Skip to content Skip to Programs Navigation

News & Stories

Real estate practitioners and undergraduates connect

A group of women togetherUNC undergraduate women networked with women working in exciting careers across the real-estate industry at an event hosted by the Triangle chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI)’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) in conjunction with the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies and the Undergraduate Real Estate Club at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The Undergraduate Women’s Engagement Event included small group networking, panels and a presentation about job opportunities and resources available through the Wood Center. Panelists were Lauren Bean, director of finance for The Dilweg Companies (BSBA ‘07, MAC ’13); Erica Leatham, director of land acquisition and entitlements for Lennar; Jennifer Roche, head of real estate partnerships for Google Fiber North Carolina; Caitlin Shelby, director at Wood Partners (MBA ’12); and Amy Watkins, senior director of retail services for CASTO Southeast Realty Services. Caren Howley of the WLI Triangle steering committee led the panel.

Takeaways from the panel were:

  • Commercial real estate is a field where women can easily stand out and achieve executive positions early in their careers as long as they demonstrate competence and take initiative.
  • There are diverse opportunities in the real estate industry.
  • There is flexibility within the industry and it is easy to move around and learn new areas.
  • Women can achieve upward mobility in real estate. The panelists have risen through the ranks of their organizations and gained senior positions eight to 12 years after completing their education.

Perhaps the most meaningful discussion was about how it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. Overwhelmingly, they said they had not felt impeded by their gender throughout their careers. Surprisingly, they felt being women is an advantage that sets them apart from the competition. They also contribute fresh perspectives, different ways of learning and diverse life experiences – which organizations have started to recognize.

The speakers addressed the value of belonging to a professional women’s network and how much they enjoy being around smart, capable women. They cited the rewards of industry groups like the ULI and such women’s networks as WLI and Commercial Real Estate Women. Having a support network of like-minded individuals promotes professional development through interactions, diverse experiences and shared opportunities.

A group of people talking togetherOther real estate professionals at the event shared personal and professional insights during the networking time, including Ginger Ackiss, development partner at Crescent Communities (MBA ’03), Melissa Herzog, principal at Blue Heron Asset Management (BSBA ’98) and Christina Coffey (BA ’99).

Rounding out the evening was a panel with students in their final year of undergraduate studies who had just a real estate internship. Members of the Class of 2018 Kayla Aronson, Courtney Lobinsky, Catherine Wellen and Peyton Oldenburg shared insights about their summer internships, the real estate recruiting process, and the supportive real estate concentration at Carolina.

Jim Spaeth, executive director of the Wood Center, shared an overview of the career opportunities available to Carolina undergraduates resources to help them succeed in the professional real estate community. We are fortunate at UNC Kenan-Flagler to have access to such a prestigious commercial real estate program as undergraduate students, and the event served as a reminder that there are plenty of terrific opportunities waiting for Carolina women once we graduate!

By Julia Fronc (BSBA ’18)