The ICSC Blog

The Building of a Collegiate Real Estate Program: Virginia Tech Takes on the Challenge

For those of us who’ve dealt with the complexities of university bureaucracies, we applaud the success of the academicians and practitioners who’ve worked so diligently to launch the new undergraduate degree in real estate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, affectionately known by all as Virginia Tech.  The typical process of winning approval for such a program is always cumbersome, at best, but because of the inter-disciplinary approach to this program, Herculean would seem to be an appropriate description of their campaign.

Nestled on a high plateau between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains, this land-grant university has nearly 29,000 co-eds, proudly living under the motto “That I May Serve.”  Americans were touched by the “Hokie” spirit after the horrible campus shooting in 2007—and have since adopted the slogan, “We’re all Hokies, Now.”  With the grit and determination befitting a college with a strong military legacy, the campaign for the real estate program started years ago.

In a recent visit with Nancy Strosnider, a development officer for the program and a real estate professional in her own right, she explained the network of individuals and institutions that advanced the creation of this program, even during the dismal economy of the last half decade.  The effort was spear-headed by VT administration, alumni, and faculty including long-time ICSC member Willis Blackwood, of the Richmond-based Blackwood Development Company.  According to Mr. Blackwood, “As a real estate developer for 40 years (and a proud Virginia Tech alum), I completely embraced the approach the school took when trying to initiate the program—as an undergraduate major, with a focus on the commercial sector, as well as its interdisciplinary orientation.  I have was delighted that Dr. Kevin Boyle, who is leading the effort to create the program, has called upon industry practitioners for feedback and direction, along the way.”

The degree was built on the founding principle that 21st century real estate is an inter-disciplinary endeavor.  In a highly unusual move, the program stands alone in the university, rather than being housed in a particular academic college—an anomaly by academic standards.  Rather, the degree intentionally draws from faculty and courses from among six colleges:  The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Architecture and Urban Studies; Pamplin College of Business; College of Engineering; College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and the College of Natural Resources and the Environment.  According to the University, these students “will be exposed to a variety of academic fields including architecture, building construction, business, civil and environmental engineering, economics, property management, natural resources, management, planning, and law.”  Daniel Wubah, former vice president for undergraduate education says, “It has been a team effort from the beginning to come up with one vision for the program and implement it.”

In addition to Mr. Blackwood,  ICSC members Prakash R. Kamath (CBRE, Senior Vice President, Charlottesville, VA) and William R. Elliott (Managing Partner, Medalist Properties, Richmond, VA) serve on the advisory board, guiding the program through its critical first years.  The university already boasts more than 70 majors—young people we hope to see enrolled as ICSC Student Members, straight away.  The Virginia Tech degree demonstrates a distinctive emphasis on the complementary roles of theory and practice, undergirded by cooperation.  We wish the Hokies well as they educate and graduate the first classes of students; and ICSC is here to support the leaders and students in whatever way we are able!

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