Alum feature: Meet Marcus Bush

Marcus Bush professional headshot

Program: MRED

Graduation Year: 2018

Program Schedule: Full-Time

Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The School of Business. 

City planning has always been something that’s fascinated me. I remember following development projects in my city when I was in high school. Then I found out that San Diego State has a city planning major, so I went there to study planning. I started getting into politics at the same time, campaigning for Obama and local elections. I served on the planning commission from 2013 until I moved to Portland in 2017. A big part of moving to Portland wasn’t necessarily getting a master’s, but needing to get out of San Diego. I went on a solo road trip in 2016 from Boise across Oregon, ending in Portland, and I knew Portland was it.

What drew you to the MRED in particular? 

I was interested in a program that was more housing policy-oriented. I think a lot of policy makers are racking their brains to solve the housing crisis. What I realized about being a planner was that we can talk about policy, but if we don’t understand those market forces and have the financial resources to make it happen, then we’re just talking about what we want to do, but not actually doing anything. So the MRED was a way to figure out how to take action and use this knowledge for good. I also liked how the program was really balanced — there was exposure to architecture, design process, environmental policy — it wasn’t just focused on the financial component. 

What skills gained at PSU have you found most valuable in your career?

Professor Paddy Tillet’s design class is one of the first things that comes to mind. It was a really challenging project — we had to design an infill project and go through the whole process of laying out the site plan with detailed measurements and dimensions. It was an extremely tedious exercise, but I learned a lot about configuring space and the process of bringing something from imagination to paper. 

The finance classes were really important for me as well. Having that foundation was key for the capstone development workshop. Our workshop team won the NAIOP competition with our concept for redeveloping the Hillsboro airport.

It was also inspiring to meet so many regional leaders in real estate throughout the program, such as Kevin Cavenaugh from Guerrilla Development.

What inspires you? 

Making the world a better place. It’s not just an altruistic dream, it’s helping your family and the people you love in your community. Being bold but also being realistic. Looking at all the problems surrounding us, like environmental crises in California and Oregon, there’s a lot that we can do about it. That’s why I decided to run for city council. I think I can bring that expertise and values to work with my colleagues to make National City a model. 

What advice do you have for current or prospective graduate business students who are interested in your field?

It’s not enough to look at this as just a career to make money. Try to learn more, grow and make the world a better place. Projects shouldn’t just check off boxes, but strive to make a difference in the neighborhood and community. 

What does “redefining business” mean to you?

I love the phrase — it’s really the spirit of PSU. It’s about not just focusing on profits and bottom lines, but about making a difference and embracing people and their backgrounds. The real estate industry as a whole is still predominantly older, white, heterosexual and male, and we all need to do more to be inclusive and push the industry to be much more reflective of our society. We need to have diverse perspectives because that leads to more innovation, creativity, and ultimately, better projects. Having that and more community input and involvement broadens the focus of the real estate industry and the stereotype that it’s all about profit and making money. That’s what redefining business is to me.

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