I’m on the bus back from NY right now and figured I’d recount my second Columbia visit which happened mere hours ago. As Mario Batali would say, “bon appetito.”
I originally wanted to visit again to sit in on 4 classes (back to back to back to back) to perhaps get essay quotes/ideas but nixed the idea. For one, it would’ve been near impossible getting up early enough and commuting in from long island (my family’s home) to make a 9:00 am class. Also, I would’ve likely fallen asleep at some point. I decided to do only 2 or 3 classes starting with the 10:45 am time slot. I arrived at 10:00 am and stressed myself out on the phone for half an hour as I barked at my HMO, Kaiser Permanente, regarding my broken hand (I need surgery apparently). My first class at 10:45 was the main reason for my visit, Real Estate Finance with Prof. Tomasz Piskorski. The class is an elective unless you want to take other real estate classes (like me) in which case it’s a pre-req for everything else. I got there 3 minutes early and sat in the left-most seat in the second row. I didn’t introduce myself to the professor cuz he got there late and I didn’t want to make a scene. There were about 60 students in the class, maybe 25% female. There were a couple attractive ones but I could tell that my dating would probably be with students from the other Columbia schools. I introduced myself to the girl to my right, Gina. The dynamic was a little weird as she was eating but she was definitely friendly. She answered a couple typical questions about the class and confirmed that the quality of professors can be hit or miss. Apparently she’s interning at General Electric this summer which struck me as odd since she’s a real estate major. She said it was real estate related though I didn’t understand her brief explanation. She confirmed that real estate students need to take a bit more initiative when searching for jobs. It’s just the nature of the beast.
I picked up a class handout and realized that today’s class was the course review which is great considering I wanted a high-level overview. The class started and I was a bit surprised to see that it took the professor a good 7 or 8 seconds to get the class quiet and attentive. Maybe I’m being naïve with all the respect jumbo or maybe the weather was so nice and it was near the end of term that students’ attention spans were down and spirits up. He proceeded to go thru the course and I loved it. I paid attention to everything he said despite his semi-thick Russian accent (definitely still understandable though) because it was the perfect overview that I was looking for. Very informative with just the right level of detail. I cannot wait to take the class myself in 2 years. Ha!
The class was at capacity and about 5 minutes in, an attractive blonde (dyed but still) walked in and pulled a seat up next to me on my left. It was the middle of class so I didn’t introduce myself but I did lend her a pen. She wasn’t as pretty close-up L It was also funny cuz she kept drinking an iced coffee and eating radishes (with a very audible crunch with each bite). I smiled at her, she smiled at me, and that was it. She analyzed her nails for much of the class and didn’t seem very inattentive to the lecture. She was dressed stylishly, I’ll give her that.
I was impressed at how seamlessly the professor pulled a recent real-world example into his lecture- as he was talking about what a large component of a company’s value is contained within its property, he mentioned that when JP Morgan was valuing Bear Sterns, they had to consider the prime building location too. He also had a great international example of how German inflation affected the value of mortgages in the early 20th century. Interesting stuff. The highlight though, was when he shared an anecdote about his dinner 2 weeks ago with some Wharton faculty. They were dining in Chelsea (on 20th St and 8th Ave I think) and staring at some rundown lot across the street. One of the Wharton professors commented that it’s crazy that nobody’s developed that prime land into a building or something more useful. Professor Piskorski’s response was (and this is illustrative of one of his lecture points) that undeveloped land is like owning an option. Just because an option is in the money doesn’t mean you’d necessarily exercise it so why would you immediately develop the land? There’s value in waiting as you may obtain more information or the option may become even more valuable. Apparently, the Wharton professors mulled it over for 40 seconds then conceded “you may have a point there.” The class blew up in laughter. When the professor reiterated that these were Wharton faculty who had not considered this “option view” on undeveloped real estate, the class blew up again. Finally, he declared that the entire class was now more real estate savvy than Wharton faculty at which point the class blew up again.
I couldn’t help but be delighted by this anecdote too (it really was quite funny especially when 60 other students are busting a gut), but it somewhat slightly bothered me that the class was relishing his portrayal of Wharton that much because that conveys to me that Columbia students consider their school inferior to Wharton (they wouldn’t have been so giddy if the faculty in the anecdote was from a community college right?). I’m very much in love with Columbia so I don’t think of going there as me settling. I would definitely choose Columbia over Wharton if given the choice even though I know people usually view HSW as the top 3 MBA programs. Sigh. I guess I’m just a little sensitive because my undergrad alma mater, Georgetown, sucks in the rankings every year.
To be continued...