September 3, 2020 – For Awais Qazi, the path to a dual master’s degree in architecture and real estate development has required a blend of passion, diligent work and very tactical planning.

Awais Qazi

A University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) student and a 2020 recipient of a NAIOP Diversity Student Scholarship, Qazi became interested in real estate as a child. He was impressed by the independence and success his father achieved by buying and managing several residential rental properties. Trips to New York, Chicago and other cities stoked his passion for “buildings that are engineering feats” – skyscrapers and other ambitious designs, especially by international architects.

But to pursue a career in architecture and real estate, Qazi would have to overcome major hurdles.

“College has become exponentially more expensive … and the requirements for entry-level jobs have increased so you need more education,” he said.

After completing an Associate Degree at Howard Community College, Qazi began working on a Bachelor of Architecture degree at UMCP. Adding a real estate development minor to his degree program proved especially beneficial. In addition to feeding his interest in real estate, it enabled him to complete some courses for his masters degree while still an undergraduate student. That would both reduce the cost of his masters and also allow Qazi, who had always held part-time jobs, to lighten his course load in graduate school and continue working.

On track to graduate in 2021, Qazi is currently an employee of Page in the District of Columbia and working on the project team for the new U.S. embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

He expects, however, to focus on different types projects after he graduates, mostly likely mid-rise, mixed-use properties — a product type he sees as delivering high value to tenants and neighborhoods as well as high resale value to owners.

“A great benefit of doing a dual degree in architecture and real estate is that it teaches you how to do development and also how to design your development to best suit the tenants you have in mind,” he said.

In 2020, Qazi was one of four graduate students who received the $5,000 NAIOP Diversity Student Scholarship.

“By investing in the next generation of industry leaders and advancing diversity in commercial real estate, NAIOP is working to broaden and enrich the talent pool for our industry,” said Thomas Bisacquino, NAIOP President and CEO. “I would like to see us do more scholarships than our current numbers because there is a real need for this.”

Despite various diversity efforts, commercial real estate is still populated primarily by older, white males. Researchers at the School of Business and Industry at Florida A&M University surveyed more than 61,000 CRE jobs to assess diversity within the industry. They found that 58.5 percent of those jobs were held by white men and 21.6 percent by white women. The remainder of the workforce included 4.4 percent Asian men, 4.2 percent Hispanic men, 3.4 percent Asian women, 2.4 percent Black men, 2 percent Hispanic women and 2 percent Black women.