Inaugural Real Estate Day Spotlights Academic Programs and Career Opportunities

RWU Cummings Institute for Real Estate holds professional panel and job fair for students to meet with and learn from industry professionals

By Grace Boland
The five real-estate panelist sitting in the front of the room smiling.

BRISTOL, R.I. – At the RWU Cummings Institute for Real Estate’s first-ever Real Estate Day on Feb. 23, undergraduate and graduate students heard from real estate professionals working across law, finance, sales, and architecture on their personal journeys, lessons learned, and thoughts on the future of the real estate industry.

Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of the Cummings Institute for Real Estate, opened the day’s panel discussion by sharing how important the real estate industry is to the economy. “Some people think that real estate is just buying and selling homes, and certainly, that is part of it. But real estate is almost 20 percent of the United States economy,” Godfrey said. 

Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of the Cummings Institute for Real Estate, welcomes attendees to the panel.

The esteemed panelists included Zé Figueirinhas ’92, Executive Managing Director at JLL; Michael O’Brien, Owner and Principal of Galaxy Development and Galaxy Life Sciences; Zach Tronti, Development Director at Gilbane Development; Bob Gylling, Project Analyst for the Finance and Development at Gilbane Development; Bob D’Amico, Rhode Island lawyer and Associate Broker at Strive Realty; and Eric Schlameuss, Senior Vice President, Design, Major Projects & Capital Improvements at RXR Realty.

“The sky is the limit,” D’Amico shared with students. “I think that real estate is one of those industries where regardless of what your passion might be, there's a way to satisfy that passion in the real estate industry.”

When asked how to succeed in the real estate world, Gylling said that his sales background gave him a competitive edge. “Being able to sell yourself first is huge. Anywhere you end up you're always going to be selling people on your ideas, convincing others to buy what you believe in,” he said. 

Through the Cummings Institute for Real Estate, students can obtain a Master of Science or a Graduate Certificate in Real Estate. The Real Estate program combines architecture, preservation, construction management, engineering, business, law, public administration and leadership, humanities, and science into a curriculum that prepares graduates with expansive skills and perspectives to meet the multi-faceted challenges of real estate.

Senior Janely Santana speaks with Eric Schlameuss from RXR Realty during the networking portion of the panel.

Senior Janely Santana, an Architecture major from Worcester, Mass., said the insights from the panel helped her envision the possibility of pursuing the Real Estate graduate program. “Listening to the (former) architects who have a degree in Architecture but are now working in real estate gives me a better view of what my career could look like,” Santana said. “It was an eye-opening experience of the different paths professionals go on to get to where they are.”

While many of the attendees were students studying Architecture, there were also plenty of students from a variety of academic programs. “I've always had an interest in real estate. I was intrigued by the Real Estate programs that Roger Williams started offering and I wanted to learn more,” said senior Rob Joseph who is studying Finance from Smithfield, R.I. “Today I learned how many different segments there are in real estate and how they all work with one another to make the whole real estate economy work.”

Following this event students were encouraged to attend a job forum in which they met with representatives from real estate companies, including the panelists, for 30-minute intervals. These interviews allowed students to have one-on-one time with industry professionals to discuss internships and jobs or ask questions about the field.

In closing the event, Godfrey emphasized the breadth of opportunities in the world of real estate. “Real estate is where the built environment meets the natural environment,” he said. “Today’s experts – local, regional, national, and international – spoke about how, as students move into their professional lives, they can shape the world toward better serving us all.”