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ICSC Scholarship Winner Tatijana Stafets is Excited About Retail!

By Jesse Serwer

Tatijana Stafets, a 2010 winner of the ICSC Foundation’s Charles Grossman Graduate Scholarship, was in the fifth year of a six-year architecture program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when she decided she was more interested in the business side of real estate than in the design side. “I thought it gave you a much broader exposure to clients, and you’d be generating new ideas and making an impact on the industry at large, as opposed to having multiple layers between you and the client and all those layers telling you what needs to be done,” Stafets said.

After graduating from Urbana-Champaign with a master’s in architecture, she got a job in corporate solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle, as an associate project manager overseeing the firm’s integration of its own office properties with those of The Staubach Co., which it had just acquired. She learned a lot about commercial real estate but decided she could best serve her career by returning to school for an MBA.

“It’s great to learn on the job, but it’s also nice to step back and learn about what you’re doing and what it means,” said Stafets, who remains at Jones Lang LaSalle as a senior analyst.

The Grossman Scholarship, created in 2007 to encourage outstanding students to choose retail real estate as a career, provides $10,000 toward the tuition of ICSC members enrolled in graduate school. Stafets is now in her second year of the MBA program at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where her focus is on real estate and finance. She will intern this summer at William Blair & Co., a middle-market investment bank in Chicago. Stafets says she hopes to apply her education to a position advising retail clients on corporate real estate.

The Grossman Scholarship includes a grant toward travel expenses to attend RECon, and Stafets credits her attendance at last year’s meeting for opening her eyes to all the possibilities in retail real estate.

“Retail seems like such an exciting industry,” Stafets said. “How can it not be, if there’s something like [RECon]? The more you learn about retailers, the more you understand that they have a lot of layers. You have to be a really smart manager to manage all of that. And you also need good advisers — so, hopefully, I’ll always have a good job.”

This story is from the March 2011 issue of Shopping Centers Today.

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