With a background in architectural design, pursing an MBA focusing in Real Estate Finance and Development was a perfect marriage. Its applicability to my career is undeniable and as a future Architect, I wanted to immerse myself among the spectrum of real estate professionals, from developers to brokers and lawyers. Rho Epsilon provided this experience to me as it took the fundamentals learned in the classroom and applied it to real people, projects and places. Rho Epsilon introduced me to the Chicagoland real estate industry via the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation (HEEF), of which I currently serve as an Associate Board member. I was also the recipient of a scholarship through the Commercial Real Estate Women – Chicago (CREW), where I met my future employer. Currently, I work with developers every day, and the insights I gained during graduate school break a common communication barrier between an architect, who focuses on executing a specific design intent, and a developer, who is looking to transform a place, but can do so only when the investment is right. Understanding the objectives and incentives of developers is crucial in designing/building the most impactful developments. The wonderful partnerships that Rho Epsilon has with this industry create endless opportunities for students interested in entering a real estate profession. My career is only beginning, but through my growing relationships with HEEF and CREW, and continued connection with Rho Epsilon, my professional network, leadership capabilities and character are far more advanced than I would’ve ever thought. Now, I can begin to pay it forward to the current and future members of Rho Epsilon.
Project Manager, Facebook
I attended the University of Illinois from 1977-1981 and was involved with Rho Epsilon most of that time after transferring from the School of Architecture into a more general curriculum. As a student in the Individual Plans of Studies program that was in existence at that time, I am perhaps the only U. of I. student to ever have a major in Real Estate. With Professor Cannaday as my faculty adviser during those years, Rho Epsilon was a natural part of my "program". I was President of Rho Epsilon in Fall 1980 and Spring 1981 and part of my job was, as it still is today for the President, arranging speakers to visit us as well as plan and arrange our semester field trips to Chicago for the practical side of our education in real estate. As with many before and since me, one of those field trips led to my first job after graduation.
At the time, I was fortunate to have gained real world experience in commercial real estate and was introduced to the world of commercial mortgage banking as a result. I decided that most college students studying real estate at the time did not know what a mortgage banker was and that it would be a good addition to the usual field trip visits to appraisers and developers, etc. So, using my contacts I arranged a field trip to visit The Abacus Group in downtown Chicago which, at the time, was the largest commercial mortgage banking company in the country. That field trip led to a summer internship. Although my ultimate goal was to work in real estate development, I had the unfortunate timing of entering the work force in September of 1981, one of the worst times in history with the prime interest rate just over 20%. Developers were scaling back and in many instances shutting down. Hard as I tried, there were no entry level jobs to be had and staying in school was not an option for me. Luckily, thanks to my position with Rho Epsilon, I landed a job at The Abacus Group with the thought that I would stay a few years. I spent the next 15 years in commercial mortgage banking culminating with starting my own company in 1994. I will always be grateful for the experience I got, and the education I received in the "real world", as a result of my involvement with and Presidency of Rho Epsilon. I have gone back to the U of I to speak to several Rho Epsilon groups since my graduation and I will continue to give back what I can for as long as they will have me. I owe a lot to Professor Cannaday and Rho Epsilon. Ross A. Berman President Rho Epsilon Fall 1980 and Spring 1981 September 9, 2012
Bank Owned Real Estate Officer, Bridgeview Bank Group
The privilege of being President of Rho Epsilon afforded me one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career, in addition to allowing me to regularly meet and speak directly with professionals who provided a real world perspective on the industry. My first internship at Cushman & Wakefield's O'Hare Market Research Group during Summer of 1990 while I was still an undergrad, came through a visit by Steve Schmitz & Brigid Mattingly. I also interned the next summer 'stacking' buildings for Steve Schmitz downtown Chicago, and then later worked for C &W from 1994-1998. The most memorable and rewarding experience however, was organizing a speech at Foellinger Auditorium for Jack Kemp, former Vice Presidential Candidate in 1996, who was then heading an organization called Empower America. I had seen Kemp's testimony on CSPAN in the Spring of 1993 before a House Committee on Housing Issues, very much liked his perspective, moderate conservative policy views, and so began to investigate what it would take to bring him to The U of I. That experience led me to one of the great early collaboration opportunities. We were able to secure funding from about 20 different student groups, work with The Washington Speaker's Bureau, and finally The Student Union Board to raise $30,000. I couldn't have done it without the help of some of the people in this picture, and a number of others. It was a great lesson in many things that have served me well in a career of drawing people together around common goals.
Principal, FEWZ LLC
My experience in Rho Epsilon is the highlight of my college career. Meeting speakers that came down to campus and working with contacts at the Eisenberg Foundation changed my life. These contacts were instrumental in helping me to secure both of my internships, and I'm confident that I would not have landed my full- time job offer without the skills and experiences I gained by being a part of Rho Epsilon. Chris Sengenberger is a past Rho Epsilon President who helped me get my foot in the door. Similarly, Bill Barry and McKim Barnes at Draper and Kramer took me under their wings and graciously taught me everything they could in the short time I served with them. Specifically, these people taught me how to research, network, and cold-call. They taught me how to enter a situation armed with intellectual ammo. They encouraged me to reach out to people and never be afraid to approach someone you don't know. I now enjoy doing this, treating every new meeting as a new opportunity and adventure! These relationships I've made in Chicagoland will be important for many years to come. Professor Cannaday is a great mentor and resource, so I would urge anyone interested in real estate or finance to get to know him and get involved in Rho Epsilon!
Banking Associate, American Charter Bank
Being a member and officer of Rho Epsilon was an incredibly valuable experience that students in many other disciplines simply do not have the opportunity to enjoy. I joined Rho Epsilon in the fall of my Freshman year because I had an interest in real estate, but I had very limited knowledge of the career opportunities the industry offered. As an underclassman, Rho Epsilon allows younger students the chance to get a detailed look at many different career paths, and to see which ones fit best with their personality and skill set. As an upperclassman, students can leverage the relationships they’ve cultivated during their time in Rho Epsilon into summer internships and full-time positions. When a leading rating agency gave a presentation on the commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) market to Rho Epsilon in the spring of 2001, I had never heard of CMBS. Eleven years later, after a summer internship followed by an offer of full-time employment, I still work in the CMBS industry. In addition to the job opportunities and networking that Rho Epsilon affords, being an officer can mark the transition from student life to the real world. Having the opportunity to contact successful real estate professionals to arrange visits on campus and coordinating the details of the visit was a valuable learning experience that most students will never have. In short, my life and my career are richer and more fulfilling due to my time in Rho Epsilon.
Senior Vice President, DBRS
Actively participating in Rho Epsilon for seven semesters not only exposed me to the different areas of real estate, but also built a huge network of professionals I came to know over the years. It was amazing to see how much the guest speakers and the faculty lead care about the organization and continuously look for opportunities for students to get involved. I found it interesting to learn about the cyclical nature of the industry and to hear from professionals who have battled through the most recent downturn. Presentations tended to be conversational and often involved meaningful discussions about careers. Events usually involved panels of professionals along with site visits to major construction projects in the Chicago market. Being an active member of Rho Epsilon led to my first internship at a property management firm as well as opportunities to get involved with the Eisenberg Foundation through competing in the Real Estate Case Competition and participating in the Mentorship Program. I would recommend the organization to anyone looking to learn more about the real estate industry!