The Georgetown University Public Real Estate Fund (GUPREF), which launched during the 2016-2017 school year, has secured $100,000 through its partnership with the Steers Center for Global Real Estate. The student-run fund will invest in publically traded real estate debt and equity. It comprises 45 undergraduate students across all four years from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Georgetown College, and the School of Foreign Service.
Georgetown McDonough’s Steers Center aims to offer undergraduate and graduate students greater access to the real estate industry. GUPREF was developed to better expose undergraduates to the real estate market through real-world investing experience.
The student-run fund uses real-world database information to invest in debt through commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and in equity through real estate investment trusts (REITS). According to Matthew Cypher, director of the Steers Center, GUPREF is the only student-led investment group in the United States to invest in CMBS.
The project is overseen by Sunil Madan, associate director of the Steers Center. It is headed by an executive committee comprised of students whose responsibilities vary based on their respective roles, including chief executive officer, chief investment officer, and chief operations officer.
“A lot of this has been made possible because of the interest of the student leadership of the fund,” said Madan. “They have really taken this initiative and run with it.”
All members of GUPREF are currently undergoing a 12-week training program taught by alumni. Afterward, the students will be required to pass a proficiency test before they can begin researching and analyzing investments. They will then pitch their ideas to an investment committee of senior alumni to approve the deals, which will be effectuated by officers of Georgetown University’s endowment.
“One of [our] objectives was to teach students how to invest, which can be taught in a classroom, but it is more important that they learn by actually doing it,” said Madan. “It needs to be a combination of theory and application.”
Both Cypher and Madan agree that the skills students develop through their involvement in GUPREF can lead to better job opportunities in real estate.
“When students are in interviews, they can talk about what they have actually done. Whether or not they have had an internship in real estate, they can talk about a specific deal or transaction they have engaged in,” Cypher said.
According to Cypher, GUPREF hopes to become the largest student-run fund on Georgetown’s campus and one of the largest in the nation. He added that the fund’s target investments are currently entirely public, but it is possible the fund will expand to include private investments and other products.
“At the end of the day, we want to have a robust set of students participating,” said Cypher. “I would love to see the total number of participants growing because this is a unique way to develop genuine skills that are transferrable to the real world.”