As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the March issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Abigail Robertson.
Abigail joined Capstone in 2019 as an intern and upon graduation from Samford University in Spring 2020 she officially joined the company as a Development Associate. It is evident that Abigail has a deep interest in development and the educational path that she followed has equipped her to succeed within our company. Since joining the company full-time at the onset of the pandemic, she hasn’t yet had the chance to set foot on a University partner’s campus and experience hands-on student housing development, but she is anxious for the day when travel opens back up and she can join the development team in campus meetings.
Abigail Robertson, Development Associate
Samford University, Brock Scholars, Business Administration, Concentration in Economics, 2020
Where are you from originally? I was born in St. Louis and lived there until I was 7 and then moved to Augusta, GA and lived there for 12 years before graduating high school and moving to Birmingham, AL for college.
So, you went to Samford University, tell me a little bit about it. Samford is a private Christian school located in Birmingham, AL. Its enrollment is about 5,000 students total between undergrad and grad. My mom grew up in Birmingham, which is how I knew about Samford. I grew up visiting family here, so I knew I liked the city based on my visits. I went to a private Christian high school where a lot of students apply to both Samford and Covenant College, if you are looking for that sort of college environment. Ultimately, my college choice came down to Samford and UGA (University of Georgia). When I was looking at colleges, I knew I wanted a medium size school in a medium sized town; I didn’t want the big school in a small college town. My college counselor asked me if I wanted to be a small fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond and I knew I could just jump into Samford and make friends and get going a lot easier than at UGA. And I didn’t care too much about the college football aspect at UGA.
What is the Brock Scholars Program? At Samford, I was in the Brock Scholars program which is an honors program within the business school. The program is styled so that students base their studies within a certain discipline — mine was economics. A Brock Scholars student’s curriculum can be more flexible than the typical student and you can add classes from other schools across the campus. There are a lot of requirements for the program, including having internships or fellowships your sophomore, junior and senior years in addition to a year-long research project your senior year.
Did you live on-campus? Yes, during my freshman year I lived in the classic Samford girls’ dorm, named Vail which is located at the top of the hill of campus. Vail is a traditional dorm with community baths. I had a double occupancy unit, and we lofted our beds. The rest of my college career I live in the sorority house until I moved off-campus my senior year. So, your freshman year was probably your true experience in a traditional dorm. Was that building newer or older? Oh yeah, Vail is definitely an older building. Vail Hall and Smith Hall are the girls and guys dorms that have been around forever at Samford.
So, you said that you lived in a double-occupancy traditional unit your freshmen year. How did you get matched up with your roommate? I used an App called “Schools”. It basically felt like online dating. I went through people’s profiles and messaged the first person that I found who seemed like we would get along. She responded, and within a day we were roommates. We ended up joining the same sorority and having similar friends. It all worked out, in fact she and her (now) husband actually introduced me to my (now) fiancé. So, we’re all really close.
Did you work during college? Yes, I babysat a lot during college; mostly during freshmen and sophomore year. When I wasn’t babysitting I worked internships.
Spring of my sophomore year I had an internship at Innovation Depot’s Velocity Accelerator, – an entrepreneurial incubator program here in Birmingham.
Then, Summer of my sophomore year my parents had moved to Memphis, so I spent the summer there and got an internship with a commercial real estate brokerage & leasing firm, which was my first exposure to real estate. I really wasn’t thinking about pursuing a career in the commercial real estate industry but knew I was interested in learning more about community development. However, this internship connected my interest in community development to the commercial real estate industry because I was helping develop a new service line within the firm to focus on serving non-profits and other community-oriented organizations
Summer of my senior year I went to New York for my fellowship. In New York I interned for the appraisal side of Cushman and Wakefield. It was a best-case scenario for me, never having visited New York before, because, as interns, we would tag along for all of the appraisal inspections which included going to the roof of the building. I got some amazing views and pictures of the city, my favorite was a hoist ride to the top of the Central Park Tower! When on the tours I noticed I was interested in the developer’s role because they got to see the buildings from the initial idea to design to construction. I came back from that summer thinking, 1) I don’t want to live in New York and 2) I want to learn about development. It just so happened that when I got back to Birmingham, I saw a development internship with Capstone posted on Samford’s website. So that was the next step in my journey!
What was your favorite class from college? Another perk of the Brock Scholars program is that we got to create two, one-on-one classes with the professor of our choice. So, I did one with my economic professor, Dr. Carden, and I chose to go through the book “Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs. Every Wednesday afternoon we would meet and talk through questions we would develop as we were reading. The experience was great, because I was getting to refine my interest in community development, urban economics and commercial real estate and bring that to the real world, connecting economic theory to this book about New York in the 1960s.
Before working at Capstone, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had? I was introduced to Opportunity Alabama during my senior year. It was a really interesting job because it is a startup and with that comes a young, fast-paced environment. Did you get to travel and scout out the areas that were being investigated as part of the Opportunity Zones you were identifying? Yes. At that time, we had just launched the Rural Recovery Accelerator Program, which came out of an idea spurred during the COVID pandemic. The idea was to go to rural counties in Alabama and do a 6-8 week accelerator program to strategize how the community could recover from the pandemic while also teeing up projects that would bring economic development to that county. Our team traveled to 6 different counties in our first cohort, meeting with various leaders from the county. By the end of the 8 weeks, we had set a plan for that particular community which would including data collection and sourcing investors and developers.
What do you do in your free time? I’m kind of a serial hobbyist, and I am currently learning to sew and crochet. Oh, are you mending or creating new clothes? One of the reasons I got into sewing is because I wanted my clothes to fit exactly how I wanted them to. But I also wanted to get to a point where I could make my own clothes. Currently, I can make a bag and scrunchies. I can also do some (loose) mending. On the crocheting front, I’ve made baskets, keychains and coasters.
What do you enjoy most about working on college campuses? Being that I started at Capstone amidst the pandemic, I am yet to set foot on a college campus that we’ve worked on, but I really look forward to the day that I get to see a building that I helped build. I’ve been told it’s a really rewarding experience. I hope I get to do that soon.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Fall of my junior year I went to London to study abroad with a program called CAPA. I would want to go to London with my fiancé, family and close friends. We would just have a day in London, riding the tube around to all the different boroughs. London seems like it really made an impression on you. Yes, I really enjoyed my study abroad time in London, because it felt like a bunch of different cities in one. Each borough had its own personality.