01/12/2023 | by
Article Author(s)

Centers for Leadership Excellence (CLE), a new initiative from the Ferguson Charitable Foundation, seeks to introduce ethnically diverse college students to career opportunities available in real estate, with the long-term goal of helping to change the racial and ethnic composition of the sector.

“We want to get these students into the boardroom and into the c-suite because as leaders they can effectuate change,” Bill Ferguson, chairman of Ferguson Partners and president of the Ferguson Charitable Foundation, told the Nareit REIT Report.

Ebony Mitchell, director of strategic initiatives at Ferguson and student liaison for CLE, noted that with the lack of ethnic diversity in commercial real estate, “there's been a limited number of role models and mentors of color to attract young collegiate talent on and off campus.” She added that many of Ferguson’s clients have also struggled with attracting diverse talent, especially at the entry level due to traditional campus recruiting efforts.

Ferguson explained that students selected into the CLE Program are required to take a certain number of courses in real estate in order to graduate with a minor in real estate. Given Ferguson’s vast network of corporate relationships across 12 sectors in the real estate industry, “we are connecting them with clear opportunities,” he said.

Mitchell noted that the program is currently recruiting for the inaugural class of up to 45 fellows, spanning 14 collegiate partners. Accepted students will receive internship opportunities for this summer, along with access to professional development workshops, mentors, and networking opportunities. Tuition assistance and scholarships will be available this fall.

The initial 14 collegiate partners were chosen because they have existing undergraduate real estate programs and ethnically diverse undergraduate student bodies. Mitchell noted that CLE does plan to extend its partnerships to other schools, focusing on historically Black colleges and universities and other schools that are rich in ethnic diversity but don't necessarily have existing real estate programs.

The long-term goal for the CLE program is to have as many as 60 colleges in the program, with 30 to 40 students as sophomores, juniors, and seniors.