Economics major Jason Olinger sees a great deal of opportunity for creativity and transformation in the profession of real estate. He says that’s the reason he’s been drawn to study it, and hopefully, to work in the industry.
“Whether it’s renovating a fixer-upper, designing a custom home, or repurposing commercial spaces, the ability to shape and improve a property is highly appealing to me,” the Potomac, MD, native says. “Real estate is a community builder, and I want to be a part of something that I can watch grow and shape for the people around it.”
That understanding makes perfect sense, considering Olinger’s focus on relationship building: “I think many people would view me as a person who cares about helping others, and that stems from my passion for supporting other people’s causes. I am not someone to say no often when a friend comes to me for help or advice,” he says.
But it was during an internship with Artemis Real Estate Partners in the summer of 2021, when Olinger quickly realized he also had a passion for the subject of real estate.
The timing couldn’t have been better for him to recognize his interest. Shortly thereafter, McIntire announced that the new Real Estate Minor would be introduced the following school year, and he jumped at the chance to continue learning about his then-newfound enthusiasm for the field. He remembers perusing the minor’s coursework and being surprised to discover the wide range of subjects that he was previously unaware of being part of its vast area of study. “I was eager to take the classes that would expose me to a variety of new topics,” Olinger says. “The minor has not disappointed in providing exactly what I wanted.”
Olinger was driven by his curiosity to learn more about the area. Applying to the Real Estate Minor was a natural decision for him; the curriculum connected directly with his chosen major in Economics at the College of Arts & Sciences.
“There is a huge relationship between my major and minor coursework, as real estate is a subdivision of economics,” he says, explaining that real estate uses broad economic theories from his major to illuminate specific situations. “For example, the prerequisite course for the Real Estate Minor, Foundations of Real Estate Finance, takes macroeconomic concepts and applies them to real estate.” He adds that he was later able to rely on that foundational knowledge once again in his Economics classes.
A second internship led Olinger to Israel to work with the purchasing team of payment tech company Payoneer in 2022, and in the summer of 2023, a third intern position with MidCap Financial’s Real Estate Portfolio Management team in Bethesda, MD, brought him closer to home—and also afforded him more engagement with an area he intends to pursue professionally after UVA.
He credits the Real Estate Minor and its multidisciplinary offering of courses with giving him a dependable fluency across an array of topics: “So far, I have taken a courses related to construction management, zoning and land use laws, and real estate finance. Granted, I am not an expert in any of these related fields; however, getting this ground base has allowed me to ‘speak the language’ and familiarize myself with the ideas and concepts as they arise in a work environment.”
One important lesson that has stayed with him from his coursework came from late Commerce Professor Drew Sanderford; Olinger says it applies to much more than either his Real Estate or Economics studies.
“On one of my assignments, he commented that I need to better explain the ‘why.’ It is easy to lay out the facts, but if you are unable to justify them, how truthful are those facts, and why do they even matter?” he recalls. “I took this beyond the classroom and applied it to the rest of my life. As a college student, I am faced with many of life’s questions, and to accept that I make the best decisions for myself, I repeatedly remind myself why I do what I am doing.”
As he continues completing his studies for his upcoming December 2023 graduation, Olinger holds in mind a dream job: Founder and CEO of his own real estate private equity firm. “At heart, I want to be an entrepreneur. I am constantly thinking of new business ideas, and hopefully one of those ideas will be the start of my new business.”