Texas Tech University

Created for Industry, Centered for Impact

Thanks to perseverance and generous donors, the Center for Real Estate is poised to make a major impact on students and the industry.

Texas Tech University  |  March 23, 2023

The Center for Real Estate in Texas Tech University's Jerry S. Rawls College of Business has been working to come to fruition for nearly 40 years.

The idea, developed by Rawls College professor emeritus Paul Goebel, was to transform the real estate classes offered in the college into a full-fledged center focused on preparing career-ready students to

Goebel began his career at Texas Tech in 1980, and until his retirement in 2017, he consciously and unconsciously laid the groundwork for what would become the Center for Real Estate.

Part of this work involved the establishment of the Real Estate Organization (REO). As the sole faculty member dedicated to real estate, Goebel was the natural choice to serve as faculty adviser when the program was started by Scott Sage, a student in the mid-1990s.

REO is a student group that strives to create opportunities for students interested in real estate to engage with commercial real estate industry professionals, observe real estate projects first hand and analyze real estate markets and investments.

“That was the beginning,” Goebel said. “They started it, and I was pretty much a caretaker keeping it alive all those years, and it has grown and flourished to a prominent student organization with successful graduates.”

While REO has thrived since its founding, real estate classes and faculty had their highs and lows over the course of Goebel's 37-year career at Texas Tech.

When he began, they had a robust real estate program with several faculty members. However, as time went on, budget cuts forced many colleges to scale back significantly on faculty and staff.

“Basically, it was just me,” Goebel said. “I was the real estate program for about 10 to 12 years.”

While these times were challenging, things began to look up by the mid-2000s. It was at this time Goebel had the opportunity to hire Dave Harrison, and with additional faculty, they were able to start investing in how they could further develop real estate at Texas Tech.

They began looking at real estate centers at other universities, and while those centers had research and name recognition, they knew that model was not right for this university.

“Unfortunately, a lot of those real estate centers didn't give back much,” Goebel said. “We wanted to structure a real estate center that was academically recognized and doing quality research that would also absolutely benefit our alumni and the people working in the industry.”

Goebel and Harrison worked to build a roadmap for several years, but when Harrison left Texas Tech, Goebel needed to make an immediate hire to keep the momentum going.

Jared Harrell

“We were so lucky,” Goebel said. “The stars just kind of aligned, and I was able to hire Jared Harrell in 2015.”

Harrell, an assistant professor of practice, had about six weeks to adjust to his new role before Goebel became the interim dean of Rawls College, limiting the time he was able to devote to the program.

At that point, Harrell, who is now the director of the Center for Real Estate, took on the task of bringing this idea to fruition.

The students were ready, and the industry was eager, so Harrell began his work.

“I thought to myself, ‘Paul has a vision, and the industry has a need. Let's see what we can do with it,'” Harrell said. “We started building this thing, fleshing it out and taking it from beyond the classroom to a greater reach.”

It took about a year for Harrell, who was new to academia after spending 12 years as a lawyer in the real estate industry, to get his feet under him. Throughout this year, and with the help of Goebel, he worked to finalize plans for the Center for Real Estate.

An Idea Becomes Reality

The process of establishing the center commenced in 2016 with the purpose of promoting excellence in real estate education through academic programming, student engagement, research initiatives and strong partnerships with alumni and industry experts.

It is open to all students of all majors at Rawls College. Through taking four classes, or 12 hours, of real estate courses, they graduate with a certificate in commercial real estate.

The certificate prepares students for a career in commercial real estate and related industries, equipping them with skills in brokerage, appraisal, property management and asset management.

Beyond the classroom, the Center for Real Estate supports professional development activities for Rawls College students through internships and industry partnerships. Blending students' classroom learning with work experience, it facilitates internship opportunities in diverse fields which allows interns to gain hands-on professional experience, strengthen their understanding of the industry and build professional connections that can benefit their career path.

“We're in the business of education, and education means working with the students,” Goebel said. “We have an academic presence – that's a given – but what takes us to the next level is combining the educational aspect with the industry by providing service to the real estate community locally, statewide and nationally.”

Using this model, the Center for Real Estate has flourished in the seven years since its founding, but Harrell knows there is always opportunity for improvement.

“I want to be a top-tier real estate program,” Harrell said of his goals for the center. “I think we already are because we have real estate alumni as successful as anybody, but there is always room to grow.”

And grow it has. Since 2016, the Center for Real Estate has grown from 400 to more than 600 students, creating a need and opportunity to expand each area: academics, research, student experiences and professional engagement.

Prior to last year, Jim Holcomb, a Rawls College alumnus and owner and president of Holcomb Real Estate Services, Ltd., had been the primary donor supporting real estate endeavors in the college for the past 15 years. With his support of both current use and endowed scholarships and funds, Holcomb's generosity has undoubtedly played a significant role in supporting real estate education at Rawls College.

