Now embarking on her third year at the Wisconsin School of Business, Andra Ghent will now takes on new responsibilities as the Graaskamp Center’s new Academic Director. She brings a unique mix of innovative research, practical experience, teaching expertise, and dedication to the business community—all qualities that are an excellent fit for the Wisconsin Real Estate Program.
On a general level, Ghent's research interests the study of mortgages, mortgage laws, and the MBS market. Her research has been published in top academic journals and she previously taught at Baruch College and Arizona State University. Ghent also served as visiting scholar to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. She holds a B.A. in economics from the University of British Columbia, an M.A. in economics from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California - San Diego.
What first attracted you to real estate?
I was actually a macroeconomist. At the time I was writing my dissertation, real estate was a super important part of the macroeconomy. Around the mid-2000s economists were starting to see that this was a big driver of the macroeconomy. So it’s really its influence on the macroeconomy that drove me to real estate.
Who were your key mentors?
My advisors in grad school were very important. Afterwards, Richard Green was a key advisor. He was formerly a professor here. Morris Davis was an excellent advisor for me. He’s now at Rutgers and was also a former professor here. I was very fortunate to have a lot of mentors throughout my time that introduced me to the real estate field.
What convinced you to join the UW Real Estate faculty?
They have really great students, I knew that. It’s great to be part of a top-ranked program. I knew I’d have great colleagues in research. It’s nice to be part of a team that’s got a long tradition and has a good curriculum set up in real estate. They had everything figured out in real estate. They had strong programs, strong faculty and outstanding students; and a great industry network through our alumni and Graaskamp Advisory Board.
How have your interactions been with alumni?
The alumni are really smart. They’re really helpful. They help our students in terms of mentors, but they also help them get jobs. They help teach them more broadly about the industry. They support us financially. They act as guest speakers. I’m always blown away by how helpful our alumni are.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
I really hope to see more participation in the Graaskamp Center from some of our more recent alums so I’m looking forward to working with them to get them more involved.
What skills do you hope to bring as the new academic director?
I am genuinely interested in hearing from our alums and board members, and I have a lot of interest in engaging with them.
What are your goals for the Graaskamp Center?
I think it’s important when you first take on a leadership role that you have some period where you understand how things have been operating and watch and observe. I think there are some opportunities but I need to learn a little bit more about the functioning of the center before I take on any big initiatives.
Where I see big opportunities, longer term, is to be better engaged with our undergrads, our Global Real Estate Masters students and, again, I think we can do a little more outreach and involvement of our more recent alums and younger professionals in the industry.
What are some of the opportunities you would like to explore at UW-Madison?
The goals of the Graaskamp Center, if you look at them, they are very much to connect faculty with industry and students. We have more opportunities do that than we have in the past. I don’t think all of our board members and alums are familiar with the research our faculty are doing. Some of the research we do is pretty esoteric and not directly applicable but some of it is very relevant to industry and I think we can do more to communicate what our research findings are.
What’s your favorite part of Madison?
I like how urban Madison is, as well as the natural environment. I love running along the Lakeshore path, out to Picnic Point and through Eagle Heights. That’s my favorite part of Madison. It really offers the best of all possible worlds. You have this very urban setting and yet you have lots of opportunities for outdoor activities.