Connections The Power of the Haas Alumni Network

Built-In Community

A revived alumni group opens up the Berkeley real estate network

Connections The Power of the Haas Alumni Network

The inaugural BREAA gala was attended by a who's-who of the commercial real estate community: company presidents, CEOs, CFOs, and managing directors, as well as up-and-coming young professionals, past and present national champions of the UT Austin case competition, winners of the Golden Shovel, current students, and Berkeley administrators including a former chancellor, vice-chancellors, school deans, and more. Bob Lalanne, BA 78 (architecture), received the Berkeley Real Estate Impact Award for his contributions to the industry. Shown, BREAA's board of directors at the gala: Zachary Chan, MBA 10; Will Hu, MBA 10; Briana Harney, MBA 15; Bill Doyle, MBA 10; Tom Wight, MBA 15; Allie Stein, MCP 16 (city and regional planning); Joe South, MBA 16; Evan Schwimmer, MBA 10; and Brian Chadwick, MBA 16. Not pictured: Jan Smidek, MBA 10.

Though it relaunched only a year ago, the Berkeley Real Estate Alumni Association (BREAA) has already connected hundreds of commercial real estate professionals via several sold-out events. There was a presentation about constructing San Francisco's Salesforce Tower from the building's then-untenanted 56th floor. A Giants game and talk about the team's Mission Rock development near AT&T Park with Giants President and CEO Larry Baer. And an inaugural gala with a keynote by Chris Giles, MBA 10, COO of the Oakland Athletics, who discussed the team's planned "jewel box" waterfront stadium, to name a few.


Key to BREAA's success is its campuswide appeal: all UC Berkeley alumni worldwide are invited to join, and membership includes alumni from Haas, Berkeley Law, the College of Environmental Design, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and others. The goal, say BREAA President Evan Schwimmer and Treasurer Zachary Chan, both MBA 10s, is to maintain the reputation of Haas and Berkeley as the premier real estate school in the country.

BREAA had lapsed for several years, but Haas Lecturer Dennis Williams sparked its resurgence with support from Lecturer Bill Falik and Nancy Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics.

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Zachary Chan, MBA 10

Zachary Chan, MBA 10

BREAA Treasurer, President, Loka Properties

"There's a very strong, willing network of Berkeley grads in real estate who love having an organized way to get together. At the gala we had current students and graduates all the way back to the early '60s. It was stunning to see the networking among all the different graduation years."

Evan Schwimmer, MBA 10

Evan Schwimmer, MBA 10

BREAA President, SVP, John Buck Company

"This is a give-back moment. An opportunity to give back to Cal in the form of participation and monetary support of the university and school centers that will directly elevate the membership, current students, and fellow alumni in the industry."

Dennis Williams, BA 84

Dennis Williams, BA 84 (economics, political science)

Haas Lecturer, Managing Director, NorthMarq Capital

Dennis Williams sought BREAA's resurgence after he couldn't easily invite alumni to a holiday party. After one meeting, alumni mobilized and BREAA soon had a website, events, and sponsorships.

"It's amazing what our alumni have pulled off." Williams continues to advise the group and envisions membership in the thousands and nationwide chapters. "I've been encouraging them to think big and to have a robust committee system—to identify the next crop of leaders and make the board multigenerational."

Jason Dries-Daffner, BA 92

Jason Dries-Daffner, BA 92 (Asian studies), MArch 96 (architecture)

Director of Operations, Perkins+Will

"BREAA is truly a nexus of multiple generations of real estate professionals, including developers, brokers, lenders, planners, and architects—and is forward focused while building on decades of scholarship and practice. Supporting BREAA is a proactive way to realize the future of real estate from which we all benefit."


Claire Collery, MBA 19

Claire Collery, MBA 19

Current Haas Student, Member of the winning team of the National Real Estate Case Challenge at UT Austin

"Haas has been a dream vision of a business school where you really feel like there's an ongoing community that cares about the industry and about you. The whole ecosystem around real estate at Berkeley is special. Being at the BREAA gala inspired me to want to contribute to the community. I'm now working with the student real estate group to host a student and recent alumni reception at my house."