In a series of discussions the Cornell Real Estate Review has dubbed “Pathways in Real Estate,” the Editorial staff has reached out to a number of Baker Program in Real Estate alumni to discuss how their careers have progressed since leaving the Program. The series aims to explore the routes and decisions made by alumni and how their careers progress in conjunction with the broader real estate markets. Baker Program alumni have led and continue to lead a wide variety of highly successful career paths in many dimensions of real estate—from urban development to international investments. These are their stories.
Jermaine Gause (Baker ’12) is currently an Investments Manager at AvalonBay Communities, an equity REIT, with a long-term track record of developing, redeveloping, acquiring and managing distinctive apartment homes in some of the best U.S. markets. Gause is based in the Boston office and performs wide-ranging duties, including acquisition, disposition, due diligence and redevelopment work.
While attending Cornell University for his Bachelor’s degree, Gause found that his passion aligned with Real Estate, and he graduated with a degree in City and Regional Planning in 2004. “I spent my summers figuring out what I wanted to do, so I worked for the DC office of planning my sophomore year, and the Neighborhood Development Company my junior year,” recalls Gause. “Although it’s valuable to have a planning background, I found that I wanted to be the one on the implementation side. I ended-up working as a Financial Analyst at ING Clarion Partners out of school, then going back to work in development, for the East of the River Community Development Corporation a few years later… I always had my eye on development, so I jumped at the first chance I got.”
Gause utilized his class experience from Professor Brad Olson’s Real Estate Development Process class, and applied it to his new job as a Project Manager. Working in a small shop, he was able to develop a broad set of competencies through development work in a variety of functions, and succeeded in getting two projects off the ground. Later, he went back to work for the Neighborhood Development Company as a Development Manager for a year and a half. “I focused on pre-development work, so we would work through entitlements, design, and approvals, then hand the project off to the construction team.” As the economic recession took hold and development projects dried-up, Gause found that going back to school was the best option. He reconnected with Olson, whom recommended the Baker Program in Real Estate.
Back at Cornell, Gause focused on tailoring his curriculum towards investment, one of the benefits of the flexible Master’s Program. He took Real Estate Finance and Investments from Professor Jack Corgel and Hospitality Asset Management from Professor Jan de Roos, and Spa Hotel and Resort Development and Management from Professor Mary Tabacchi to gain familiarity with the financing, management, and operations of hotel assets, and spent a Winter internship working for Marriott International, where he gained first-hand experience of hotel operations. “The Winter internship at Marriott definitely cemented my interest in hotels- that first semester is critical.” He then followed-up as a Summer Asset Management Associate at Host Hotels and Resorts, where he produced a variety of financial models, reports, asset profiles, market overviews, and strategic plans for 13 upscale hotels.
Throughout his time at the Baker Program, Gause connected to and stayed in touch with Cornell alumni and other individuals working for organizations and in markets that he wanted to pursue work in after graduation. In addition to his focus in hotels, Gause reflected that his experience with other property types in different functions helped him apply his skillset across the industry. Gause expounded, “I felt that having an understanding and exposure to development, acquisitions, and asset management makes for a more holistic professional, while also providing the necessary skill sets for each stage in the market cycle. It helps tremendously, especially early on: knowing how a multifamily building operates, or what to look for in construction quality are crucial skills for an acquisition process.”
Through maintaining conversations at the firm, RLJ Lodging Trust hired Gause out of the Baker Program to work on their Acquisition and Investment Analysis Team, where he underwrote premium-branded and independent hotels in gateway markets. He joined AvalonBay Communities earlier this year in September, where he is currently seeking and evaluating property acquisition.
To learn more about the Baker Program in Real Estate and its alumni, please visit: www.baker.realestate.cornell.edu.