Auburn University launches Institute for Real Estate Development

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A leader in educating real estate development professionals, Auburn University has announced a new Institute for Real Estate Development that will enable Auburn to become a nationally recognized hub for exceptional real estate instruction, thought leadership and research innovation across all major property sectors.

Funded by a lead gift of $5 million from an anonymous donor, the institute will build on the strengths of the Auburn Master of Real Estate Development, or MRED, program, an executive graduate degree offered jointly by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and the College of Architecture, Design and Construction

“Having a strong graduate program in real estate development helped get the institute started,” said MRED Director Justin Benefield, the Walker Reynolds Bickerstaff Professor in Harbert’s Department of Finance. “But the donor has a broader vision—to continue to professionalize and train the next generation of real estate professionals in learning, application and integrity. Auburn is uniquely positioned to do this because we have the right mix of institutional resources.”

Those resources include a highly integrated approach to real estate development education that includes expertise in design, contract and build, finance and investment structures, engineering, e-commerce, hospitality management and other disciplines. 

“One of the key goals of the institute is to prepare our students to understand the financial aspects of real estate and acquire the knowledge necessary to manage a real estate project or an entire portfolio of projects,” said Joe Hanna, Regions Bank Professor and Harbert interim dean. “The effective management of real estate projects and investments clearly involves aspects of architecture, construction and finance. It is the ability to bring these aspects together through the institute that makes the collaboration between the Harbert College and the CADC particularly valuable and somewhat unique.”    

“The institute gives the CADC and our colleagues in the Harbert College of Business a wonderful vehicle to further strengthen our partnerships within the real estate development and investment community,” said David Hinson, associate dean and R. Hugh Daniel Professor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction.  “I am very excited about how the institute will help expand real estate education opportunities for Auburn students and industry professionals.”

The institute has three pillars—exceptional real estate education, thought leadership for industry, and professional development and continuing education. 

Real estate education

The institute will provide working professionals with exceptional instruction through the existing MRED executive degree program, by which students gain the skills and insight required to shape communities and change the way people work, live and play within them. Since its inception a decade ago, MRED has graduated nearly 200 professionals who plan, finance and build economically sustainable real estate developments based on principles taught both in the classroom and experienced firsthand via field studies to successful developments in the United States and abroad. 

The institute will expand its real estate degree offerings to a broader student population by establishing a real estate minor for undergraduates and offering new real estate-related graduate-level certificates. 

Thought leadership for industry

Changing real estate trends and fluctuating markets are creating a demand for professionals who can navigate a new level of sophistication. The institute will help practitioners better understand advances in technology, capital formation and global banking by conducting and disseminating authoritative real estate research and expert analysis. 

In addition, the institute will provide real estate developers, faculty, students and other industry professionals with opportunities to network and learn through an expanded CityBuilders Symposium. Modeled after the successful MRED-sponsored CityBuilders guest lecture series, the multi-day conference will feature national leaders in commercial real estate to share industry insights and best practices for economically sustainable development projects that benefit communities. 

Professional development, continuing education

The institute will support industry’s growing need for new practitioners who employ an appropriate set of professional and ethical standards by offering new professional certifications in specific topics. The institute will also produce and disseminate timely and valuable real estate education collateral through blogs, podcasts and social media platforms. 

The institute announcement came during the MRED program’s 10-year anniversary celebration Sept. 30, which brought together MRED graduates, Auburn faculty and real estate professionals on the Auburn campus. 

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.