University of Southern California

Marshall Takes Top Spot in Real Estate Challenge
Competition Focused on Development Scenario in New York City
April 28, 2011 • by News at Marshall

Erik Thoreen's passion for real estate started when he was just a child, so it is no surprise that he relishes the chance to compete in his chosen field. Thoreen '11, president of the Trojan Real Estate Association at USC Marshall, took the lead in entering the second annual Villanova Real Estate Challenge, held April 7-8 at the university in suburban Philadelphia. Thoreen and his team took first place and won $5,000 in the rigorous contest that focused equally on real-estate acumen and endurance.

"I heard about the contest from one of my professors, did a little research and then organized a team of some of my top real estate friends and went to a number of different Marshall resources to get funding for the trip," said Thoreen, who is concentrating on real estate finance and development. His teammates included classmates Marcello Khan '11, William Rojas '12 and Blake Hockenbury '11. Robert Bridges, assistant professor of clinical finance and business economics at USC Marshall, served as faculty advisor for the event. After raising $3,300 to cover the costs of plane fare and hotel accommodations for the team, Thoreen set his sights on winning the challenge.

"Because it was on the East Coast, there are a lot more of the Ivy League schools that participate. We wanted to get out there and extend our presence and just let people know who we are and establish that reputation through winning these," said Thoreen.

The Villanova contest tasked the 11 participating undergraduate teams with a real-world case in which students had to pick a property type to develop and provide in-depth market, financial analysis and a polished PowerPoint presentation to back up their choice.

"We received the case at 5 a.m. on Monday. We flew out on Wednesday morning and got to Philadelphia at about 5 p.m., and basically got about two hours of sleep every night. We had to turn it in at 5 p.m. on Thursday and then we presented on Friday morning," said Thoreen.

This year, teams were asked to develop a 12,000 square-foot property close to the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue in New York City, which was particularly challenging for the Southern California-based team. "We had to do a lot of research on New York. We don't know the market there, so we had to gather a lot of reports and vacancy rates," said Thoreen. "It was a crash course in real estate. For four days we hit the books and just did everything to finish the project. The project is so real-world related--that's exactly what these companies that we're looking to get hired from do."

After winning and spending the evening touring Philadelphia with his teammates, Thoreen wasn't done. After flying back to California on Saturday April 9, he helped with USC's annual International Real Estate Competition, which was held on April 11 through April 15 at the University Park campus and followed a similar format to the Villanova contest. Thoreen, who, with recent teammate Marcello Khan, had won first place in the USC contest last year, decided not to compete this time around.

"It was just too much, to do them back-to-back, plus I had already won it so I wanted to give the opportunity to other students," said Thoreen. Although the USC team didn't place this year – the National University of Singapore took first, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, second and University of Colorado, Boulder finished third — he says the experience of competing is invaluable no matter what the outcome.

"Probably my most memorable experience at USC is doing the case competitions. There is nothing that compares to it. I didn't know I could work that hard on something. You're literally putting in 20-22 hour days. You're not getting sleep some nights. Just having that kind of dedication and focus on one thing really builds character and allows you to know what you're capable of. You learn so much. It's also about developing friendships. It's building that camaraderie with your colleagues, your professors, your mentors, everyone who helped get you there. And it's also great on the resume."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.