Alumni

Mission-Driven: Chairs of CREBE’s Advisory Board Executive Committee

The chair and vice chairs of UVA's Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment Advisory Board are dedicated to lending their expertise, vision, and time to facilitate the Center’s aims to become a globally recognized academic nexus for real estate study and debate.

Top row: Robert Byron, Keven Lindemann. Bottom row: Ashley Mays, Robert “Bob” M. White

Top row: Robert Byron, Keven Lindemann. Bottom row: Ashley Mays, Robert “Bob” M. White

Since its founding in 2021, UVA’s Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment (CREBE) has quickly ramped up its efforts to produce meaningful events and make significant contributions to support students, foster alumni and industry engagement, and promote research in the subject.

By supporting the University’s real estate academic programs and serving as the pan-University hub for real estate activity across Grounds, the Center has already begun to create extracurricular programs for students, as it aids research that improves market functionality, informs policy making, and enriches lives; it also helps to cultivate a vibrant community that gathers regularly for applied and shared learning—as it will on Nov. 11, 2022, for CREBE’s first Fall Conference.

Driven by a mission to enhance the quality of the built environment and developing a better understanding of its influence through discovery and debate of real estate, the Center has recently taken an important step to realize its goals by establishing its Advisory Board Executive Committee.

CREBE has welcomed four alumni, the products of three different UVA schools (the McIntire School of Commerce, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Law), who have taken on the responsibilities as Advisory Board chair and vice chairs. They are dedicated to lending their expertise, vision, and time to facilitate the Center’s aims to become a globally recognized academic nexus for real estate study and debate.

An Inclusive Pursuit

CREBE Advisory Board Chair and Executive Committee member Robert “Bob” M. White (McIntire ’87) says that the Center’s mission is purposefully broad.

“The built environment is something we all interact with in countless ways on a continuous basis. UVA’s Center distinguishes itself from the others because of this broad view, which looks beyond real estate as an asset class or an industry,” he says. “While the business of real estate is important, and UVA’s program is very strong in that area, an exciting feature about the Center is that it involves all areas of the University, such as Architecture, Engineering, Public Policy and others, to form a more comprehensive viewpoint and mission.”

White, Founder of global real estate data pioneer Real Capital Analytics (RCA), explains that as CREBE endeavors to become a valuable resource for students, faculty, and alumni of all disciplines, the result will be beneficial to all. “By sponsoring forums on various topics important to the industry, the Center will connect people with a diversity of experience and knowledge in a particular topic. That may spark ideas for further research that could also be sponsored by the Center and ultimately could result in the University taking a leading role globally as a thought leader on that topic,” he says.

Researching Meaningful Answers

While the sentiment behind that old joke about investing in land because they’re not making it anymore still holds true, Keven Lindemann (A&S ’91), CREBE Advisory Board Vice Chair for Research and Executive Committee member, says that the real estate landscape has changed substantially in the last few decades. Lindemann, Senior Director, Global Real Estate at S&P Global Market Intelligence, where he currently oversees real estate data, research, and analytics, finds that the transformations in the built environment offer wholly new avenues for research that can make a vital difference and provide critical bridges between academia and policy making.

“People need places to live, work, shop, eat, and play. As long as your population is growing, the need for real estate will grow. Real estate evolves as a reflection of changes in the broader economy,” he explains. “Data centers are now a major property type—they didn’t really exist, at least not in the current form, 25-30 years ago. Same for solar farms, cell tower networks, and last-mile distribution centers. So, a lot of real estate is ‘new,’ which provides interesting opportunities for research to answer questions that maybe have never been asked. There are also some questions that have been around for a really long time, such as how we can encourage the development of more effective, abundant, sustainable, and affordable housing. The Center can help answer these questions through its research grants.”

For Robert Byron (A&S ’73, Law ’76), CREBE Advisory Board Vice Chair for Alumni and Industry Engagement and Executive Committee member, having the Center to facilitate collaborative efforts shared among faculty researchers, alumni, and students represents a commitment to the industry capable of yielding results that matter.

“All of those component parts are already actively engaged in industry matters in various nooks and crannies around Grounds and now have a centralized platform to mix and match those interests in a concerted way at the University of Virginia,” says the Chairman, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder of Chicago-based Blue Vista Capital Management. “Under the Center’s auspices, the full depth and breadth of all that talent will be brought to bear, and the benefits will be shared by the participants, the University, and the industry.”

Mentors as Change Agents

Byron notes that many UVA alumni mentors who have forged successful careers in the industry and have been forces behind bringing the Center to life did not learn their craft while on Grounds due to a lack of formal real estate coursework offered in years past. “Fortunately, there have been passionate practitioners and faculty advocates who have kept the fires burning,” he says. Byron says that first and foremost is Commerce Professor George Overstreet, “followed closely behind by [Commerce Professor] Carl Zeithaml,” former McIntire Dean. “I also admire Don King, Bob White, Scott Kelley, Owen Thomas, and Tim Naughton for their efforts in helping make the Center a reality.”

In addition to bringing in expert voices from the industry to collaborate with faculty, the Center provides avenues for University students to connect with mentors in the field. As CREBE Advisory Board Vice Chair for Student Support and Executive Committee member, Ashley Mays (McIntire ‘02) will promote the real estate group in the Virginia Alumni Mentorship program, support stewardship programs, and assist with student clubs.

She says that while the committee will positively impact students’ real estate studies at the University, she believes that the Center can draw on UVA’s existing powerful infrastructure of mentorship and career resources to bring more talented students into the industry.

“Twenty years ago, when I was on Grounds as a student, I was a beneficiary of this work!” says the Chief of Place and Real Estate at Newark Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the economic revitalization of New Jersey’s most populous city. In her committee role, Mays is eager to collaborate with UVA staff and faculty to find new opportunities for students and to serve as “a conduit to uncover additional ways in which the committee can bolster mentorship and career preparation support. As a rule, the most exciting and impactful results come from collaboration, and I am fortunate to be able to directly work with so many passionate and dedicated people in this mission.”

Mays, who has a nearly 20-year history in commercial real estate in the private and nonprofit sectors, having recently served as Senior Vice President and Head of Leasing of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, plans to help create a more inclusive pipeline for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“As we all know, there is a crisis of diversity in commercial real estate. This committee and the Advisory Board have a tremendous amount of access to all aspects of the industry and an opportunity to support women and BIPOC students on their journey,” she says. “Long term, we want to see UVA graduates running these organizations, or starting their own, and changing the world. In the short term, I will have been proud to see a diverse body of students pursuing careers in commercial real estate, actively supported by alumni mentors and sponsors in the industry.”

Lindemann hopes that, in addition to serving as Vice Chair for Research, he can be instrumental in the success of future leaders through the Center.

“The University has given me a great deal, both as an undergraduate and as an alumnus. The relationships, both with faculty and with fellow alums, have been invaluable in my career and continue to provide a lot of personal growth and enjoyment. Working with the Center enables me to give back in a small way,” he says. “Even in these early days, we’ve already connected with many alums who are eager to help. With their support, guidance, industry connections, perspectives, and access to data, we will doubtlessly do a better job of funding and nurturing meaningful and impactful research.”

White echoed the promise of future support to help CREBE more fully realize its mission.

“There has been tremendous interest from alumni active in real estate to interact with students, and CREBE will provide even more possibilities for that kind of support—especially across disciplines. Many students are not yet aware of the diversity of career paths available in the real estate industry and stand to benefit greatly by accessing our strong alumni network through the Center.”

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