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Master of Real Estate Development + Design

Romi Bhatia

Fellow MRED+Ds of 2021,

A year for the ages. A global pandemic. An economy in a tailspin with skyrocketing unemployment. A summer of racial reckoning. In the midst of it all in 2020, each of us made the pledge. We committed to advancing our career in the real estate field and enrolled in a nascent MRED+D program at Cal without fully knowing what teaching modality we would experience. Our professors have often remarked that as future developers we will constantly be confronted with risks (known and unknown) and will have to frequently make informed decisions with the uncertainty of outcomes being the norm. We all faced many tests throughout our program and have passed with flying colors and our green badges!

Our Masters degree program is unique - very fast paced with a small cohort that lends itself to forming close bonds of friendship. COVID-19 inhibited that, yet despite personal hardships and the challenges of remote learning, we have developed meaningful friendships. Big Oakland became a refuge for many of us and those beats outside rarely stopped:) Our spouses, partners, family, and furry friends have had to put up with us through this journey - give them the thanks and love they deserve!

When I made my decision from Miami to enroll, I was all in and ready to get to work. For me, the MRED+D program has been incredible learning and fun both in and outside the (virtual) classroom. Greg wisely encouraged us to maximize the experience and participate in case competitions. I landed on an incredible, multi-disciplinary team that was awarded as one of four finalists out of 105 teams in the 2021 ULI Hines competition! It’s an experience that will be memorable for years to come. More so than the accolade, the ULI Hines competition afforded me an opportunity to work collaboratively, sharpen my pro forma modeling skills, but most importantly, dive deeply into issues of racial segregation, redlining and blockbusting that have been a shameful legacy in the real estate industry. These issues came to the forefront with our project site in Kansas City and challenged us as a team to thoughtfully address them from a design and development perspective.

The fact is, as future developers, will need to confront these legacy issues as we move forward. Our nation’s historic racial reality awakening demands it. System racism and the racial wealth gap are very real and as real estate professionals, we have a responsibility to not look the other way. If inequality by design has been the prevailing history, we as MRED+Ds can change that and transform the built environment. I know it. I believe each of us has the moral compass, the sharp intellect, and the fortitude to do it.

This 11-month program has played a pivotal role in preparing us to lead and set the example. Shout out to Sabrina and Greg for their unwavering support. Opportunities abound and each of us now has a great support network and each other to lean on. So, let’s step out of our “Zoom box” and go make it happen!

Your Partner,
Romi Bhatia