2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Matthew Cypher, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Matthew Cypher

Atara Kaufman Professor of Real Estate and Director, Steers Center for Global Real Estate

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

With an extensive background working in real estate as an underwriter and overseeing more than $10 billion worth of institutional property, Matthew Cypher is said to bring a level of energy and intensity to real estate offerings at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. As the director of the school’s Steers Center for Global Real Estate, Professor Cypher has implemented an applied learning model to the real estate curriculum that has boosted students’ interest in the field. Similarly, this top professor has created numerous opportunities for students, ranging from the Real Estate Laboratory — a real building on nearby Wisconsin Avenue that allows students to make real world decisions to transform it into a commercial space — to the founding of the Georgetown Real Estate Club to launching the new student-run Real Estate Fund.

Age: 41

Education: BS – Pennsylvania State University; MS – Texas A&M University; PhD – Texas A&M University

At current institution since: 2012

List of courses you currently teach: First Year Seminar – The Real Estate Game (BSBA); Real Estate Finance (BSBA); Real Estate Private Equity (MBA); Real Estate Clinic (MBA)

Twitter handle: @MatthewCypher

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Frankly, I’m most proud of the fact that I worked in the private sector with an extraordinarily high quality real estate company (Invesco Real Estate).  The training and experience provided to me during my time with the firm was essential to building the Steers Center for Global Real Estate at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I recognized that I wanted to leave the private sector so that I could have an impact on young people and equip them with the skills that I think are lacking in today’s graduate.  The most fulfilling aspect of my job is seeing Georgetown University students earn high quality employment opportunities in a field where a true passion exists.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Failure.  My earliest teaching days came before my private sector experience which I believe is essential to being most effective in the classroom.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am currently studying (with two colleagues) whether real estate investors truly get paid in the form of a risk-adjusted return for buying riskier assets or whether lower risk investments outperform over time.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? I’m fortunate to have my most memorable moment each year when I get to hood the next generation of Georgetown graduates.  Being able to share very directly in such a proud moment is the most memorable to me.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? I believe that we are incorporating far more of a clinical (applied) environment when it comes to business education generally.  Young people are hired based upon their experience and the more we can equip them with genuine work experiences during college years, the more successful they will be.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” a distance running coach!  I love running and marathon running principally.  I coach my childrens’ elementary school cross country team and I absolutely love it.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: A genuine concern for the student at the individual level is one of the most effective ways to earn the trust and support of a classroom.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: My doctoral chair at Texas A&M University – Professor Fred A. Forgey.  He was one of the first faculty members I had that exhibited a deep concern for student well-being and success.  I think this laid the foundation for much of my instructional philosophy today and I owe him a debt of gratitude.  

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? They approach each day with the belief that anything is possible.

What’s the biggest challenge? Time and the limited amount of it.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? We offer an undergraduate real estate fund where students invest real money in live investments.  The students are required to present their investment thesis to an investment committee of alumni who are in real estate.  The quality of their presentations and thoughtfulness always blows me away.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Argue grades.  In the absence of a teacher mistake, I believe firmly that students earn the grade that they earn.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? It might be a product of moving to a Jesuit university, but I believe students are far more socially-minded today and think about the implications of business decisions on “the least of us.”

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Participate in like crazy in class and put forth genuine effort on the grading components within the class.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Brutally fair and honest.  I grade their written product like I did when I was reviewing analyst deliverables during my private sector days.  It might not be pleasant feedback all the time, but it is essential in ensuring that they write properly once in the real world.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? I’m a bit of a metal head and am pretty high strung so my classroom experience tends to be pretty high energy so Frantic by Metallica.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Lazy

“If my students can succeed while remaining high-quality people, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: My marathon PR is 2:53:02

What are your hobbies? I have four young children so my hobby time is limited to my daily runs.

How did you spend your summer? Preparing for the 2018-2019 academic year.  We talk about how we feed off the work we do throughout the academic year so a productive summer is important.  But I still took vacations with my family to Seattle and Maine.

Favorite place to vacation: Pretty much anywhere I can sit quietly and read a book.  Quiet is not exactly a word that describes any part of my life so I cherish it whenever and wherever I get it.

Favorite book: The Great Bridge by David McCullough which describes the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Favorite movie and/or television show: The Office

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Metal

Bucket list item #1: I’d like to run a marathon with each of my four kids.

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? We can’t lose sight of how important the student experience is.  We need to truly care as faculty about our students and principally about their career opportunities.  We cannot turn this most important responsibility over to a career services group, rather we need to work in concert and help them get the best job possible.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Clinical learning where students do real work.  Truly real work and not a simulation of the real world.  This gets students jobs, period.

“And much less of this…” Bureaucracy

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: Nothing would make me happier than to remain in contact with my students and to see them succeed in their professional and personal lives while remaining good people.  I would also like to see each of them actively involved in the Steers Center and paying it forward to the next generation.

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