A team of four Virginia Tech students from the Blackwood Program in Real Estate bested 30-plus teams representing 23 colleges in the Mulroy Real Estate Challenge. Pictured (left to right) are the winning team, led by academic advisor Jeffrey Robert, Kate Kersey, Allison Gray, Luke Whalen, and Cooper Ball.
A team of four Virginia Tech students from the Blackwood Program in Real Estate bested 30-plus teams representing 23 colleges in the Mulroy Real Estate Challenge. Pictured (left to right) are the winning team, led by academic advisor Jeffrey Robert, Kate Kersey, Allison Gray, Luke Whalen, and Cooper Ball.

A team of four Virginia Tech students from the Blackwood Program in Real Estate within the Pamplin College of Business bested 30-plus teams representing 23 colleges in the Mulroy Real Estate Challenge, hosted by the Villanova School of Business. The Mulroy Real Estate Challenge is “March Madness” for undergraduate real estate majors — a real estate development case competition where students from top undergraduate real estate programs compete.

“This is the most preeminent competition for undergraduate real estate majors” said Jeffrey Robert, collegiate assistant professor of Real Estate and the team’s academic advisor.

The Virginia Tech team consisted of junior economics and real estate major Cooper Ball, senior finance and accounting major Allison Gray, senior real estate major Kate Kersey, and senior finance and real estate major Luke Whalen.

In the first round, held virtually in January, the Virginia Tech team evaluated a 160-acre site near Tampa, Fla. They had just three days to propose a development concept and conduct a financial analysis and project feasibility study for the site. The team submitted a PowerPoint presentation along with an executive summary to be judged by industry experts. Sixteen teams were selected from across the country to travel to Philadelphia and participate in the semifinal and final rounds.

In the semifinal round, teams were placed in groups of four and presented their development proposals to panels of 5-6 judges. For the final round, the top team from each group presented to all judges with other teams and their advisors, and competition sponsors in attendance.

What set the Virginia Tech team apart from the competition, explained Robert, was the team’s analysis of the project site and recommended development. “In their pitch, the students developed an innovative residential community comprised of single-family dwellings, duplex units, and condominiums,” he explained. “The primary praise coming from judges was that, in five years, you are going to see exactly what the team suggested built on that site. The team successfully recognized the best development opportunity for the site and conducted credible analyses to support their proposal.”

For their victory, the Virginia Tech team received the top prize of $5,000, as well as a plaque commemorating their win. Also, Virginia Tech will be engraved on a trophy, à la the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League, which memorializes all winners. “I am very proud of the team’s accomplishments,” added Robert. “I am proud of the team’s commitment, effort, and perseverance.”

He continued, “The students’ hours of work were evident and culminated in their victory. They showed tremendous personal and professional growth from this experience. From where they began to when they performed their final presentation, they grew individually and as a team. With this experience and additional confidence that they have built, it is no doubt in my mind that they will  become successful real estate professionals.”

For this competition, Robert’s role as an academic advisor was unique. He was prohibited from providing the team with any guidance on the case study. Instead, Robert equipped the team with the tools needed to succeed before the competition case was released. “Once the team completed their submission materials, we worked on formal presentation skills,” he said.

According to Robert, the interdisciplinary nature of the Blackwood Program in Real Estate helped give the Virginia Tech team an advantage over their competition. “The Blackwood Real Estate Program at Virginia Tech is very unique, because it requires students to take classes in multiple disciplines, which gives our students a competitive advantage in these types of projects where they are tasked to perform many distinct roles,” Robert explained.

Kevin Boyle, founding director of the Blackwood Program in Real Estate followed, “This is experiential learning that mimics what the students will encounter as professionals upon graduation. The success of this team, and their representation of real estate academics at Virginia Tech speaks to the caliber of our graduates, current students, and real estate majors to come. They demonstrated that our students compete with the best of the best.”