Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship Enhances Diversity and Inclusion Efforts with Opportunity Scholarship

Funmi Obasohan
Funmi Obasohan

The Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship in the School of Business at George Mason University established the Opportunity Scholarship to support diversity and inclusion in the real estate industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched in August 2020, the Opportunity Scholarship is awarded each fall to one or more incoming first-year master’s in real estate development student(s) from groups underrepresented in the real estate industry and/or those contributing to diversity and inclusion in the real estate industry and George Mason University.

The scholarship was created thanks to the efforts of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship’s advisory board members, Brian Benninghoff, partner, Buchanan Partners; Bryan Layman, senior vice president, ECS Mid-Atlantic; and Ken Ryan, principal, The Van Metre Companies.

“The Opportunity Scholarship is a great example of support from the real estate industry for Mason’s mission of accessible quality education,” says Eric Maribojoc, executive director for the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship. “By helping develop diverse talent and professional perspectives, Mason strengthens the industry workforce and the impact for good in our communities.”

Real estate firms, Buchanan Partners, ECS Mid-Atlantic, and The Van Metre Companies funded the scholarship. “The Real Estate industry here in the Washington, D.C., area is a huge part of our community and it needs professionals from all backgrounds to thrive. The masters in real estate development program at Mason helps students become experts in Real Estate,” says Ryan. “We hope this scholarship will help bring students to the program, who might not otherwise choose Real Estate.”

The Opportunity Scholarship’s first recipient was Funmi Obasohan, a portfolio manager at John Marshall Bank. The awardee for 2021 was Malik Salifu, a project manager at Eichberg Construction.

“This scholarship award came as an answer to my prayers as it significantly reduces my financial burden and affords me the ability to focus on the important details of my program here at George Mason University,” says Salifu.

Malik Salifu
Malik Salifu

Layman says the firms are committed to the Center and ensuring that highly qualified candidates have the opportunity to pursue their degree. “It is our hope that the scholarship reduces the financial burden of recipients and ultimately produces graduates that enhance the industry and represent the excellence and diversity of the region,” says Layman.

“Real estate will forever be a thriving industry and an intrinsic part of our communities, but a lot of groups have been marginalized from the benefits,” says Obasohan. “The MS in real estate development will give me the tools to not only improve my analytical skills but be better equipped to advise banks in how to support diverse ownership of assets by historically disadvantaged groups.”

With the knowledge he gains from the program, Salifu hopes to impact the next generation of construction and real estate professionals by teaching, and also becoming an entrepreneur in the construction and real estate industries.

For Obasohan, her long-term goal is to start her own development firm in her home country of Nigeria. “I would like to play an active role in combating homelessness and providing an affordable housing structure that will benefit all stakeholders,” says Obasohan. “Public housing in Nigeria is almost nonexistent and needs an innovative solution from the financing and development sides. I believe the MS in real estate development program at George Mason University is the perfect environment to find that solution.”

To contribute to the Opportunity Scholarship, contact


Bridging the gap between academia and practice, the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship addresses the issues affecting the real estate industry and the future of the built environment. Working in partnership with leading real estate developers, professionals, academics, and organizations in the Washington D.C. area, the Center develops relevant content for the business and education communities.