Miami has beaches, sun, and one of the world’s most renown global luxury real estate markets. In September, a group of 24 Executive MBA students from around the world visited FIU for a close-up view of this market, and the opportunity to study its design, financing and construction.
The students participated in the EMBA Consortium for Global Business Innovation. The program offers students from select global universities, FIU among them, the opportunity to travel abroad, meet peers and study a local business or market during an intensive week in another country.
This created a special synergy, enabling the program to focus on luxury real estate with a global outlook, said Suzanne Hollander, an attorney and broker who is a professor at the Hollo School and industry liaison to FIU’s Jerome Bain Real Estate Institute. Hollander led the group on private top-tier real estate company visits each day.
“We were able to work with top our industry connections, and visit the most well-known developments not only in Miami, but in the Southeast United States,” she said. This included a private tour from Edward Owen, commercial leasing director of Brickell City Centre, the $1.05 billion mixed used development built by Hong Kong-based Swire Properties; a meeting and tour of the Design District with Steven Gretenstein, chief operating officer of Dacra, the company that developed much of the high-end shopping district; a trip to ongoing Related Group project Brickell Heights; and a construction site visit to Aventura Square, a mixed use project by Integra Investments.
“We talked about acquisitions, financing, leasing that involved profit sharing,” Hollander said. “We took to the road and learned feet-on-the-street.”
Practical plus academic.
Focusing on Miami real estate, Hollander said, showcased how FIU excels at building strong relationships with both local and global communities.
“The combination of lectures and business visits was invaluable,” said Bafedile Evah Chauke-Moagi, a student from South Africa working on an MBA at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in Cape Town. “We got to experience the best of Miami as a destination while also learning about the business side from some of the most inspiring people in the world.”
Chauke-Moagi, who works in the sustainable development department of a mining company, was especially impressed by the strategies Miami developers used to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, and how they’ve targeted the luxury consumer while promoting Miami as a brand.
Participants shared how businesses work in their economies and departed for home with new ideas.
“Our group of students provided a window into the business practices in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa,” said Hollo School Director William G. Hardin III, who led the classroom sessions. “It was a strong group of talented students with substantial professional experience.”
He said that post-event student feedback earned FIU its highest ratings since formation of the consortium.
That was echoed by Maria Sierra, associate director of operations for FIU’s MBA programs, who has helped organize the consortium experience for the last five years. “This year’s program focus on luxury living in Miami has been the most valuable experience for the students to date,” she said.
That was true even for those who arrived with modest expectations.
“I agreed to go mainly because of the sun and the beach,” admitted Aleksei Prishchepo, founder of a security systems supply company who is working on an EMBA at the Moscow International higher business school. “But then I realized that I was wrong in my expectations.” The experience turned out to be fun and productive, providing insights on the variety of ways business problems can be approached.
Enjoyable lunches and dinners at local restaurants helped make the trip memorable as well, he said. “I’m very happy that I came.”