Thanks to an entrepreneurial alumnus, Saint Leo University students at University Campus now have the chance to sign on for a three-credit internship at an area real estate company and earn the Florida real estate sales associate license as part of their work requirements.

Alumnus Michael D'Aloia '92, who is the principal owner and president of RMS Elite Properties Inc. of St. Petersburg, brought the idea of offering the internship exclusively to Saint Leo University. Several students, mostly from the Tapia College of Business, have already taken part in a pilot program run over the course of two semesters. The early success warranted formalizing the agreement, and now the company is ready to take on up to six interns in a summer cohort and a similarly sized group in the fall. Application instructions are available on the Handshake platform that is provided to students through Saint Leo's Office of Career Services.

The real estate company views the internship program as a positive form of outreach, and a possible source of new talent for the future, explained company executive Lloyd F. Dreibelbis, whose formal responsibilities at RMS include serving as director of career development. Without a program like this, Dreibelbis said, young people's notions of real estate professionals can be limited to the characters they see depicted in television commercials or on fictional shows: individuals who only show homes that are for sale, perhaps working on a part-time basis. "It's more than just walking around with people," he said.

RMS Elite Properties, for instance, operates several business lines. In addition to residential and commercial real estate sales and leasing, RMS also operates a property management business and real estate investment arm. That provides interns a broad overview of the sector and the requirements for success, Dreibelbis added.

Interns actually study course content with Dreibelbis (who was a teacher much earlier in his career) and work for the company during the 120 internship hours. Through the work duties assigned, the interns learn about office operations, sales, lead generation and marketing, contracts, business planning, and time management. The clients and contacts they meet will also be representative of the range of possible roles: buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords, and investors.

Tapia College of Business Dean Robyn Parker said this study-and-work opportunity fits with the college's emphasis of structuring undergraduate education so that students leave with "a degree plus some kind of licensure or certificate and this is a natural extension of those activities." Master of Business Administration students may also want to see if the option will fit with their schedules.

Even if students who complete the internship do not go into real estate as a career, Dreibelbis said, the experience delivers advantages. The skills they will hone are transferrable, he said, and the knowledge they gain will prove useful in their personal lives in future real estate dealings.

Parker and Dreibelbis agreed the internship is an attractive option for students pursing degrees in marketing, business administration, or economics, and for those who would like to have their own business someday. (Strictly speaking, students do not have to be enrolled in the Tapia College of Business to take part in the internship program, but in such cases, students must arrange for advising support from their home colleges.)

RMS Elite Properties is also intent on making sure the student-veteran population at University Campus knows of the internship option, Dreibelbis said, especially for veterans who may want to open their own business after finishing college. Saint Leo University has a long tradition of supporting veterans and active-duty military members and their families with educational opportunities. The university's Office of Military Affairs and Services is involved in getting the word of the program to student-veterans, too.