One Year After the Award: DCBIA Opportunity Scholarship


One Year After the Award: What I have learned and who I am becoming.

By Ursula Johnson

Last summer when I read the call for the Opportunity scholarship I had no idea what the term ‘real-estate development’ meant. The mere Google-search revealed a variety of definitions, enticing my curiosities. As years behind a drafting desk left me curious to understand how projects were formed, I applied with the goal to understand the Owner, from a business and financial standpoint.

Of course the idea of returning back to school after receiving my Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University a decade ago brought upon concerns like, “would I be able to work, balance classes and continue my career goals?” After weighing a few cons and a plethora of pros, I headed to my alma mater’s registration office for my transcript, and decided to go for it. My first two semesters, consisted of business ethics, market analysis, and fundamentals in real estate law, where I began to realize real estate development as an assembly of investments, goals, and a variety of rights placed upon property. It was becoming clear that my belief stood relevant: If I can learn how development teams form projects, influencing architecture and urban fabric, then I will be able to make more of an impact on the built-environment as a whole.

Another advantage to the curriculum is it comes with a variety of courses to ignite one’s individual passion within the industry. As the spring semester approached, I enrolled in an independent study course and received guided support from faculty during my internship on site at Capitol Crossings, Property Group Partner’s vision for the reclaimed 7 acres above the interstate opening. Working with the construction management and general contracting team, Balfour Beatty Construction DC, I received a preview into one of the program tracks offered at Georgetown. Construction management, finance, and international development are amongst the paths one can take in the real estate program after completing the fundamental courses. While my segue from architecture training into development cultivation seemed like a hard connection to make, the approach offered allows for tailoring an individual’s goals. From attending an Institute of Real Estate Management Association luncheon and conference, to property tours and networking encounters, the value of the independent study continues to resonate.

In addition to the strength of the curriculum, the support of the Georgetown community provides valuable resources and strong relationships with building industry leaders. Weekly newsletters, featuring announcements from SABRE and partnering events with organizations such as the Urban Land Institute and DC Building Industry Association, and strong library resources are added bonuses. In addition, students are also connected to Main campus, where groups like StartUp Hoyas, the university’s entrepreneurship initiative, allow for cross-disciplinary networking.

As the fall semester approaches I look forward to enrolling in introduction to finance and fundamentals in real estate…

Related Article: Ursula Johnson Named First Recipient of DCBIA Real Estate Scholarship

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