Category Archives: FYI

Meet REED’s New Program Director

Seema D. Iyer, PhD

It is my honor and pleasure to now serve as program director for the University of Baltimore’s Real Estate & Economic Development Program (REED), the only bachelors program in Maryland designed to prepare graduates for careers in real estate investment, commercial property development and/or management, economic development and related fields. Students explore the connection between theory and industry practice as they delve into a curriculum developed in collaboration with real estate professionals, bankers, property managers and others. Our partnering industry experts serve a guest speakers, adjunct faculty and Advisory Board members (see below) to lead classroom discussions, facilitate field trips and site visits, provide internships and offer students invaluable guidance and career opportunities.  UB’s applied and practical approach to the business of real property prepares our students for their future employers and the real estate community. Examples of core courses include:

  • Real Estate Principles and Transactions
  • Real Estate Market Analysis
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Law
  • Property Management
  • Introduction to Economic Development
  • Real Estate Investments

By way of background, I am the Associate Director of the Jacob France Institute, the Merrick School of Business’s economic research center. I oversee the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at JFI which collects, integrates and disseminates community-based quality of life indicators. BNIA-JFI annually produces the City’s Vital Signs report that “takes the pulse” of what’s going on in Baltimore’s neighborhoods. The indicators are bits of information that, when compiled together, reflect the profile of places. By continuously monitoring neighborhoods, we can notice changes that might not be evident without this ongoing measurement. The data has proven invaluable to real estate industry professional, particularly those working in New Market Tax Credit areas.

When I arrived at UB in 2011, I brought with me an idea for a project that would both create a database of as well as expose students to the development review process that most projects need to go through before building permits are issued. Understanding and keeping track of the status of projects during the development review phase is complicated because projects evolve as developers ensure compliance with local land use regulations and produce contextually sensitive final designs. I invited student volunteers to work with me during that first summer semester to develop a sustainable, reliable way to track projects based on publically-available information that did not infringe on the potential need for confidentiality as projects moved through the process.  Based on a prototype developed by the students in 2011, the Baltimore Chapter of the Association of Builders & Contractors has supported ongoing development of the database so that their members of contractors and developers from across the region can efficiently plan and track the status of projects as early as possible in the developmental stage.  In 2014, the Baltimore Pipeline was launched and continues to not only provide early information but also employ the talents and ingenuity of UB students.

This is just the beginning of where the REED program is headed.  I invite all real estate industry professionals to connect with UB’s REED Program in any or all of these potential ways to advance the programs strategic goals:

1)      Raise awareness of the program among Baltimore area industry firms and professionals—Learn more about the program during our Lessons From Legends series and other events hosted at UB

2)      Increase student enrollment—The REED program began in 2007, and aims to grow to 25 new students enrolled per year

3)      Mentor current UB students—Formal internships and informal mentorships are vital ways that students apply classroom knowledge to real work experiences

4)      Ensure timely completion/graduation—Whether students are full-time or part-time, our goal is to identify and overcome barriers to timely completion of their degree

5)      Align curriculum to meet industry needs—Our curriculum is developed in collaboration with industry professionals so that students have the needed skills to hit the ground running on the job or in advanced degrees

Finally, I want to sincerely thank past and present board members for their time, thoughts and support to the REED program and students.  For more information, visit or contact me at

 REED Board Members, 2014-2015

 Robert M. Aydukovic, CRE (Chair), President, Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation

Nichole Battle, Executive Director, GEDCO

Wendy Blair, Senior Vice President, Remax Commercial Logic

Jeffrey R. Connolly, Director, Asset Management, Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.

Karen Forbes, Asst Dir. Community Access& Partnerships, Md Dept of Housing & Community Development

Kathleen Flynn, Vice President, Alex. Brown Realty

Terri Harrington, Senior Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle

Toni R. Harris, Regional Property Manager, WPM Real Estate Management Co.

Elizabeth (Liz) Jones, Esquire, Managing Settlement Attorney, Home First Title Group

Jeffrey Kayce, Development Manager, Bozzuto Development

John (Chip) Lambertson, Senior Cost Manager, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

William (Willy) H. Moore, Vice President, Southway Builders

Josh Neiman, Assistant Director for Development, Maryland Economic Development Corporation

Monica A. Robertson, AIA LEED AP, Principal, Hord Coplan Macht

Barbara Simmons, Group Manager / Administrative VP, M & T Bank, Commercial Real Estate Finance

Joseph L. Sutton, President, Insurance Services Group, Inc.


Knowledge Is A Lot Like a Blanket, It Is Best Shared

“Only the foolish learn from experience—the wise learn from the experience of others.” –Rolf Hochhuth, author and playwright

Welcome to the inaugural contribution to the MSB Real Estate blog, a product of the Real Estate and Economic Development program in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business. I’m Daniel Thomas, chair of the Merrick School of Business Real Estate Advisory Board and partner in training at St. John Properties—and I love real estate.

If I understand Hochhuth’s quote, the key to wisdom is to pay attention to the experiences of others. At UB we are proud to provide an accessible forum for sharing experiences, in this particular case experiences concerning real estate. All of us involved in guiding the real estate program at UB hope that this blog will be thought of as a valuable resource for asking questions, raising concerns, and resolving issues that impact the world of real estate  in the Baltimore market. We hope it will spark discussion, and maybe prompt some of you to do even more. Real estate is an amazing field in which you can really make a mark. I like to say that it gets into your head and your heart.

From my early years I had a feeling that real estate might be for me.  I knew about the business of construction, listened to talks about mortgages, saw architecture I liked (and much more that I didn’t). I read every book I could and never missed an opportunity to talk with someone in the industry. But I had difficulty finding an academic program that fully aligned with my passion for my future.

Fortunately for people across this region, it’s easy to start a formal education in real estate, thanks to UB. For some of you, blending your classroom time with an internship or job at a development firm may prove to be a key to your success. (That’s how I entered the profession—alongside earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree in real estate.) Some of you may be out in the sales force and are looking to start your own firm or are forging a pathway to a partnership. Some of you might be focused on the economic development side of the equation. Still others may be interested in the service aspect, that part of the job that involves improving neighborhoods, preserving a community’s strengths, and so on.

Regardless of where you’re coming from, getting an education in real estate will change you. I’m a self-confessed fanatic about this field, and I give all the credit for my success to the great teaching I received along the way.

Real estate is something you can love the same way I do—I like to say that I don’t believe I have worked a day in my life. I hope that I can add some value to your experience as a fellow explorer in this endeavor. We all must remember that our industry is changing. It is complex, and it requires new skills and new knowledge on very nearly a daily basis. Without this foundation, your potential in real estate is limited.

On that note, let me leave you with a challenge:  If you’re considering real estate as your profession, think of it as just that: Not just a job, but a profession. Give it that due respect. It will give back to you, I promise.

When it comes to learning, be a sponge.  Absorb every particle of knowledge you’re offered. Even if you’re already working in the field, keep on learning. You can rely on this blog, and the University of Baltimore, as a source of academic excellence and practical knowledge.

Check back often. We’ll keep posting, and together we’ll keep learning. Because knowledge is a lot like a blanket: it is best when it’s shared.

Have a great day and a productive week.

Daniel Thomas is a Partner in Training at St. John Properties and Chairman of the Real Estate Advisory Board at University of Baltimore.