When Matthew Chmielewski, ’12, set his sights on a career in commercial real estate, he knew that his major in business administration with a concentration in finance would be a great start.

“It’s important to have good knowledge of business,” he says. “Commercial real estate moves more quickly than residential, so you have to have a good foundation in finance and how it works.”

But Chmielewski’s student coordinator position with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has given him experiences and insight that also will serve him well. As part of his financial aid package, he was eligible to apply for the position through the University’s Federal Work Study program. Chmielewski has been assisting Dr. John V. Moeser, a senior fellow at the CCE, in gathering and organizing data on poverty in the Richmond area.

“We’re gathering information on the demographics of race, education, transportation options, that sort of thing,” he says. “I am calculating the data that we find to see how they relate to one another in the city and in the suburbs.”

Chmielewski says that the experience has given him more than just knowledge of urban settings; it has also helped to prepare him for the day-to-day dynamics of professional life.

“This project has given me an opportunity to work one-on-one with someone,” he says. “I am accountable for the work I do and I know that it means something.”

Inspired by Moeser’s research, Chmielewski applied for his own summer research fellowship. His proposal was accepted, so when the spring semester winds down, he will begin research on the disparities among home rental rates, average incomes, and other economic factors for residents of the Richmond area.

Chmielewski also works in the community through his participation in the College Mentoring Project, a CCE program that sends UR students to offer guidance to area high school students. Every other Monday, goes to John Marshall High School where he helps students define and reach their higher education goals.

“These are students who have been hand-picked for their potential to succeed in college, but who may not know how to go about applying or getting financial aid,” he says. “I wish I’d had a program like this when I was in high school.”

Chmielewski, who attended Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg, Va., says that his own experiences have helped him be a better adviser to the students with whom he works. His transfer just last fall — from Virginia Commonwealth University to UR — is of particular interest.

“I think there’s a common misconception that private equals expensive,” he says. “But that’s not necessarily the case. With the opportunities I’ve had here at UR, I’m spending the same amount for my education as I was before I transferred. And I didn’t even have access to the same scholarships that first-year students can get.”

That pleasant surprise is something he’s passing on to the students he mentors.

“The main thing,” he says, “is not to put limits on yourself. There’s so much time and opportunity to change things.”