However, continued growth in real estate programming necessitates additional dollars for staff, faculty, scholarships, research projects, program activities and more.

Thankfully, more donors are eager to invest in the next generation of real estate professionals at Texas Tech.

Investing for Impact

John Brownlee, a Lubbock native and Rawls College alumnus, is a senior managing director for capital markets at JLL in Dallas.

As a marketing major, he did not have a lot of exposure to real estate while he was in college, but he has spent his entire career, nearly 30 years, working in commercial real estate.

John Brownlee
John Brownlee

“Over the last few years, I've realized how deep the real estate alumni for Texas Tech is throughout the country and especially in Texas,” Brownlee said, “I love the industry, and I love what Texas Tech is doing in this area.”

Brownlee connected to real estate programs at Texas Tech through REO, where he had the opportunity to meet students in the organization through one of their industry trips to Dallas.

In 2021, REO held its first alumni conference in Lubbock and invited Brownlee to be the keynote speaker.

It was at this conference that Brownlee knew he and his wife Rachel, also a Texas Tech graduate, wanted to elevate their impact on real estate at Rawls College. Since then, they have pledged $1 million to the Center for Real Estate.

“I saw the passion and the energy in the room and how many students were taking commercial real estate-related classes at Texas Tech, and I really got excited,” Brownlee said. “That trip provided me with the opportunity to come back to my hometown and really reconnect with my alma mater, and I was just excited to find any opportunity to give back. I really enjoy mentoring and being involved, and it checked all the boxes for me.”

Relationships and community drive the real estate industry. These aspects of the field are what moved David Marcinkowski and his business partners at Madera Residential to strengthen their company's connection to Texas Tech.

Madera Residential is a Lubbock-based property investment company specializing in multifamily apartment communities. Their company is driven by three core values: Christ, community and CANEI, an acronym that stands for Constant and Never-Ending Improvement.

Dave Marcinkowski
Dave Marcinkowski

The partners at Madera Residential shared Brownlee's excitement about the future of the Center for Real Estate. This, as well as the alignment with the company's pillars of values, community and growth, is what inspired them to make a $1 million gift to the Center for Real Estate.

Being based in Lubbock, Texas Tech is part of their community, and they wanted to build relationships with that community to foster growth for both entities.

“It's relationship driven,” Marcinkowski said of Madera's gift. “We are going to stay in Lubbock, and in order for us to continue to grow and talk about constant improvement, growth is a part of that. We're looking for new opportunities, we're looking to expand and grow. It's an opportunity for us to give back to the college that we love, our hometown college.”

In addition to its connection with the community of both alumni and local industry leaders, Brownlee and Marcinkowski agreed there was something special about Texas Tech students that set the Center for Real Estate apart from similar programs at other universities.

“We've hired a number of Texas Tech grads, and there's just something really unique about their work ethic, drive and character,” Brownlee said. “Tech is really doing some interesting things to connect students with huge opportunities, but they have to be willing to take advantage of that, and Tech students have that degree of character and integrity to do that.”

The core values that drive Madera Residential's business ventures are also what Marcinkowski sees in Texas Tech students.

“They're West Texas values,” Marcinkowski said. “Lubbock is our home. It is where our corporate office is now and will be going forward. When we talk about constant and never-ending improvement, growth is a part of it, and we will need to hire and develop the people necessary to meet that growth. What better way to do that than partnering with our hometown college, Texas Tech, and its real estate program?”

While neither Brownlee nor Marcinkowski planned to build careers in the real estate industry, they both have found tremendous success – success they hope to see in the future of students in the Center for Real Estate.

Most who enter the real estate industry start at the bottom and learn the ropes through collaboration with others – a path Marcinkowski believes this next generation is primed for.

“I'm a big believer that this generation is one that's going to have a huge impact,” Marcinkowski said. “I think more so than ever, they have had to come through, figure things out as a group, collaborate and really attack issues from a group mindset that I think is going to be so important as we move into the future.”

The Center for Real Estate is ready to accept the challenge of leading the next generation of students in this industry to reach the potential Brownlee and Macknowski can see for them. They have the community, the work ethic in both faculty and students and are taking steps each day to wisely use the gifts from Brownlee and Madera Residential to create new opportunities for generations of Texas Tech students.

“I am legitimately excited about this,” Brownlee said. “I think there's a lot of great people involved and every day there's more and more coming out the woodwork that want to get plugged in. If you can give, do it. It's so rewarding – whether it's your time, money or any way you can give back – to see the growth, excitement and energy that you're putting to use in a way that's having a positive impact.”

Those interested in additional information or supporting the Center for Real Estate or Rawls College can contact Ryan Todd, senior director of development, at ryan.todd@ttu.edu.