Students find value in learning real estate

Two students present their pitches using a screen monitor as an analog clock in the back times them.

Members of
Project Destined
Team CMC

  • Sofia de la Peña ’22 (Program Manager)
  • Luke Field ’23
  • David Kim ’23
  • Jocelyn Livier ’24
  • Christina Nguyen ’23
  • Sofia Rojas ’23
  • Joanne Wang ’24
  • Zane Yamamoto ’24
  • Sabrina Zhou '23

As part of a new, first-of-its kind experiential learning program, a team of nine CMC students spent hours throughout their fall—often in front of the Hub—collaborating on commercial real estate pitches, development plans and financial models.

This student team came together through a special partnership between CMC’s Soll Center for Student Opportunity and Project Destined, a national commercial real estate internship program with project-based learning and pitch competitions.

Project Destined trains diverse students in commercial real estate fundamentals through mentorship and a rigorous curriculum. To reinforce what they’ve learned, students take part in “Shark Tank-style” pitch competitions with rival corporate-sponsored teams from other colleges and universities. To further prepare for the competitions, student teams work with leading executives to evaluate live deals in their community and create pitch presentations.

In early December, CMC’s team reached Project Destined’s pitch competition semi-finals, going head-to-head against their peers, and taking second place.

Executives from a leading commercial real estate firm, Marcus & Millichap, served as mentors for the CMC team. Each student also virtually attended a series of lectures featuring industry executives focused on a specific part of a real estate transaction.

To apply what they learned, the team worked on a live deal—based on a real multifamily property in Pomona—and presented it to a group of judges who are real estate professionals. To complete the project, team members collaborated to create an offering memorandum, which includes an investment risk profile for the property, an understanding of the property’s location and tenant base, as well as a renovation plan to upgrade each unit.

“At the Soll Center, we often seek out opportunities for our students to gain real-world experience. Not only does this make them more competitive applicants for future internships and jobs, but it also helps students refine their professional interests and build confidence,” said Beth Milev ’05, director of the Robert Day Scholars Program and Scholar Communities at the Soll Center for Student Opportunity. “Project Destined has been such a tremendous opportunity for our students to pursue their interests in real estate and we can’t wait to see how far our students can take their newfound knowledge.”

During the spring 2022 semester, the program takes on another dimension, as the Project Destined interns will serve as program managers themselves. In the coming months, each CMC student will be trained to teach Los Angeles area high schoolers about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and commercial real estate.

CMC's team of nine Project Destined interns.

“At this point, the students have excelled in the program, they’ve had tremendous team and personal success,” said Cedric Bobo, Project Destined’s co-founder.  “And now they’re going to be enthusiastic and engaging teachers to some local high school students. We believe this is a model for colleges and universities around the country, as students build new skills and now prepare to share their knowledge with high school students to deliver positive local impact.”

Sofia Victoria de la Peña ’22 spent the summer interning with Project Destined, and before honing her leadership skills as program manager. This fall, de la Peña led the CMC team, putting each member through their paces, and helping them gear up for their presentations.

“I’ve done everything that they were doing,” said de la Peña, who is majoring in Economics and International Relations. “I went to the training sessions with the mentors, built the financial models, and competed in the competitions, so I could anticipate their questions and prepare them for their presentations.”

Working with Project Destined for several months, de la Peña said, helped her build a vast network in the commercial real estate space. She credits the program for thoroughly preparing her for a rigorous recruitment cycle in real estate finance. Upon graduation, de la Peña will be joining PGIM Real Estate as a full-time Investment Analyst in New York City.

Sojeong Kang ’23, who interned with Project Destined over the summer, described the experience as a confidence-builder. “This experience has strengthened me personally,” said Kang, who recently landed an internship in corporate finance and restructuring at FTI Consulting. “The professional presentation skills I learned really helped me with job interviews.”

For team member Sabrina Zhou ’23, the program so far has been “transformational.” Zhou, who is currently working toward her BA in Economics and an MA in Finance, credits her Project Destined experience with sparking her interest in real estate as a potential profession. She shifted her employment recruitment efforts to real estate and recently accepted an offer to join Mack Real Estate Group as a 2022 Summer Analyst.

“Project Destined gave me an idea of what a career in real estate would look like,” Zhou said. “Having this direct exposure, and getting this hands-on time to learn about all the different facets of real estate, is an experience that not many people receive.”

Anne Bergman


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