USC Price Graduate Uses Real Estate Expertise to Combat Homelessness

“[The program] can set you on a different path, if you’re open and willing to learn and grow,” says Frank Byrd, a recent alumnus of the Executive Master of Urban Planning online program.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate agent Frank Byrd realized it was time to make a change in his professional life.

Two years later, in May 2022, he was officially a proud graduate of USC’s Executive Master of Urban Planning (EMUP) online program and preparing to tackle a new role at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

No stranger to career pivots, Byrd originally studied philosophy and fine arts before entering the real estate and urban planning sector, a shift that was sparked by his 10 years as the facility director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

From there, Byrd obtained his real estate license and became enthralled with development and acquisition, working with multiple brokerage companies and startups over the years, including Redfin.

Hoping to expand his knowledge in the field, Byrd went on to earn a Certificate of Completion from the USC Ross Minority Program in Real Estate in early 2020. But when social distancing orders forced people into their homes, he was determined to further specialize his education.

“I made the decision at that point to really try to push my real estate career towards real estate development, and so I applied for the Executive Master of Urban Planning at the USC Price School of Public Policy. I was ready to take my career to the next level,” he explained.

The online program was particularly attractive to Byrd, as he was working full time and needed flexibility to balance both his coursework and professional obligations. Plus, he was already familiar with USC after completing the Ross Program.

“Some of the professors who taught in the master’s program were also part of the Ross Program. So, I really got to experience what the program could potentially offer — from the teachers who were involved to the extended, connected community in the real estate world in Southern California and beyond,” he explained. “The [Trojan] network is real.”

Frank Byrd Usc Ross Minority Program Real Estate Project Team
Frank Byrd (second to last on right) with his project team from the USC Ross Minority Program in Real Estate. (Photo: Courtesy of Ross Program)

When asked how he would describe his time in the EMUP program, one word immediately came to mind: dynamic. Attracting accomplished professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, the master’s program merges urban planning and real estate development, preparing students to become catalysts for more equitable and sustainable cities in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

This diverse array of perspectives and experiences helped challenge and inform Byrd’s way of thinking, shaping him into a better leader, he said.

“I really enjoy having different points of view while looking at the same problems,” he explained.

After graduation, Byrd utilized his newfound knowledge and skill sets to pursue another position: coordinator of unit acquisitions for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Working within the Permanent Housing Division, Byrd supports LAHSA in its mission to coordinate funding for programs that provide shelter, housing and services to families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

“I wanted to see what was out there when I completed this degree, and it was really the major change on my resume. Within a few weeks after the program, I had five different interviews with different entities: cities, real estate nonprofits, real estate developers … The degree in and of itself opened up a lot of doors to check boxes that I didn’t necessarily have prior to the program,” explained Byrd, who also works as a consultant for Proper Dwelling, a boutique brokerage for residential real estate in Los Angeles.

Clearly, the Executive Master of Urban Planning online program has made a tremendous impact on Byrd’s career trajectory, diversifying his resume and opening him to future opportunities in new sectors. It was an experience he would recommend to others — especially if they’re willing to venture into the unknown.

“[My advice to potential students is] to be open to the possibilities — because even though what I’m doing now wasn’t necessarily what I went in with the intent of doing, I’m happy. The exposure to the many different things that I could do with that degree beyond just planning, or beyond working specifically in real estate development, set me on a different path. And it can set you on a different path, too, if you’re open and willing to learn and grow,” he said.

Learn more about the Executive Master of Urban Planning online program at USC Price today.

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