Featured Profiles

Breaking Barriers: Samuel Azasu’s Vision for Inclusive Real Estate Education

Samuel Azasu is an experienced educational developer and Counselor of Real Estate (CRE®) with over 22 years of experience in higher education, curriculum redesign, and training in countries such as Sweden, the UAE, South Africa, and Spain. He has a wealth of program development experience, including expanding an existing MSc program and redesigning and relaunching programs at Wits University, resulting in the largest increase in CPMs and the first African chapter of IREM. Azasu also built an executive education program, generating revenues that became the second-highest source of revenue for the School of Construction at Wits. He has also consulted for various organizations and guest lectured at various institutions. His research interests include real estate education, reward management for the real estate and facilities management sector, and corporate real estate management. Azasu has published in various journals and served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Sustainable Real Estate and on the conference review committee of the CDIO network on engineering education and previously served as a Board member for the European Real Estate Society and the African Real Estate Society.


Growing up, Samuel Azasu was one of only two students in his grade one class who struggled with reading and writing. This experience imbued him with a powerful motivation to take his education to the next level, ultimately leading to his successful career in the field of education. Additionally, his childhood was also enriched by the experience of helping his mother sell textiles at a local flea market in Ghana, which helped foster a lifelong passion for interacting with people and honing his people skills.


He attributes much of his strong values and integrity to the guidance of his mother; he says, “My mother taught us always to be loyal to the truth and not people.” This valuable lesson has guided him throughout his life and career, allowing him to prioritize the greater good over his personal gain.


This principle guided him as he began his career in real estate; reflecting on the start of his journey, Azasu remembered how his early experiences shaped his career. He recalls, “I entered a Jesuit Ignatian retreat as an academic exercise to understand Jesuit leadership. I didn’t realize what a powerful self-awareness program it was and how effective it was in seeking direction for life. After the retreat, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I wanted to spend the rest of my life developing people. So I stayed at the university.” He continued, “After that, my work started attracting the attention of my bosses, and I was made Director of Teaching and Learning while still studying for my Ph.D. In addition, I was nominated for three teaching excellence awards, and I won the third time in Sweden and twice in South Africa.”


After achieving early success in the field of real estate education, Azasu continued to push for even greater accomplishments. He arranged a partnership with the South African Property Owners Association to provide a comprehensive executive education program, making it the largest of its kind in South Africa. He also secured approval for postgraduate and undergraduate programs in real estate, becoming the first non-US partner program for IREM in Chicago. Furthermore, Azasu organized the first CPM and MPSA exam in Johannesburg in August 2017, with an impressive 90% pass rate, followed by a second exam in June 2018 with a 75% pass rate. Additionally, he negotiated a license for Wits Commercial Enterprise to manage IREM (USA) certification courses, making it the first of its kind in Africa in February 2019.


Azasu’s leadership philosophy is centered around providing direction and resources to empower others to achieve their goals. He demonstrated this approach while working at Wits University, where he designed and launched new degree programs, creating a new approach to educating young Africans and attracting industry support for professional certification, partnerships in executive education, and consulting assignments. In addition to this, Azasu says, “I made a conscious effort to ensure adequate female representation in the students I sponsored for professional examinations, the research teams I organized for consulting work, and the teaching teams I put together for executive education.”


Azasu’s dedication to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the field of real estate education is exemplified by the success of his doctoral student, who became the first black female to graduate with a Ph.D. in real estate in South Africa. 


Building on this success, Azasu sought to further develop his leadership skills by taking an Educational Management and Leadership course at Stockholm University. He says, “While the course helped me to become aware of the management and leadership issues in education, I found that it did not provide me with the practical skills development I was seeking.” 


Determined to improve his leadership abilities, Azasu took on the challenge of designing and running courses in Management and Leadership. He began an inquiry into the skills effective leaders need and how to teach leadership skills to achieve changes in the leadership abilities of the students. After that, Azasu created a course that teaches ten skills covering personal, interpersonal, and group skills, proven by research to be the most needed skills by people occupying leadership positions.


He adds, “In addition, I adopted a pedagogical approach pioneered by Cameron and Whetten (1983) and Cameron and Clark (1996). This approach goes beyond using lectures to teach the students the skills they need to develop as leaders. Instead, it focuses on providing opportunities (through practice and application assignments) for the students to develop their skills.” Through this approach, Azasu himself developed skills in self-awareness, stress management, creative problem-solving, supportive communication, managing conflict, motivating others, managing and leading change, delegating, and managing teams.


As an international coordinator for the MSc real estate program, Azasu has developed an extensive alumni network that spans various countries, including Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Uruguay, Sweden, and South Africa. In South Africa, his graduates make up 95% of the local chapter of IREM. Through his work, he was able to create internationally competitive real estate programs that attracted industry funding for the Certified Property Manager exams from 2017 until the present. Azasu hopes to replicate this successful approach in his future endeavors, specifically in Spain.


Due to Azasu’s outstanding contributions and under his inspiring leadership, his school in South Africa has been recognized for its efforts in diversifying the industry. He is highly respected and admired for his exceptional teaching abilities, having received multiple academic excellence awards and nominations for teaching excellence both in Sweden and South Africa.


In conclusion, his advice to budding leaders is, “Look to understand who you are as a person: strengths, weaknesses, and value system. Decide what you want your long-term contribution to be. It’s critical to becoming a consequential person. It also saves you from following a lot of dead ends.”