NAIOP’s University Challenge: Connecting students to their commercial real estate future

March 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm

By Adam Voge, Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq

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Nate Erickson

In 2011, Nate Erickson was a senior at St. Cloud State University, months away from entering the commercial real estate field and looking for opportunities after graduation.
Fast forward five years, and Nate can point out the decision that put his career on the path it’s on today: competing in NAIOP Minnesota’s University Challenge.

Nate signed up for the competition, which pits various area schools against each other in a quest to pitch the best development for a site somewhere in the Twin Cities. Nate’s team was one of five to present competing visions for redeveloping the Oakdale Mall.
The contest is hypothetical, so his team’s vision hasn’t become a reality, but one thing certainly materialized from the experience: a career path.

“The University Challenge is partly why I’m here,” said Nate.

After the competition, Nate received a call from Jen Helm, a broker at Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq, who asked whether he would be interested in interning in her retail group. Nate took the job, and today is an upwardly mobile Associate of Brokerage Services.
Not only is Nate a rising broker at Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq, he’s an active volunteer for NAIOP. This year, he decided to co-chair the committee planning the same competition he credits with advancing his career: The University Challenge.

Nate reiterates with student participants just how important the event could be to them, helping them see development and real estate from the bigger picture perspective and helping them make contacts for the future.

“I try to reiterate with the students today that having something like this on your resume, no matter your final place in the competition, helps set you apart,” he said. “And since real estate is hot, many kids are looking to get into the industry. They’re going to need that distinguishing factor.”

One of Nate’s teammates on that SCSU team in 2011 has also since joined Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq. About two years ago, Nate heard that Peter Fooshe was looking to break into brokerage, and Peter was able to find a position working in the industrial division at the firm.

Nate said the University Challenge encourages the kind of creativity and creative thinking that you won’t always find in the classroom.

“A lot of tests you take in college are multiple-choice or just have one right answer,” he said. “But with the University Challenge, there are tons of possibilities. The project is more conceptual and forces students to think outside the box.”

Entry filed under: Featured Articles, Member Profiles, Programs | Events.

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