2016 Summer Internships: Morgan Zollinger, USAA Real Estate

Beginning on Day One of the Baker Program orientation, we were frequently reminded of the importance of networking in order to meet, develop relationships with, and learn from experienced professionals. The first semester involved a pretty heavy course load, and it was a challenge to find time to reach out to Cornell alumni.  However, it paid off when a recent Baker graduate put me in touch with a couple of contacts at USAA Real Estate Company, where he had interned between his first and second years at Baker.  A couple of phone calls later, I had an internship offer and a figurative plane ticket to San Antonio, Texas.  A few weeks ago, I drove the 2,400 miles from Ithaca with my wife and two kids.

USAAbuilding

USAA Real Estate Office, San Antonio, Texas

It has now been a little more than three weeks since starting at USAA, and it has already provided great experience, allowing an inside perspective of institutional real estate. I have underwritten deals ranging from multi-family acquisitions in Chicago to industrial developments in northern New Jersey. I have also chipped in with due diligence on the acquisition of a large medical office portfolio that is slated to close later this summer, and toured two recently-completed Class A warehouse developments in the San Antonio area. Later this summer, USAA interns will engage in a friendly competition, pitching potential deals to an investment committee.

The first-year Baker curriculum has been crucial to all of this.  Skills gained from Professor Walter Boudry’s Real Estate Finance and Investments course have been particularly useful, as have Excel modeling skills acquired during Professor Lebret’s Real Estate Modeling class. Without this coursework, it would have been very difficult to keep up with everything given the fast pace of business at USAA.

The Baker Program curriculum is unique among graduate real estate programs because of the opportunity it provides for a full-time summer internship, which was one of the primary reasons I chose to come to Cornell.  While I learned a lot during the first year of coursework, my internship experience at USAA has already significantly broadened my understanding of real estate and what it takes to be successful in the industry.  I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer will bring, and I am excited to build on this experience when I return to campus in August.

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