The UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA program, and the real estate concentration specifically, has been a game-changer for me as a career switcher looking to enter the commercial real estate industry. I secured both an internship and a full-time position with two top-tier real estate firms in my target market thanks to the real estate program’s transformative effect, which spans three important dimensions: coursework, experiential learning, and alumni engagement.

Note from Michael: This profile is part of The A.CRE MBA Real Estate Series highlighting some of the world’s top MBA programs with concentrations in real estate. Each profile has been written by a current or former student of the program and is written from their unique perspective on the school and its real estate offerings. This profile was originally written with the help of C.J Overly, Class of 2017, and updated in 2020 thanks to the help of Quinn Augustine, Class of 2021.  A huge thanks to all who contributed to this profile.

Watch the Student Interview Deep Dive on UNC’s Kenan-Flagler

In 2020, we conducted an interview with a current student at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, Quinn Augustine. Quinn is an MBA student at UNC focusing on real estate. In this interview, we discuss what it means to be a real estate student at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, what course offerings are available, what extracurricular activities are most impactful, and what alumni support MBA students should expect.

A huge thank you to Quinn for contributing his time and experience to help others better understand what UNC has to offer graduate real estate students!

Note: You might also check out the A.CRE Audio Series episode featuring Jim Spaeth, the Executive Director of the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Real Estate Education at Kenan-Flagler – Inside and Outside the Classroom

I arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler with a background in finance, but no real estate training. The program’s structured curriculum and best-in-class faculty enabled me to climb the learning curve rapidly.  Covering everything from terminology and financial modeling to market research and industry trends, the coursework prepared me in just nine months for a successful real estate internship.

This time inside the classroom was complemented by innumerable experiential learning opportunities.  The program’s tag line is “Real-World Real Estate”, but this is much more than a catchy phrase.  During the two-year program, I competed in three case competitions, took part in seven career treks, visited with 70+ companies, toured 30+ projects, authored four blog posts, attended two UNC-hosted conferences, earned ARGUS Enterprise Certification, and pursued a live development deal.

The Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Alumni Network

These phenomenal hands-on learning opportunities do not materialize effortlessly, of course. Most are the product of active alumni involvement.  UNC Real Estate alums are engaged in every aspect of the student experience. They share knowledge and provide case material for the classroom, host student visits and site tours, serve as mentors, and are one of the drivers of internship and full-time placement success. Both my internship and full-time roles were sourced through MBA graduates. With 1700+ UNC alums in real estate around the world, including concentrations in DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, NYC, and Raleigh-Durham,  nearly every major real estate firm has a Tar Heel among its ranks.  This lifelong network enables current students and graduates to find new roles and grow in their careers.

UNC MBA Real Estate Club

The Real Estate Club extends the classroom experience by engaging students, faculty, alumni and real estate professionals in a broad variety of activities, including a speaker series sponsored by the Wood Center for Real Estate Studies, and career trips to give students first-hand exposure to such markets as Washington DC, New York City, Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh, San Francisco and Nashville. The Real Estate Club sponsors career panels and video conferences that bring distinguished alumni to campus throughout the year to discuss their careers and experiences.

Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Extracurriculars

Annual UNC Real Estate Conference

The Annual UNC Real Estate Conference brings together practitioners and academics to discuss topical issues in the real estate industry.  With 400+ attendees each year, the conference also serves as a program alumni reunion and networking opportunity for current students.

UNC Real Estate Development Challenge

The UNC Real Estate Development Challenge is a case competition hosted by the Leonard W Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at Kenan-Flagler Business School. An invitation-only event, the Challenge convenes 16 teams from the US and Europe’s top MBA programs to compete.

