It takes a village, as they say, and when it comes to educating students in The School of Hospitality Business at MSU, and alumni are key.

A debt is owed to recent graduate Paul Finstad (BA ’13), for helping arrange accommodations, a presentation about his company, Watermark Capital Partners, and a mixer with alumni during a trip to Chicago April 15-17 for 16 members of The School’s Real Estate Investment Club (REIC).

Students at JLL VisitThe group had a full schedule, arriving in Chicago on Friday morning to meet with several members of the development team at Hyatt Corporation.  According to club member Cameron Armstrong (BA ’16), the group learned about “branding, expansion, and high level financials,” and heard about the company’s strategy to expand internationally.  The team even hosted the students for lunch!

The group was then off to tour the Renaissance Chicago, owned by Watermark Capital Partners.  The property recently completed a $32.5 million renovation, which associates from Watermark discussed, along with the company’s business strategy and justification for the renovation.  The students were impressed with the magnificent property and were even able to tour the rooftop bar currently closed to the public.  In addition, they were grateful to be staying at The Renaissance that night!

The students then met with members of JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group (named The School’s Industry Partner of the Year in 2014).  They received a short course on brokers’ opinions of value and how to underwrite a property and go about securing a transaction.  Cameron says, “This is the third year in a row we’ve met with JLL, and we appreciate their continued partnership with REIC.”

Thanks to Paul Finstad, the students met with several Chicago-area alumni that evening.  The next day began with a tour of what one student said was “one of the most distinct hotels I’ve ever seen.”  It was the Virgin Hotel Chicago, with porcelain statues of dogs outside pet friendly rooms, playful language on the hotel signage, and every room with shag carpet.  “Seeing how unique a property can be by staying true to its owners’ vision is genuinely eye-opening,” says Cameron.  “We really got a sense of the time and attention that goes into opening a flagship hotel.”

The final stop for the group was the Langham Hotel Chicago, where they visited the only five-star spa in the Midwest.  They were delighted with the luxury of the Presidential Suite and other hotel amenities.

Jake Davison (BA ’20) says of the Chicago experience, “It was incredible to see so many different elements of the industry broken down in such a narrow time span.  Visiting corporate offices and touring the properties have made me even more excited to pursue the Real Estate Investment Management minor in The School.”