Student Profile: Caryn Brooks, Multifamily Housing Professional – Real Estate Matters
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Student Profile: Caryn Brooks, Multifamily Housing Professional

What is your educational background and professional experience?

CarynBrooksI graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in psychology and began my career in real estate as an Assistant Property Manager at an apartment community in Chapel Hill, NC.  About 8 months later I was promoted to Property Manager of a community in Raleigh and then decided to pursue opportunities with national apartment management companies.  In 2004, I signed on with Oakwood Worldwide and moved to Minneapolis to manage LaSalle Apartments.  A few months into the position, Oakwood announced the sale of its entire portfolio to a REIT, Archstone-Smith.  Archstone sold off its Midwest properties and in 2006, TE Miller Development, a local family-owned apartment management company acquired the property.  TE Miller had recently purchased 3 other properties and was in need of someone with on-site experience to supervise its portfolio of 1,100 units, so I stepped into the role of Regional Property Manager.

Overseeing a variety of different communities was an incredible learning experience.  In 2008, TE Miller began construction on York Place Apartments in Edina, and I was fortunate to be able to work with the owners to fine-tune development proformas and the details of the community from establishing a unit mix and rents to meeting with contractors to select amenities and unit finishes.  My goal with the project was to make decisions that would be cost-effective, sustainable, and allow for the property to be efficiently managed and marketed well into the future, since the owners planned to manage the property long-term.

It’s amazing to be able to watch the whole development process from start to finish and make decisions at each step of the way, knowing those decisions will impact residents’ daily lives for the next 40+ years!

Around this time, I also became very interested in the sustainability of buildings and became a LEED Accredited Professional.  I realized I needed a more solid base of commercial real estate and finance knowledge to continue doing what I loved – development, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree.

Why did you choose the MSRE program at UST?

Like many other MSRE students, I had considered an MBA, but liked the idea of a specific program to acquire more practical knowledge and differentiate myself as a professional dedicated to the real estate industry.  St. Thomas’ location and facilities are top-notch, and the cost was very reasonable compared to other programs.  I tried to look at the overall ROI of various programs and UST was the best value.

I had considered an online MBA program, but I preferred to meet on campus and interact with other professionals in the business community for an enhanced learning experience.

What was your career goal when you entered the program and how has it evolved since?

What sparks my interest is working in multifamily development as well as having the opportunity to integrate sustainability principles into large communities for cost savings, environmental benefits, and quality of life for residents.  However, being in the MSRE program has opened up my eyes to a number of different opportunities in multifamily housing including development, asset management, and finance.  My goal at this point is to obtain a position in which I can learn more about tax credit financing for affordable, mixed-income, and historic rehab properties.

Talk about your experience in the program so far, what are the benefits, and what have you learned?

The program is broad enough to cover all important real estate topics, but specific enough that I have become much more familiar with the local market and major projects.  It’s a great opportunity to learn in so many ways, from hearing others’ perspectives in the industry, to researching specific project topics of your own choosing.  There is even more to learn than I imagined, and the step of going back to school has motivated me to become involved in local industry and networking groups like ULI and WIRED UP.

Herb Tousley selected a mentor for me that matched my career interests, and she has been a tremendous resource and inspiration.

How do you balance work, coursework, and other life demands?  What’s your favorite non-real estate pastime?

It has been a challenge, but my ability to walk/bike commute to work and class has helped.  In my free time, I try to enjoy every outdoor activity Minnesota has to offer, especially being on the water – boating on the St. Croix River or paddling the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.

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