The TOWER Fellows Program at UT Austin is a nine-month initiative that offers industry professionals an opportunity to explore their interests in other disciplines, as well as providing support and preparation for future opportunities in industries outside of their expertise. This year, 25 individuals were selected to participate in the program this year, and TAPR has had the privilege of working with two of the Fellows: Glenn Lowenstein and Paul Richards.
Why did you decide to attend the TOWER Fellows program?
Glenn: After 35 years of becoming an expert in real estate investing, it was time to broaden my horizons, stop being an expert, and become a student again. Or I should say, emphasize being a student. I wanted to learn again.
Paul: As a newly arrived Austin transplant from Chicago, becoming a part of the University of Texas community, especially through the inaugural TOWER Fellows program, was very appealing to me. It is all about trying to figure out what the ‘next chapter’ of our lives will look like. We have a series of amazing speakers, from a former U.S. Senator, to the President of the University, to the UT Athletic Director, to an astronaut who had been to the space station twice, to many interesting professors from all corners of the campus.
Tell us more about your career path and how you ended up at UT as a fellow.
Glenn: After graduating from NYU Business School in 1985 and then spending several years on Wall Street in real estate finance, I moved to Houston and worked with Hines for 10 years, ultimately as a Chief Investment Officer. In that capacity, I worked globally designing investment strategies and raising capital. In 2001, I co-founded Lionstone Investments and visioned it as an expert in U.S. real estate investing based on heavily researched strategies. It worked. In that process, I met the leadership of the UT Real Estate Center, became its Chairman and became permanently attached to UT.
Paul: As a market maker, broker and trader on several futures and options exchanges world-wide, I was fortunate to be able to travel to pursue my passion of playing all the best golf courses in the world. First as the historian at the country club I grew up caddying at, and then, since 1999, as a Golfweek Magazine Course Rating Panelist. I have been fortunate enough to get to play 99 of the top 100 courses in the world. In 1993, I received my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and last April I attended a four-day seminar on corporate governance there. During this session, I was introduced to the UT Austin by my lead Professor, who put me in touch with a Dean here and we agreed that this program was a perfect introduction to my new home.
What classes are you shadowing at UT? What class has been most interesting or challenging to you? Why?
Glenn: Graduate level philosophy, social media, advanced analytics, design learning, venture capital, and public policy. It is a gift to truly learn again. My mind is energized with the excitement and wonder of a 25-year-old grad student. I have always been curious, but TOWER Fellows was a catalyst for a big reset. My classes have all been interesting and challenging in similar and different ways. Probably, the most interesting are the seminar classes where students and professors are in discussions and learning together. I have been so fortunate to be able to attend Philosophy of Consciousness and Perception with Dr. Michael Tye and Dr. Mark Sainsbury. The most interesting part of the seminar is the high level and generous interaction between the graduate students, who are 100% impressive, with each other and the professors. Their style of collaboration and collective learning is critically relevant to business, academic and government leaders in every corner of the world. The challenge, quite frankly, is to understand the content and follow the discipline and elegance of their logic.
Paul: To me, it has been important to ‘brush up’ on a few of the courses that are in my wheelhouse – corporate governance, entrepreneurialism, venture, and angel investing. Additionally, I have also found it useful to take some courses that are out of my ‘comfort zone’ – CIA Intelligence, Covert Action, Smart Cities, New Media and Social Media. Overall, the classes have been very educational, with my favorite being Venture Fellows, as I have gotten to take it both semesters, which features highly successful speakers from all areas of equity funding, from seed to institutional to venture to private equity and beyond. In addition, the students here at UT have impressed me tremendously, as most of my classmates have been graduate students and even some PhD candidates. The Professors expect TOWER Fellows to come to class ‘prepared’ – meaning we have done the readings, and most expect us to participate in the discussions, finding value in the experiences we have had in life ‘in the real world’ and sharing those experiences with the other students. We are not required to write the papers or take the exams, so that makes the ‘learning’ more incumbent upon us to keep up with the material and make sure we come to class prepared to participate.
Why did you decide to attend an advertising course and how has it impacted your perception of the industry?
Glenn: The methods, content, and distribution of social media has fundamentally changed the economics of business. When the “virtual” world meets the “physical” world, very powerful events occur. By powerful, I mean incredibly destructive and unexpectedly profitable. Achieving the latter is something that is intriguing to me as I really knew very little about this area.
Paul: Advertising is always something that has appealed to me, especially when working with startups, and learning more about what is ‘behind’ the screen on social media seemed to me to be something worth pursuing to help entrepreneurs.
What advice do you have for students who are graduating college?
Glenn: Know yourself deeply, respect yourself, and follow your heart. It’s great to learn from others, but your meaning and fulfillment will derive from connecting your passion and gifts to the world in a vehicle that aligns with your goals and character. The latter is underestimated. My own bias is to spend less time “packaging” yourself and more time finding the right place/company that naturally aligns with you. When you find that fit between your passion/skills and your goals/character, it is incredibly satisfying.
Paul: My best advice to the students graduating from college is to find a job and career path that holds your interest and makes you excited to go to work every day. It is called ‘work’ for a reason, but if you can find a way to make it fun, it no longer feels like ‘work.’ I was fortunate to spend 22 years battling in the pits at the Chicago Board of Trade and every day, despite the risk and stress, was a new adventure and was exciting to me!