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The Diversity Collaborative Scholarship

Our scholarship program was established in 2013 to support academically promising students with financial need.

Scholarship Deadlines

Spring scholarship applications due by April 1st; Fall scholarship applications due by November 1st.

Why Choose Commercial Real Estate?

If you are looking for a fastpaced industry with rapid career advancement and earning potential, consider a career in commercial real estate. The industry is underrepresented by people of color, but poised for growth. The Diversity Collaborative offers scholarships for students considering the many career opportunities in CRE.


Fall 2023 Scholarship Recipients

Shalom Weatherspoon

Shalom is a senior at the University of Minnesota (Carlson) studying accounting and finance. He is President of the National Association of Black Accountants, and a Senator for Carlson. Shalom said that “as a kid, I often found myself starting side hustles to keep cash in my pocket, including selling trading cards, running a convenience store out of my locker, mowing lawns, shoveling sidewalks, and reselling sneakers. My dad helped me realize that my hobbies could turn into a career and encouraged me to start learning about personal finance.” This experience led to an interest in commercial real estate. Shalom is still exploring the different aspects of CRE, but said after graduation he is looking for a position where he can learn more about the industry, save up money, and expand his network.


Octavia Herbert, a financial analyst at Clarion and mentor to Shalom while he interned at Clarion said that “As a quick learner with a strong work ethic, Shalom remains a valuable asset to any team, poised for significant success in the field.”

Obester Obeng

Obesther Obeng is a student at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management where she is studying Finance and Strategy. Obesther said that she wants to be a commercial real estate broker or accountant and ultimately a CEO of a real Estate Company. “As a woman of color from a different culture, I will bring a perspective to the table that can help elevate the industry to new ways of thinking. I also hope to be one of many pioneers who will help make the industry appealing to more women and people of color.” She is a Board Member of MOSAIC, a student organization that supports the development of BIPOC business professionals by connecting MBA students to alumni and fostering a diverse and equitable community at Carlson and beyond.

Obesther is especially interested in the integration of ESG principles in Commercial Real Estate. “I have a deep interest in connecting with companies that prioritize sustainability initiatives, green building projects, and responsible investing in real estate and adopt innovative technology solutions to streamline operations, enhance tenant experiences, and improve property management.” Iddrisu M.Hussien, a former manager of Obesther’s said that Her vision of promoting diversity in real estate reflects a profound commitment to excellence and societal betterment. I have no doubt that Obesther will be a transformative force in the world of commercial real estate.”

Past Scholarship Winners

Daijah Moore is currently studying at St. Cloud State University, working on a Liberal Arts major with a minor in Real Estate. In addition to her studies, Daijah is an associate at Monarch Commercial Real Estate, where she works part-time assisting with business development. Daijah continues to learn and explore career opportunities in all aspects of commercial real estate to see where her skills and interests will fit best. Her strengths include her ability to go from task to task seamlessly. “Even with my little experience, I catch on quickly and ask questions for better understanding,” she said. In 2019, Daijah graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and a minor in Spanish.

Daijah’s daughter is a driving force in her career path, “I want to show my daughter and other girls of color that women of color can be executives, CEO, top personnel in any company, but they have to work for it.”

Bella Nduwayezu is an international student from Burundi and is a Senior at Gustavus Adolphus College. Bella is majoring in International Management and wants to grow her knowledge and explore different careers Commercial Real Estate. While in school, Bella works part time as an insurance intern at NorthMarq where she has grown her skills in Collaboration, Networking, communication, and how to provide best customer service. On campus, she is involved with Prepare Ministries, the Pan African Student Organization and a Residential Assistant.

Ten years from now, Bella hopes to be a Real estate guru and be a mentor for young people who have the passion to work in commercial real estate. She said that, “As a woman of color from a different culture, I will bring a perspective to the table that can help elevate the industry to new ways of thinking and doing. I also hope to be one of many pioneers who will help make the industry appealing to more women and people of color.”

Mishayla will be graduating in May from St. Cloud State University with a Marketing major and a Real Estate Certificate. Her goal is to have a successful career in Commercial Real Estate. Mishayla said, “I fell in love with the way Commercial Real Estate works and impacts our everyday lives. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to get my Real Estate Certificate that will help further my career in Commercial Real Estate.”

While attending school, Mishayla worked at a bank as a Customer Service Representative. Working at the bank increased her communication skills and taught her how to utilize problem-solving in different scenarios. During her free time, Mishayla enjoys volunteering at our local Boys and Girls Club which she attended when she was younger. Her volunteer experience has helped her understand the importance of listening and letting someone know that they are heard.

