Before Lisa Hicks (MSRED ’17) arrived at the University at Buffalo, she had a successful career as a leasing law clerk working for top commercial real estate developers in her native Canada. So how did she end up as a member of the first graduating class in UB’s real estate development program?
Buffalo was an obvious choice for Hicks, as her husband hails from the Queen City. But deciding to enroll in the real estate development program was a little less clear. Initially, she was considering a degree in urban planning. So she emailed the university for more information and got a response from Ernest Sternberg, then chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the program’s director. The two met for coffee to discuss her options. “As soon as Ernie started talking about the new real estate development program, I knew it was more in line with what I wanted to do,” she says. The personal touch of Sternberg meeting with Hicks cemented UB as her choice of school.
“The program provides insight into everything development-related, which is exactly what I was looking for,” she says. “Both the mandatory and elective course offerings prepared me to work anywhere.” She mentions a specialized course in real estate finance, another in development processes, and still another on the legal aspects of the business.
Hicks was also involved with the Colvin Case Study Competition, sponsored by the Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development at the University of Maryland, College Park. Offered as a three-credit course in the UB program, the competition required students to choose a building in the Western New York region and draft a case study detailing operational and financial issues and other development challenges. Hicks and her partner, Amy Downing, another UB real estate development student, placed second in the competition, taking home a prize of $5,000 for their case study of 500 Seneca, a stunning multi-use development in a former historic factory near downtown Buffalo.
Today, Hicks is director of development for the City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning. Previously, Hicks was assistant vice president for development & acquisitions at McGuire Development in Buffalo, where she oversaw financial analyses/economic pro formas, managed project teams and acquired municipal approvals for development projects.
When asked what she appreciated most about the program, Hicks says: “The things I learned at UB were essential to the job I do now. But even more important to me were the relationships I cultivated there. The professors have a long history in Buffalo and tons of knowledge and experience—and they do not hesitate to impart that knowledge to students.”
In addition to the support she received from UB faculty, Hicks says: “I could not have gotten through the program’s rigorous curriculum without the support of my family, especially my husband.”