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BOMA/Chicago Education Committee Profile

By Susan Hammer, BOMA/Chicago Education Committee Chair and Vice President/General Manager at AMA Plaza


Sir Isaac Newton once said: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”  This philosophy is what drives BOMA/Chicago’s Education Committee to develop diverse and engaging education programs for BOMA/Chicago members.

BOMA/Chicago’s Education Committee is made up of a group of seasoned professionals – both Building and Affiliate Members – who are committed to education and professional development.  The group’s mindset is that education creates value for the real estate industry and serves as the foundation for future leaders, innovators and teachers. Education also increases personal satisfaction and is a tangible way to measure achievement, while providing avenues for personal and professional growth and increasing credibility, respect and acceptance.

With a focus on designation courses, educational scholarships, Lunch & Learn programs and professional development, the Committee is always seeking out ways to encourage continuing education of building professionals on all experience levels. Over the last year, the committee has promoted designation programs to industry leaders to share the benefits of investing in designation programs for their employees.

In 2018, five RPA/FMA/HP designation courses were offered, along with the Foundations of Real Estate program. Due to our renewed promotional efforts, we experienced an average increase in enrollment this year for RPA/FMA courses of 92 percent.

Even as the committee is committed to encouraging building owners and other decision makers to support RPA/FMA programs, it is still a work in progress.  In the meantime, there are so many emerging professionals who have shown a love for real estate and property management who want to keep increasing their knowledge and professional profile but are unable to pay for the courses personally.  By offering designation scholarships, a worthy applicant can receive a full RPA along with all of the recognition of receiving the scholarship.

Over the years, applications for the designation scholarships have increased as more people have become aware of the benefits. An average of eight applications were reviewed in each of the last six years. In total, we have awarded eight Full Designation Scholarships, in addition to awarding fourteen Single Designation Course Scholarships since 2008. The Ollie Scholarship, which started in 2006, has been awarded to sixteen people. Several past recipients of this scholarship are leaders in their firms and in the Chicago real estate community, including chairing BOMA/Chicago committees.

Our Lunch & Learn programs, hosted by Affiliate Members, provide opportunities for important interactions between affiliates members and property managers and leverages the expertise of the affiliates to bring awareness of new technologies, trends, strategies, regulations and best practices. These programs are free for all members to attend and allow Affiliate Members an opportunity to share best practices and industry knowledge with our Building Members.

This year, we hosted nine Lunch & Learn programs, and experienced a 10 percent increase in attendance compared to last year. Two of our Lunch & Learn programs – BOMA 2017 Building Measurement Standards and Construction Drawings 101 – each drew over 70 attendees. Other topics included Workplace Violence Prevention, Parking repair programs, a BOMA 360 seminar and emotional intelligence.

Another Lunch & Learn seminar and regular favorite is the TOBY Best Practices program that encourages participation in the TOBY Awards Program. Over 300 people have attended this seminar since its inception in 2012. This seminar was also recognized by BOMA International and presented at the BOMA Conference in San Antonio this past year with over 80 people in attendance and will be reprised at the Conference in Salt Lake City in 2019.

All Affiliate Members are encouraged to apply to host a Lunch & Learn seminar. The Committee reviews every application to ensure the topic is relevant and the material is relatable to the audience. We also provide recommendations to the affiliates about ways to improve the presentation and help to customize the material to the audience.

The committee also makes efforts to grow our offerings year after year. This past year we have expanded from traditional presentations to providing seminars in relationship management and promoting new courses and designations such as the High Performance (HP) courses. And in May 2018, the committee launched a voluntary mentorship program for enrolled RPA/FMA designation students. The program matched four RPA/FMA students with RPA/FMA recipients with the following goals in mind: keeping students on track, working through challenges, maintaining program engagement and knowledge sharing.

As we all look to 2019, we are reaching out to BOMA/Chicago Board members and other industry leaders to solicit feedback about additional hot topics of interest for members. One such topics we hear about often is the development of curated programs for tenants. In the perpetual goal to retain and attract tenants, commercial real estate appears to be moving beyond the amenities race to finding unique ways to engage and involve tenants. Building occupants are becoming a community in and of itself and innovative programming is driving the culture.

Other future topics may center around how the current political climate – local, state, national and international will impact operations and investment activity. Finally, there will always be a new technology, idea, or service that will arise that will help property management teams operate buildings more efficiently and safely – even though it is not yet apparent, we need to be on the alert to present it to our members as quickly as it becomes known.

The Education Committee welcomes new ideas and feedback from all of our members. What topics are you interested in learning more about in 2019? Leave a reply below to tell us more.