Earlier this year, three University of San Diego School of Business undergraduate real estate students were awarded internships by the ICSC Foundation Launch Academy.
The Launch Academy offers an immersive virtual learning experience and paid summer internship and provides students with the tools needed to successfully pursue a career in retail real estate.
For 2021, Launch Academy internships were offered to 29 students at 24 colleges and universities across the U.S., including Colgate University, Duke University, George Washington University, University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The University of San Diego was the only school awarded three ICSC Launch Academy internships to its undergraduate real estate students. Selected internship recipients from the USD School of Business included Charles “Charlie” Dinger ’22, Robert Lee ’22 and Allison “Ali” Agbayani ’22.
The purpose of the Foundation Launch Academy internship program is to enhance and promote diversity and inclusion for students of Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American and Native American descent and to encourage and support student pursuits of a career in real estate.
In order to qualify for these internship opportunities, students must be entering their sophomore, junior or senior year at an accredited four-year college or university; express an interest in commercial real estate; and preferably have completed real estate or business/finance-related courses.
In addition to a paid summer internship, students of the Launch Academy receive the opportunity to participate in bi-monthly virtual learning labs during the spring semester prior to their internship as well as industry mentorship and coaching. Before commencing the summer internship students have a two-week skill-building academy and during the summer months, weekly virtual activities.
Companies seeking to enhance diversity within their workplace serve as sponsors of the Launch Academy internship program and include companies such as Brixmor Property Group, Colliers, JLL, Kimco Realty, Macerich and more.
Prior to the commencement of the summer internship, ICSC offered a two-week orientation for students selected into the program to brush up on formatting emails, creating elevator pitches, reviewing case studies, and students got to hear from a number of industry guest speakers, as well as network with industry executives on a regular basis.
Connecting Students with Opportunities
In February, USD undergraduate student Charlie Dinger ’22 began looking for an internship. It was, at first, not an easy task. Dinger is a rising senior majoring in real estate, with a minor in entrepreneurship. Fortunately, his leadership position in the undergraduate, student-run Real Estate Society at USD, presented him the connections he needed to open doors.
“It was a very challenging time to have to find a good internship due to the pandemic,” Dinger said. “Jackie Greulich [advisor to the Real Estate Society and associate director of real estate student and career services at the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate] informed me about an internship opportunity through ICSC Launch Academy. I submitted an application and was excited that I was selected. Once selected, I was approached by several real estate companies affiliated with the ICSC program about a summer internship.”
Dinger ultimately chose to accept a summer internship with Brixmor Property Group, which owns and operates approximately 400 retail centers across the country.
While his internship was 100% remote, his schedule rotated between six Brixmor offices across the U.S. for two and a half months. His internship offered exposure to a variety of projects and enabled him to work with many different Brixmor team members.
Since Brixmor’s focus is on redevelopment of shopping centers, most of Dinger’s projects entailed parking studies, creating marketing brochures and void analyses on vacancies.
“My internship has been really great personally and professionally,” he said. “I have learned a lot about the redevelopment process as well as the retail sector as a whole and I love it.”
Dinger is interested in pursuing real estate acquisitions upon graduation, with a long-term goal of working for a company within real estate development.
Networking with Companies
Robert Lee ’22 is a rising senior at USD and has been good friends with both Dinger and Agbayani since their freshman year. He shared his gratitude to Dinger who informed him about the ICSC internship opportunity earlier this year.
Once accepted, Lee recalled that five companies, sponsoring the ICSC program, reached out to him for internship interviews. He ultimately selected to work at Macerich, one of the country’s leading owners, operators and developers of major retail and mixed-use real estate and which focuses on development, redevelopment, leasing, acquisitions and property management.
For his ICSC internship, Lee served as a property management intern at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York City, which is managed by Macerich. He worked on two main projects over the summer: creating a program in Excel that automatically creates a financial statement and creating a proforma for one of the redevelopment projects at another shopping mall managed by Macerich.
“I was able to apply the skills I learned in Professor Gabe’s Real Estate 326 class [Commercial Real Estate Finance and Investment] to the projects I undertook during my summer internship,” Lee said. “That in-class experience made me much more prepared and knowledgeable about the financial aspects of the retail industry.”
When comparing the ICSC program with other internships he has held, Lee shared that the ICSC internship gave him the opportunity to network with other companies within the ICSC program, two times per week, throughout the summer. He also particularly enjoyed getting together in New York with seven other ICSC interns, from other universities, for a dinner with the ICSC executives.
At USD, Lee is double majoring in real estate and finance, with a minor in information technology management. He hopes to continue with Macerich upon graduation as an asset manager and his long-term goals include pursuing a career in retail, multifamily or residential development.
USD’s Ali Agbayani ‘22 is majoring in real estate with a minor in accounting. Earlier this year, she too, began applying for her very first internship opportunity to gain experience before graduating USD next year.
She was excited about working, but the pandemic was throwing a wrench into her plans. She reached out to her friend, Charlie Dinger, who recommended that she apply to the ICSC Launch Academy internship program. She did just that and heard back from ICSC that she was accepted into the program three weeks later.
Agbayani shared that she had four rounds of interviews with Kimco Realty Corporation, a publicly traded REIT that focuses primarily on open-air, grocery-anchored shopping centers in larger metropolitan areas. Agbayani started her internship on June 1, and while she worked remotely for the first month, she ultimately worked a hybrid model starting in July at Kimco’s office in Tustin, Calif.
During her two-and-a-half-month internship, Agbayani was assigned as an asset management intern for the Western region. In her role, she has worked with Kimco’s property, finance and accounting team on top of handling projects within asset management.
Her projects included looking at proforma “sandbox scenarios,” comparing different deal metrics to assess profitability and their impact on net operating income (NOI) of a prospective deal. She was also responsible for running aged receivable files in order to track the accounts receivables for each tenant, which was helpful during the company’s budgeting and forecasting processes. Additionally, she helped to track vacancies and determine what was driving those variances for the reforecasting process.
“Having these diverse experiences in the various areas of the company has been a truly amazing experience,” she said. “I have met so many people from all facets of retail real estate. The asset management, accounting and sales reporting projects I have worked on have challenged me in the best way possible and my favorite part has been attending the bi-weekly Zoom calls hosted by my supervisors and mentors in which we discuss prospective and current deals.”
Agbayani also has a mentor through the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. Mary Ann Yaghdjian ‘07 MSRE has served as her mentor for the last few years and inspired Agbayani to look at careers in commercial real estate.
“Mary Ann has been an incredible sound board and great supporter to me,” Agbayani said. “We communicate about once a month and I am so excited to get back to San Diego and share this amazing internship experience I have had at Kimco this summer.”
While Agbayani’s summer internship ended on Aug. 13, Kimco has already offered her a part-time position during her senior year at USD. In this part-time role, Agbayani shared that she will be taking a deeper dive into the asset management responsibilities and budgeting process and will do rotations within Kimco’s construction, property management and leasing divisions. She hopes that these enriching experiences will give her a breadth of opportunities within the company upon graduation.