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Student Experiences

Connections for Success

In the Classroom

Connections count in business, especially when you work in real estate.

Jason White and Troy Carpenter, instructors for BYU Marriott’s Real Estate Capital Markets and Investments class, aim to help their students make connections—not just with people but also with ideas.

Now in its fourth semester, this upper-level elective has proven so beneficial that the finance department is in the process of making it a permanent class with its own course number. Students who take the class “already understand a lot of great concepts,” says White, “but they don’t necessarily know how they tie together. Our goal is to help them put those pieces together.”

White, president and chief investment officer at 50 East Capital Management in Provo and an adjunct professor at BYU Marriott, and Carpenter, faculty advisor to the Real Estate Association, developed the Real Estate Capital Markets and Investments course as a bridge between academia and students’ first jobs in commercial real estate (CRE). The class gives participants exposure to the industry and opportunities to apply theoretical concepts in a practical way. The course also helps students create and communicate investment theses. “We want them to figure out for themselves which asset classes they are bullish on and can spend their careers pursuing,” says Carpenter.

Though the course is open to finance majors, MBA students, and students active in the Real Estate Association, only 10 to 20 participants are admitted each semester to the hands-on, practical class. Students must submit a résumé and interview with Carpenter to receive a spot.

In the first weeks, White and Carpenter teach general principles about analyzing CRE investment opportunities, including risk and return tradeoffs, capital allocation, and due diligence. Then the course pivots and visiting professionals—BYU alumni who have built successful careers in CRE—lead the classes. They share insights from their areas of expertise, discuss real-life case studies, and present vital topics such as raising debt, types of deal structures, public versus private real estate, real estate investments and trusts, and the best things to focus on early in a career.

Ben Neff, an MBA student from Oakley, Utah, says it was especially beneficial that “we always had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the professionals and connect with them in a small class environment. The connections with both the professionals and my fellow classmates will be a great resource for me as I continue my career.”

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The goal is to get students to look at the big picture and think about why they believe investments are attractive.
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During the final month of class, students pair up to complete a capstone project: allocating a hypothetical $100 million between three or four geographies and property types. Using slide presentations, teams make their pitches to an “investment committee” that includes White, Carpenter, and several professionals. “The goal is to get students to look at the big picture and think about why they believe investments are attractive,” says White. “Giving the students that experience early on in their careers provides them a solid foundation for being decision makers in the future.”

Dallin and Hailee Earl, a married couple who each graduated in April 2021 with a BS in finance, report that the experience and skills they gained through the course are invaluable. “Three things are essential in real estate finance: technical and analytical abilities, an understanding of the market and various asset classes, and a network of relationships in the industry,” Dallin Earl explains. “This class helped with all three.”


Written by Shirleen M. Saunders