Indiana State University Newsroom

Real (Estate) Lessons: Class learns from competition

March 28, 2012

Shortly after Indiana State University students Jared Hacker and Alyse Houghton settled into their real estate course at the start of the semester, they contemplated what action their class should take: participate in a real estate competition, or stick to the previously planned studies.

The class decided to participate in the statewide competition, and in the process learned more than they would have from a textbook.

A class of ISU real estate finance students participated in the NAIOP University Challenge this semester. The competition pitted students from ISU against several Indiana universities in a case-study simulation that parallels situations that commercial real estate professionals encounter. Shortly after the students learned about the competition, they voiced support to have it become the focus of the early weeks of their course.

"It was a really great learning experience, and ... just opened up our eyes about the industry," said Houghton, a senior from Plymouth who is double majoring in finance and communication with a concentration in public relations. "I know there are a few people in my class who want to get into real estate, so it was really helpful for them, and now we all have a better understanding of the industry."

In the competition, each university team completed the same scenario. Acting as a logistics company, the group needed to find a site that fulfilled several parameters set out by a client, which included access to interstate highways and local economic incentives. Though it was a case-study, the groups needed to discover and recommend real-life locations that fit the case parameters.

"One day we went out there and actually visited the buildings firsthand ...," said Hacker, a senior finance major from Martinsville. "It's something that you really can't learn quite out of the textbook when you see it with your own eyes, or are communicating with people who have been in the industry for a very long time."

The students didn't set out on the task alone; each team had coaches, and they could also speak with developers, financial analysts and others working with the real estate industry who volunteered to facilitate the competition.

"So not only do students get to do this real estate project, most of our students are juniors and seniors, and they're doing a lot of networking with these people," said Ed Gallatin, an ISU accounting instructor who taught the real estate course. "If they decide to go into a career in real estate, they've got some names and faces to connect with in the industry. It's pretty impressive."

Gallatin pitched the contest to his students after learning more about what was entailed. Indiana State first got involved after ISU graduate Mark Writt, senior vice president with brokerage services firm CBRE and a professional contact for the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) competition, suggested to competition organizers that Indiana State also participate.

"It was a great experience for me to have the opportunity to work with the students in the Scott College of Business," said Writt, who was one of the coaches for the ISU team. "I really enjoyed their enthusiasm for the project and the effort they put into the contest. I hope they all learned from this and each of them will remember and use something from the class as they move on to other endeavors. Learning to work with others in a team competition offers the students real-life experiences and teaches them what to expect in their future professions. They had to manage their time and the task and work around their regular class schedules. There were definitely stressful moments as the deadline approached, but that is what they will face every day when they move into the workforce."

The ISU team explored the different options and analyzed the benefits and disadvantages of each potential building location. They then wrote their final report, which included their recommendations and reasoning for those conclusions, before giving a final presentation to the judges.

"I learned just how many things go into a real estate transaction," Houghton said. "There is a tremendous amount of detail that goes into it. There are a lot of things that you have to think about and consider."

The project included much of what was scheduled to be taught in the course, but went beyond the curriculum, Gallatin said.

The class typically would have incorporated the textbook experiences coupled with the instructor's experiences and insight; because of the competition, students were able to discuss the industry with experienced professionals in a variety of aspects related to commercial real estate. Students spoke with employees from various companies, including CBRE, Duke Energy and Sony DADC.

"Incorporation of competitions in business classes is a good example of how our students can develop and apply their knowledge in an area of business while honing important skills in analysis, teamwork and presentations," said Nancy Merritt, dean of the Scott College of Business at ISU. "An industry-connected competition provides a platform for students to engage with the industry while developing those critical skills."The opportunity to network with professionals also impressed the ISU students, some of whom may not have finished interacting with industry professionals once the competition ended.

"I know a lot of them wanted us to give them our resume and go from there," Hacker said of networking with industry professionals as part of the competition. "It's definitely a good thing, and I'm glad that we were selected to be a part of it."

Photo: (Submitted Photo)Students from the ISU real estate team meet with industry professionals to discuss aspects of the project.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)The Indiana State University real estate competition team meets at a site location as part of the project for the contest.

Contact: Ed Gallatin, instructor of accounting, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2110 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or