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Meet Synkai Harrison '15, Intern at Gerding Edlen
Meet Synkai Harrison '15, Intern at Gerding Edlen


Synkai Harrison demonstrates what can happen when a determined individual discovers their calling and finds the perfect incubator to develop his skills. For Synkai, an intern at the prestigious firm Gerding Edlen, the calling is sustainable real estate development, and the incubator is Portland State University’s Masters in Real Estate Development (MRED). The MRED program has not only altered the course of Synkai’s life, but will allow him to change the lives of entire communities through smart growth and sustainability in real estate development.

Synkai’s interest in real estate originated during his early career in construction management in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked for Habitat for Humanity, which exposed him to EarthCraft, a low cost, energy-saving building certification. Through this work, he started to understand the impact that built environments have on communities.

“Building well-planned, energy efficient homes actually creates a safe and healthy environment. This inspired me to look for ways that I could be involved in improving all built environments, including low income housing, so that I could improve the basic conditions that communities live and work in.”

As Synkai continued his work in construction management, he came to work for an environmental-services non-profit, who sent him to an EcoDistrict summit in Portland, Oregon. He thought, “This is how we should look at real estate development.” From there, Synkai’s purpose began to reveal itself. “I wanted to play a role in drafting vision instead of being handed systems of drawings. I needed to be part of real estate development.”

When Synkai was introduced to PSU Real Estate Development Professor, Matthew Gebhardt, by connections he made at the Summit Synkai, he was sold.

Moving across the country for a graduate program was a huge but rewarding step for Synkai.

“To me, the Pacific Northwest is leading the charge in smart growth, transit oriented development and sustainability. If that was the direction I wanted my career to go, I wanted to come to the mecca, which is Portland.”

Synkai has not been disappointed with his decision. Through the MRED program, he has been learning a balance of finance and urban planning, residing in what he calls, “a living case study in smart growth,” and has even landed an internship at the prestigious real estate and investment firm, Gerding Edlen.

When asked about his work at Gerding Edlen, Synkai couldn’t help but gush, “It is the premier firm when it comes to smart growth and sustainability. I can’t explain how amazing it is to work for a company with a triple bottom line as part of their DNA; it is who they are.”

While Synkai is currently Gerding Edlen’s Market Research Intern, he says that the firm exposes him all aspects of their work and he has had unlimited access to all of their departments. This has helped him learn deeply about development. “To have this experience has been life and career changing; to be able to interact with a group of professionals who are leaders in the field is invaluable. I am so grateful to my professors for the opportunity.”

Synkai is graduating this month, but finds his graduation to be bittersweet because the MRED program has become his home. Of course, Synkai is also looking forward to starting his career in the field that has inspired him, here in the city that he has come to love.

“This is why I came to Portland, where the whole idea of sustainability is at the heart of corporate culture.”