As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the March issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Yvette Tetreault.
Yvette joined Capstone’s Denver office in late 2021, bringing with her 10+ years of experience in real estate development where she learned the ropes in the highly active development industry of Boston. While previously leading hotel developments, she has fully embraced the student housing higher ed industry that Capstone has introduced her to and she is energized by the opportunity to develop student housing focused on affordability and providing the best residential experience for students. As a person who loves the outdoors, during her free-time you can find Yvette doing pretty much any activity outdoors with her family – running, hiking, skiing, and camping.
Yvette Tetreault, Vice President – Development Management
Simmons University, 2009
Bachelor of Arts, Middle Eastern History and Politics
Minor in French
Where are you from originally? I am from Solon, Maine, a very small town of less than 500 people, located in northern Maine.
The areas of study that you focused on at Simmons are interesting. Do you speak several languages? I speak three languages. I am fluent in English and French and I also know Arabic. I don’t really use Arabic anymore, so I can’t say that I am fluent in it. I lived in Morocco for one year and spoke it regularly during that time. But for languages – when you don’t use it, you lose it. If I hear people speaking Arabic I can understand it, and I can read it, but conversing in Arabic would be a challenge.
What attracted you to Simmons University? I was a first-generation college student, no one in my immediate family or extended family attended college. So, I didn’t really have a lot of guidance from either my family or my small high school when I was looking at colleges to attend. I actually started at Suffolk University in Boston for my first year of college. I selected Suffolk because I had a good friend from high school that was going there. I lived on-campus my first year at Suffolk and really did not enjoy my experience that first year. I was really focused on my academics, I was paying my own way through college, and I wanted to take as many classes as I could to learn as much as possible. But at the time, my focus on academics did not mesh well with the other students surrounding me who were more interested in partying. After my first year I decided to look at other schools in Boston and I toured Simmons and I really liked the vibe and feel of the school. I really appreciated the academic-setting of the classes. Ultimately, I enrolled at Simmons and finished out the next three years of my degree there. It was a great choice because I was really able to focus on my academics at Simmons.
When you lived on-campus at Suffolk, what was your dorm like? Suffolk is located in downtown Boston and my dorm was a true dorm style where I lived in one room with three other females with bunked beds and a shared bathroom with the whole floor. I took all 8 a.m. classes and went to work after class, in contrast to my roommates who were out partying until 2 a.m. So, this roommate dynamic made my dorm life difficult. The building was a repurposed building made into student housing. At the time, Suffolk only had two student housing buildings. Given its dense urban location, as is common with many of the colleges and universities in Boston, there’s just not a lot of university-owned housing. The housing itself was nice. We had 24-hour security, we felt safe and the housing was of great quality.
When I attended Simmons, I didn’t live on-campus. They did not have the requirement for me to live on-campus and ultimately it was more expensive to live on-campus than what I could find in the off-campus market. I rented a tiny studio apartment and lived there all-year. It was cheaper for me to do that than live on-campus for 9 months and then move home for the summer.
It sounds like you worked during college, as you paid your own way through school. What jobs did you have? I had a work study job all through college, working in the history department in between classes. Then, after my classes, I worked in various retail jobs to pay my rent / living. I had jobs at Swarovski and LL Bean. Ha! Why not? Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives. It makes you realize what you maybe don’t want to do…at least this was the case for me.
Did you have a favorite class from college? I loved my language classes the most. I took French all throughout high school and college. My mom is actually from France, so I’m also a first generation American. I also took Arabic, but not through Simmons as they did not offer it. I audited the class at Boston University. If you’re not familiar with how a student can audit classes, I actually approached the professor that taught the Arabic classes at BU and told him my story and that I was interested and would really love to learn the language. So, he agreed and let me sit in on his classes for two years. He graded my papers and tests and I was an active participant in the class. I didn’t officially receive a grade for the class or credit, because I wasn’t technically paying to attend the class, but I just wanted to learn! I made friends at BU while I was attending the class. This is one of the nice things about going to college in Boston. You have access to so many colleges and universities – none of them are very big – but the student community is huge!
Recognizing that you loved learning French, have you been to France? Yes, I still have a lot of family in France on my mom’s side and they do not speak any English. I have gone and stayed with them several times. Being able to speak the language, I could easily talk with my French grandmother on the phone and all of our other family members.
My mom moved to the states when she was 16 but she actually no longer speaks French because she hasn’t spoken it in so many years since living in the U.S. I’m currently re-teaching her French along with my husband, so that they can speak French with my son when he is born this summer.
What do you do for entertainment? Is there a podcast that you are you listening to right now? I’m listening to The Some Work, All Play podcast. It’s a running based podcast led by two ultra marathon coaches. They mostly talk about current events. I enjoy it because they approach the world in the way that I hope to, by way of understanding first and hopefully not with judgement. I think we all have that bias engrained in us a little bit so it helps me think about and work on that.
How did you get into real estate? I graduated in 2009, which was not a great time to graduate given the economic climate at the time. I was newly out of college with a Bachelor of Arts degree and living in Boston which has tons of off-campus student housing. So, I got my real estate license and worked for a small real estate office, doing rentals and sales and eventually becoming their property manager after about 6 months. I managed all of their rentals which was mostly housing serving students. I did this for 3 years. Then an opportunity became available with a small real estate development firm who was looking for a construction project assistant for a new office building that they were developing. I accepted the job with CV Properties, and started as a project assistant, I learned the business and worked hard and eventually became a project manager and then was promoted to vice president of hotel development. I worked at that company for 10 years and really learned the ropes of the business. I ended up loving real estate and I love what we do. The real estate industry brings together so many people with different backgrounds and perspectives. I’ve realized that when you get a liberal arts degree – you are learning how to learn.
Do you have a favorite quote? “Pain is inevitable and suffering is optional”. Meaning your life is not going to be easy its how you view it. It encompasses my trajectory so far.
What do you like to do in your free time? Anything outside and in the mountains. I mostly run, but I also rock climb, ski, and hike. I’m an ultra-runner. I actually ran my last 50k when I was (unknowingly!) 5 weeks pregnant. I’m currently signed up for the New York City marathon that is in November and I was supposed to run in the Berlin marathon this summer but I will defer because of my pregnancy – and hopefully run it next year. I’m trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I’ll need to shave off about 10 minutes from my PR to qualify for that race.
What do you enjoy most about working in higher ed real estate? Most of what I’ve done in the last 5 years has been in hotel development, so I’ve previously had a very different set of parameters compared to the student housing industry. When developing hotels, I was working to develop a building that enticed people to pay the max rate for their hotel stay. Now that I’ve joined Capstone and I’m working with Universities and we have the goal of affordability at the forefront of our projects, that has been my favorite part of working in higher ed real estate. We are working to solve for the question of, “how does this building that we are developing benefit the student experience and make their on-campus experience successful and advance their academics?”. I hope to give someone a better on-campus experience than what I had as a student.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I would just want to be outside, spending a day walking on trails with my family with zero cell service. My husband and I camp a lot, backpacking mostly, but some car camping. We are currently exploring how we will camp when we have the baby!