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Amidst the fast pace and constant change of today’s business environment, nurturing the next generation of professionals is more crucial for the success and sustainability of a company than ever before. Our “It’s Personal” motto – weaving through the fabric of the company since we launched in 2007 – has meant many things to many people, but in this season, stewarding our company’s successes and experiences to encourage and teach the next generation has become one of our core tenets.
It’s hard to find a news headline about higher education that doesn’t place extreme value on real-world experience. Understanding the cascading effect that scholarships and tangible experience can have on students and recent graduates, Foundry has set up several student engagement programs with the intention of fostering the growth and development of young talent. Whether through strategic partnerships with best-in-class educational organizations or internal initiatives that have been built from the ground up, Foundry Commercial is actively involved in shaping the future of aspiring professionals in the commercial real estate industry and beyond.
One of the prominent initiatives through which Foundry Commercial invests in the next generation is the Orlando Heart of the City Fellows program. As one of 33 Fellows programs throughout the country, the program empowers students from diverse backgrounds, providing them with valuable internships and mentorship opportunities in a variety of industries. Foundry became involved in the program in 2018, and since that time, we have engaged five fellows, ultimately directly hiring four talented associates from the program – Kevin Will, Abby Nelson, Kerri Shook, and Tabitha Taylor.
“For me, the Fellows program provided a springboard to start well in my faith, community, and job,” stated Kevin Will, Senior Associate on Foundry’s office brokerage team in Orlando.
“Commercial real estate is not necessarily the easiest industry to break into, especially for someone who’s not from this area, but to have the opportunity to spend nine months testing out the various aspects of the job, and to learn under some of the best professionals in the industry, it truly made all the difference for me. Today, I love being able to pay it forward, guiding some of the newer associates as they carve their own paths, while also being able to help grow the business.”
“The Fellows program opened doors for me that I probably wouldn’t have been able to enter otherwise. I thought I wanted to work in human resources and had a great internship through Second Harvest Food Bank doing just that, but I was introduced to Foundry when associates were volunteering there during Serve Week 2021. Soon thereafter, I found myself talking to Scott Renaud about coming to Foundry as an operations intern,” said Kerri Shook.
Kerri started with Foundry in that role in the summer of 2021, and in January 2022, she was offered a full-time position as an assistant real estate manager. Today, she’s an integral part of Foundry’s Platform Infrastructure Team and works alongside Scott Renaud, Mark Bennett, and Rob Carpenter in operations.
The program continues to thrive, with interns like Will Nesmith joining the company in a data analytics role this Fall. In a full-circle moment, then-high schooler Will was a camper at Ridgecrest Camp for Boys in 2016, with then-camp counselor Kevin Will, before eventually going on to attend Kevin’s alma mater, The University of Tennessee. Now knowing one another for seven years, working for Foundry will not be the only thing these two have in common. The Orlando Heart of the City Fellows program not only exposes young professionals to the industry but also helps them grow and succeed in their careers. With other Fellows programs operating throughout the U.S., Foundry hopes to partner with new Fellows programs where Foundry has offices.
For any student, there are often barriers standing in the way between high school graduation and the hope of moving ahead to an undergraduate or even advanced degree. Our company actively supports Elevation Scholars, an organization dedicated to empowering first-generation college students from underrepresented backgrounds. In the past couple of years, several Foundry associates have volunteered with Elevation Scholars, exhibiting the company’s dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion within the industry. This summer, Foundry welcomed two Elevation Scholars as interns, Gialin Tran and Carl Pierre, both embarking on their sophomore year at prestigious universities. By providing these scholars with hands-on experience and exposure to the commercial real estate industry, Foundry Commercial strives to break barriers and create opportunities for underrepresented talent.
It was a random post on Instagram last summer that led both Gialin and Carl to express interest in interning at Foundry Commercial. Both members of Elevation Scholars’ Class #8, they separately saw an Instagram post featuring the program’s Class #9 attending a Horizon Event (company and industry overview) at Foundry, and it piqued their interests. Fast-forward a few months to Elevation Scholars President Scott Lee setting up a lunch between the two and Gregg Ickes, Nick McKinney, and Zane Henderson.
“After that meeting, I knew I wanted to explore interning at Foundry Commercial. I loved the culture and wanted to learn more about commercial real estate, so I reached out to Zane and asked if there might be any opportunities for a summer internship,” said Gialin Tran, who attends Wake Forest University and is majoring in business enterprise management with minors in entrepreneurship and chemistry. “Everyone in the office has been so welcoming; they would pause what they were doing – no matter how busy their days were – to get to know me a little better and teach me about their facet of the industry.”
Carl Pierre, a Duke University student who is majoring in civil engineering with minors in math and finance, echoed similar sentiments. “Even though everyone has a ton on their own plates, whatever questions you have, they really take the time to explain the concepts. At Foundry, it really is more than just work. It’s Personal, and it’s really nice to be in a place where you enjoy the people you work with.”
“At Foundry, it really is more than just work. It’s Personal, and it’s really nice to be in a place where you enjoy the people you work with,” stated Carl Pierre a Duke University Student.
