Collins Fellowship helps ease way for graduate students heading into real estate careers

When Peter (FIN ’92/MBA ’97) and Jennifer Collins (COMM ’93/J.D. ’97) made their most recent of several gifts to Florida State University, they wanted it to make a real difference and have a direct impact. They’ve succeeded with the creation of the Peter and Jennifer Collins Real Estate Graduate Fellowship at the College of Business.

The endowed fellowship is awarded each year to two hardworking College of Business graduate students who are excelling in their pursuit of either a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degree, can most benefit from extra financial support and who are headed for careers in general real estate or real estate finance.

The Collins’ efforts go much further than financial support.

“We wanted to make a different kind of impact by exposing students to the real estate industry and, as important, exposing the industry to FSU’s top-ranked real estate program and students who can add value to the industry,” said Peter Collins, co-founder and managing principal of Forge Capital Partners LLC. “I also wanted to be involved in helping mentor the students and even helping place them in jobs upon graduation.”  

Grant Morris (BS FIN ’16 and MSF ’17) and Andrew Wilson (BS REE/FIN ’15 and MSF ’16) were among the first to benefit, not only from the fellowship, but also from Collins’ mentorship and efforts to introduce them to movers and shakers in real estate. 

“The Collins fellowship made my experience in the MSF program financially possible,” said Wilson, a financial analyst in commercial real estate at Wells Fargo in Atlanta. “But beyond helping me obtain my degree, Mr. Collins was instrumental in helping me network with other industry professionals as he personally took the time and made the effort to connect me with his colleagues. I would not have my current job if it were not for the fellowship and the mentorship that I received along with it.”

Though Collins has been actively involved with the FSU Real Estate Center for years, his interest intensified when he co-hosted a breakfast at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Convention in Orlando in 2014 with FSU graduates Brent Sembler (BS Communication Studies) and Beth Azor (BA English Literature), who play major roles in shopping center development and management. The event’s goal was to introduce the FSU Real Estate Program and students to top companies, like Wells Fargo, who had previously not recruited from FSU. Wells Fargo and other firms now compete annually for talented FSU finance and real estate students.

The Collins Fellowship came along at just the right time for Morris, who had depleted his savings and taken out a loan to pay for out-of-state graduate tuition and living expenses.

“The fellowship helped me reduce the amount of money I had to borrow and allowed me to concentrate on my studies, to become involved with the real estate center and to attend real estate conferences to take advantage of networking opportunities,” Morris said. “Mr. Collins has offered help whenever possible. He even reached out to me when there was an opening in his firm, and I was grateful for that.”

Collins credits one of the college’s former deans, Melvin Stith, with opening the door for him by recommending him for an open position at a private equity firm in 1997. Since co-founding his own firm in 2001, Collins has overseen the acquisition and management of more than $1.5 billion in real estate and corporate transactions, including more than 8 million square feet of commercial, office and multi-family residential real estate.

Along with his fellowship and mentoring efforts, Collins says he is focusing on building a network of FSU real estate graduates who in turn will offer connections and set others on the track to successful real estate careers.

Collins also is a member of the FSU Foundation Board of Trustees, chairs the Advisory Board of the State of Florida Pension Fund and serves as a board trustee for the Boys Scouts of America National Foundation.

For information about the Peter and Jennifer Collins Real Estate Graduate Fellowship, please contact Ryan Dietz, senior development officer and director for external relations at the FSU Real Estate Center, at

By Barbara Ash