Jeff Conn, Co-Founder and Principal of Hallmark Partners, has been appointed chairman of the advisory board for University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies in Gainesville, Florida. The center’s mission is to build the best higher education real estate program in the country by focusing on education, research and leadership. The program is recognized each year by US News and World Report as one of the top 10 real estate schools in the US. Each year the program graduates 30 to 35 students who have completed an intense ten-month, in-residence graduate program.

“These students are some of the brightest in the country,” said Conn. “There is an intense competition each year for admittance to the program. Many come after having several years experience in the industry, which adds considerable perspective in returning to pursue their degree.”

The purpose of the real estate advisory board is to provide a direct connection between the students and the real estate industry. The board supports the center through financial sponsorships, participating in quarterly real estate surveys, as well as speaking to the students each year as guest lecturers in the classroom. The board also sponsors Bergstrom Center’s annual Trends and Strategies Conference held in Orlando. The speakers are always comprised of leading individuals in various segments of the real estate industry. Last year, the conference was sold out with 420 paying attendees.

“Most important of all we do is to uphold our commitment to mentoring the students,” Conn said. “We align ourselves each year for interaction with one or more students. Office visits are set up, as well as phone calls and emails, to help answer their questions and give them advice. We also help them with job placement at the end of the year. Many times the students are hired by the board member companies.”

The quality of the students coming out of the program is always outstanding. In fact, Hallmark Partners currently has two former students on staff. Keith Goldfaden, Senior Vice President of Investment Sales, was hired six years ago and Daniel Burkhardt, Associate in Investment Sales, was hired over a year ago. The depth and breadth of their knowledge coming out of the school gives them a real baseline to proceed immediately as productive contributors to a company

“I have been on the advisory board for over 10 years. It’s comprised of 150 individuals representing the top levels of management and ownership in companies and firms, crossing all segments of the industry,” said Conn. “It’s a real honor and privilege to head up the board this year, but most satisfying of all is preparing students for successful endeavors going forward.”