Robert Morris University

Building a Pipeline of Talent

NAIOP Pittsburgh summer camp at RMU introduces Black high school students to career opportunities in commercial real estate.

Building a Pipeline of Talent

A new Robert Morris University summer program in commercial real estate aims to build a pipeline of talent of Black high school students for a field in which minorities are underrepresented.

At a week-long camp this June, 13 African American students from high schools throughout the region heard presentations from commercial real estate experts and RMU faculty and staff, and made a site visit to a commercial property under construction in Cranberry Township. They then formed teams, each led by a Black student ambassador from the RMU School of Business, and competed to pitch proposals for the property.

The program was developed by RMU faculty and staff in collaboration with the Pittsburgh chapter of NAIOP, an organization representing developers and owners of industrial, office, mixed-use, and related commercial real estate. It is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh and second in Pennsylvania, after a similar program at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The summer camp combined online virtual classes with in-person events at the university’s Moon Township campus and elsewhere. Speakers included Mark Popovich, senior managing director in the Pittsburgh office of JLL Capital Markets, and Robert Radermacher, executive vice president for real estate at PNC Bank, both RMU alumni.

“At NAIOP Pittsburgh, we are extremely proud and excited about this program,” said Brandon Mendoza, executive director of the chapter. “We believe our industry needs broader diversity and inclusion, and this is one model to address those concerns. These students now have a network of CRE leaders that they can tap into if they choose this industry.”

“Many underrepresented students may not see professionals who look like them in this type of career,” said Kishma Decastro-Sallis, one of the program’s coordinators and senior director of the Center for Student Success at RMU. “The CRE program allowed students to learn terminology and understand the inner workings of the field from those who work in this type of career.  NAIOP Pittsburgh did a great job making a concerted effort to welcome these students and embrace their eagerness to learn about potential careers in commercial real estate.”

Prasad Vemala, an associate professor and associate dean at the School of Business, worked with university colleagues and a volunteer committee of 20 industry experts to create the program.

“We are already planning another camp for next year. We have quite a few sponsors who supported it,” Vemala said.