Meet Karen Cohen, real estate representative to the Mason Business Alumni Chapter


Karen Cohen (MRED ’12) doesn’t have a lot of free time these days.  Aside from a busy career as a commercial real estate lawyer working with property owners, developers, and public agencies, she also represents alumni of the Mason real estate program at the Mason School of Business alumni chapter.  In this interview, Karen looks back with pride on her graduate studies, looks forward to working with active alumni, and offers advice to current students.

Why did you decide to enroll in the George Mason Masters in Real Estate Development (MRED) program?

My undergraduate degree is in architecture and I worked at an architecture firm for several years before deciding to go to law school.  I had been practicing law at a large firm in DC for nearly 14 years when I decided I was ready for a change.  I began to think that about my architecture background and how it would be useful to a career in commercial real estate law.  In 2009, I heard that Mason was starting the MRED program, and I decided that obtaining the master’s degree in real estate development would be a great way to “retool” so that I could pursue a new direction in my legal career.

What were the most important experiences or lessons that you learned from the program?

The most important experiences were the relationships I formed with my classmates and professors.  The students in the program and many of the professors are industry professionals.  By taking advantage of all that MRED offers (such as NAIOP membership, case study tours and access to industry professionals), you have a unique opportunity to be a part of the commercial real estate industry before you even graduate.

How has the MRED program helped your career?

I am currently a shareholder with the law firm of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C.  Mike Vanderpool teaches the real estate law class in the MRED program.  As a student in his class, I not only learned what I needed to know in order for Mike to hire me, but by doing my best in class — whether on a team project or on an exam — I had the opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities and professionalism well before my actual interview for the job.

What advice would you give to real estate professionals that are just starting in the MRED program?

Treat your time in the program as if the entire 3 years is an interview for your next job – at all times, do your best work and maintain the highest degree of integrity and professionalism.

Can you tell us about the alumni group of the MRED program?  What are the alumni’s goals and activities as a group?

The Real Estate Development Industry Group (REDIG) is an alumni group recognized by Mason as part of the School of Business Alumni Chapter.  REDIG’s current plans are to have one activity per quarter to bring MRED alumni together. It is anticipated that some REDIG activities will occur in conjunction with MRED activities, such as MRED’s annual Groundbreaking Event to welcome new students.  We anticipate a joint event with Mason civil engineering alumni since alumni of both programs often work together in commercial real estate development.  Another REDIG goal is to continue to fund the Bob Wulff Scholarship Fund.  MRED alumni have already contributed to the Bob Wulff Scholarship Fund, and we want the fund to continue to grow and provide opportunities for MRED students. The most important goal is that MRED alumni stay connected with one another, continue to be engaged with Mason and the real estate development industry, and give back to Mason and the program, whether by teaching, guest lecturing, contributing financially or helping to plan the next REDIG event.

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