When asked what the biggest surprise coming out of their summer internships has been, Gialin noted that “There has been so much more flexibility and trust put in me than I ever thought would be part of an internship. At a lot of bigger companies, there’s this rigid job description for interns, and everyone is encouraged to really stay in their own bubble. But at Foundry, you’re encouraged to try out different aspects of the profession, getting a sense for what goes into every job function, and there’s so much trust placed in my abilities to learn and adapt and excel.”
Carl added: “It has been such a hands-on experience. I’ve loved being able to actually walk different sites, touring properties that I may have otherwise only known as a line item on a spreadsheet. This internship has also given me a sense of clarity in what I want to do in my career; the highlight of my summer was going down to Foundry’s D&I Deal Hub in South Florida, and getting a sense for what an analyst does.”
“Foundry takes immense pride in being able to sponsor this transformative program that pours into the lives of these amazing students. Our credo is ‘It’s Personal.’ This is born from a desire to invest in initiatives that uplift and empower those around us. We believe that supporting these young people on their path to realizing their true potential isn’t just a commitment; it’s a heartfelt investment in shaping a brighter future for generations to come,” said Nick McKinney, Foundry’s Chief Strategy Officer.
Foundry Commercial’s engagement with colleges and universities further exemplifies our dedication to shaping the next generation of leaders. Key figures within the company, such as Paul Ellis, David Kern, and Jonathan Balthrop, are actively involved with the graduate real estate program at the University of Florida. Similarly, Gregg Ickes, Katie Trott, Cary Fronstin, and JC Tacot are committed to Florida State University’s undergraduate real estate school. Rick Coe sits on the board of the Folsom Institute at SMU and is also on the international advisory board for the University of Colorado, working to support real estate curriculum, faculty, and scholarship. There are many more examples across the Foundry platform. Each year, through the many associates who volunteer with their own alumni institutions, Foundry Commercial imparts practical knowledge and insights to aspiring professionals, enhancing their academic journeys and preparing them for success in the industry.
This summer, incoming senior and basketball guard at Vanderbilt University, Tyrin Lawrence, interned with Foundry’s Nashville office in the D&I platform. Immersing himself in zoning laws, permitting processes, and civic development plans as part of one project, he studied ways in which Foundry could help shape a community’s growth. Nashville Market Leader Jason Holwerda – himself a Vanderbilt basketball alum – heard that Lawrence was looking for an internship and answered the call. “He has been a hard worker and eager to learn, which is a good combination,” Holwerda said. “I just wanted to honestly make the most out of the opportunity while I was here,” Lawrence added. “I only get this once in life. I just wanted to leave knowing that I did all I could.”
The Charlotte office welcomed Grey Jonas as a graphic design intern this summer. In her role, she learned various editing programs and techniques, and assisted with special events. “Beyond the technical skills, I learned a lot about interacting with people in an office setting, and it was great to be able to do that in an environment where everyone is so accepting and patient,” Jonas noted.
In the past several years, Foundry has also strengthened our efforts in reaching out to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), where commercial real estate opportunities may not be widely known. In 2022, we committed to a multi-year partnership with the Real Estate Executive Council (REEC), the nation’s preeminent professional trade association promoting the interests of executives of color doing business across the commercial real estate industry. Under the leadership of D&I Controller and Partner Rayanne Charles, Foundry is building a scholarship pipeline and being intentional about inspiring and guiding young talent from diverse backgrounds, bridging the gap between untapped potential and the commercial real estate industry.
Gregg Ickes, President, emphasized the significance of supporting the upcoming generations of leaders. “It is our duty to expose young minds to the vast opportunities within the commercial real estate industry and the business world as a whole. By investing in their growth and development, we not only secure the future of our company but also contribute to the progress of the industry.”
In early 2020, in conjunction with the platform’s recapitalization, Foundry created a scholarship program to recognize and celebrate the dedication and hard work of associates. Since that time, a scholarship committee comprised of associates from varying departments throughout the company, have worked together annually to solicit and award scholarships to the dependents of associates (excluding brokers and partners) pursuing undergraduate degrees. With an initial allocation of $100,000 earmarked for 5-7 years, the scholarship program awards between $15,000 – $20,000 in scholarships each year. This initiative showcases Foundry’s commitment to not only investing in associates, but also in their family members, with a goal of strengthening a sense of community. Since the program started, students of varying backgrounds and geographies have received scholarships from Foundry to colleges and universities ranging from Palm Beach Community College to Brown University, and many higher education institutions in between.
Scholarship applications are anonymous when reviewed, but one applicant who was selected to receive scholarship dollars in 2023 stated: “I feel honored and grateful to have been selected as a recipient of the Foundry Commercial scholarship. I want to thank you for making this generous financial support for my higher education possible. You have lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school… learning. Your generosity has inspired me to help others, and I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.”
Foundry Commercial’s commitment to fostering the next generation of talent continues to grow in strength and numbers. From the Orlando Heart of the City Fellows program to a partnership with Elevation Scholars, the company actively supports aspiring talent from diverse backgrounds, providing the resources and mentorship needed to succeed in the commercial real estate industry.
Through our internal scholarship program, alumni engagement, and service leadership among the universities and colleges our associates are tied to, as well as a significant partnership with REEC, Foundry Commercial remains committed to shaping the future of the industry, helping to ensure a steady stream of skilled and innovative leaders.