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Like clockwork, Jessica Evans ’24 landed on the President’s List every semester during her undergraduate years at SUNY Potsdam. The high-achieving graduate recently received her degree in business administration and launched a career as a real estate agent and freelance photographer—two professions that she said will afford her the perfect work-life balance. 

“My goal is to split my life with photography and real estate, because I can make my own schedule for both. If I need time off for my family, or if I need to go somewhere, or visit someone, I have that flexibility,” Evans said.

After taking college-level courses in high school and then summer classes in college two years in a row, Evans was able to complete her degree at SUNY Potsdam in just three years. During that time, she also enrolled in a rigorous 77-hour New York Pre-License Course to achieve her goal of becoming a real estate agent.

“I would describe myself as a go-getter. I really want to get things done. I’ve always been trying to keep myself ahead of the game,” she said.

At the encouragement of Dr. Ed Portugal, a professor in the Department of Business Administration, she completed an independent study course with Assistant Professor Dr. Savita Hanspal to receive college credit for the 77-hour online real estate course. “I was taking four classes, along with that real estate course. It was definitely a lot. It involved writing some additional papers, and I researched how real estate has changed over the last couple of years to satisfy a final grade,” she said.

During her final semester at SUNY Potsdam, Evans passed the New York Real Estate Exam and is now a licensed real estate salesperson sponsored by Sandstone Realty. “I’ve always had a desire to do real estate, and I’ve always wanted a business degree because it’s very versatile and I can go a lot of different directions with it,” Evans said.

jessica evans holding her camera
Photo by Julia Kia Photography

Her other venture, a photography business that she established as an LLC in 2022, involves both creativity and business skills like as marketing, accounting, and interacting with clients. “My marketing classes have always talked about your target audience, so I keep that in mind when advertising. I’ve also learned how to communicate with people through other experiences. I’m a server at Jake’s on the Water, in Hannawa Falls, N.Y., where I work with people every day, so I think that really helped me develop my social skills, communicate with people, and schedule photo shoots,” she said.

Evans continued to develop her two career interests during her time at SUNY Potsdam by working with dynamic professors like Dr. Portugal. She enrolled in his Entrepreneurship class, and then during her final semester, she completed Strategic and Global Management—an upper-level course that culminates with students pitching product ideas to a panel of judges. In preparation, Evans and her classmates researched product ideas and chose a target market, before pitching their product to a panel of judges, like on an episode of “Shark Tank.”

“What we learned in Strategic and Global Management relates well to me because I’m selling a service to people as a photographer, and I can keep in mind the importance of my target market. We focus on our cost structure and revenue streams, who our key competitors will be, and all the 13 components of a business structure,” she explained. 

Evans grew up in Waddington, N.Y., just 30 minutes from campus. When she was trying to select her top college choices, she was drawn to SUNY Potsdam because it was close to home, her mother attended the College, and for the outstanding student-faculty interaction. “I wanted to be close to my family, but I wanted to be on my own too. My mom went here as well, and she really enjoyed SUNY Potsdam. There’s more one-on-one with teachers because it’s a small school. You are known and you know everybody,” she said.

After growing up in the North Country, and receiving her bachelor’s degree, she is now looking forward to exploring other parts of the country. Her sister moved to Florida after receiving her MBA from Clarkson University, and Evans plans to join her later this year to continue her freelance photography business and work as a real estate agent. As she builds on the foundational skills she developed at SUNY Potsdam, she reflects on the impact of her professors over the years.

“I had close relationships with my teachers. Dr. Portugal was one of my favorite professors. I like how his classes were very hands-on. I would meet with Dr. Portugal in his office if I needed help with an assignment or wanted to talk about product ideas,” she said. “Same thing with Dr. Hanspal. Now I have that more personal connection with her about the real estate market too because she is also a real estate broker, so I was able to discuss personal things along with school-related topics.”

Article by Jason Hunter. Top image by Jesstine Avadikian