November 22, 2022

Schack Student Spotlight: MS in Real Estate Development Student Gisella Haidar

Gisella Haidar, a student in the MS in Real Estate Development program at the Schack Institute, moved with her family from her native Argentina to Texas at the age of 16. Speaking no English, she strove hard to prepare for the SATs and graduate from high school on time. Her diligent efforts paid off: She attended Texas Christian University as an economics major on a full scholarship, graduating as a Chancellor’s Leadership Scholar. She has worked in the real estate industry in investment sales and capital markets for a decade, selling over $1.2 billion of real estate, and is a senior vice president at NAI Global Capital Markets. Recently, she was featured in a video news story on NY1 about the Schack Institute, where she is vice president of REISA (Real Estate Institute Student Association).  

What are you passionate about?
I have a passion for the transformative potential of real estate developments that shape and define our communities. I want to encourage socially responsible developments that create sustainable growth while reducing disparities in economic and social outcomes.

Why did you choose to come to the Schack Institute?
Schack was the only program of its magnitude that offered a flexible class schedule and part-time options. I did not want to stop working while in school, and felt this program best suited my needs. Schack also has many professors who are top industry leaders and work at their companies during the day and then teach night classes.

What made you pursue a graduate degree?
I have been in the real estate industry for approximately ten years on the investment sales side. Being on the transaction side of the business, I was missing out on the best part of the process: the “magic” that happens after investors close on properties and get to redevelop, implement their business plan, and transform spaces while bringing value to the investments and their communities. I hope to transition into that side of the business and help bring an economically robust and sustainable future via socially responsible investing.

Do you have any favorite professors or classes?  
I have had great professors at Schack, but my favorite one is Professor Manish Srivastava. He truly cares about his students and devotes a lot of time to helping students reach their maximum potential. A lot of times I feel intimidated because he trusts us more than we trust ourselves, but this is what helps us give our best.

How are events like the Women in Real Estate (WiRE) Symposium relevant to the student experience?
Recently, companies and industry organizations have spent vast resources on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives targeted at hiring. However, initiatives to get women into C-Suite positions and leadership roles are lacking. Events like WiRE are essential in creating a stronger community of women and providing opportunities to connect students with female industry leaders who can serve as mentors.

What are the challenges you have faced in your career?
I started my career in commercial real estate in 2012 as the only female in a pool of ten analysts. As a Latina, I was also the only minority. Fast-forward to 2022, and not much has changed; most times, I am still the only woman and only minority in the boardroom. While our industry has made significant advances in recruiting women, the work does not stop there; there is a lot more we can do to achieve true gender diversity in commercial real estate. I am convinced that mentorship is the only way to get there.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to transition into the acquisitions and development part of the business. I am considering going into affordable housing, but eventually I want to work with economic development corporations to bring socially responsible investing and help transform communities.

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