2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: S. McKay Price, Lehigh College of Business and Economics

S. McKay Price

Associate Professor and Collins-Goodman Chair in Real Estate Finance

Lehigh University College of Business and Economics

Lehigh’s S. McKay Price brings a lot to the classroom. Six years of private industry experience–including commercial real estate brokerage and development–academic research, national and international conference presentations, published scholarship, and a ton of media citations as he’s regularly called upon by news media for his expertise.

This year when he was named number 12 in the world for his contributions to the field of real estate, Lehigh Business School Dean Georgette Phillips said, “Professor Price is a great resource for students — he has practiced real estate in the real world. He brings the industry to the classroom, in addition to his PhD in finance.” The ranking, produced by Real Estate Academic Leadership, is based on the number of articles Price published in the last four years in the top three real estate academic journals and his contributions to those journals being among the most noteworthy during that time frame. In the classroom, the associate professor of finance is known for frequent class trips to NYC to tour marquee projects such as One World Trade Center and to meet high-profile industry leaders. He also has a reputation for stretching undergraduate students; from deep dives into graduate-level case studies to Big Data analysis. Students say exposure to such high-level material often yields successful performance in job interviews.

Age: 42

At current institution since: 2010

Education: PhD in Finance, with support areas in Econometrics and Real Estate, Florida State University, 2010; MS in Real Estate Development, MIT, 2005; BS in Finance, University of Utah, 1999

List of courses currently teaching: Real Estate Finance, Case Studies in Real Estate Value Creation

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” There was no single moment when I knew I wanted to pursue an academic career.  It was more of a personal evolution.  I often describe it as having tried to scratch an innate itch.  I would scratch the itch for education and then go work in industry, but eventually the itch would return.  After a few cycles I came to realize that the thing I enjoyed most, whether in education or industry, was the process of discovery and sharing what I had learned with others.  The professorial life seemed like the best way to pursue such a path in an unfettered manner.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would pursue real estate development, creating places where people want to be.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Energizing

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I like seeing the personal satisfaction and confidence students develop when they do something difficult.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students?

Societal norms tend to perpetuate childhood rather than develop our youth into productive adults.  I recently heard someone say that we underestimate their ability and overestimate their experience.  The challenge, then, is to resist the urge to coddle and hand-hold.  Undergraduate students need to be given the opportunity to grow and meet high expectations.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Rather than list professional accomplishments, of which some are quite remarkable, I am very impressed when a student goes out of their way to sincerely express gratitude.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? One day an underaged student sat down in my office and told me about an incident involving  alcohol.  The consequences of his actions were still being decided by the university and he was hoping that, as his advisor, I could help him make the consequences go away.  He was a good student, but I was deeply disappointed in his effort to try to weasel out of the situation rather than take ownership for what he had done.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Work

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Hard

“But I would describe myself as …” Firm, but fair

What are your hobbies? Cycling, both road and mountain

How did you spend your summer? Research, preparing for an upcoming sabbatical to the University of Cambridge, family time, and cycling

Favorite place to vacation: Utah

Favorite book: The Old Man and the Sea

Favorite movie and/or television show: This Old House (on PBS)

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Varied musical tastes, but favorite artists are The Piano Guys (a pianist/cellist duo, actually).  Full disclosure — the cellist is my brother-in-law.

Bucket list item #1: Visit Tahiti with my wife

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Earning the respect of the faculty as a PhD student

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? I once had an exemplary student who, perhaps without thinking or perhaps out of peer pressure, provided her case assignments from a prior semester to her roommate who was in my class during a subsequent semester.  It was clear the roommate had plagiarized the former student’s work and a university hearing ensued.  Both were taken to task and the former student who provided her work was brought to tears.  They were sincere, remorseful tears.  Both students were found to be “responsible” for their actions and consequences ensued.

I’ve learned that after reproving someone you need to show an increase of caring, concern and support.  The roommate never looked me in the eye nor talked to me again.  However, the former student and I had a good heart-to-heart in my office where I expressed my support for her and my view of her high potential.  A life lesson was learned and positive change was made.  Over the years I have continued to show sincere interest and now she seeks me out at alumni events.  We share a bond.  I love hearing of her successes and life progression.

Professor you most admire and why: C.F. Sirmans — He is the single most accomplished academic in the history of my field and has had a profound impact on me professionally and personally.  He is more than just smart, he is wise.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’ve been digging into sovereign wealth fund (SWF) cross-border investment in commercial real estate.  SWF’s are state owned investment vehicles (e.g. the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority) with tremendous resources.  However, given that they do not have to publicly disclose their activities little is known about their investment activities.  It has been interesting to document what they do and compare that with other investors.  The results suggest that SWF investment determinants differ from other real estate investors.  They are, in many respects, unique players in the commercial real estate investment space.

Twitter handle: N/A

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much less of this…” It would have much less reliance on summaries of the research others have done (i.e. textbooks) and more reliance on direct learning (i.e. undergraduate research where students have the opportunity to understand the world by working with primary data.)

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Success, for me, is dynamic; it means growth.  If I’m doing the same things in the same way 10 years from now then I will be disappointed.  I have to keep learning, discovering, and improving in order to be content.

Students say…

“Great professor”

“Love this guy, great teacher”

“One of the best teachers I have had thus far”

“Awesome teacher. Really funny and really willing to work with students”

“Wants to see students succeed … McKay is tops!”

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