At the Center of It All: Students Dive Deep Into World of Real Estate Development


In spring 2018, students in the Masters of Real Estate Development program took its travel experience study trip abroad. Students visited international cities, explored notable real estate projects and networked with top professionals worldwide.

In spring 2018 as part of the study trip abroad program, the U’s MRED students visited six international cities — Dublin, Ireland; Prague, Czech Republic; Rome, Italy; Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong (shown above); and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Students in the Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program at the University of Utah are ready to hit the ground running for their employers when they graduate — thanks, in large part, to the invaluable real-world experience afforded to them through the Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center. That’s good news: for the students, for their employers and for the state’s overall real estate outlook.

A Center with a Purpose
The Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center (IBREC) — located atop the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building on the University of Utah’s campus — opened in 2007, thanks to a generous endowment from Clark Ivory in honor of his father Ellis Ivory of Ivory Homes, and Roger Boyer of the Boyer Company. Their support plus the leadership of dean of the David Eccles School of Business Taylor Randle, and advisory board members Fred Fairclough and Bob Moore, among others, was instrumental to getting the center on its feet. The designated purpose of the Center is simple: to provide unsurpassed real estate industry education and research. In practice, the Center works closely with the MRED academic program to offer students a deep dive into the world of real estate development: one that expands their understanding of the work at hand in their current industry positions and prepares them to seamlessly step into new roles after graduation.

The IBREC is really one of the top real estate programs in the nation and is training the future leaders of our industry. There is no doubt in my mind our industry and economy have greatly benefited from the program, faculty, students, alumni, and the advisory board.”

— Clark Ivory,Director, Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center (IBREC)

  • A Wealth of Learning Opportunities
    The Center is an integral part of the MRED students’ education right from the start. Flyn Dawson, the Center’s director, has been in commercial banking for more than 25 years. Thanks to the generous support of Zions Bank, he utilizes his experience as a senior vice president of real estate to prepare students for the industry and all the exciting learning opportunities that await: The Real Estate Challenge, development-oriented field trips, a mentorship program, a guest speaker series, and the newly added Women’s Council.

    The Real Estate Challenge is an annual event open to any college student in the State of Utah. Students form teams and submit proposals and business plans centered around development. Submissions are judged by a panel of real estate experts from the community and the grand prize-winning team receives $20,000. Second and third place teams receive $10,000 and $5,000 respectively. “We usually have about 15 teams, primarily from Utah State, UVU, BYU and the ‘U’,” Dawson said. “We’ve had some great synergies with other universities, regardless of who won the rivalry game that year.”

  • The award money is donated by the local finance and real estate community. Danny Wall, director and associate professor for the MRED program, has been involved in real estate and development, in some form or fashion, for his entire career. He says the community is very generous with their resources. “They give a lot of funding for the real estate program, but they give even more in terms of their time to the students,” Wall said. The experience afforded to students by that investment cannot be overstated. The financial investment funds the real estate challenge and the travel experience; the investment in time imparts knowledge and opens doors that might otherwise remain closed.

    The travel experience allows students to travel to corporations and real estate developments around the U.S. and the world, giving them the opportunity to observe and learn, first- hand, from successful real estate professionals. The cost of the trip is covered by both students and private donations, and each year the destinations alternate between national and international locales: when traveling the U.S., they alternate between the west coast and the east coast.

Just this past May, we went on our round-the-world trip and we took 14 students to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Prague, Rome and Dublin. Next May we’re going to Boise, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.”

— Flyn Dawson, Director, Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center (IBREC)

The mentorship program led by Rocky Derrick, pairs students with real estate professionals in the state. Flyn says they have about 25 real estate professionals to match up with students. The mentorship lasts six months and the students meet with their mentor once a month. Students are given a variety of opportunities, including site visits and the chance to participate in company meetings. The mentorships offer students an opportunity to gain first-hand experiential knowledge, but it also widens their professional network.

The Center also has a weekly Real Estate Lab that brings top real estate professionals from around the country to campus for a roundtable discussion with students. Wall says student participation with the speakers is very high. “Most of our students will attend multiple times each semester,” he said.

  • Blueprint for Success
    This formula is proving to be highly successful for MRED students, opening doors and leading to profitable careers. Through the program, students can crack their way into a development community that can be “hard to access” according to Wall.

    “It’s a tight-knit group,” he said. “Our program actually provides an open door that you can walk through to get into that community and become a participant.”

  • Masters of Real Estate Development Director Danny Wall (second from right) and Flyn Dawson (front center) in Chicago with MRED students.

The program has a job placement rate of 95 percent. Beginning salaries generally start around $70,000 and they can be as high as six figures. Wall says the program acts like a grassroots matchmaking service; he gets several emails a week from people in the industry who are looking to hire. “If you come to the program and work hard, and you do a good job, we will help you make the match that fits,” Wall said.

Bringing Balance to the Industry
Sometimes the match that fits is very specific — gender specific to be exact. Wall says employers often approach him looking, specifically, to hire a female MRED student or graduate for a position. But, he cautioned, it’s not just about having balance. Wall says it helps to imagine a hotel that’s designed exclusively by men versus a hotel that’s designed by a collaboration of people from different backgrounds and experiences and perspectives: they would be very different buildings. “Having that diversity of perspective creates a better-built environment,” said Wall. “It actually enhances the finished product.”

The Center recently introduced a Women’s Council led by Ronda Landa, to provide guidance and networking opportunities for women in the program. Wall said there is a shortage of women in the industry and they are actively working to address that problem. The program is currently comprised of around 20 percent women —

  • and that number is, surprisingly, up from previous years. They are actively recruiting women to the program. Their goal is to reach a point where it’s perfectly balanced: half male and half female.

    Addressing Broader Issues in Development
    Both the Center and the MRED program are looking at ways to address broader issues that face the industry. They are currently running a course called Innovations in Housing Affordability. Wall says it’s not just focused on affordable housing as it’s typically thought of: students are encouraged to seek innovations in housing affordability. And, recently, the Sorenson Impact Center held a competition, called Hack-A- House, that allows students to come up with ideas to solve the housing affordability problem.

  • MRED Director Danny Wall (left), with competing students Archie McConnell and Meg Bond along with Flyn Dawson, director of the Ivory- Boyer Real Estate Center at the 2018 the Utah Real Estate Challenge.

Wall feels that one of the program’s biggest contributions to the industry is centered around talent and helping to address the current labor shortage. “We’re educating and trying to move these students through, so they can hit the ground running without these companies having to make a huge investment in training,” Wall said. They also try to get students involved in various boards and trade organizations in town. The Center also a unique connection public policy and helping the industry make informed decisions through real estate-related research with the Ivory-Boyer Construction Database with the Ivory-Boyer Fellow Jim Wood and his research associated Dejan Eskic at the University’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

  • Making the World a Better Place
    “I want to congratulate Flyn Dawson and Danny Wall for making The Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center the premier real estate industry education and research center in the Intermountain States,”
    said Roger Boyer, Chairman of the Boyer Company. “The Real Estate Challenge, travel experience, mentor program, real estate research and master’s degree options are preparing the next generation of leaders in real estate.”

    Wall says the current generation of MRED students, comprised largely of millennials, will bring social responsibility and sustainability to business, even taking some money off the table so they can give back. Many of them have altruistic goals, he says. “They are not just interested in money, they want to make the world a better place.”

  • The UREC is an annual event open to any college student in the state of Utah. Students form teams and submit proposals and business plans centered around development. Submissions are judged by a panel of real estate experts from the community and the grand prize-winning team receives $20,000.

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