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'Dynamic Industries' : Real Estate and Finance Merged at UCLA Center

July 26, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

A wedding is being planned on the UCLA campus. A brief announcement of it was made this spring, but the marriage won't be consummated until September.

It will be a merger between real estate and finance in a new center at UCLA's John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management.

Real estate and finance: They might not sound exciting, but Kathleen Connell calls them "the two dynamic industries in Southern California, other than entertainment and aerospace."

Connell, director of housing for Los Angeles from 1977 to 1983, is managing director of the center.

"We didn't want to focus just on real estate," she elaborated, referring to real estate offerings at other universities.

"We didn't want a real estate development program like MIT's." The Center for Real Estate Development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which only recently accepted its fourth class of masters degree candidates, was the first academic institution to offer a graduate degree in that specialization.

"We want something broader," Connell said.

That something --a center concentrating on all areas of real estate and finance--seems natural, given her background.

Connell first worked for a national firm specializing in planned-unit development, then served as city housing director overseeing construction and rehabilitation of 10,000 units of residential housing and the issuance of more than $500 million worth of tax-exempt bonds.

She left Los Angeles to manage the Real Estate and Financial Advisory Groups of Chemical Bank in New York but returned to California in 1985 to establish her own firm, Connell & Associates, an investment banking and financial advisory company that she continues to head.

She is also managing director of Los Angeles-based Roberts/Connell Associates, a real estate development and management firm that focuses on problem-loan portfolios, troubled properties and failing financial institutions.

Academically, Connell also seems suited for the UCLA job. She is a Ph.D. alumna of UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Planning and has a master's degree in economics.

UCLA's Center for Finance & Real Estate was an outgrowth of a conversation Connell had with J. Clayburn La Force, dean of the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management.

La Force has described the center as "a broadening" of UCLA's already existing program in urban land economics.

In a prepared statement, he said, "Southern California continues to emerge both as a strong market for commercial and residential real estate and as a major financial center. For these reasons, the need exists for a first-rate academic center at UCLA that is dedicated to teaching and research in these growing fields."

'The Time Had Come'

Remembering her conversation with La Force, Connell said, "We just felt the time had come for such a center, because so much has changed in the past few years in real estate and finance."

And with predictions that the Pacific Rim could emerge as the world's predominant financial and commercial center, she and La Force figure UCLA is the perfect place for professionals and students to study major issues in both subjects.

Speaking of students, Connell said, "We think the curriculum, for everyone going for an MBA, should include accounting, finance, systems development, marketing and operations. So, instead of offering real estate courses that are case-study oriented, we want all graduate students to have a basic foundation in the five areas. Then we're not educating the students for their first jobs but for a continuum of jobs."

Through the new center, UCLA also will start exposing its MBA students to top professionals in finance and real estate as guest lecturers.

An executive committee will offer advice on content and direction of the center and may serve as faculty participants.

Executve Committee

They are: Laurence Fink, managing director of First Boston Inc.; Robert Smith, vice chairman of Security Pacific National Bank; Stan Ross, co-managing partner of Kenneth Leventhal & Co.; James Peters, president of the Newport Beach-based real estate development firm J. M. Peters Co., and Ira Gribin, director of the realty firm Gribbin Von Dyl and first vice president of the National Assn. of Realtors.

Talking about the faculty, Connell said, "We want to fund a chair, a resident professor, to teach a class with specific expertise; for example, on capital markets or the changing role of thrift institutions."

Through the center, she also hopes to create a work/study program--"to place students in the field, but we think it should be planned and highly supervised," she explained. "That's where the advisory board fits in."

The advisory board--nearly 30 professionals, including a number of public officials--will help plan the work/study program and public conferences on such topics as, she suggested, "Japanese investment: Will It Grow?"

Encourage Research

Connell also expects the new center to encourage research already being conducted by the school's faculty on such thorny issues as what happens to commercial loan portfolios with interest-rate shifts; growth controls, and increasing traffic problems in Southland urban areas. With research in hand, the center might prove helpful, she hopes, in leading to solutions.

"We think UCLA can be very helpful," she said, "because we are not a political player and we can offer a forum open to debating opinions."

She doesn't see any conflicts, though, in the marriage between finance and real estate.

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