Real Conversations features current MBA students discussing their experiences in the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School and beyond…in their own words.
The Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate recently sat down with Musashi Liu ’20 to discuss how he was drawn to the diversity of Columbia Business School, his passion for affordable housing in underserved communities, and his experience as a J-Term student. Musashi is Co-Vice President for Careers in the Real Estate Assocation (REA).
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
The first thing that pops into mind about real estate is location, location, location. There are many great and established MBA programs throughout the world and many provide an option that focuses on real estate: Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, UT, Haas, UNC to name a few. But, none can compete with the fact that Columbia Business School is in New York City, the world’s real estate empire and center of the financial universe. And, as cliché as it sounds, what led me to CBS is the culture, the diversity, and the people of CBS enhanced by New York City itself. Columbia’s MBA Real Estate Program is the best of the best. Nothing beats the CBS alumni network, the power of the student body, the Real Estate Association, and the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate.
Tell us more about your role and position in the Real Estate Association.
My role is VP of Careers, which calls for me to foster dialogue about potential career paths within the different verticals in the real estate industry. I help to conduct mock interviews, organize career events with companies on campus, and facilitate networking with students and real estate employers. The culminating Careers event is the Career Forum held in the spring, where many prominent real estate companies will set up tables and engage with students to explore future opportunities.
Are you a member of other student organizations? If so, which? Do you hold any other officer positions?
I am a VP of the Hospitality and Travel Association and VP of the Social Enterprise Club. I am also a member of the Hispanic Business Association, Men’s Rugby Team, Investment Banking Club, Management Consulting Club, Private Equity Club, and Triathlon Club. I will also serve as a Teaching Assistant for two real estate classes this fall: Real Estate Transactions and Real Estate Portfolio Management. In addition, I am a fellow for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that is transforming the career and life trajectories of a new generation of diverse leaders from underrepresented communities—African American, Latino/a and Native American—to realize their full potential, to make a mark and make a difference. There are simply so many interesting and unique clubs that students can become a part of, it just comes down to how much time you have to attend all of the great speaker events, treks, and learning/career opportunities.
What events or speakers have been most meaningful or impactful to you while in business school?
The most meaningful experience thus far has been meeting and getting to know all of my classmates. The power of the CBS MBA experience is through the network, and I have found impactful conversations and relationships built through things as simple as CBS Matters, group trips, coffee chats, lunches, supper clubs, and social clubs. I have gotten to know so many creative, smart and intriguing individuals who will not only be part of my future business network, but also lifelong friends.
Describe your experience as a J-Term student.
They say that if you remember the first time you met someone, that person will be your friend for life. I first met my learning team during orientation through a game of charades. I was intrigued at first and slowly, day by day, I grew to appreciate and respect them. I didn’t anticipate that a group of people with diverse backgrounds as diverse as ours could get along as well as we do. It’s awesome that they haven’t gotten sick of me yet. Another vivid memory is meeting students from Lebanon and Singapore on my first day of business school; I had never been to either country, nor had I ever met anyone before from either of those countries. To me that’s what Columbia Business School brings to the table. Experiences that will expand our horizons and place us outside of our comfort zones. My CBS classmates will be the future business leaders of not only the US, but in a countries throughout the world.
How do you define and measure success?
The term “success” is relative to the surroundings and situations you place yourself in. Success is rarely achieved in isolation so the challenge is to surround oneself with people who will help you find success. The path to success is not always easy and sometimes we have to take the hard path. But, invariably having to work hard to reach a goal offers greater opportunity to learn new things about the field you are working in and about yourself. Taking the hard path also allows for greater satisfaction when success is found. But perhaps the most meaningful facet of success in my view, is making sure that we “pay it forward” to help others succeed.
Who is your hero? (personal or professional, or both)
My parents are my heroes. Growing up, I was surrounded - and fascinated - by real estate. An early influence were my parents, who worked hard as public servants and instilled in me their passion of giving back into the community. My father as former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Public and Indian housing, and current head of Miami-Dade Public Housing, has been helping low-income and minority communities for decades. At a young age, I was exposed to the reality of affordable housing needs in the country and the cities that we lived in, inclusive of Honolulu, Washington, DC and Chicago. My father actually walked me through apartment buildings with broken windows, cracked walls, and darkness. My mother was a family-law attorney and focused on child custody and domestic violence cases. I watched her prepare for child custody court cases in Hawaii, Virginia and DC, and learned of the negative impact of drugs, violence and lack of adequate housing on family functionality.
What inspires you?
To go beyond what is asked of oneself and giving back to others. Bottom line, I believe the one quality that defines a great leader is the ability to give of yourself so as to enhance other people's lives. My passion for real estate and investments has guided my career. When I have become successful and older I hope to use the skills I am acquiring at Columbia to create an affordable housing startup focused on mixed-income housing development on a part of the market that has been a challenge for affordable housing developers in metro areas across the country—i.e., smaller existing multi-family housing stock of up to 40 units. In cities such as Philadelphia, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago, these buildings form the core of neighborhoods that are increasingly being gentrified and moving those of low- and moderate-income, further to the fringes of economic mobility and stability.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would remove artificial barriers of income inequality and racial discrimination. The theme of diversity leadership captures the essence of what Columbia Business School is about by bringing a generation of leaders from across the world and a new way of thinking about diversity and inclusion into the global business landscape. Increasingly, firms in all sectors especially finance are realizing the competitive benefits of a diverse workforce. Smart forward-thinking organizations want to recruit and retain talent that reflects the markets they serve increasingly these markets include African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific-Islanders and Native Americans. After I graduate from Columbia Business School, I hope to offer a helping hand to young people who know that they have the grades, who know that they are smart, but who also know they may never get an opportunity to show somebody how good they are because they don't have the financial means to go to graduate school.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
This Columbia MBA will be pivotal in my career development and is truly a life changing experience. I hope that I can take these skills and the feedback and continue to develop into a better person, friend, and leader. “I want to look up to someone, look forward to someone, and look for someone to chase” as Matthew McConaughey stated in his Oscar speech. I look up to God, I look forward to my family (my parents taught me to respect myself and in turn I will learn to respect others), and I will continue to chase my hero which is myself 10 years away from now – I will never beat my hero and catch up to him and that is fine with me since I always want someone to chase. To that I say amen and thank the Columbia MBA for making me a better person and for improving my future self for me to chase. Mahalo!