Meet Brendan Mason and Korbi Wenzl, MSRE Class of 2017

October 27, 2016

What happens when you bring a Visiting Graduate student from Germany and a 2nd year MSRE student together for a conversation?

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Brendan Mason and Korbi Wenzl, 2017 MSRE Candidates

The 2016-2017 school year has just started, and with it comes a group of fresh students with new ideas and career goals. Second year students begin this year with a big milestone in their future: graduation. The Runstad Center offers ample opportunity for networking amongst students and the industry, but this time we decided to invite a first year student and a second year student for a more intimate conversation. Joining us today are Korbinian Wenzl, MSRE Candidates of 2017, and Brendan Mason, MSRE Candidate of 2017.

Korbinian Wenzl is a 1st year MSRE student who is participating in the inaugural exchange program between the Runstad Center and the University of Regensburg in Germany. While this isn’t his first time in the US, he is getting his first dose of American education. After completing his first masters year at the International Real Estate Business School at the University of Regensburg, Korbi has just completed Orientation week and is enjoying his first quarter of the MSRE program.

Brendan Mason is a 2nd year MSRE student and an experienced project manager at Olympic Property Group. He is currently working on Harbor Hill, a 330-acre master planned community in Gig Harbor while simultaneously completing his Masters of Real Estate degree.

Given that tuition is free in Germany, we were especially curious to hear what brought Korbi to Seattle. It turns out he really wanted to get to know our educational system. “In Germany, classes are heavily lecture and exam based. Here, we have more discussions, which I find very interesting.” Says Korbi, “Of course, the UW and Runstad Center also have a great reputation.” He’s additionally attracted to Seattle’s growing real estate market and influx of capital. Finally, Korbi is also a big outdoor fan. “I can drive 30, 45 minutes and go hiking, kayaking, all sorts of activities!”

Since graduating from University of Puget Sound with his business degree, Brendan knew that he wanted to become a real estate developer. His career has included positions with Lease Crutcher Lewis and Olympic Property Group, but Brendan wanted additional education to compliment his work experience. “Back in 2006, I thought about the University of Southern California’s program. When the Runstad Center added the MSRE degree, I knew I wanted to be at the University of Washington. This is my home market and I’ll be able to obtain my degree while still gaining valuable experience in my role at Olympic Property Group,” Brendan says.

The most surprising aspect of the Runstad Center for both Korbi and Brendan is the incredible amount of industry support. “During Orientation week, we met so many people. Through this program we get to really know the real estate industry and our advisory board,” says Korbi. He nods in agreement, as Brendan adds, “We got to see the industry behind the scenes, where most people don’t get to see. I knew I would network and make friends, but this week solidified us as a class, and we built strong relationships even before our first class.”

“At first I couldn’t believe I needed to take a week’s worth of vacation to do Orientation Week,” Brendan laughs, “but it was totally worth it.”

“So why real estate?” asks Brendan, noting Korbi’s youth. Korbi is 22, but has known since high school that he wanted to work in real estate. “I’m creative, but I want to organize. Real estate is a perfect match of both worlds for me,” Korbi explains. Following graduation, he will be going back to Germany where he will work for his sponsor, the Staudinger Group, for five years. “I’m still trying out different aspects of real estate, but I’m drawn to development and asset management at a portfolio level, which are all important business lines at Staudinger,” he adds, “Following that, we’ll see where I go, depending on the opportunity, of course!”

Korbi poses the same question to Brendan. Why real estate? What aspect of real estate are you drawn to? “I’m pursuing development,” Brendan responds, “During undergrad, I thought I’d pursue a career as a financial advisor and did an internship at Morgan Stanley. After a few months, I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. My business school invited alums to talk to us every Thursday night. On one of those evenings a gentleman by the name of Tom Leavitt explained to us his transition from being an attorney to a real estate developer. By the end of his presentation, I knew that I would do whatever it took to become one myself. I love being a developer because you get to see your project when you finish. You get to live it and it lasts a lifetime.”

“It lasts a lifetime. I love that,” responds Korbi.

“To your point, real estate development allows me to be creative. For my current project in Gig Harbor, I’ve collaborated with my team and an artist to build a natural park that engages with the community. The whole project will include single family homes, multifamily units, retail, and numerous parks and trails. It is a beautiful example of what the Growth Management Act set out to do; increase density while preserving greenspace. I don’t know where else I can have such a cool job!” Brendan says enthusiastically as he shares photos of artwork for the parks.

As future leaders of the real estate community, the conversation turns to the biggest issues facing Seattle. Despite only having lived in Seattle for a month, Korbi immediately answers, “Easy question. Transit. Especially coming from Europe.”

Brendan laughs and agrees, and then adds, “Population growth is also a big challenge. As a developer, I’m against urban sprawl. We need to be able to do more infill projects in order to preserve our resources and natural landscape. Also, I’m excited for the potential of driverless cars and what that means for development. Parking structures might be a thing of the past and they make great redevelopment sites.”

Despite these challenges, Brendan and Korbi both love Seattle. Some of their favorite things? “Tango’s El Diablo dessert,” says Brendan, “You need to go try it.” Korbi is game, but he is enjoying Seattle because of the great opportunities and easy access to the mountains and outdoor recreation. Brendan agrees and says “If you like the mountains, you should come with me night skiing after class during winter quarter, there isn’t a better way to end a day after class.” “That sounds great”, replies Korbi as the two start planning their wintertime adventure.