Air Force Veteran and USC Price Graduate Increases Affordable Housing in the Heartland

Troy Nash added the online Executive Master of Urban Planning degree to his arsenal of expertise to build better communities in Missouri and beyond.

Troy Nash is about as close as anyone can get to being a renaissance man in the 21st century.

A military veteran, he holds a law degree, a doctorate in education, an MBA, and master’s degrees in economics and political science. Yet even with an impressive resume that also includes 22 years in real estate and two terms in public office, he was urged by his business partner to go back to school.

That partner also happened to be his oldest daughter, Arielle Nash, co-founder of his property development company, The Nash Group.

“She thought we could have an even broader cross section of experience,” he said.

She also had a recommendation: USC’s Executive Master of Urban Planning (EMUP) degree. Provided online by the USC Price School of Public Policy, the EMUP program merges urban planning with real estate development to provide strategies for overcoming the regulatory, political, and financial hurdles that can impede community improvement and heighten income inequality.

The unique program, which can be completed in as little as 16 months, is designed for working professionals across the public and private sectors.

“I understood economic analysis, development and financial feasibility, but I didn’t have the urban planning and design pieces down as much as I wanted,” Nash explained. “So the program has been a huge benefit for our company.”

In particular, he appreciates the applied nature of the USC Price curriculum, which enables students to learn by working on real-world projects. But Nash also considers all education valuable: “Learning for me is a lifestyle choice,” he said — and one that lifted him up from an impoverished youth.

Overcoming Hardship with the U.S. Air Force

Nash was born in Kansas City, Missouri, which he still calls home and is dedicated to making a better place. His commitment stems from a challenging childhood and being raised by a single mother who struggled to put food on the table for her four sons. Even though Nash took odd jobs to help out as best he could, each day remained a struggle.

“I grew up on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, with all the social ills you can imagine — including drugs and violence,” he recalled.

His life changed when he joined the Air Force. During service that included the Iraq War, Nash earned his first degree — a Bachelor of Science in Economics. When he returned home, he helped the rest of his family get the educations they needed to escape the cycle of poverty.

“Since then, every year has been better than the year before,” he said.

Joining the Kansas City Council

Wanting to widen his service to the community, Nash turned to politics, working on campaigns at the local, state and federal levels. By then, he was also in law school, where a hint toward his future career came when he served as urban affairs editor for the American Bar Association’s Urban Lawyer journal.

Meanwhile, his interest in local politics deepened, as it’s the level of government that has the greatest effect on most people’s lives, he noted.

After serving as a city council member’s administrative assistant, he joined the staff of former Mayor Emmanuel Cleaver. Then, at 29, Nash transitioned  from aide to politician when voters elected him to the Kansas City Council. His tenure built more experience that he would take into the private sector, as he chaired the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee and vice chaired the Budget and Audit Committee.

Nash’s talents were ultimately recognized statewide, as the governor appointed him to serve on the Missouri Housing Development Commission. Nash also served on the Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission, and both appointments were confirmed on a bipartisan basis.

A Focus on Community Development

When term limits brought his city council service to an end, Nash said he “fell into real estate” by joining the Kansas City-based firm Newmark Zimmer. Company head Hugh J. Zimmer became a mentor, “showing me the ropes” about the complexities of real estate development, Nash said.

Zimmer, who passed away in 2019, lauded Nash’s “ability to bring people together around a common vision” and his “understanding of what the public and private sectors need to structure successful ventures.”

Within seven years of beginning work at Newmark Zimmer, Nash made history by becoming the first African American partner at a top-tier real estate company in Missouri history.

“I later found out I was the first not only in my state but in 32 others,” he said.

Nash remains a partner and managing director at Newmark Zimmer, which is behind some of the nation’s most noted commercial developments and currently manages more than 13.5 million square feet of property.

Through that firm and his own, The Nash Group, he helps structure public-private partnerships to leverage the advantages of mixed-use developments in providing high-quality, affordable housing in cities across the country. In 2020, the magazine Savoy recognized Nash’s success in this realm by ranking him among the nation’s most influential Black executives.

Building Connections Online in the EMUP Program

Even with his extensive expertise, Nash understands that learning is a lifelong process. He enjoys passing his knowledge on to others and appreciates being mentored in turn. He also believes that teachers appear when the student is ready — so he said it’s important to make sure you’re ready.

And while he may not have realized what USC Price’s EMUP degree would mean to The Nash Group when daughter — and company president — Arielle told him about the program, he was ready to be mentored by its faculty.

“The professors are great,” Nash said. “They’re experts in their areas of influence and bring practical expertise against which I can bounce off my own experience to form new ideas.”

He also enjoyed the range of expertise held by his fellow classmates, which came in especially handy during collaborative projects. The EMUP degree attracts students from diverse professions and backgrounds from across the nation who all share the goal of enhancing urban infrastructure and improving their communities.

For example, Nash said, “you always need an architect on your team, and there were several in the class.” Other fields represented among EMUP students include engineering, transportation, technology and environmental sustainability.

While studying together remotely, the classmates connected so completely that when they met on campus for the final intensive, Nash said, “we felt like a family.” One classmate has even traveled to Kansas City to work with Nash on a project.

“I’ve held leadership positions in aspects of real estate and economic development, but I don’t know how I got this far without the degree in urban planning,” Nash said. “It’s one of the few programs where you can take in the information and literally use it the next day. It’s like a boot camp for planning and urban design.”

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

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