Single mother of three prepares for fresh start as MBA in real estate graduate
Before serious trouble began, Saleen Graham, 43, had an elevator speech in which she introduced herself as someone who understood the international real estate scene, working with developers for years in Central America.
As the single mother of three prepares to cross the stage of the Auditorium Theatre on Dec. 13 when she will receive an MBA degree in real estate, a more mature and wise Graham is preparing for the real estate job market with a new elevator speech.
It includes Graham’s understanding of international real estate, her newfound interest in sustainable, green development and a demeanor full of life experience, notably the hard times she and her family went through beginning in 2008.
“I learned to be humble,” said Graham, a long-time Minooka, Ill., resident who decided to leave her sales job working with real estate developers in Central America so she could care for her 10-year-old son, Jimmy Martire, who was diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Shortly after leaving her job, the recession hit, Graham was unable to get back on her feet in the real estate field. Times got so bad, in fact, that she found herself relying on neighbors in Minooka for food and other support for Martire, now 15 years of age and in remission from cancer, as well as Graham’s two other sons, who are now ages 18 and 24.
“I never understood the kindness of people until all of this happened,” said Graham, whose family received home-delivered meals, help around the house, as well as gifts and gift cards. Graham, who was renting with an option to buy in Minooka, lost the home because of the hard times.
She and her sons now live in Lockport, Ill., and Graham believes she is stronger today as a person and job candidate in part because of her MBA in real estate from Roosevelt University. “I can only hope to start anew, get back on my feet and be able to give back,” she said.
One of her Roosevelt real estate professors, Sofia Dermisi, said: “Saleen is dedicated and conscientious. She always strives for success and is highly inquisitive. She is also experienced in various areas of business and doesn’t waiver in front of a challenge, which is what makes people successful.”
“I never thought I could do graduate-level work,” added Graham, “but I ended up doing well and learning a lot, including finding that I have a strong interest in being involved with green building and sustainable projects,” said Graham, who would like to work guiding builders and developers through the process of being environmentally responsible, advising them how to get the most out of their investment in green building.
“Because of the support I received at Roosevelt, I am now ready to re-enter the real estate job market with a new set of skills. I also have a new elevator speech in which I can talk not only about my background in real estate but also my MBA degree and interest in sustainable development that I got as a student at Roosevelt.”