UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Alumnae thrive in real estate careers


Deb Anderson

UNC Kenan-Flagler has been a leader in real estate education for 40 years, developing students' knowledge and technical skills so they can build successful careers in real estate. Today a growing number of women MBA students are attracted to the field –and thriving.

"Historically, real estate has been a male dominated industry – that’s changing, just not rapidly,” says Deb Anderson (MBA ’90), real estate professor and former executive director of the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies, which bridges the worlds of academia and industry for students, faculty and alumni. “It’s a smaller niche and hard for women to break into, but there are not huge barriers to women and the marketplace is open to them.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler alumnae are having great success in the industry, which they credit to the comprehensive education of the Real Estate Concentration and their real-life learning opportunities.

“The curriculum gave a nice overview, especially for people like me who were career changers and had never been exposed to real estate before,” says Kelly Nagel (MBA ’08), development manager at AvalonBay Communities, Inc. “You also get the benefit of small classes and unmatched access to the professors, which is a really cool combination. Kenan-Flagler offers a really great opportunity to open doors that wouldn’t otherwise be open.”

Annie Evans (MBA ’11), who had five years of real estate development in Atlanta under her belt before coming to UNC Kenan-Flagler, is vice president of development for Jamestown Properties. She found the experiential learning opportunities available to students particularly rewarding, as she pursued both the finance/investments and development tracks in real estate, along with the sustainable enterprise concentration.

“I wanted to come to Kenan-Flagler to learn the business case for sustainability, and then apply it to real estate.” Evans says. “Since the sustainability program is created as a lens that you can apply to any other concentration, UNC allowed me to combine my interests without creating my own curriculum. I also was drawn to the learning opportunities beyond the classroom, and participated in both the real estate global immersion elective in Uruguay and Argentina with Dave Hartzell, and the sustainability immersion in Africa during my second year.”

Students in the capstone course “Real Estate Development Process” apply their classroom lessons to a real project. Each student team finds a real piece of land in the Triangle and develops it to its highest and best use. Access to a $2,500 allowance from the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies enables them to pursue the project in realistic ways.

Jessica Fields“My team and I found land in Raleigh and proposed to develop it into 175 apartments for young professionals, which was a six-month project,” says Jessica Fields (MBA ’13). “It’s a really hands on program, and supplementing the exercises in class are real-life experiences and real-world real estate.”

Fields, who interned with Simon Property Group, Inc. last summer, created a full-time position for herself as the personal analyst for the chief information officer of the company in New York. “The offer was originally for a position at the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis, and even though I really liked my job, I really wanted to be in New York City or Washington, D.C.,” Fields says. “I contacted the HR person and she worked with me on it, so I created the position, but I didn’t really know what I was creating. It taught me that it’s always beneficial to speak up and be honest because the company really valued the work I did.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler offers many other experiential learning opportunities, including:

“I’ve had such an awesome experience and was folded into the community so quickly,” says Kathryn Howlett (MBA ’14). “Things like the Real Estate Conference offer a great way to keep people involved with the program and it’s a great way for students to interact with alumni and prominent people in the industry.”

Students and graduates attest to the critical importance of the UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni network in launching their careers.

Evans says that the strength of the alumni community is second to none. “The power of that network is clear even from the beginning of the application process, and I’ve been lucky to benefit from it,” she says. “As a Kenan-Flagler graduate, I’m able to rely on other successful women as allies because the school has a wonderful female alumni network. It’s just a community of strong, teamwork-minded women and you will not find a bigger advocate than me for how wonderful it is.”

Read more about the Real Estate Program.