Harvard’s Inaugural Class of Master in Real Estate Students
Shaping the built environment through the GSD’s interdisciplinary approach to advancing beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes in cities and metropolitan areas worldwide
The launch of Harvard’s new Master in Real Estate (MRE) degree at the GSD creates an unparalleled opportunity to educate real estate leaders who will shape the future of well-designed real estate in ways that positively impact society and our world. The program’s first group of 35 students arrived at the end of August for the 2023–2024 academic year, prepared to acquire or sharpen traditional real estate skills while learning how to advance beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes in cities and metropolitan areas worldwide.
As Harvard’s only real estate degree program, the MRE program is a stimulating teaching and practice hub for faculty and students at the GSD and throughout the University. The placement of the MRE degree within the GSD’s Department of Urban Planning and Design reflects the GSD’s long-standing strengths in real estate and related fields. An expert faculty of scholars and practitioners approaches real estate as an interdisciplinary, collaborative practice whose success depends on more than one discipline or field.
A two-month practicum off campus following the first nine months of on-campus study places students in a partner for-profit, not-for-profit, or public organization based in the United States or internationally, where students immerse themselves in an actual development project. The range of practicum partners includes BRIDGE Housing and Winn Development (affordable housing developers), Hines and Portman Holdings (real estate investment, development, and management), Suffolk (contractors/developers), and the TEMES Group (tourism and destination real estate in Greece), to name a few. Upon conclusion of the practicum, students return to campus and present their experiences.
With this new degree initiative, Harvard University formally recognizes real estate as a profession worthy of intellectual and practical study and engagement.
The class is evenly balanced between students from the United States and international students from Canada, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The average age is 30, and all students have work experience in development, investment, project management, construction management, private equity, design, consulting, planning, asset management, prop tech, law, and brokerage. Each student has a unique background story that led to enrollment in the Harvard MRE program. The following sampling of biographies provides a snapshot of students from the inaugural MRE class of 2025:
Leonard O. Allen-Smith is the founder and CEO of Allen Smith Equities, a NYC-based real estate development and advisory firm. Established in 2022, the firm has completed more than $5 million in transactions. Leonard is also managing partner at East Chop Capital. Founded in 2018, the company has cultivated a portfolio of luxury vacation rental homes across six states. A certified public accountant, Leonard previously worked at KPMG, offering tax compliance services to REITs and investment firms. Holding both a bachelor of science in business administration and an MBA, Leonard is a distinguished alumnus of Hampton University.
Brendan D’Loren has served as director of development for Terwilliger & Bartone Properties, overseeing all development and design efforts for projects in the Northeast and Ohio markets. His expertise includes financial analysis, debt and equity structuring, acquisitions, dispositions, and project management. Previously, Brendan served as a development associate at Terwilliger Pappas, focusing on ground-up multi-family and mixed-use development throughout the Southeast. Brendan holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Trinity College, is a member of Urban Land Institute and its Young Leaders Group, and is a 2023 Long Island Business News “30 Under 30” honoree.
Weijia Li’s professional journey is characterized by a diverse range of experiences. She served as an associate within Warburg Pincus’s real estate team in Shanghai, where she gained valuable experience underwriting and managing portfolio companies of various types of commercial real estate, including affordable rental housing, data centers, and private credit. Preceding her time at Warburg Pincus, Weijia was an analyst on CITIC Capital’s principal investment team, making contributions to fund-level investments and operations. Weijia holds a BS (Hons) in mathematics with management and finance from King’s College London and a MA in computational social science from the University of Chicago.
Etta Madete is a licensed architect passionate about affordable and sustainable housing. She is the co-founder of Zima Homes, an award-winning Kenyan developer delivering sustainable homes under KES 4 million ($32 K). Passionate about advocacy, Etta is a lecturer (TF) at the University of Nairobi, an EDGE Expert, an Aspen and Mandela Washington Fellow, and a sought-after speaker. She has co-led acclaimed exhibitions at the Barbican and the Guggenheim with Rem Koolhaas and has over 15 publications in Aljazeera and Architectural Record, among others. Etta has an undergraduate and master’s degree in sustainable architecture from the University of Nairobi.
Emma Turner was born and raised in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. She started her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, focusing on real estate valuation and advisory services, where she obtained her certified public accounting license. She subsequently worked at The Davis Companies, a vertically integrated owner and developer, on their asset management team, supporting the team through business plan implementation, financial modeling, and the disposition of assets worth over $550 million. Emma has worked on assets across various product types and in several markets. In her free time, she enjoys running along the Charles River and playing with her family’s goldendoodle, Daisy.
Beyond learning the traditional skills and knowledge necessary to excel in real estate, the GSD’s MRE students gain a hands-on, broad-based, interdisciplinary education that reflects today’s landscape. The MRE program’s curricular and extracurricular activities will not only enhance intellectual life at Harvard but also serve as an academic foothold for professionals from across the globe.
For opportunities to support the MRE program, please contact Courtney Ward.