Real Estate Society: Q&A with Lindsey Michaels ’18
Lindsey Michaels ’18, Co-Executive Director, Real Estate Society
Describe your role in the Real Estate Society
As Co-Executive Director, my main role is to serve as the administrative head of the Real Estate Society. I act as a liaison to the administration and trustees, advisors, and Group Heads within the Society. It is very important for the Co-Executive Directors to keep an open dialogue with alumni and members of the Board of Trustees as the Society continues to grow. I also participate in planning events for the Society, such as the Real Estate Forum, the Case Competition, Argus Software Training, and more. Going forward, it is also very important to listen to feedback from current members to determine if there should be any reorganization, especially since the structure of RES has recently changed and will continue to develop. Ultimately, the Co-Executive Directors are responsible for ensuring that the Society is making sound investments and adequately managing our portion of the University’s endowment.
How much has the organization changed since its creation in 2015?
The Real Estate Society has come a very long way since its creation my freshman year. The main (and most impressive) difference is that RES now has funds from the University’s endowment to actively invest in the real estate equity market. This was always the goal of the RES, but the Board of Trustees did not grant us the $1MM until this past February. This success can be attributed the Society’s original founders and leaders. Prior to receiving the money, our activity consisted of group presentations on different asset-classes and geographical markets, which had more of an educational purpose. We also hosted a number of alumni speakers to educate members and we participated in pro-bono consulting projects. Now, the focus of RES has shifted towards investing in REITs. Asset-class groups present an Investment Pitch to the Society each week, and members vote on whether to Buy/Sell/Hold the stock. The hands-on and real-world investing experience, coupled with an immense amount of responsibility granted by the University, provides members with an invaluable opportunity that is not found in the traditional classroom setting. This has been a very exciting and educational process for us so far, and it is encouraging to see student interest in the Society increase each semester.
Can on you elaborate on why the organization was created
W&L does a great job providing Williams School students with tools and opportunities for careers in banking, consulting, and accounting. However, there existed a gap in the resources available for students interested in a career in real estate. In fact, a lot of students (including those interested in business/finance) do not even consider real estate as an option. The founders created RES to educate and expose students to the opportunities in real estate, and open up a strong pipeline between students and alumni in the industry. So far, RES has been successful in increasing alumni recruitment on campus for real estate related positions.
What are your current projects this semester?
This semester we have been mainly focused on allocating our $1MM to various REIT stocks in order to build up our portfolio. So far this year, we have voted to invest a total of $250,000 in 5 different REITs: Spirit Realty Corporation, Senior Housing Properties Trust, Tanger Family Outlet Centers, Inc., Life Storage, and Realty Income. Until we have allocated all $1MM, we decided to invest our remaining balance in the Vanguard REIT Index Fund, rather than sitting on excess cash. We will continue to pitch investments until the rest of our money is allocated. In addition, each asset-class group created a Bi-Annual Sector Report to help familiarize members with the current market conditions and forecasts.
What do you want to see for the program in the future?
First, I hope to see the RES manage more than our current $1MM of the University’s endowment. Hopefully we will realize returns on current investments, and Directors can continue conversations with the Board in the next few years to increase our overall portion of the endowment. Second, I hope that the program will keep up its current momentum and that student interest will grow each year. I also would like to see non-business majors interested in RES because real estate is such a comprehensive industry. Finally, I am confident that the alumni network in the real estate industry will continue to expand and present job opportunities for W&L students.
Have you received alumni feedback on the program?
Yes, alumni feedback has been extremely positive since RES’s creation. Alumni are genuinely curious in our activities and have been going out of their way to offer support. For example, each asset-class group has one or two alumni mentors who serve as industry resources for that group during their investment pitch research. RES also hosts the annual Real Estate Forum in Washington, D.C., an event that attracts more than 75 alumni across the industry. The majority of attendees are very excited to engage in the activities during the Forum, which include networking sessions, a luncheon with panel discussions and a keynote speaker, and a tour of properties under development. Feedback has been positive across the board. During my work experience and interviews over the past two years, alumni have consistently wanted to learn more about RES and express excitement about the organization.