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USF real estate degrees mesh with market drop
A dean says the master's programs offer opportunities to developers and planners.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 29, 2007
TAMPA - Florida's real estate market is more bust than boom lately, and the related field of community planning seems just as vulnerable to the sagging economy.
Yet USF is poised to establish two new master's-level degree programs that aim to prepare future real estate developers, planners and designers.
"When the market is tanking, people tend to come back to school to get graduate degrees," said Robert Forsythe, dean of the USF business college. "So what better opportunity for real estate people than this?"
The programs are notable not only for their unconventional timing, but for their emphasis on sustainable development and the involvement of multiple academic disciplines - from geography and business to architecture and engineering.
Trustees are expected to approve the two degree programs today, and students would start enrolling in 2009.
USF will be the first public college in Florida and among a handful nationwide to offer a master's program in urban and community design. And among the state's 11 public institutions, USF will be only second behind the University of Florida to offer a real estate master's degree.
Forsythe said USF's real estate program will be unique because of its environmental focus.
Courses for the real estate degree include the standard finance and management topics. But students also will take classes like "green infrastructure and sustainable community," and "perspectives of environmental thought."
The community design master's program will include courses in architecture, business and engineering, according to the proposal sent to trustees.
Ask architecture dean Charles Hight why he wants this master's program, and his aim is clear: teach future architects and community builders to build healthy neighborhoods for the long term.
"It's essential we make better use of our resources and provide people with a more livable environment; otherwise people will start leaving the state," said Hight, dean since 2005. "Look at Portland Ore., a place that was not very attractive at one time and is now very hot. Florida should be doing similar things, but we're behind."
Administrators say the programs will yield research opportunities for students and faculty members, who will work with local communities to design housing and neighborhood plans that focus on smart growth and "sustainable urbanism."
The results of that research could boost USF's "green" profile among universities, which are focusing more on conservation and sustainability in campus life and academic coursework.
Hight said the community planning program will ultimately have 32 full-time students; the real estate program will have 20, Forsythe estimates.
Forsythe said he and other business college officials will meet in coming months with real estate industry representatives, who will help him tweak the curriculum.
"And hopefully," he said," they will hire our graduates."