When University of San Diego alum Renee Savage ’88 (BBA) moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to attend USD and get a degree in business administration, she had no intention of pursuing a career in real estate. Little did she know while attending college that she would be so involved with her alma mater later in her career, or that she would be listed as a “Woman Changing the World of Real Estate Management” in the Institute of Real Estate Management’s national journal, The Journal of Property Management, due to her outstanding student outreach and for mentoring young professionals in the real estate industry.
After graduating from USD in 1988, Savage went to USD’s Career Center and saw an opening for an assistant property manager position at Capital Growth Properties, Inc., a full service real estate company that focuses on property management, investment brokerage and commercial leasing. Although she wasn’t sure what a property manager was at the time, she thought the position sounded interesting and applied. In doing so she stumbled across a career that she loves. Now having been with the company for almost 24 years, Savage is its senior vice president for property management. She leads six regional property managers, their teams, and the accounting department in the management of over 100 residential and commercial properties in San Diego County, among other responsibilities.
When not working or spending time with her husband and two teenage children, Savage fills much of her calendar with engagements from local professional organizations with which she is involved. She is a past president of the San Diego County Apartment Association (SDCAA) and of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), and held many positions with these organizations and others over the past decade. She now focuses primarily on student and academic outreach with IREM, and is the chair of the San Diego Chapter’s Student and Academic Outreach committee. Savage is also a past chair of the National Student and Academic Outreach Board, where she is still a board member. Savage also serves on the Policy Advisory Board Commercial Real Estate Committee of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.
In 2009, when she was serving as IREM San Diego’s president, she thought that the organization should start reaching out to the future of the industry—students. Her outreach started with introducing students to property management as a career, but she has also found time over the years to assist young professionals in the areas of networking, finding jobs and internships and career advice. Not only has Savage helped students from USD, but also from the three other local universities, where she attends networking events and national conferences. She helps fund students so they can attend events, speaks on panels at Real Estate Society Meetings, conducts informational interviews and introduces students to her connections in other areas of real estate. She has also participated in USD’s Real Estate Career Expo—her last two hires at Capital Growth Properties, Inc. have been USD graduates—and in USD’s Mentor Program, over the past several years.
“I have to say, they need to have thick skin with me!,” she says of her relationships with the students she mentors. “I am a straight shooter so if I think their handshake stinks I tell them straight out, not to embarrass them but make them better.”
Savage says the highlight of her student outreach has been watching students take her advice and apply it to become more polished, see them grow, become excited about fields they are passionate about and ultimately find jobs they love.
Savage also treasures her experiences giving back to USD, and says that “being involved with USD and the Center is a beautiful balance of give and take.”
“As alums, we have so much to offer that can help make USD students successful. We can truly make a difference in their lives if we just give them a bit of our time.” She also adds, “On the professional side, I have hired some amazing recent graduates that have made me a better leader, our team better and overall made our company more successful.”
Asked about the best piece of career advice she’s ever received, she says “to always, always give 100 percent in everything you do and to always be honest and ethical in your business dealings, even when no one is watching. Hard work and doing what is right are two key elements that can help make you successful.”