Abshir is currently a student at Normandale Community College where he is completing his general classes. He plans to transfer to a larger school to seek a major in Marketing and Finance. Abshir’s goal is to pursue a career as a broker in commercial real estate. As a first Generation African American and Somalian who speaks fluent English and Somali, he hopes to work with the Somali community one day. Abshir added, “I want to add diversity within the Real Estate industry and plan to give back to my community one day.”

Lebogang is a senior at Minnesota state university, Mankato, majoring in construction management with a minor in business administration.  She plans to pursue a career in real estate development.  She developed a passion for real estate when she realized how unequal housing is and how built environment can contribute to building a community that will be sustainable for the future generation.  She believes her calling is to leave the world a better place than she found it, through real estate and affordable housing.  According to Lebogang, “I certainly can fulfill my call. In South Africa where I am from, we practice Ubuntu which simply relates to a quality that includes the essential human virtues, compassion, and humanity. I believe housing is a human right. Real estate development should be about building communities.”

According to Jennifer Dewberry of Valbridge Property Advisors, “When I met Lebogang, her enthusiasm for commercial real estate was immediately clear.  She learned the industry on the job and then began pursuing a university degree in Construction Management to further her career. She brings real-life experience, an amazing work ethic, and a true passion to her work.  I have no doubt that she will be a great asset to the industry.”  

Treon is a recent graduate of St. Cloud State University with a triple major in Real Estate, Entrepreneurship & Spanish.  He has accepted a Real Estate Closing Coordinator position with Winthrop & Weinstine where he looks forward to furthering his understanding of the real estate world and making a name for himself in the industry.

Professor Kelly Jameson spoke to the interest and involvement in the industry he showed at St. Cloud State University: “Treon participated in our mentoring banquet and took advantage of the opportunity to visit and job shadow his mentor team. As part of the NAIOP (National Association for Industrial and Office Parks) University Challenge, teams need to reach out to industry experts and Treon took the lead in this area.”

Treon is interested in development of multifamily projects and educational facilities. He states, “I love how human beings can come together and form a project that will impact the lives of others.”  He hopes to own his own investment properties and eventually his own real estate investment firm.

Laiba is a Senior at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Finance. I am an international student from Pakistan. Currently, I work as an accounting assistant and Service center student manager at SCSU. I believe that besides education and learning, university is about exploring your interests, skills, and values, therefore, I make sure to take advantage and say yes to events and activities that are out of my comfort zone. 

Meron Bekure is studying at Metropolitan State University focusing on Business Analytics and Management of Information Systems. She believes one of the most significant aspects in excelling in any field of business is building client/business relationships and understanding the needs of each customer. Meron passionately aims to be well versed within the commercial real estate industry through helping facilitate an improved user experience as well as cultivating and expanding client/business relationships. Bekure was recommended for the CREDC Scholarship by Bill Baldus, the director of the career center at Metropolitan University. 

University of St. Thomas student, Natalie Heimerman, is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Real Estate. She gained her first experience in real estate as a multifamily leasing assistant and gained a passion for the industry. Natalie’s supervisor, Erica Koch, gave her a glowing recommendation, writing “She not only was able to professionally lease apartments, but she was always willing to take on additional managerial duties such as completing market studies, coming up with new and creative advertising ideas and handling challenging resident issues.” She values the relationships that real estate has brought her thus far and looks forward to the opportunities ahead.

Mai Xiong Yang is a 25 year old student at Metropolitan State University studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She is Hmong American and has been living in the Twin Cities for about five years. Mai Xiong is a first generation college student and can’t wait to graduate! She’s interested in Property Management and Brokerage. Her professional goal is to own and manage a large portfolio of properties to lease and provide services to a diverse clientele, especially in communities of color and first generation immigrants. Mai Xiong exemplifies the strong values needed for a career in the real estate industry and her current supervisor, Krystal Sievert, stated “[She] has a ‘pay it forward’ mindset in that she does not just want to be successful in her own right but also has a strong desire to help others be more successful as well.” She can’t wait for what the future holds for her career.

Graduating this spring with a B.S. in Finance, Teresa Lane holds eight years of experience in the banking industry. Her passion for real estate began in 2013 after completing a Sales Associate pre-licensing course. Shortly thereafter she learned about the commercial real estate industry and was immediately interested in a profession within it. Joel Wilson, Professor in the College of Management at Metro State University provided a strong letter of recommendation for Teresa. He highlighted her ambition and praised her communication, reasoning abilities and analytical skills. Teresa is eager to pursue a career utilizing her financial and quantitative analysis skills, along with her critical thinking and problem-solving skills to support the CRE industry.

