Lance Patterson recently decided to bring a senior analyst on staff at Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group, his commercial real estate capital advisory firm—specifically, a person of color with a few years of experience. He encountered difficulty finding minority talent to include in the interview pool. That speaks volumes to the lack of diversity plaguing the commercial real estate field.
“I decided I need to do my part by broadening students’ exposure to the profession,” Patterson said. “Once people have graduated, they’re probably already on track to do whatever it is they’re going to do. We need to familiarize kids with commercial real estate while they’re still in school.”
Patterson set his sights on the Robinson College of Business, where he serves on the Department of Real Estate’s Honorary Advisory Board. His connections to the university run pretty deep. Georgia State was the first client he picked up when he founded his company 12 years ago. More recently, he helped a client secure a construction loan for a new student housing tower on the university’s campus, and assisted a private developer with financing projects surrounding Center Parc Stadium. He also has delivered guest lectures to undergraduate and graduate students, building an appreciation for the comprehensive real estate education the college provides.
“Robinson has a much more defined real estate academic discipline than other schools,” he said. “People can pursue an entire degree in it versus dabbling in one or two courses.”
Patterson isn’t just a talker. He’s a doer. In an effort to promote racial equity and diversify the workforce, he and his wife recently endowed the Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group Scholarship. The $1,000 award is open to junior- and senior-level students majoring in real estate at Robinson. Criteria include academic merit, outstanding character, and community involvement.
Patterson also has established a paid, part-time internship opportunity at his company. The program was designed to introduce Robinson students from untapped backgrounds to what he considers a challenging, fun, and rewarding career. Interns will conduct market and product research, compile offering memorandums, and attend meetings with not only colleagues but also clients. The immersive nature of the internship program underscores one of Patterson’s core values: offering very young professionals a combination of opportunity and responsibility.
“When you’re in your 20s, it’s intimidating to be in a room with a 50-something who is well-known and wealthy with a title like CEO. You might be afraid of saying something dumb, and assume the bigwigs will forget you the moment the meeting is over,” Patterson said. “But I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve benefited from people giving me opportunities—not gifts, but opportunities I had to take, work hard on, and do good things with.”