Building Up Real Estate

In response to growing demand from students and employers, the Haslam College of Business is building a real estate program. The Department of Finance recently hired Scott Roark as a clinical associate professor to lead the endeavor. With Roark at the helm, the department has created a new series of real estate courses, plans for a certificate program, and a real estate club for students.

Department Head Tracie Woidtke, the Sharp/Home Federal Bank Professor, said students have expressed great interest in the plan of study, especially in commercial real estate. While real estate pairs well with other offerings in finance, she says there’s potential for expanding to a cross-disciplinary degree or graduate program in the future. “We’ll continue to assess the demand, evaluate the skills needed, and grow from there,” Woidtke says.

Benjamin Spears, a senior in supply chain management and finance who’s interested in real estate development, is ready for the new emphasis area. “I decided to help start the real estate club,” he says. “I’m excited to see future students gaining more opportunities in this area.”

Certificate Program and Collateral

The college’s existing course in real estate has been reworked and two more added to create a series of three. The first course will offer a basic introduction to the field, followed by a course on real estate finance and investment analysis, and finally a capstone with experiential learning elements. “It’s going to be very hands-on,” says Roark. “Students will participate in at least two national real estate competitions as part of the capstone.” The competitions ask teams of students to create or analyze a real estate project and present their plans to a panel of real estate experts.

All three courses are now approved, and students can take them in a series beginning in the fall. Upon completion of the series, they will receive a real estate certificate. The department also is pursuing the possibility of offering a real estate collateral.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Roark and a small group of students, including Spears, started a real estate club last year with the goal of providing more exposure and experiential learning opportunities for current students. In their bimonthly meetings, the club invites real estate professionals to speak to students. “In the future, we also hope to bring back Haslam alumni to pitch what they’re doing and drum up interest in real estate careers,” says Roark. “Alumni involvement and financial support will be essential to what we do with real estate at the college.”

Students also have the opportunity to learn the basics of ARGUS commercial real estate modeling software. Roark hopes to provide a certification course for the software because those skills are in high demand in the industry, particularly in larger real estate markets. “If students are wanting to work in big markets such as Nashville or Atlanta, knowing ARGUS is a necessity,” he says.

Case competition opportunities will continue to be offered to interested students, whether or not they’re enrolled in the capstone course.

Roark sees a strong employer demand for graduates who understand real estate. “It represents about 25 percent of the economy, so there are lots of jobs out there,” he says.

Stephen L. Mangum, dean and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair, notes that Haslam has a geographic advantage in the field. “Many of the nation’s fastest growing real estate markets are in our region,” Mangum says. “We’re excited to give students high-quality exposure to the real estate industry and to alumni who are excelling in this economic sector.”

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