Debbie Farnoush, then a fifth-year student at the University of California in Los Angeles, knew she wanted a career in real estate. To prepare for her chosen profession, she looked around for a school organization that would help familiarize her with the business and be
an avenue for her to meet professionals in the field.
"I met many undergraduates who wanted to pursue a career in real estate. However, we had nowhere to go," she said. To fill the void, she took matters into her own hands and started a real estate club for undergraduate students in UCLA. "Through word of mouth and posting messages on Internet sites such as facebook.com, I was able to find students who were willing to join this newly-formed group," she recounted.
A club is born
In October 2005, the UCLA Undergraduate Real Estate Association (UREA) officially came into existence. The organization boasts of close to 300 members from a cross-section of majors, from undergrads who focus on the social sciences, to the humanities, to engineering, to the physical and biological sciences. They come together at UREA with the common interest of wanting to know more about real estate and possibly pursuing this career in the future.
In addition to its undergrad members, UREA also has around 50 members from the graduate school, from students taking up law, urban planning, architecture, engineering and medicine. UREA’s activities are not merely limited to members but are open to the public as well.
"We also get former UCLA students and sometimes local community members who are interested in listening to what our guest speakers have to say," Farnoush said. "People of all ages come to the events."
UREA’s main activities mostly revolve around guest speakers and professionals who give talks on their fields of expertise, whether it be law, development, finance, asset management, architecture or marketing, some of the related disciplines of the real estate
profession. The organization has had brown-bag events, where guest speakers come during lunch to share their expertise, panel discussions with real estate developers and a "Women in Real Estate Night," when various women professionals from different specializations shared their professional experiences.
Real estate market boom attracts students
Farnoush credits student and community interest in the organization to the Southern California real estate boom experienced in recent years.
"People are always hearing about how others are making big money in the industry and since money is quite attractive to people, the topic of real estate has thus become a hot topic. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want to make money the easy way by investing in such a strong and promising market?" she said.
UREA was not established overnight. Farnoush said that even if the school had funding for their type of organization, nobody thought of starting a real estate-related organization for undergraduates. When asked why this was the case, she said that maybe people didn’t know how to start one. She considers the establishment of the group as her biggest achievement with UREA.
Can’t find the right major? Create one.
UREA’s inception is closely linked to the 23-year-old Farnoush, who serves as its founder and charter president. As an undergraduate student taking up classes in architecture, geography, urban planning and real estate economics to work towards a Business Economics degree, she said she was looking towards a career in real estate but the school did not offer the major that she really wanted to take up.
She sought the help of a school councilor, who advised her that she could, in effect, create her own major. She worked on a proposal for her desired major for two years and graduated in June of this year with a major in "Managing and Planning a Contemporary Urban Society," a combination of Urban Planning and Management. Farnoush now works as an associate for real estate advisors Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC, which provides real estate consulting, strategic planning, development and investment advice and transaction and implementation services.
Now that Farnoush is no longer a student at UCLA, she will work closely with UREA’s new set of officers and "plans to mentor them into the direction that I want the group to become."
She plans to maintain student interest in UREA by constantly having new programs. "As the real estate market slows down, I am afraid that the club will lose its popularity. As founder it is my responsibility, as well as the responsibility of other board members, to make sure the club holds strong in the coming years."
© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC. All rights reserved.