Lisa Gerben carefully weighed the pros and cons before deciding to pursue the MS in Real Estate Development at George Mason University's School of Business. Gerben would be financing the degree out of pocket, while also working at the company she founded.
Gerben, who earned her undergraduate degree in interior design from Virginia Commonwealth University, decided “the benefits outweighed the risks since I must obtain this degree in order to gain the knowledge and expertise to realize my goals.”
She’s proud to be an EagleBank Scholarship recipient this year. The $10,000 scholarship will allow her to go from a part-time to full-time student.
“This scholarship represents relief and freedom to think long term and outside the box. It will allow me to enroll full time and give me the opportunity to immerse myself in my education, and to take full advantage of all that is offered at Mason,” she said.
Gerben chose Mason because of the emphasis on real world experience and networking. “My experience has been exceptional. The professors and advisors work with each student individually to select a curriculum tailored to our specific career goals and interests,” she said.
Since starting the program, Gerben has maintained a 4.0 GPA, while balancing work and staying involved with program events and professional organizations, including the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), Urban Land Institute (ULI), and a mentorship program created by seasoned industry professionals. She was selected by her professors to compete in the NAIOP Capital Challenge, a regional real estate competition between rival universities.
Outside of class, Gerben works full-time for the company she founded, The Avant Network. She’s responsible for identifying and cultivating business opportunities in emerging markets.
Upon completion of the program, Gerben plans to focus on “land acquisition and master planning of smart growth, sustainable developments in emerging markets.” Her goal is to form a real estate investment fund that focuses on smart growth urban development in African countries.
“There is an enormous opportunity to take the lessons learned from urban development in the U.S. and apply them in other countries that are just now creating modern urban environments,” she said. “I would like to be part of the solution and work towards the creation of well-tempered cities, not just replicate dysfunctional cities where the everyday person struggles to have basic needs met.”