University of Southern California

Striving for New Heights in China
Four Marshall Undergraduates Experience Highest Levels of the Real Estate Scene
October 20, 2011 • by News at Marshall

Not many people gain access to the rooftop just above the 88th floor of Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre Tower 2, which is the world’s ninth tallest building and stands 1,362 feet in the air. But that’s where four USC Marshall undergraduate students found themselves this past August, thanks to the Edward Wong Research Travel Endowment.

The students were offered access not only to exclusive rooftop views and personal tours of development projects throughout Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing but to some of the most influential real estate figures in China, including Stephen Wong, managing director of Edward Wong Development Co.

Henry Ammar '12, William Rojas '11, Mohamed Alloo '12 and Sean Baeyens '11 traveled to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong on their two-week journey. Ammar, who is chairman of the Trojan Real Estate Association, described the research trip as an "experience of a lifetime. It changes your whole perspective on the way you see everything."

Under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Clinical Finance and Business Economics Robert Bridges, the students studied the Chinese government's efforts to control the effects of speculative residential real estate investment resulting from the rapidly expanding economy. They also studied the government's restrictive policies on private foreign investment.

Bridges intentionally selected students who came from divergent backgrounds. For instance, Ammar is an accomplished professional musician, while Rojas is a football player who earned a walk-on spot on the Trojan team.

This is the second year for the endowment, which was developed by Marshall Dean James G. Ellis, Stephen Wong and Bridges to offer real estate students international experience. Wong, who earned an undergraduate business administration degree from Marshall with an emphasis in real estate finance and development and a degree in architecture from USC, has funded an endowment in honor of his father Edward Wong to support field research focused on China’s real estate market.

Bridges likens Stephen Wong to Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and describes him as a "visionary" who is more than a benefactor, but also a mentor to the students he supports with the endowment. When the foursome arrived in Shanghai, Wong met them for lunch. He shared with them "the history of China, how things had come to pass, as well as where he felt the country was headed," Ammar recalls.

Wong also arranged four meetings for the group, including one with the CEO of the Bank of East Asia. In addition, the students met with Hong Kong property developer and USC Trustee Ronnie Chan MBA ’76 and William Snyder, managing director for Duff & Phelps based in China, among other high-level figures on the Chinese real estate scene.

"Meeting with people of that caliber and learning how they approached real estate development and how they think was really motivating for us," said Ammar. "We can see that there are no limits and our minds are open to all kinds of possibilities."

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.