Once he hit seven years as a real estate broker, Willie Ellington noticed something about the decision-makers in the business: they possessed either 15-plus years of experience or an advanced degree. That’s why Ellington enrolled in Robinson’s Master of Science in Commercial Real Estate (MCRE) program.

“I wanted to expedite the learning curve and be on par with more seasoned professionals,” he said. “That way I can be effective in carrying on a conversation both my grandmother and high-level executives can understand.”

Ellington describes the program as a “deep dive crash course” with hands-on projects that drive home key topics. For example, in Lynn McKee’s Commercial Real Estate (CRE) Finance course, Ellington performed a risk impact mitigant analysis from a lender’s perspective: a critical step in the loan securing process. Another rigorous assignment involved pitching the acquisition of an apartment building to a mock lending committee.

“I’m not the analytical type, so understanding how a lender thinks was a huge challenge for me,” Ellington said. “Learning how the numbers come together through permanent loans, bridge loans, and construction loans was an awesome experience.”

Ellington is particularly excited about Eric Pinckney’s CRE Development class, which he currently is taking. The material covers the behind-the-scenes aspects of real estate development, including building trust with the landowner, extracting maximum value from the land, conducting environmental due diligence, assessing the presence of protected species, and leveraging OPM (other people’s money).

“I want to be a player in this space. Now, when I’m investigating sites and reaching out to potential investors, I’ll understand how everything works,” Ellington said. “I can present a clear plan, show how the numbers will work, and take an appropriately calculated risk.”

Guest speakers visit class regularly, such as Greg Boler (MCRE ‘16), a managing director at Bridge Investment Group who Ellington says “is crushing it.”

“I’m always going to be an advocate for Robinson and can see myself being an alumnus who continually comes back and supports the program,” Ellington said. “I look forward to adding to that legacy.”

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