Last month, 20 Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) members left work early to travel to FIU’s Frost Art Museum for U CREW, a real estate networking event that is an annual highlight for Hollo School of Real Estate students, faculty, alumni and guests.
For former FIU undergrad Wendy Hernandez, now a capital markets analyst at Colliers International, the event was reminiscent of one where she made a contact that led to her current job. It also reminded her of the value of her FIU education and faculty connections. And she was proud to give back.
“The FIU program prepared me with the real estate fundamentals for the analytical work I do today,” Hernandez said. “The education prepares students to contribute and compete in the work force.”
Over 100 undergraduate and graduate real estate students and alumni, equally split between women and men, participated in the Feb. 2 event co-sponsored by CREW and FIU.
“U CREW is one of our premier events – for FIU and for the Hollo School,” said professor Suzanne Hollander, a real estate attorney and broker who teaches at the Hollo School of Real Estate’s undergraduate and graduate programs. Hollander also serves as the U CREW Chair. “What FIU is trying to foster are connections in the community that are meaningful and lead to mentorship and jobs,” said Hollander. Hollo School Adjunct Professors Eileen Cardelle and Paul Black also participated in the event.
While the purpose was serious, the event was fun, and included speed networking, with each 12-minute round marked by Hollander ringing a bell like the one that opens Wall Street’s trading day.
“I heard since the event that some of my students have followed up with those they met for jobs,” said Hollander.
Hernandez gives much credit for her success to her former professor. “Suzanne has been such a great mentor throughout the years,” Hernandez said. She encourages students to say ‘yes!’ to new opportunities and has helped place many students with jobs.”
Promoting women in the field
It’s no secret that women are under-represented in commercial real estate. CREW was started to help women enter, flourish, and support one another in the field.
As Marti Mang, CREW past president and senior VP of Corporate Lending at TotalBank, explained, the group “gives you a network throughout the United States,” including engineers, accountants, attorneys and others who work in commercial real estate.
Mang pointed out that the majority of commercial real estate professionals remain male, though that is changing. A recent National Association of Realtors review found that while three quarters of those in the field are male, about half of new field entrants are women.
Mang noted that commercial real estate encompasses professions from finance and engineering to law, architecture and real estate brokerage.
“Many are higher-paying fields that women have not been able to break into as much,” she said. Attracting more women means helping them become more comfortable in the risk-taking business environment.
“Part of what we are trying to do (at CREW) is provide education and insight, and encourage people to see the working world for what it is,” she said. Mang sees that happening at FIU: “I think FIU has a good program and a good role model in Suzanne Hollander.”
At the end of the event, Hollander shared a favorite quote. “As Ben Franklin said,” she told the crowd, ‘An investment in education pays the best interest’– and all of our CREW guests and students are making that investment tonight as they spend their free time with us to network for the purpose of real estate education.”
William G. Hardin, director of the Hollo School, agreed about the importance of the event. “Once again, our UCREW event has been a great success in bringing the real world to our students.”