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UMD Opens Doors to First Undergraduate Real Estate Program

Multidisciplinary Program Includes Urban Planning, Sustainable Design and Other Built Environment Disciplines

By Maggie Haslam

Real estate students

Photo courtesy of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s new program, “Real Estate and the Built Environment,” will weave practical knowledge of the built environment, including urban planning and architecture, into a traditional finance-based curriculum.

The University of Maryland will launch a bachelor’s degree program in real estate development in Fall 2021, following approval on Friday from the University of Maryland System Board of Regents and the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The new School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s (MAPP) program, “Real Estate and the Built Environment,” will weave practical knowledge of the field, including urban planning and architecture, into a traditional finance-based curriculum. It will be one of just a handful of undergraduate real estate programs in the country administered outside of a business school. 

The new major will prepare students to enter the real estate development industry with broader concepts of sustainable, community-focused investment—elements that Professor Donald Linebaugh, interim dean of MAPP, said are critical in creating responsible impact in 21st-century communities. 

“The complex societal challenges we face today require a much wider lens,” Linebaugh said. “As a school, we have committed to research and teaching that integrates the different disciplines we offer to collaboratively address these significant challenges. This new interdisciplinary program is a major step in realizing that goal.” 

Students in the program will balance coursework in finance, economics, business and construction management with courses in allied disciplines such as preservation, architecture, landscape architecture, history, public policy and urban planning for a deeper understanding of the role real estate development plays in creating sustainable places. Elective courses will allow students to build on their core academic work and pursue interests such as community planning or urban design.

“Real estate development should encompass a more holistic approach in process,” said Real Estate Development Program Director Maria Day-Marshall. “It’s not just about finance, although that’s important; developers need to understand zoning and entitlements, the historic context of the site, or the environmental impact of a new building or redevelopment to realize a successful project.” 

The new program was developed over the past two years after an overwhelming response to a real estate minor program launched in 2015 that now has roughly 180 enrolled students. Meanwhile, a real estate club developed by undergraduate students in 2018 has about 40 members. 

“Real estate is a career field that will never go away,” said Casey Alvarado, a junior minoring in real estate and working part-time as a lease consultant for Cushman and Wakefield. “It goes hand-in-hand with so many other disciplines. There is definitely a business side to it, but having some knowledge of urban planning or sustainable design are skills that really help you in the profession.” 

Industry demand, according to Day-Marshall, also supported the argument for launching the program; a feasibility study identified a significant need for emerging professionals in the real estate development industry, particularly those who have a broad knowledge of the built environment.

“Traditionally, people get into the real estate development industry and do their learning on the job,” Day-Marshall said. “We believe that there are a whole host of jobs out there that are available for students that have education in real estate development, but that demand is not being met in this area.” 

The undergraduate program will also join Maryland’s Master in Real Estate Development, which was one of the nation’s first multidisciplinary programs. 

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