Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The School of Business:
After spending a couple of years in California in an Asset Management position with a large multi-state non-profit housing developer, I wanted to return home and continue to work in affordable housing in Oregon. I landed a Development Assistant Role with CASA of Oregon, a non-profit affordable housing development consultant based in Sherwood that works throughout mostly rural parts of Oregon.
While working at CASA, I was introduced to PSU’s Master of Real Estate Development program by a colleague who was an alumna. After applying to the MRED program, I was promoted to Development Project Manager at CASA.
I worked in the Development Project Manager position at CASA throughout the first year-and-a-half of the master’s program, through the transition to remote learning and work-from-home due to the pandemic. In March of 2021, with only my final two terms remaining, I accepted a Housing Development Project Manager Position with Central City Concern, focusing on building deeply affordable housing primarily in Portland and Multnomah County.
I chose The School of Business and the MRED program to accelerate my career and strengthen my connection to the city of Portland and the broader real estate industry here. The program did just that. It gave me the knowledge and credentials to make career moves that put me in a better position professionally and allowed me to work on more significant projects with one of the most well-known and impactful nonprofits in the region.
What does an average day in your current role look like?
I am working on a few projects in various stages of development – Pre-design feasibility, Early Assistance and land-use approvals, General Contractor procurement, Active Construction, as well the acquisition of an existing building — so my days are still full of video calls and project meetings with my team and our development partners.
An average day or week might consist of:
- Putting together monthly construction draw packages for funder approval each month, ensuring each vendor and contractor is paid each month during construction, and tracking the progress of our monthly draws against the project’s initial proforma.
- Attending weekly Owner-Architect-Contractor (OAC) meetings where we review weekly progress, discuss product selection submittals or other pertinent issues. I am constantly collaborating with my immediate development team and the greater property management and facilities management teams at CCC to ensure the decisions we make before and during construction align with the needs of our management and maintenance staff as well as what will best serve our residents, some of whom are among the most highly impacted communities in the region.
- Preparing funding applications or doing some early feasibility budgeting for potential development projects.
- Coordinating professional services like Geotechnical Reports or Environmental Phase I as a part of our project due diligence.
- When I get out of the house, I’m usually going to a construction site, touring a potential acquisition, or visiting a CCC building for an event or to check out some issues or lessons learned we can carry forward on our next development.
What drew you to the program, in particular?
It aligned nearly perfectly with my career goals. Simply put, if you want to develop Real Estate in Portland, there’s no better program than the PSU MRED program.
The adjunct faculty, professors, Business School staff, and The Center for Real Estate are amazing resources for learning and networking outside the classroom. In addition, the practical and real-life experience many of the instructors are able to bring into the classroom is invaluable.
I attended many of the activities and events hosted by the program before I started. The consistent engagement from the PSU staff and the events and opportunities they facilitate for students and alumni is invaluable.
I knew the academic elements would benefit me but the opportunities offered outside of the classroom really drew me in.
What skills gained at PSU have you found most valuable in your career?
Hard Skill: Having a better understanding of institutional Real Estate financing and the differences in the way a market-rate developer might approach a development compared to affordable housing, which I was more familiar with.
Soft Skills: How to work with, and more effectively share responsibility with team members. Many classes have some form of group work focused on larger scope projects than anything I had encountered in undergrad. The MRED program really helped me be more collaborative, communicative, and be able to work through difficulties more effectively in group settings.
What inspires you?
Thinking about what could be done next. There are so many real estate developments that are creatively designed and unique architecturally, or buildings that implement forward-thinking sustainability technologies into their building components. Development cannot remain a stagnant thing by building the same status quo real estate and land-use patterns. I am driven by what comes next. How can we take case studies from around the world and implement those practices right here in Portland? Our buildings shape our urban fabric for decades, if not longer and in my field, affordable housing is mandated to remain affordable housing for up to 99 years. The buildings we build must be able to weather a changing climate, be built with sustainable materials, and have a design that is resilient for those who will continue to use the building throughout its existence. We must always improve what we build and make it better than the last projects.
What advice do you have for current or prospective graduate business students who are interested in your field?
The Master of Real Estate Development does a great job of teaching many of the hard skills like creating financial proformas and economic models, understanding financing structures, and the technical processes of developing real estate that are key to understanding the development of affordable housing.
Where I’d recommend current or prospective students interested in working in Affordable Housing focus their attention beyond the classroom is:
- From a job-hunting perspective: Follow organizations that you admire in the field and look at their job postings. Try to build the experience they’re asking for. There are various affordable housing networks in Portland and throughout Oregon that are great resources for anyone interested in the industry. The state, the city, agencies, and network groups often host webinars, events, and publish studies of affordable housing’s biggest issues and initiatives. The more one can stay up-to-date on what’s going on locally and federally, the more of an asset they can be to an organization. Learn the ins and outs of the low-income housing tax-credit program which is by far the most significant funding source for building affordable housing in the US. The more one can speak on the broader on-goings in the industry and know the lingo of the various programs that exist, the more they can connect with potential employers. The finer details are less important as every developer or funder has their own ways of doing things that may differ from project to project and can be learned on the job.
- Racial equity is one of the utmost priorities in the industry today. It is critically important that anyone interested in working in Affordable Housing is informed on the historical impacts of housing policy and land-use planning on communities of color. Understanding how housing developers and the buildings we build impact the communities we build in today is imperative. A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is key in affordable housing, and any industry!
What does “redefining business” mean to you?
The world of business has long had the image of being an exclusive old-boys club full of suits. I think that’s been changing for many years as women have established their rightful position in the corporate world leading fortune 500s and small businesses across the country and the world. “Disruptive” start-ups have broken into monolithic industries and started to change things further. However, I think the business world needs further redefining. Certified B-Corps, worker-owned cooperatives, and non-profit 501(c)3 organizations are among some of the existing organizational structures that can help ensure the business community is equitable, diverse, and inclusive of the communities it works in. The profit motive of traditional businesses is hurting consumers and lining the pockets of those at the top. Profits of businesses need to reinvested back to the workforce, the community, and into sustainable business practices. The days of profiteering need to be left in the past. A business environment that is defined by community benefit rather than individual benefit is one that I want to be a part of.