In 2018, the NYUSPS Schack Institute of Real Estate announced the inception of the Women in Real Estate (WiRE) Scholarship. This scholarship fund arises out of Schack’s annual Women in Real Estate Symposium, which promotes and celebrates the role of women in real estate. In 2018, two Schack students were awarded scholarships of $5,000. One recipient, Xianghua (Jackie) Ji, spoke with Schack about her passion for the field and how she arrived in the school’s graduate finance track.
Ji, who came to the US from China in 2013, attended Mount Holyoke, a women’s college in western Massachusetts, where she studied global business and psychology with a minor in studio art. Ji, who grew up in Beijing and has always liked knowing the history of buildings, became aware of the possibilities of real estate through the school’s alumni network. Alumni working in real estate told her about real estate’s combination of finance and people skills.
Encouraged by these conversations, Xianghua applied to a summer internship program in 2016 at Cushman & Wakefield. She was admitted and spent the summer as a brokerage associate, learning “how to help tenants and gather information from them to provide the best service, but also how to put a deal together,” and found that she loved the work. When she came back to school for her senior year, Ji hosted a career panel to introduce more students to real estate.
Ji was drawn to the way real estate brings together the ideas of helping people, developing a sense of place, and design. It also allows her to connect with people across fields who are looking for space. "I’m bringing a lot of value into individuals lives just by working in real estate."
After college, Ji wanted to explore the field and learn how real estate is built. She was drawn to New York and its international focus, and took on a role as a property management assistant with Fosun International Ltd. In that role she worked with a local Fosun director and liaised with Union Square Hospitality Group on a restaurant site in a traditional commercial building at 28 Liberty Street. The company retained the historical aspect of the site while incorporating Chinese perspective into the design, which showed Ji more about the design process.
The position also enabled Ji to leverage her knowledge of China and the US to offer input and ideas. "Information exchange was very encouraged" between company employees, Ji said, and underscored the mentorship she received from her supervisor. She was also able to participate in meetings with the Shanghai headquarters. "Being able to participate, I could expand my knowledge about other roles and possibilities in the field."
After working in the field, Xianghua decided to find a graduate program to sharpen her skillset, and was recommended to the Schack program. At Schack, real estate finance has been a foundational course alongside coursework focused on legal principles. "Real estate is a very local business," she said, "you have to understand the laws and how the market is regulated."
Ji also has a "part-time interest in education." Through her work with REISA, Schack’s student government, she wants to help international students learn more about the local New York City market. Alongside her professional real estate work, Ji hopes to develop exchanges in China about the global market, and to encourage more conversations between the public and private sector in the US. For now, Ji is exploring New York City neighborhoods to live in as she looks to her future in real estate.