Michelle Hedges is focusing on either property management or project management focus areas for her career in CRE. In her application, she noted, “Minnesota’s commercial real estate network is a small world and very tight knit, and after attending a few events hosted by the associations, I grew to love the environment, the people, and the type of work. As I have learned more about the industry, I was intrigued even more and fascinated by the many ways that commercial real estate touches our lives.” 

Hedges was recommended for the scholarship by Kelly Jameson, chair of St. Cloud State’s Real Estate Program.

Ayentu Hassan is majoring in business management with a minor in Real Estate. She brings a resume full of leadership and commercial real estate experiences that include working as a leasing specialist and as president and board member of the Oromo Students Organization. The Oromo Students Organization is a cultural organization that teaches about culture of the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia, which is where Hassan was born. Hassan was recommended by Justin Beumer, her former supervisor at Capital One.

“With commercial property located virtually anywhere and everywhere, I always wondered who managed these and how the operation worked. Now I know and am excited to pursue this career path, which offers so many opportunities,” said Hassan.

Hector Lopez Cruz is majoring in business but has internships focused in both commercial real estate and commercial banking. Cruz’s family has spent many years focused on residential real estate, which drove his interest in impacting the larger community by focusing on commercial real estate.

He is also speaks and writes fluently in Spanish, and intends to work in either development or brokerage upon graduation. Hector was nominated by Chris Mauzy, CEO and broker with Mauzy Properties. He said, “I cannot think of a line of business that would better fit Mr. Lopez. You will not find a more deserving and hard working person for this great scholarship opportunity.”

Nancy Caridad Sanchez Cervantes is majoring in Spanish and business and is pursuing her commercial real estate license to pursue a career in brokerage as a commercial real estate agent. She intends to serve the Mexican and immigrant communities because she feels they are underserved by the commercial real estate community. “I intend to teach people about housing laws and procedures, and work with community members to identify construction plans and spaces that positively impact the minority community,” she said in her application.

She was nominated by Kris Donnelly, the director of professional internship programs at the Dougherty Family College. “Nancy takes advantage of every networking and leadership opportunity we provide. She is incredibly engage in learning and she has the skills, desire and attitude to be successful,” said Donnelly.  

Ivan Alvarado, a bilingual MBA student at the University of St. Thomas, has been awarded the Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative’s Spring 2018 scholarship. The Diversity Collaborative, which represents eight industry associations working to increase diversity within the commercial real estate industry, has awarded 10 scholarships to diverse students studying commercial real estate. The $2,000 scholarship supports tuition and books for students from a minority class who are interested in pursuing a career in commercial real estate. 

Alvarado, who is born in New York City, but raised since high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has worked as a residential real estate agent, a project manager, an English teacher in Spain, and most recently, in multi-functional roles for the Fourth Judicial District Court in Minneapolis.  With more than ten years of working experience, he identified commercial real estate as the best fit for his long-term goals. 

“Making a difference in the lives of others is my purpose in life and a career in commercial real estate will help me create meaningful change in my community,” he said. 

Each scholarship applicant requires a letter of recommendation from an educator; for Alvarado, Hannah Hedegard, director of Graduate Programs at the Opus College of Business, University of St. Thomas, submitted rave reviews about his insights and ideas that have already improved the St. Thomas experience. 

“It cannot be understated the impact that Ivan has had during his time at our university. He’s proven himself to be a leaders who is thoughtful, engaging, and a true change-maker in our community and beyond,” she wrote. 

“We were impressed that the first time we met Ivan, he had visions for his career and his impact in our communities,” said Raymond Vaughn, CCIM, RPA, senior property manager-Ryan Companies and chair of the Diversity Collaborative’s scholarship committee. “He’s already taken initiative to apply his passion to support the success of the Diversity Collaborative going forward.”

“Our goal is to develop bench strength with diverse candidates who can build their careers around any firm in our market,” said Stephanie Lee, vice president-Carlson Commercial and one of three leaders of the Diversity Collaborative. “We have built partnerships across the Twin Cities but are always looking for mentors, volunteers and companies to join us in our efforts to diversity commercial real estate.”

The Diversity Collaborative has been awarding scholarships since 2013, distributing more than $25,500 in educational support for diverse students who demonstrate an interest in commercial real estate as a career path. In addition to the scholarship, students also are invited to attend industry events, are matched with a commercial real estate professional for mentoring and are provided internship openings from the commercial real estate companies who participate in the DC. 

Francis Do is majoring in Real Estate Studies with a Data Analytics minor. Do, who will graduate in spring 2021, has worked as a Listing & Sales Coordinator for Edina Realty since high school. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American student, his ability to speak three languages – English, Vietnamese, and French – has allowed him to assist Edina Realty’s Lakeville agents with non-English-speaking clients. 

