Day in the life of: Sam Chandan

The economist and Schack dean on his Lucky Charms habit, real estate’s LGBTQ issue and collecting Ivy League degrees

Jun.June 01, 2017 10:00 AM

Sam Chandan (Photo by Michael McWeeney)

Sam Chandan is the associate dean and head of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, which has nearly 400 full-time graduate and undergraduate students, 14 faculty members and a roster of high-profile industry alumni. Chandan, who grew up in Canada, came onto the New York real estate scene in the mid-2000s when he served as head economist for Reis Inc. and then global chief economist for Real Capital Analytics, which bought a company he founded called Real Estate Econometrics in 2010 for an undisclosed price. He’s also the founder of Chandan Economics, which provides data and analytics to real estate lenders, investors and policymakers, and is a partner at the Chicago-based investment manager Capri Investment Group. The 43-year-old has an impressive collection of Ivy League degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, a Ph.D. in economics from Wharton, and master’s degrees in both economics and electrical engineering from Penn. He taught economics at Dartmouth and real estate at Wharton before joining NYU last year.

6:00 a.m. I’m up. On the days when I’m most disciplined, I’ll make my way from my condo in Dumbo to Equinox. I don’t do any cardio — I should. It’s almost exclusively free weights and squats. I played rugby in college. I don’t have the opportunity to do that anymore, but these are the exercises I became most comfortable with at that time.

7:00 a.m. For breakfast, I either have a protein shake or Lucky Charms, with coffee. I have some favorite cereals that I haven’t been able to shake since I was 12. It’s an embarrassing secret.

7:30 a.m. I take an Uber to NYU’s Midtown campus on West 42nd Street. I stopped taking the subway because the 30 minutes in the car, answering emails or calls, is critical.

8:00 a.m. There is often a public event. We recently hosted a launch party for “The New Urban Crisis,” a new book from Richard Florida, one of our faculty members. I can’t be late for an event because I’m usually the one welcoming everyone. Arriving early is a lost art.

9:00 a.m. I have a series of meetings with the graduate student executive board, the Schack Institute advisory board and others. The latter board is chaired by Jimmy Kuhn of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and we have a couple key alums on the board, including Blackstone Group’s David Hirsh. I’m in constant discussion with those board members.

12:00 p.m. On Fridays, I’m one of the hosts of “The Real Estate Hour” on Sirius XM business radio. I host every second or third week. Discussion on the program centers on my personal interests — regulation and housing affordability, which has been a major area of research for me. By having guests [from agencies] like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we explore solutions or alternatives.

1:00 p.m. Very often I have lunch at my desk. I’m vegetarian, [but] I’m a very poor eater. On my desk right now, I’ve got jelly beans, shortbread cookies and a box of baklava. Folks will assume if you’re vegetarian, you’re a healthy eater. I am proof that it is not always the case.

2:00 p.m. I may head to Washington Square, where NYU’s undergraduate programs are located. On a typical day, I bounce back and forth at least once. I’m not one who spends the day at my desk.

3:00 p.m. I grab a cup of coffee, maybe from Dunkin’ Donuts. I drink coffee almost constantly. Sometimes I take a break and have a Coke Zero instead. I’m a heavy consumer of caffeine. My cup of choice is Americano — black, no sugar. The last beverage I would ever touch is a Unicorn Frappuccino. I’m more of a coffee purist that way.

3:30 p.m. I often meet with students. I’m working with the Women’s Real Estate Society at Schack on a variety of programming we’re developing.

Chandan in the Sirius studio

5:00 p.m. I work on a few current initiatives, such as a lecture series on real estate leadership and ethics. We recently launched a program called Executives in Residence. Prominent industry executives — most recently CBRE’s Darcy Stacom — spend a day with us or meet with students one-on-one. The most valuable relationship I have with a developer has been with Larry Silverstein, one of the founding members of Schack. I’ve always thought of Larry as an icon of the industry and a hero for me.

6:00 p.m. There is usually a dinnertime real estate event. A lot of the events are at places that seem woefully unprepared for a vegetarian. I’ve had some very good experiences in New York, but I always have a protein shake before I go.

8:00 p.m. I come back to the office. I finally get to sit at my desk and catch up on my emails. It’s a very quiet time. This might be the most productive time I have all day. Evening classes at Schack are just wrapping up, so I try to talk to students in the hallway and gauge the mood of the place. My responsibilities pull me in lots of directions, but being engaged in the everyday life of the place is not something I’m willing to compromise on.

9:30 p.m. I get home and make sure my family’s still there — and didn’t abandon me. My husband, Matt, is an academic at a competing institution, Columbia University. One area that has proven challenging is creating programming that highlights the experiences of LGBTQ professionals in the industry. We still have a way to go. On the best of days, I might be a role model for my students. You can be open about who you are and succeed. The other member of my family is our dog Higgs Boson, a terrier-Chihuahua mix. We have a strained relationship. If Matt’s home, she has no time for anyone else. At best, I might be fourth or fifth on Higgs’ list.

11:30 p.m. I’m reading a book on quantum physics and string theory. If I had been smart enough, I would have pursued a doctorate in theoretical physics. I’m usually reading a few things at the same time, like right now I’m already reading “Superman: The Unauthorized Biography.”

2:00 a.m. My goal is to go to sleep at midnight, but [2 a.m.] is the reality. I’m still checking emails. I do this job with joy. In an academic environment, the life of a school never closes.

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