Master’s degree turns real estate sideline into new career

September 24, 2012 10:00 AM

Carol Schlueter

Meet Brennan Fournerat, New Orleans real estate magnate. Well, not a magnate just yet, but that’s his aspiration, and a new master’s degree program in the Tulane School of Architecture is preparing him for his future career.

Student Brennan Fournerat

While he plans his fourth home renovation project, Brennan Fournerat pursues his dream of being a real estate developer by joining a new master’s degree program in architecture at Tulane. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Fournerat was a Tulane staff member, dabbling in real estate on the side, renovating homes and turning them into prime rental property.

“I really got a kick out of it, going through the financing, fixing houses up,” he said. So with his fourth property in his sights, Fournerat quit his job to devote full-time study to the one-year Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development Program.

Now he is in the program’s second class of 12 scholars, all with some type of real estate experience; two are from New Orleans and others are from across the country, attracted by the multidisciplinary, practitioner-oriented degree, says the program’s founding director, Alexandra “Sandi” Stroud.

A 1991 Tulane architecture graduate, Stroud returned as an adjunct associate professor to develop and direct the program.

Stroud’s students are immersed in a range of topics, including finance, business, economics, legal issues, community planning and environmental design, taught by faculty and practitioners, some of whom are Tulane alumni.

Supplementing the curricular work are trips the class takes to Washington, D.C., New York City and Seattle to meet heavy hitters in development firms and learn about their work. Students finish with a Directed Research class and capstone project that must be completed in conjunction with a practitioner chosen from national and regional developers, public agencies or industry groups.

“They get a broad understanding of how development works,” says Stroud. “That’s really what a developer does — they are generalists who manage a lot of different areas of expertise.”

Stroud has a New Orleans-based, personal agenda at work: “I love the idea of creating more really smart developers who will work in the city, or if not, they’ll be apostles for the city.”

Her student Fournerat is doing just that.

Tomorrow: Sustainability makes its mark in New Orleans.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu