Campus schools offer real estate program for graduate students

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UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley School of Law launched a real estate certificate program aimed at training graduate students to face the challenges of modern urban development.

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate, launched in spring, is open to all graduate students and is composed of courses in planning and design, financial and market analysis, the legal foundations of construction and transaction and housing and land use policy.

“We’re training people to run the operating companies of the future, the future skylines of America — you have to understand these three fields,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor at Haas and co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. “They give people a really solid degree preparation rather than an add-on or two. Putting people together in this melting pot is an important, valuable thing.”

The program design is the result of negotiations among the deans, faculty and students from each school and represents a move by the university to encourage cross-disciplinary education. The broad scope of the program better represents the diverse responsibilities of professionals in the industry, Wallace said.

Kathleen Pera, graduate student affairs officer in the department of city and regional planning, said the program was also a response to student demands.

“They wanted their interest in real estate to be recognized by the university,” Pera said.

Students previously created groups to support their interests in real estate such as the Berkeley Real Estate Club, which has participated in various real estate case competitions.

“My peers and I really appreciate the opportunity to bring experts from other disciplines into our classrooms, and occasionally to study in theirs,” said Lach Litwer, a graduate student at Haas who is currently participating in the program, in an email. “This intellectual cross-pollination results in a better rounded perspective well suited to the types of challenges we hope to address.”

The program’s requirements vary by school. Each requires specific classes within the other two disciplines, as well as participation in a detailed group project or an approved real estate competition.

John Protopappas, a UC Berkeley alumnus and president and CEO of Madison Park Financial Corporation, the only real estate firm to bring a new apartment product to Oakland’s housing market in 2013, said the area’s real estate field needs individuals with diverse skills to see the larger set of issues.

“(The program) is going to be great for our community because the more that we can understand and share about the development process, the more it will benefit our community,” Protopappas said. “The more skills individuals can obtain at university level, the faster those skills can be implemented and affect the quality of the projects.”

Contact Isaac Smith at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @IsaacGSmith.