If You Build It

The Cal Poly Real Estate Initiaitve recognizes that real estate ventures require the skills of multiple disciplines working together. (Photo: Adobe stock)

Written by August 14, 2023

A new education initiative at Cal Poly will prepare students for real estate careers by infusing programs in finance, planning, architecture and real estate development.

The Cal Poly Real Estate Initiative, which proposes to raise an initial $2 million, is a multidisciplinary partnership between the Orfalea College of Business (Orfalea) and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED).

“Real estate development impacts everyone and is vital to our economy and quality of life,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “It’s important that we prepare our students to have a significant, positive impact in the field. This new initiative will help us to achieve that goal.”

The initiative has created a founder’s circle of advisors to build framework around high impact practices and to create the initial endowment, which will provide sustainable funding to realize the vision for the initiative, including conferences, workshops, student competitions, industry engagement, student travel and more.

The initiative would also add a tenure-track faculty position at the Orfalea College of Business to establish leadership for the Real Estate Initiative and the Real Estate Initiative Excellence Endowment. That faculty member would develop curriculum, teach courses related to real estate and engage students and faculty in research.

The initiative will involve a consortium of participants, who will help shape communities, said Orfalea Dean Damon Fleming.

Aerial view of a residential neighborhood in north San Luis Obis

A new real estate initiative will help prepare Cal Poly students for real estate careers. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

“We are engaging students, faculty, alumni and real estate leaders to explore how to help communities become socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable,” Fleming said. “This puts Cal Poly in a unique position to impact the California and global economies decades into the future.”

Christine Theodoropoulos, dean emerita of CAED, said it’s beneficial for the two disciplines to work together at Cal Poly to reflect what occurs in the workforce, where developers work with the built environment long before construction begins.

“If you think about what real estate is as a discipline, it brings finance together with the built environment,” she said. “You must have a crossover between both fields to succeed in that industry.”

Alumni are already shaping the initiative in several ways, Theodoropoulos said.

“One way is that we have alumni teaching some of these courses as visiting lecturers,” she said. “So they’re carrying their expertise into the classroom.”

Former students have also volunteered to coach teams during competitions and have provided funding for prizes, she said.

“Alumni are also so crucial as industry advisors to both colleges,” Fleming said. “Their experience, knowledge and insight help us determine how we can best prepare our students so that they can have a substantial impact when they join the workforce – and in some cases, actually working with those advisors.”

Orfalea College aims to hire a new faculty member to lead the initiative, and who will work with stakeholders to strengthen student experiences and career success.

“The Professor of Community Development will facilitate and strengthen key connections between students and industry,” Fleming said. “That’s going to benefit our students and future employers – and, more broadly, the communities they serve.”

Having that position in the college of business makes sense because financial modeling is at the core of real estate careers, Theodoropoulos said.

“Since that discipline is in the College of Business, they are going to serve as the guide, the curricular development, to make sure that that piece of it is exceptionally well developed,” she said. “Because once that piece is there, we provide exposure to what would be a pretty broad spectrum of things you need to know about the built environment that includes planning, entitlement, community interactions and construction cost analysis.”

If you are interested in being an ambassador, donor, or volunteer for the Real Estate Initiative, contact Kelly Dye, executive director of development and external relations, at kedye@calpoly.edu or 805-459-8349.

Check out the latest news and features from the Orfalea College of Business.

Visit the Newsroom