Ricky Chen

While at Haslam, Chen has spent a semester studying in France, earned his real estate license, started a niche realty firm, won funding for it in the college's Graves Business Plan Competition and more.

- Student

Ricky Chen arrived at the University of Tennessee determined to make the most of his college career. Now in his final semester, Chen is wrapping up double majors in supply chain management and finance.

“Opportunity led me to pick UT,” Chen says. “There are so many chances to be engaged and successful.”

Through his finance classes, he discovered his passion for real estate. He obtained his real estate license in 2021 and has since closed on four properties in Nashville. This exciting new venture was something he wanted to share with other students, so, with the help of finance faculty member Scott Roark, Chen founded the Haslam UTK Real Estate Club.

“Real estate is something many students in Haslam are showing an interest in, and the club is a chance to learn from professionals and to learn more about the real estate classes in Haslam,” says Chen.

Real estate also helps Chen explore his love of entrepreneurship, something he grew up with in Nashville.

“My parents came to the United States with nothing and opened a restaurant,” Chen says. “Their drive as entrepreneurs is inspiring.”

Chen founded his own business, Quarters Innovations, last year. Quarters aims to ease affordability issues in the real estate market. He designs small homes using shipping containers. These living quarters can be produced at a fraction of the cost of a standard home. Chen won funding for his business through the Graves Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. He opened the first home this year in Sewanee, Tennessee.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s so gratifying for it to come together and to see someone move into their first home,” says Chen.

While exploring entrepreneurship, Chen spent a semester studying abroad in France, an experience that tops his list of recommendations for current Haslam students. There, he was encouraged to apply to, and was admitted to, the Harvard Business School Summer Venture Management Program.

“There were only 120 people admitted from 4,000 applications,” Chen says. “The students were from all across the U.S., and I was proud to say I was from UT.”

While in Boston, he connected with Armored Things, a startup business, through his UT mentor, Joel Reeves. He began interning with the artificial intelligence business last summer and continued to work on its product management team this fall.

“It was surreal,” says Chen. “Everything came together, and I had these amazing opportunities to keep learning.”

Back in Knoxville, he is sharing his skills and knowledge from his study aboard and summer experiences with fellow students. Chen is a member of the Diversity Advancement Program (DAP) through Haslam’s Office of Diversity and Community Relations. The program provides students with the opportunity to hone their leadership and interpersonal skills while expanding their personal network and advancing diversity initiatives in Haslam.

“These past three years have been amazing,” Chen says. “UT and Haslam are full of opportunities and so many helpful people.”