“The Diploma Was Just a Small Part of What the Burns School Experience Meant for Me”


“Since I was a young girl, I envisioned myself living out West and exploring the land. I knew it was time. I gave up my six-figure job of ten years. My boyfriend and I broke up. I was stressed out. I felt physically sick from years of commuting 120 miles every day to a place that diminished my happiness. So, I mustered up the strength the day after my best friend’s wedding on September 18th, 2016, and off I went…” –Taylor Iascone

Termed by Daniels faculty at the Burns School, a student superstar, Taylor Iascone leaned back in her chair and smiled at the memory; “It started with an epiphany. One day I looked out of my office window and thought, there is a whole built environment out there. Yet, here I am, in one city (Boston), spending my career on just 43 of those buildings. I re-imagined myself as a global thinker, an influencer.”


Hitting the Glass Ceiling…Hard

By most measures, Taylor Iascone was a success. Her title was Associate Director of Facilities for Berklee College of Music. She managed: a crew of 60 custodians and monitors for 43 buildings 24/7, 365 days a year; ground-up construction of a 175,000 square foot multi-use LEED Gold building; and programs for work orders, preventative and deferred maintenance, a furniture inventory surplus database, and capital forecasting. “My direct report was the subsequent decision maker. The real work fell on me. As time passed and business changed I noticed a shift. But I would still walk into his office and make recommendations based on reality and new possibilities, but always seem to get a “no” or some sort of excuse. I didn’t like no. I didn’t believe in no. Actually, after a while no didn’t really exist for me.” Anger built up as Taylor’s innovative ideas were continuously ignored. Taylor transformed her frustrations into motivation.


Taylor Plans Her Escape

“Three years before I turned in my resignation, I started a plan. I started to realize that academia was the only path. I had an undergraduate degree. I knew the power Universities had on connecting like-minded individuals. Universities are information hubs and have a world of connections. I trusted that an advanced degree would move my career in the direction I needed it to go – and that is exactly what happened.”


Taylor Selects DU’s Burns School of Real Estate and the Built Environment

Taylor began making phone calls to real estate and construction management schools all over the U.S. One day, she called the Burns School main office. The person who answered said she would have “Barb” call her back.

“Somehow, some way, by a stroke of luck, Dr. Barbara Jackson, the director of the program called me,” remembers Taylor. “Two and a half years ago she called, and I still remember it. We had an amazing 25 minutes together. Everything I was wishing for she was talking about in the first five minutes. I thought this woman was either telepathic or we just think alike. Which was surprising coming from a mind that always felt like she didn’t truly fit in or was understood. But, Barb was an amazing listener. I did most of the talking and she just understood me. That’s what I was looking for…an understanding. She didn’t try to sell me on the school. Instead, she listened for what would best serve me and my goals. I understood the curriculum was tailored to the student and I did my due diligence. Barb recognized the challenge and the strain in my voice. She understood the limitations at my job and the dire need for a new opportunity to support and broaden my thirst to impact the industry. She explained how the program is about making an impact on people’s lives that care enough to make the commitment to change their lives…everything made complete sense. It was then I knew my life was about to change…”

“I continued my calls to other programs, but my experience with other schools was markedly different. One school turned me down for being 25 points under their GMAT test score requirement. Another directed me to their real estate certificate program – build your network that way. They all knew I was clearly out to maximize myself and my opportunities, but could not break the institutional mold.”

In just 25 minutes, I had developed a great respect for Barb and her work, which continues to this day. I chose Burns.”


Ultimately – CityCraft

“So essentially, I just waited 5 years to be in this class, CityCraft. Finally. Now, this is exactly how I think!” Taylor laughs. “CityCraft is why I have more confidence in my thinking, a better understanding of myself. I am clearer. I am mentally stimulated on the subject. So many great things came out of that three-month course. I kept telling Barb, I wish I had taken it first.”

CityCraft is a Burns course taught by John Knott, who insists he is neither a professor or even a teacher. Living in South Carolina, Knott commutes to teach the class with 9 half and full day sessions. His technique is conversational.

“He, like Barb, is a listener…a great listener.” Taylor observes.  “I found that Barb’s open-mindedness and innovative approach – is emotional intelligence – permeates all of Burns’ faculty and coursework. CityCraft goes a little further. John did not tell us what to do. We did it. We did it through his conversations with us. Very philosophical. Principles-based. CityCraft creates thinking. In the beginning, we thought – what is going on here? We all had so many questions. By day one we had to have read 2 books: Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King and Cathedral: The Story of its Construction  by David Macaulay, which was sort of a children’s book.”


CityCraft Drew More Out of Us Than We Thought We Had

“The classroom was strategically chosen and set up in a U shape where we all faced each other. Were students hand-picked? I don’t know. But we all seemed to have the same core – adversity and drive – that made us all relatable. We studied a finished project, Noisette in South Carolina, and one project in process, West Denver. CityCraft is much more than city planning. It is a collaborative integrative systematic approach to the global impacts of real estate. It incorporates a framework encapsulating the social, environmental, and financial constraints on the built environment. This class enabled us to develop platforms that transformed bio regions. The integration and interplay of so many layers required an enormous amount of thinking and rethinking. For the three teams in the class it was not work, it was pure fun and drew more out of us than we thought we had.”

The Diploma Was Just a Small Part

“In considering what I got out of my experience with Burns,” Taylor assessed, “The diploma was very important, yes, but less than a third for me. More important were the many connections that grew into significant relationships, my new found mental clarity through CityCraft, and the knowledge to understand the next steps in my purpose. I spent months job searching and finally felt I could relate to a company that was actively addressing my new found beliefs in real estate. I accepted my position at a national firm, Swinerton Builders, where I am now working as a Project Engineer on the Google project in Boulder, via a connection made through Burns. And most importantly, was my personal growth into that confident thinker, that influencer that I first envisioned for myself. My Burns education was now a huge part of my life’s purpose and continuously brings innovation my way.”