When Scott Roark joined the Department of Finance at the Haslam College of Business in fall of 2020, he brought more than 20 years of real estate and academic experience. He previously served on the faculty at Boise State University and Colorado State University (CSU) and was the director of the Everitt Real Estate Center at CSU.
Roark gained industry experience building a successful career in commercial real estate within asset management, portfolio management and acquisitions. This combination of experience makes Roark the ideal candidate for his current charge – to help build a real estate education program at Haslam.
“There are many opportunities in the real estate industry right now and a need for talent,” he says.
Roark is providing educational opportunities for students by crafting a three-course sequence in real estate. The classes include real estate principles and real estate finance, with a capstone course in the works.
In its first year, the principles of real estate class saw growing interest, with over 150 students enrolled. Almost half of the students from fall 2021 moved on to the second course.
Roark bolsters interest in the real estate courses with a real estate club. The active group gives students opportunities to network with alumni in the real estate industry by bringing in guest speakers or traveling to tour companies. This strategic push helps him grow budding student interest in the Haslam real estate program.
“That’s the key to building a program and pushing it beyond a three-course sequence,” he says.
Roark plans to see the three courses grow into an interdisciplinary minor or collateral in real estate. In addition to real estate and finance courses, a fully formed minor might include courses in geography, architecture, construction science, law and other disciplines.
“Real estate touches many industries,” says Roark. “There is a need for creativity, numbers, sales and much more. There’s so much more to it than selling houses, and real estate education can help show students these opportunities.”
Students are already gravitating toward the opportunities in Roark’s classes. “One of my students added a minor in geography because of its application to real estate,” he says. “It’s exciting to see this level of interest.”
To bring his plans for a minor or collateral to fruition, Roark is working to develop a mix of increasing student interest, support and resources.
“We have students enrolling in classes and support from the department and college,” Roark says. “Another big piece is outside involvement. We’ve had a dozen alumni come back to talk about their specialty and connect with students. Having people who are interested in investing in students and providing outside support is critical.”
This support has already opened opportunities for students in the form of internships and partial scholarships to fund commercial property valuation and asset management software certification courses for students. Future support could fund participation in national case competitions and provide internship and job opportunities that build a talent pipeline.
“Eventually we’d like to have a real estate center in Haslam,” says Roark. “We can create a hub of all things real estate for the University of Tennessee.”