Group of young women posing for a photo on a golf course on a sunny day
Maria Lombardi organized golf lessons for her fellow female MSRE classmates so the group could practice their skills.

How the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate is helping me break into a male-dominated industry

Maria Lombardi

Maria Lombardi

After I completed my BSBA from West Virginia University in May 2021, I realized that I had this strong finance, entrepreneurship and marketing background that I really didn’t know what to do with. I had been searching for something that would let both my personality and analytical side shine and that is when I found commercial real estate!

Coming from West Virginia, I wanted to find a university that would challenge and push me to think bigger than I ever had before. When researching UF, the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program, and the faculty/staff, it was clear that the #1 program in the country for a master’s in real estate would do just that. After speaking with a few former students and current faculty, I learned that UF offered me even more!

I had the opportunity to build connections and grow my network with not only my classmates but also 160+ advisory board members, all of whom are well known individuals within commercial real estate, who all wanted to help me succeed. I quickly realized that what makes UF unique is the people that make up the university. It was in those moments that I knew that UF was the best place for me. 

During my time within the program so far, I have attended numerous networking/jobs shadowing opportunities all throughout the state of Florida. The Bergstrom Center Advisory Board is fantastic and has provided me countless networking opportunities with 160+ board members who are well known within the industry.

These opportunities have not only helped me grow my network but also my knowledge within various sectors of commercial real estate such as brokerage, development, consulting, banking, etc. In addition, many individuals have become mentors to me, providing me with additional contacts, advice and constant support. It’s through these connections that I’ve decided to get involved in brokerage or development after graduation.

Another special group of people who have influenced my time in the MSRE program are the 12 female students within my cohort. They are more than just my classmates; they are my friends! We spend a lot of time together both inside and outside of the classroom. We even have our own group chat that we interact in almost daily asking miscellaneous questions or planning our next happy hour.

We have all gone out to dinner, happy hours and even got to take golf lessons together! Most of us had never played golf before; however, we know that it can play an important role within our industry; therefore, I was able to set up lessons for us right here in Gainesville. I was even able to get the event sponsored by one of the advisory board members, Todd Jones.

Being a female entering a male-dominated industry makes me feel empowered, motivated and vigilant. Women bring a new unique perspective and a diversified mindset to the commercial real estate industry. Women have a unique set of abilities, and it is important to me that these abilities are represented in the real estate industry.

For other female students who are interested in joining the real estate industry, I’d note that the industry is changing and evolving! In the past, women typically worked in more administration roles; however, now you can find more women who are brokers, agents and analysis. Women have the opportunity for economic empowerment and career advancement within the industry and completing a degree in real estate helps to advance women even further.

I believe that a key component for women to succeed within the industry is to seek mentors and well-connected advisors, male or female, who will help us advance and provide insights. The MSRE program provides me the mentors, connections and education needed for me to advance within any role of commercial real estate.