Creighton's jesuit values motivated this alumnus to seek a greater purpose in providing accessible and affordable housing to the Omaha community

Apr 28, 2023

Rob Woodling, BSBA'99, wanted to create an organization that focused on serving others, impacting communities around him and involved aspects of Jesuit values he was so inspired by thanks to Creighton. In 2006, Woodling did just that by opening Foundations Development, which seeks to consulting and turnkey development for affordable housing projects.

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I was just trying to find my fit. The business curriculum at Creighton was great and completely set me up for the future. 

Rob Woodling, BSBA'99

The Jesuit values instilled in Rob Woodling, BSBA’99, during his time at Creighton inspired him to start an organization that would serve others. An organization that would impact communities. One that would give him a chance to live those values day-in and day-out. 

So, in 2006, the Heider College of Business graduate launched Foundations Development with the goal of providing consulting and turnkey development for affordable housing projects.  

Rob Woodling, BSBA'99

Affordable housing has been an important element of community and economic development for years, but recently has generated more mainstream awareness. The City of Omaha and the Greater Omaha Chamber have identified affordable housing as key components of future growth. 

“Affordable housing has many different definitions,” Woodling says. “The piece that I really focus on is providing rental housing for people in the lowest quarter of the wage-earning spectrum.” 

A typical Foundations Development project creates opportunities for seniors, low- and moderate-income families and individuals with special needs. One example is an extension of Bethlehem House’s after-care program. Bethlehem House creates stability for pregnant women who don’t have strong support networks. Woodling’s team developed an apartment building next to Bethlehem House where these new mothers can live at affordable rents. 

Stories like these fuel Woodling. He loves to hear about the access his developments create—a first-time homeowner able to purchase a rent-to-own property; a family reconnected in an apartment with enough space for everyone.  

Real estate development may seem like an unexpected vocation for someone with an accounting degree. Woodling, however, uses his education as a unique advantage. One of the challenges with developing affordable housing is the reliance on government to play a role in the process. That entails quite a bit of compliance and policy navigation.  

That’s where his accounting degree comes in, Woodling says.  

“I work with a federal tax credit that gets allocated to each state,” Woodling says. “Then each state crafts its own plan based upon need.”  

Woodland holds one of the highest success rates in the state for application approvals. Over the past 17 years, he has developed nearly $160,000,000 of affordable housing, creating over 825 units in Nebraska and Iowa.  

Woodling’s time at Creighton wasn’t a straight-forward path. He explored multiple areas of study, including law, medicine and theology. It was when he landed in accounting, for the second time, that his interest stuck. 

“I was just trying to find my fit,” says Woodling. “The business curriculum at Creighton was great and completely set me up for the future.” 

At Creighton, Woodling learned the important elements of how to run his own business. He has worn many hats as the leader of a small company, from human resources to finance to operations.  

Woodling recalls former faculty member Tom Lewis as being an important figure in his accounting education. 

“He was firm but fair. You had to be prepared and on your toes every day. It made me better,” says Woodling. 

While at Creighton, Woodling was an active part of campus ministry and service opportunities. He recalled one spring break service trip when he joined a group going to Colorado to paint houses and other volunteer work.  

“Things like that were really formational for me,” says Woodling. “I still have pictures in my office that I took on that trip for a photography class.”  

That sense of service extends into many areas of his life. Woodling just wrapped up a six-year term on the Omaha Municipal Land Banks, as well as a one-year engagement with a statewide commission on affordable housing. He is also a trustee for Creighton Prep and Mary Our Queen Catholic Church. 

Service in his professional life. Service in his personal life. It's a fusion Woodling has cultivated since his time at Creighton. 

“I can’t stress enough how meaningful it is in my life to have the combination of excellent academics and excellent personal development from Creighton,” says Woodling. “Technical skills paired with giving a darn about the rest of the world. It’s a powerful combination.”