Sammy Coker and Barry McDonnell
Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate students Sammy Coker (left) and Barry McDonnell.

Virtual master class connects real estate students with industry professionals

While COVID-19 has impacted the way in which students at the Warrington College of Business gain professional development experience, the learning has continued via a virtual connection. In the case of students in the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program, learning from industry professionals was only a Zoom call away as part of a virtual master class offered for eight weeks this summer. The three-day-a-week class featured presentations from Bergstrom Advisory Board members, alumni and world-class industry professionals about various industry topics and plenty of time for students to ask questions from these impressive mentors.

For Sammy Coker (MSRE ’21), even though the master class wasn’t in person, it was still an excellent opportunity to hear from a number of speakers on a range of topics that interest him.

“The speakers delivered content that was relevant to real-world real estate cases, introduced us to potential careers and job functions, and encouraged questions from and discussion with the students,” he said. “Although the master class was virtual, I feel profoundly grateful, because I was able to make connections immediately with UF Bergstrom Advisory Board members throughout the speaker series. I followed up with the speakers after each class and they were receptive, added even further insight and scheduled a phone call with me.”

Coker’s classmate Barry McDonnell (BS ’19, MSRE ’21) was excited by the variance of each class topic, ranging from relationship building to private equity to development and beyond.

“No two ‘classes’ were alike,” McDonnell said. “Each week had a different theme making each class truly unique and informative.”

While McDonnell believes that there’s no replacing face to face education, the virtual nature of the master class didn’t hinder his ability to learn.

“I always left each class session feeling like I learned a great deal about the subject being presented,” he said. “My favorite part of each week was the Friday office hour session which allowed the student to speak directly with the speaker and ask questions. I started every class with a blank piece of note paper and would write down any word, acronym, or formula I wasn’t familiar with to then go back and Google the meaning. I’ll admit I left every class with a full page of material to go back and learn more about. Our class gained so much insight into career paths and companies through this series.”

With an impressive lineup of speakers, including Jessica Melendez, Vice President of Development at Related Group and Dan Woodward, Vice President at Highwood Properties, Coker said he enjoyed learning about more than just the various career paths in the real estate industry.

“Each speaker added a personal touch by discussing their personal career path and gave valuable advice to us as we begin the MSRE program and careers beyond,” he said.

For McDonnell, who plans to go into real estate development after completing his degree, the master class also solidified his personal goals for completing the program. 

“[From the master class, I took away that] not only did I make the right decision in pursuing a master’s degree, but just how much I’m going to learn within the program,” he said. “I’m even more excited to meet the Bergstrom Advisory Board and alumni of the program. The past eight weeks have stressed many things, but one of the biggest takeaways has been this industry is based on relationships and deal making.”

With an interest in pursuing asset management upon graduation, Coker noted his biggest takeaways from the master class were to continue building relationships, engage with his peers, become an expert in financial modeling tools and study industry publications. After the master class, he feels well on his way to success.

“I was able to connect with over 100 UF Bergstrom Advisory Board members, world-class industry professionals, my peers and gain a deeper knowledge of the potential careers in real estate,” he said. “Programming like this enhances my opportunity to leverage the five values of the MSRE program to make immediate and significant contributions to the workplace upon earning my UF MSRE degree. I would like to acknowledge the [Bergstrom Center] Director Tim Becker, CCIM and Assistant Director Nikki Wagner for their vision and professionalism in execution of the master class series.”

Interested in learning from and connecting with real estate industry professionals like Sammy and Barry? Request information about the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate program today