September 30, 2021 • By Eliana Chow
The son of a residential developer, Charlie Jackson FEMBA ’21, was 15 years old when he first dreamed of pursuing a career in real estate. After graduating from college, he moved closer to making his dream a reality when he accepted a job as an assistant superintendent for a local home builder, a natural fit given his affinity for constructing things.
“When my company promoted me to an office role, I went kicking and screaming,” he remembers. But the office provided a brand-new world of opportunity for Jackson, who didn’t let a desk job hamper his passion for providing shelter for families across the Pacific Coast. “Ultimately, whether you’re onsite or behind a computer screen, you’re helping to create spaces where people live, dream and form meaningful memories,” he says. “It’s deeply rewarding for me to participate in molding those places.”
In 2018, Jackson stepped into his current role as Director of Land Acquisitions for California Pacific Homes. Although he has always prioritized on-the-job experience, the idea of returning to the classroom for an MBA was always in the back of his mind. “When I started this new role at California Pacific, I realized I needed to continue finding ways to grow and push myself, so that when I did venture out on my own, I would be fully prepared,” he says.
The UCI Paul Merage School of Business presented the exact environment Jackson needed to achieve this growth. With the campus just around the corner from his home in Orange County, he benefited from an accessible commute between home, work and school. And as the inaugural recipient of the Halford Family & Bixby Land Company Student Award, many of his academic expenses were lifted from his shoulders. “There are a lot of ancillary expenses that come with getting an MBA, such as textbooks and technology, and the Halford scholarship gave me the peace of mind I needed to pursue my degree while fully employed,” Jackson affirms.
Throughout his program, Jackson appreciated the opportunity to explore topics in real estate he wouldn’t normally encounter in his day job. “I don’t think about industrial, retail or self-storage developments on a regular basis, so it was enlightening to learn about the different thought leadership in those sectors,” he explains. Jackson was also grateful to be surrounded by other growing professionals in a classroom setting motivated by curiosity. “It’s always refreshing to spend time with driven and intelligent people who are also trying to better themselves,” he says.
In recognition of the value his MBA degree provided, Jackson helped advise Lambda Alpha International, a society dedicated to anyone involved in the development or use of land, in creating a scholarship with the Merage School’s Center for Real Estate. The scholarship comes with a one-year membership in Lambda Alpha, allowing recipients to participate in monthly lunch meetings, attend small panels with experts in the field and help organize speaking events across the country. “It’s essential for organizations like Lambda Alpha to listen to the unique perspectives of younger professionals in the industry,” Jackson affirms.
Historically known for requiring new members to have at least ten years of professional experience under their belt, the organization welcomed Jackson as their youngest member several years ago, seeking to build a cohort of younger contributing voices. “While I was at UCI, Lambda Alpha’s leadership asked me where they could find more people like me,” he recalls. “I mentioned that Merage’s real estate program was a perfect source for finding bright individuals committed to advancing their career in the industry.”
Now that he’s completed the Fully Employed MBA program, Jackson is taking time to rest before making his next career move. “I promised my wife that I would spend this summer not thinking too hard about what my next steps will be,” he admits. “I want to enjoy these few months simply working and spending time with the people I love. But eventually, I’m going to find a way to start my own company. After exploring my options alongside the Merage School’s excellent faculty and students, that option has looked more and more enticing.”