Signaling possible growth ahead, the University of San Diego has elevated its real estate program to a real estate department within its School of Business. The move was effective July 1.

Tim Keane, dean of the school, likened the moment to when a family business reaches a certain stage of growth and has to decide whether it stays family-owned or not.

The real estate department has four full-time faculty members as well as affiliated faculty. It offers an undergraduate major and minor in real estate as well as a master’s in real estate.

Previously, the real estate program was part of the business school’s finance department.

A Response to Demand

Growth is “not going to happen overnight,” said department chair Charles Tu, Ph.D., but it needs to happen.

Over the last five years, the number of undergraduate real estate students has tripled to 280 in the major and minor programs. The Master of Science in Real Estate program is kept at the 20-25 student level to maintain the quality of the group work, he said.

The strength of the academic work, coupled with programs and services offered through the school’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, has led to greater numbers of students participating, said several people associated with the real estate department.

With the cost of a private university education, students and parents see value in a No. 1 ranked real estate program that offers “potential student success,” Tu said.

The organization College Factual has ranked USD as the top real estate college in the nation for three years running.

Future Proof?

Despite the effect of COVID-19 on the market, real estate will continue to be important in the future, said Stath Karras, executive director for the Burnham-Moores Center. “It will be a major, if not the major, asset class in the future. We’re still going to need bricks and mortar,” he said.

“The way people are using offices or retail spaces may change, but the structures will still be needed,” he said.

The local real estate community plays a big role in driving real estate education at USD.

The academic real estate program is augmented by the Burnham-Moores Center. The latter offers project-based learning opportunities, financial resources, mentorships, internships and job leads.

“We play a big part in helping [students] find their first career opportunity out of college,” Karras said.

Ian Gill, managing partner of Silvergate Development, said he has hired two students out of the USD program.

Through the Burnham-Moores Center, some $400,000 in scholarship funds are made available to students.

A History of Community Support

A policy advisory board of real estate industry executives oversees the Burnham-Moores Center. Board members are asked to contribute $10,000 per year for five years and offer mentorship opportunities, said Gill, who served as chairman for the Burnham-Moores Center’s policy advisory board for six years.

Credit for the school, Tu said, goes to countless people. Mark Riedy, Ph.D. started the real estate program 27 years ago

In 1993, a real estate industry committee chaired by the late Daniel (Dan) F. Mulvihill raised $1.5 million to endow and name the Ernest W. Hahn Chair in Real Estate Finance at the University of San Diego School of Business. Funding was provided by more than 100 donors, including friends and colleagues of Hahn.

In 2004, a $5 million endowment gift was made to support the operations of a new real estate center. Funding was provided by John Moores, the Burnham Foundation, Burnham Real Estate Services and senior management and brokers of Burnham Real Estate Services. A dedication ceremony to name the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate took place in September of that year.

Keane, who has been dean of the business school for less than a year, said it was clear when he arrived at USD that the real estate program was “one of the shining stars” at the school.