Scott College of Business students wins real estate competition

March 21, 2014

Indiana State University students toppled teams from Indiana and Ball State universities to capture their first win in the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties University Challenge.

The nine-member team of undergraduates from Ed Gallatin's real estate finance class received a winner's shovel and trophy that will be placed at Scott College of Business. The team also won $5,000, which Gallatin said will be seed money to start a new scholarship for students interested in real estate.

The challenge, which was a case-study simulating situations encountered by commercial real estate professionals, required students to create a marketing and development strategy for the use of a 22-story building in downtown Indianapolis.

"It was definitely a surprise (to win) since we were competing with schools that had graduate-level students there and schools with majors in real estate, but we felt confident going into it," said Evan Magni, a senior finance major from Linton who served as one of the project's three presenters. "When I went into this, real estate wasn't really on my mind as a career, but now it looks more promising since I've had contact with professionals in the field and we did well in the competition."

The case study was less financially-focused than past years and centered more on market studies, said Ken Martin, who runs the University Challenge for the property association's local chapter.

"Indiana State had an executable strategy that the committee looked favorably on," he said. "The students gained real-life, working knowledge that they'll need in the real estate profession on a day-to-day basis, while also networking and be opened up to possible job opportunities in the future with their names are out in the industry."

It was no small feat for Indiana State to unseat Indiana, which had been the reigning champions since the challenge started in 2012.

"It's a David and Goliath story," said Gallatin, who teaches Indiana State's only two real estate courses. "IU has a real estate major and a real estate club and Ball State sent a team of graduate students, so I was pretty proud of what our students were able to accomplish. I knew they worked hard. I had a feeling going into the competition that they would do well and they definitely pulled it off."

The students were assisted by team coaches Mark Writt, a 1984 Indiana State graduate with degrees in communication and marketing who is senior vice president of industrial services/brokerage at CB Richard Ellis, Inc. in Indianapolis and Sarah Morey, Witt's assistant at CBRE who also graduated from Indiana State in 2004.

"It was good to be able to get someone of Mark Writt's caliber to come over here and coach our students as they went from textbook material to real-life application," Gallatin said. "They had to cold call people who do these things for a living, so they not only got to meet the movers and shakers of Indianapolis real estate, they gained practical experience and networking opportunities."

Writt invited students to his office in Indianapolis to meet his colleagues as part of the students' research, which required them to prepare a PowerPoint presentation and 15-page narrative.

"They had to reach out and make an effort to contact resources in the community, ask questions and speak with professionals in the business," Writt said. "It's beyond what their typical school class schedule required and it'll be good for them as they move towards the job market."Writt said students were challenged in the process of this class to think about the case statement.

"We reminded them continually to read the case study," he said. "I didn't care if they won or lost. I only cared that they put in their best effort, which they did. I'm proud of what they accomplished."

Writt was reassured that his and Morey's effort, which included coming to Terre Haute twice a week for six weeks to teach the case statement, was worth it when he received a note from a student who participated in the challenge.

"The note said that the case study was the best thing he'd been involved in during his four years at Indiana State. That's pretty good," Writt said. "The goal was to finish the project, but they did more than that. They won. You could tell they built up confidence and self-esteem by the smiles they had when they heard they'd won, and they should be excited."

It is Writt's hope that the college will add another real estate class.

"I know I wouldn't be in this industry if it wasn't for someone giving me exposure to it," Writt said. "If the project gets a student to think about working in this industry, then it was worth my time. I always thought I'd come back in some way, volunteer or donate money when possible. I was taught at an early age that others help you and you need to give back when you can."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu

Contact: Ed Gallatin, FIN 346 real estate finance instructor, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, Harry.Gallatin@indstate.edu