Student Managed Real Estate Funds

The Kenan-Flagler Business School Foundation (KFBSF) Real Estate Funds were established with the primary objective of providing a unique educational experience for student managers and secondarily to provide investment returns to its Limited Partners. Funds I and II are fully invested and Fund III (established in late 2014) is currently being invested.  Tenure as a manager on the Real Estate Funds provides a select group of students with hands-on experience in the operation of a private investment fund. Concurrently, student managers have the opportunity to establish personal and professional relationships with national real estate developers and investors. The Funds’ managers work closely with the real estate faculty and friends of Kenan-Flagler Business School to identify and evaluate investment opportunities for the Real Estate Funds. Once an investment is approved and placed, the student managers provide continued surveillance, reporting, and asset management.

ARGUS Enterprise Certification

The Wood Center for Real Estate Studies provides students the opportunity to train and pass the ARGUS Enterprise exam.

Alumni Mentoring Program

Every MBA student is matched with an alumni mentor based on key criteria, including job function, company type, market of interest, and pre-MBA background.  Mentors and students are encouraged to interact on a monthly basis during the student’s first year and these professional relationships often extended far into the student’s career.

Real Estate Financial Modeling Seminar

To kick-start students’ real estate acuity in excel modeling, two days of intensive real estate modeling is organized by the Wood Center for first-year students.

Real Estate Global Immersion

Offered most years, this for-credit elective provides real estate students with a global perspective of real estate markets beyond our borders.  Recent visits include Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Panama, Russia, and the U.K.


Course Offerings

Real Estate Macroeconomics and Securities Markets

This course introduces students to the capital markets for financing real estate assets. The course includes an overview of real estate as an asset class in the US economy; the relationship between real estate investment risk, return, and cap rates;  a detailed analysis of the most important types of instruments used for financing real estate; the market for mortgage-backed securities; private equity and how risk as well as return flows to different stakeholders in the capital structure; and, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Professor: Jacob Sagi

Real Estate Process

Real Estate Process is the first course in the real estate curriculum and provides students with the foundation required to be successful in the highly competitive summer internship job market. The course introduces students to fundamental concepts of real estate, and provides a foundation for analysis of markets, valuation, real estate law, development, capital markets, and investment analysis. The course takes a “bottom-up” approach to real estate decision-making, focusing on property-level decision making.

International Real Estate Investment

This course links the world of investment theory and analysis to the world of practice in global real estate investing by institutional investors. Topics include portfolio strategies for real estate assets and securities, real estate funds and derivatives, currency and tax issues, execution challenges and performance evaluation.

Professor: Andra Ghent

Real Estate Law

The practical essentials of legal issues and documents in all aspects of acquisition, finance, development, and disposition are covered in this class, focusing on key negotiation points and their economic impact for participants on all sides of various commercial real estate transactions. The class will focus on legal topics that impact the business of real estate, which includes developing an understanding of letters of intent, purchase and sale contracts, leases, joint venture and partnership agreements, and documents regarding real estate financing, among other contracts.

Professor: David Hartzell

Real Estate Macroeconomics and Securities Markets

This course gives students an understanding of real estate capital markets and securities. Students will develop an appreciation of the feedback between real estate and the macro economy through existing markets for securities used to finance real estate assets. Topics covered include real estate risk and return, the economics of cap rates, commercial mortgage-backed securities, Real Estate Investment Trust valuation and financial analysis, and real estate derivatives.

Professor: Jacob Sagi

At a Glance

Primary Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Other Locations: Xiamen, China; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Sau Paulo, Brazil; and Monterrey, Mexico

2018 Class Size: 276

Alumni Count: Over 37,000

Alumni Countries: Over 85


About C.J. Overly: Charles (C.J.) Overly received an MBA in real estate and corporate finance from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2017, and is now a project manager with Boston Properties in Washington, DC. While at UNC Kenan-Flagler, C.J. served as president of the MBA Real Estate Club and completed a summer internship with Trammell Crow Residential.  Prior to business school, C.J. spent six years at Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.) managing the finance and operations functions of a large high school, and serving on the project team that designed and built a new $105M, 430K square foot, LEED® Gold school facility.  He was previously a banking analyst with JPMorgan Chase.  C.J. earned a BSBA in finance from Georgetown University and an AA in business from Montgomery College.