Published February 5, 2020

Chair helps connect Rutgers to real estate industry, benefiting students and scholars

A 2014 gift from real estate investor Paul V. Profeta and an anonymous donor created the Paul V. Profeta Chair in Real Estate at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick, which has been instrumental in establishing Rutgers as a leading center for real estate education and research.

The inaugural chair holder, Morris A. Davis, is a former economist with the Federal Reserve who frequently briefed its then chair, Alan Greenspan, on issues related to the housing market. Davis is regularly interviewed by Marketplace, Bloomberg Radio, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times on housing markets, in addition to lecturing at universities and central banks around the world. He previously was the James A. Graaskamp Chair in Real Estate at the Wisconsin School of Business and academic director of its Graaskamp Center for Real Estate.

The endowed chair was also the catalyst for the formation of the Center for Real Estate at Rutgers Business School, a key component of Rutgers’ efforts to forge connections with the real estate industry, create a pipeline to employment, and establish “the frontier of excellence for all real estate programs around the world,” says Davis.

The gift to create the Profeta chair was inspired by the three elements that have guided Paul Profeta throughout his career—business, education, and philanthropy. He has been a lecturer at his alma mater, Harvard Business School, and an associate adjunct professor at Columbia Graduate School of Business. He has also lectured at the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Business and Rutgers Business School.

In 2008, he founded the Profeta Urban Investment Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that provides seed capital for start-up and stage one minority-owned commercial ventures in Newark, New Jersey. Graduate students enrolled in the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development program—funded by the Profeta Urban Investment Foundation—gain real-world experience by analyzing, monitoring, and mentoring the owners of these new businesses.

In the Professor’s Own Words

What kinds of opportunities does an education in real estate create for students?

The short answer is “anything,” but loosely speaking, our students have careers in finance, development, or public policy, and the employers range from large corporations, investment banks, and life insurance companies to small family operations. Within each of the fields of finance, development, and policy there are many different jobs and paths. Some of our students underwrite commercial mortgages for banks, other students work on securitizing pools of mortgages to sell as mortgage-backed bonds. Some students acquire property to hold in a portfolio, other students acquire property to redevelop the building, find new tenants, and then sell the property.

How does the Center for Real Estate benefit the community and state?

Real estate is the largest asset class in the United States, and Rutgers is training the next generation of leaders in the field of real estate. Our students, many of whom are first-generation college students, are getting the best training in real estate in the world, thanks to industry leaders like Carl Goldberg, George Jacobs, Ron Ladell, Brett Tanzman, and many others who have volunteered their time in the classroom to teach and mentor our students. We have seen firsthand that our students can go head to head with students from Wharton, Cornell, Berkeley, etc. in an interview for any real estate job. Many of the students want to stay in New Jersey and improve our local real estate. The program is great for real estate in New Jersey, and it is great for the students of New Jersey who aspire to fulfilling careers anywhere.

What aspect of Rutgers’ real estate programs are you most proud of or excited by?

It’s our philosophy of investing in our students. The students understand that our model is one of co-investment. The students need to study hard and do well in class. If the students do well in class, then the center will do everything it can to provide support: help them find jobs, mentor them, and distribute scholarships to reduce the financial burden of attending Rutgers. The industry understands that our model is about investment in students and the Advisory Board and Emerging Leaders of the Center for Real Estate donate a lot of money to us each year to support our investment thesis.

The scholarship support is key to what we do; we want the students to feel financially secure and supported so they can focus on their studies and career and not make any terrible decisions to reduce their debt load or expenses. Since the spring of 2015, we have directly distributed or facilitated scholarships for 113 of our students totaling more than $570,000. And our scholarship support is growing over time; in the 2019–2020 academic year, we expect to directly distribute or facilitate more than $350,000 in scholarships to our students. Our goal is to raise enough money to fund $1 million in scholarships each year: $10,000 per student for 100 students. When we get there, we can declare victory—at least until we decide on our next goal.

What do you hope resonates most with your students?

If I were to make only one speech to all students that I hope they would remember, I would emphasize three points. First, continually strive for excellence and internalize that anything short of excellence is failure. Second, be a great human and hold yourself to a high moral standard. Third, as long as you strive for excellence and as long as you are a great human, then you are always part of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate family: we are here for you now and in the future, to teach and mentor and support you, whatever your job and wherever you go.


This story is part of Rutgers University Foundation’s Endowed Chairs Impact series. Supporting professorships and research helps spark innovation and creativity here in New Jersey and beyond.