After bonding over their passion of real estate, Jared Harrell and Meg Meliet hope the Real Estate Organization Alumni Association will strengthen the real estate program.
In some academic settings, it may be rare for professors and undergraduate students to create bonds that last beyond the final grade for a class. For Jared Harrell, assistant professor of practice in finance, and Meg Meliet, a 2020 finance graduate, that strong bond was pretty much inevitable. Though the bond may have started in an informational meeting to discuss the real estate concentration, it's now on a path to establishing a brand new alumni association for real estate students.
Meliet was drawn to Texas Tech University (TTU) and the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business due in part to the Scovell Business Leadership Program. It was an organization Meliet believed could hone her leadership skills while providing professional development opportunities.
“After my first semester at Texas Tech, I began to develop a passion for the commercial real estate industry, specifically real estate development. Once I knew that was my path, I sought out details on the real estate program and found my way to Professor Harrell.”
While Harrell typically first meets real estate students in one of his courses, Meliet was a bit more motivated and was able to meet Harrell through her Scovell Business Leadership Program mentor.
Harrell and Meliet shared an immediate connection thanks to their ties to the Houston area, but it wasn't long before Harrell picked up on the enthusiasm that Meliet had for real estate.
“I remember walking away from our first meeting thinking wow that's an impressive young lady,” said Harrell. “She's driven. She's really focused. She was impressive from the first time I met her.”
Fostering an Academic Relationship
Harrell's first impression was only reinforced once Meg was enrolled in his Real Estate Fundamentals and Real Estate Law courses.
“Seeing her interest level and the way she engaged the material, really stood out to me,” said Harrell. “She was a student who wanted to talk about the topics outside of class because she was genuinely interested. She was driven and continues to be to this day.”
As a student, Meliet really appreciated Harrell's teaching style.
“It felt real. You could tell there was not a thing he was teaching that he had not encountered in the professional world. There is an authenticity there that cannot be replicated, and this enhances his students' learning experiences.”
Harrell attributes his teaching style to his time as a lawyer prior to teaching. While he's been at TTU since August 2015, Harrell had spent the previous 12 years practicing real estate law.
“My job as a lawyer was to take concepts and break them down for everyday people,” said Harrell. “I take that approach to an everyday explanation with students. I don't expect students to take what I say at face value. I need to additionally support it with why it's important.”
It became clear to both Meliet and Harrell that their personalities and passion for real estate meshed well. Soon, they began collaborating through the Real Estate Organization (REO), an extracurricular organization for students of all majors who are interested in the real estate industry.
Harrell has served as the faculty advisor for REO since coming to TTU. While he enjoys working with students in a less-formal setting than a classroom, he wants to make sure students see REO as a valuable experience and one that prepares them for the working world.
“At the end of the day, I want REO to be relevant to students,” said Harrell. “I don't want it to be something that's another club or doesn't have a purpose.”
That purpose certainly comes through to the students of REO. Meliet, who joined REO in 2017 and served as the organization's president in her final year at TTU, really appreciated the exposure to alumni, industry leaders and core real estate concepts that REO provided.
Putting a Stamp in Real Estate
After graduating in May 2020, Meliet moved back to Houston to work for Hines, an international commercial real estate development firm. What drew Meliet to Hines was the potential to put her stamp in the real estate world.
“The ultimate stamp in my mind is developing a best-in-class building on a site that was not previously reaching its maximum potential,” said Meliet. “Hines is one of the world's largest privately held international real estate development firms with a stellar reputation. Hines was at the top of my list in terms of dream jobs.”
Meliet held had an internship with Hines in 2018 and was asked to work remotely in Lubbock part-time while she was still in school. During this time, Meliet served as the analyst for the Senior Living and Healthcare platform.
“I decided at an early age that I wanted to specialize in senior living real estate development,” said Meliet. “I chose this asset class as I fell in love with its mission and nuanced nature. In addition, the Baby Boomer population is rapidly aging. This next generation of seniors need a place to live and will be looking for a different type of senior living experience than what currently exists. Someone has to build it!”
In March 2021, less than a year after graduating, Meliet was promoted to director of the Senior Living and Healthcare platform at Hines. The first person Meliet contacted about the news was her mother. The second? Jared Harrell.
“I just thought it was really cool that I was on the frontlines to hear about it,” said Harrell. “I don't know if she's the youngest director in Hines, and I can't imagine there would have been someone younger. But when you take a 22-year-old woman who has been named a director of one of the finest real estate companies in the nation? That's a once-in-a-lifetime, groundbreaking, trailblazing achievement.”
As director, Meliet is more involved in the ways she works on her projects. Some of her responsibilities include site selection, operator attachment, relationship management and project management.
“With this promotion, I have shifted from a more quantitative role to a business development role on the firm's senior living efforts across the Western United States, “ said Meliet. “I am now in a position where I have a direct line to the leaders of the industry.”
Building an Alumni Network for REO
That Harrell was the second person Meliet told about her promotion shows how much they've kept in contact after graduation. For Harrell, staying in contact with students after graduation isn't really anything unusual due to the concepts and projects discussed in his real estate courses.
“I think students see me as a resource and want to talk to me,” said Harrell. “Maybe it's about jobs or maybe it's some smaller real estate investing. Both of them are longer processes, so they just may have several questions and different stages.”
While Harrell enjoys serving as a resource to students, both he and Meliet see an opportunity to build an alumni network to act as an additional resource to prospective and current real estate students and alumni. Harrell and Meliet, along with five other alumni, have created a Real Estate Organization Alumni Association.
“I believe an alumni network and the reach it provides for prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty and employers is what makes a ‘good' real estate program ‘great,'” said Meliet.
Harrell often reaches out to alumni to mentor students in his real estate courses and hopes this alumni network can help bring in a new pool of mentors.
“The younger alumni may not raise millions of dollars to fund a center, but they'll be an active component going forward,” said Harrell. “It's hard to ask someone with 25 years of experience to mentor students. To be a part of a class project, time is needed, and sometimes those with experience and higher positions don't have that time to give.”
Though the Real Estate Organization Alumni Association is just getting started, they are already planning their first annual conference in Lubbock on September 17, 2021. For more information about REO and the alumni association, visit: ttureo.com.