“I’ve always had a passion for real estate — from house hunting with my parents to working at Edina Realty,” said Do. “I see commercial real estate as a new sector of Real Estate to leverage my passion and interest and discover more and more of this growing industry.”

Each scholarship applicant requires a letter of recommendation from an educator; Professor Gloria Frost, PHD, praised Do for his written work and critical thinking. 

“I have rarely encountered a first-year student who has the level of clarity about his future goals as Francis does.” 

Martin, who was born in South Korea and adopted by an American family, has worked as a leasing consultant for Dominium Management Services, and has assisted in the development of three startup companies. As a Real Estate and Entrepreneurship double-major, Martin plans to graduate in the spring of 2019 and pursue a career in commercial real estate. 

“I have always been a big believer in learning from those who have successfully accomplished goals similar to my own in their life,” Martin said. “I want to consume as much knowledge and experience as I can and eventually start my own brokerage or my own team.”

Each scholarship applicant requires a letter of recommendation from an educator; for Martin, Laurence Harmon, a licensed attorney and adjunct professor at St. Thomas, submitted glowing praise about Martin’s hard work and potential.

“Of the approximately 125 St. Thomas students with whom I’ve been privileged to work, Eric definitely tops the list,” Harmon said.

St. Cloud University student Albert Martinez-Castro selected for Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative Scholarship

$2,000 scholarship encourages pursuit of real estate careers

Albert Martinez-Castro, who is a sophomore studying real estate at St. Cloud State University, was selected for the Fall 2017 Diversity Collaborative scholarship. The $2,000 scholarship supports tuition and books for students from a minority class who are interested in pursuing a career in commercial real estate. 

Albert, who is from Rosemount, Minnesota, has participated in the campus Real Estate Association, attended the national Institute of Real Estate Management Summit in Chicago in 2017, and has attended numerous events hosted by BOMA, the building owners and managers association. He learned of commercial real estate from his father, who runs a commercial painting company, and decided that being an owner and manager of a commercial real estate firm would allow him to impact sustainable real estate practices and support the local community.

“My interpersonal skills have made me a successful student leader and I believe they will be critical in the commercial real estate industry,” he said.

The scholarship selection committee was impressed by Martinez-Castro’s professionalism and maturity, documented by St. Cloud State’s Commercial Real Estate program adviser Kelly Jamison. In her letter of recommendation, she noted, “In addition to attending classes and achieving a 3.75 GPA, he has experience working several jobs and gaining relevant business experience. He is a conscientious and considerate leader and I know he will be a great contributor to commercial real estate.”

Martinez-Castro is the fifth student from St. Cloud to be awarded this scholarship. “We were impressed with Albert’s knowledge and interest in commercial real estate – even at such an early stage of his education,” said Raymond Vaughn, CCIM, RPA, senior property manager-Ryan Companies and chair of the Diversity Collaborative’s scholarship committee. 

The Diversity Collaborative has been awarding scholarships since 2013, distributing more than $23,500 in educational support for diverse students who demonstrate an interest in commercial real estate as a career path. In addition to the scholarship, students also are invited to attend industry events, are matched with a commercial real estate professional for mentoring and are provided internship openings from the commercial real estate companies who participate in the DC. 

Austin Ruehle, a junior at St. Cloud State University, was awarded the Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative 2017 scholarship. Austin’s passion and enthusiasm in pursuing a career in commercial real estate caught the attention of the Diversity Collaborative. The Diversity Collaborative mission is to deliver members of the commercial real estate industry the tools, talent, and opportunities to drive inclusiveness, diversity, and future success. Ruehle has shown leadership at school with sports and in his classes.

When asked what interests him most about commercial real estate he said, “Commercial real estate interests me because it offers many career paths and because it seems to have variety in the daily work.” Ruehle’s long-term career goal is to become a leader in commercial real estate, potentially starting his own company. He is also interested in continuing the work of the Diversity Collaborative by mentoring other diverse candidates once he starts his professional career.

Vanessa Sayers was awarded the Commercial Real Estate Diversity Collaborative’s 2016 fall scholarship. Vanessa has demonstrated an interest in the real estate field and her skills and accomplishments attracted the attention of the Diversity Collaborative, but it was her ambition and passion for the industry that made her stand out.

When asked about her interest to pursue real estate academically, the Management major from Metropolitan State University, says she was inspired to delve into the industry after the Metropolitan State Diversity Collaborative information session held in June, 2016. She says the information session opened her eyes to the multitude of opportunities available to her within the commercial real estate industry. Her long-term career goal is to be a successful career in the Commercial Real Estate Industry helping lower income areas and learn more about the industry from her peers and mentors.