New Voices: Supporting the Next Generation of Commercial Real Estate Leaders — A NAIOP Distinguished Fellow Perspective

Spring 2013
David Funk

What does the next generation of commercial real estate leaders think is important to the industry and what does it envision for the future?

As active classroom professors, NAIOP Distinguished Fellows are in a unique position, serving as a bridge between commercial real estate practitioners and academicians. The Distinguished Fellows’ knowledge of real estate educational content and access to current real estate students enables NAIOP to stay in touch with the interests of future real estate professionals in the ever-changing real estate environment.

Appointed as a NAIOP Distinguished Fellow in January 2013, David Funk is the first to be named under the NAIOP Research Foundation’s newly created Boyd Stofer Memorial Fund. Funk is a senior lecturer and director of the Baker Program in Real Estate at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he teaches two courses: Real Estate Transactions and Deal Structuring, and Real Estate Management and Marketing.
At Cornell, in particular, the student demographic has remained fairly constant. “Cornell’s belief is that students gain the most from our graduate program by arriving with significant commercial real estate experience. So, our student demographics remain at an average age of 29, with five to seven years of work experience. Typically one third of our students are international, with the remaining drawn from across the United States,” said Funk.

As the commercial real estate industry has slowly recovered over the last few years, interest in the study of this sector has increased. According to Funk, “Enrollment in graduate real estate education dipped on a national level in 2009 and 2010. However, it seemed to pick up in the last application cycle, which is somewhat linked to a perception that opportunities in the commercial real estate market are rebounding.”

“Cornell finds that students coming into the program today are strongly committed to real estate as an asset class and are increasingly focused on areas of specialization, either sector or business function and sometimes both,” said Funk. “There is also tremendous interest in real estate as a vehicle for improving communities and quality of life. This has manifested into the study of sustainability, affordable housing, historic preservation and the like.”

According to Funk, the most important thing the commercial real estate industry can do to support real estate college students is to provide internships and early career employment opportunities. The insights the Distinguished Fellows gain from being in the classroom with future real estate professionals help NAIOP and the industry nurture the upcoming real estate generation with resources and programming, at both the national and local levels.