After all, the majority of the 650 people the university’s real estate program has graduated since it was founded in 1980 work there, according to Dr. Steven Mooney, holder of the Minnesota Chair in Real Estate at St. Cloud State.
Most work in property management; mortgage banking; sales and leasing of office, industry and retail space; appraisal and development.
“I probably had four different alums who have annual incomes with two commas (in the last three alumni surveys),” Mooney said. “One of our early grads was the overall manager for constructing the Vikings new training site. Appraisal grads have appraised Target Center and Target Field. Another one of our grad’s first job was appraising the 3M complex in St. Paul.
“These are big deals,” Mooney said.
Mooney, who will retire at the end of the school year, can list among the program’s graduates several who have put their mark on major real estate development projects in the Twin Cities and dozens who own or hold leadership positions in major commercial real estate-related companies in Minnesota. Others also lead trade organizations such as the Minnesota Shopping Center Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.
When that success is laid against benchmarks that indicate a bright future for the commercial real estate market in the Twin Cities, it’s evident St. Cloud State graduates are positioned to continue to push it forward.
A Top Market
The Minneapolis/St. Paul commercial real estate market earned the highest “Local Outlook” score among 13 Midwest cities that included Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Des Moines and Cleveland, in the “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2018” report. The report, and the survey it’s based on, was produced by the Urban Land Institute and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), an international professional services firm.
Additionally in the report, Minneapolis/St. Paul ranked above the Midwest average in all commercial categories — office, retail, industrial, multifamily, hotel and housing. It had especially strong scores in office, retail and hotel sectors.
“I would characterize the Minneapolis/St. Paul commercial real estate market as healthy overall,” said Dave Anderson ’92, senior vice president at Frauenshuh Inc., a Minneapolis based corporate services and commercial real estate development, investment and management firm.
Anderson is a graduate of St. Cloud State’s local and urban affairs program, but works extensively with commercial real estate and is active in a variety of industry trade organizations.
Reports from The Federal Reserve of Minneapolis support his and PwC’s assessments. Its “Beige Book” reports for March, April, May, July and September of 2018 state that commercial real estate grew either “moderately” or “modestly” between each report.
The Minneapolis Reserve monitors and collects information on current economic conditions in Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, part of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula eight times a year.
“Among Midwest regional peers, it is positive to see the Minneapolis/St. Paul regional market lead the rankings and it makes sense,” Anderson said. “That said, markets are dynamic and collectively, Minnesota and its business sectors need to continue to remain focused, cultivate innovation and new business formation while addressing challenges to the region’s ability to sustain and grow in an increasingly global market.”
St. Cloud State grads have been, are and will be poised to have a significant impact on those markets.
The key to continuing to produce those graduates, say students, faculty and alums, is working from two angles — students and faculty working from the inside out and alumni working from the outside in.
They cite three primary strengths in St. Cloud State’s program: core academics, mentoring and real world experience.
They all come down to relationships — students with faculty, students within organizations, faculty with alums, alums with other alums, alums with interns, interns with mentors.
Mooney is often at the intersection of those relationships.
“The educational piece is fundamental to understanding the business, but the relationships are what are going to last a lifetime,” said Kyle Delarosby, president of the student-run Real Estate Association on campus.
Last school year, the group arranged a student trip to Texas for a conference focused on thriving markets in Dallas, Houston and Austin. This year, Phoenix might be on the horizon.
REA members are invited to activities organized by the Real Estate Alumni Association for opportunities to meet people who work in different aspects of the business, set up job shadowing or meet potential mentors or even begin conversations about future internships or employment.
Mentoring partnerships are a big factor in the real estate students’ development.
Once again, Mooney is at the crossroads.
Each fall, the school hosts a Mentors Banquet and pairs real estate majors and minors with alums.
“I match them up based on their interests and where they think they want to work and where the mentors work,” Mooney said.
This year, 200 alums served as mentors; 145 of those had a mentor when they were a student.
The pairings give some students an insider’s view of the area they think they’d like to work in. Sometimes, they help students see why a path might not be right for them.
In some cases, mentorships may lead to internships, another key component of the program’s success formula.
“Employers start contacting me in January, hoping to find someone to start in the middle of May,” Mooney said. The biggest areas of interest are property management, brokerage and appraisal.
Often the internship helps them to fine-tune their interests. Some change their emphasis afterward.
That was true for Jesseka Doherty ’02, vice president of project leasing at Mid-America Real Estate — Minnesota, a boutique specialty leasing company for retail only.
She had a brokerage emphasis during her college years, and found an internship with what was then Welsh Companies (now Colliers).
“My internship was industrial brokerage. It made me realize a bigger company like that was not for me and that my area was retail, not industrial.”
Delarosby’s internship was at Newmark Knight Frank, where the senior managing director is John McCarthy ’86, a St. Cloud State alum.
“It was really a diverse internship from the standpoint of projects,” Delarosby said. And, it gave him a chance to connect with McCarthy, who was also a judge for the 2018 NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development competition in which Delarosby and a St. Cloud State team earned third place for their work to determine the most profitable yet feasible project for the Ramsey County Riverfront Property (formerly home to West Publishing and the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center) on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul.
Internships help students sort out what they want to do, Mooney said.
“For some it’s a match, and when they graduate they get a job at the same company.”
Between 90 and 95 percent of the real estate graduates had jobs lined up when they graduated, said Mooney, citing figures from his survey.
St. Cloud State’s grads are well prepared to work in the market, in part because of the emphasis on internships, said Stefanie Meyer, ’95, a principal and senior vice president at Mid-America Real Estate – Minnesota. She encounters them in trade organizations and finds that sometimes they are her competitors.
“To have finance and appraisal and all of those classes is great,” Meyer said, “but I feel strongly about an internship that gets you into an office and working with a group so you can see what goes on every day. There’s no class that can prepare you for that.”
Kelly Jameson ’98 also teaches real estate classes at St. Cloud State. Before returning to St. Cloud State to teach 15 years ago, she was an alum who worked in property management for Twin Cities companies.
Jameson says the program’s reputation precedes it and makes it easier for qualified grads to find the jobs they want and for employers to find the qualified employees they want.
“People in the industry come to us, saying ‘who’s graduating that we need to hire’,” Jameson said. “St. Cloud State’s program is just well-known and respected. They’re coming with more requests than we have graduating.”
The program graduates about 20 students a year. “Before the real estate debacle of 2008, we topped out at about 85 students in the program, with 40-43 in each class,” Mooney said.
For alumni whose companies are hiring for positions, Mooney offers a book of resumes they can examine for candidates.
The beauty of the mentor and internship connections with alumni is the easy connection when a student goes looking for a job.
“If they get a reach out from an upcoming graduate, they’re going to get back to them,” Doherty said of alumni association members. “It’s just that connection. You’re going to give your time to them first. You know they’ve gone through the program.”
With growing demand, recruiting more students into the program is a significant goal. Many find their own way.
Keith Sturm was studying to be a CPA until he went to a seminar called “How to make a Million Dollars in Real Estate” led by George Karvel, the holder of the Minnesota Chair in Real Estate at St. Cloud State before Mooney.
“I changed my major,” Sturm said.
The real estate principles course required for business majors is often a catalyst when students see what they could accomplish, he added.
The industry tends to attract two kinds of people, Mooney said. Quantitative people fascinated by the numbers and people who are more socially geared and good communicators.
“There’s something for everyone.”