with some of our industry leaders and learn from their experiences, both of which are huge benefits to any aspiring real estate professional. The informal format of Sam Zell’s conversation about his background and his road to becoming such a successful entrepreneur was a nice change of pace from the panels.
Each of our two nights in Chicago included two receptions, neither of which disappointed. On Wednesday night, ULI hosted all conference attendees at Soldier Field, and Jones Lang LaSalle hosted the after-party at the club Untitled. On Thursday, I attended the ULI Colorado chapter reception in an attempt to connect with attendees from my desired post-MBA location. That was followed by an enjoyable Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA) and Graaskamp Center reception at McCormick Place, where we had a chance to connect with more alumni and friends of the program. Between the learning and networking opportunities, I had a great experience at ULI’s Fall Meeting, and I look forward attending another conference in the future.