The launch of UNC Charlotte’s Master of Science in Real Estate in fall 2012 collided head on with its city’s well-documented development growth spurt. That collision still impacts Charlotte and the greater Mecklenburg County region.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the MSRE program’s inaugural graduating class. Daniel Wright, program director and lecturer in real estate for the Belk College of Business, credits an unprecedented level of support from the region’s real estate industry as a factor contributing to the program’s progress and success.
“We have a great partnership with a number of regional real estate companies that have a national presence as well as support from the city’s banking and financial services industry. Collectively, they are committed to supporting our Master of Science in Real Estate,” said Wright. “University leaders foresaw the city’s ability to attract business and industry, and recognized this as a driver of continued real estate development. So, there existed an outstanding opportunity to develop a unique graduate program — the only one in North Carolina — to meet the region’s workforce demands.”
To date, more than 125 graduates have completed their MSRE at Charlotte with virtually 100 percent of degree holders employed.
Strong industry backing drives program success
In 2015, Childress Klein donated $2.5 million to name UNC Charlotte’s Center for Real Estate. The gift funded a new endowed professorship, professional training programs for students and faculty fellowships for the Master of Science in Real Estate program. It is the largest single gift in the center’s 17-year history.
In 2022, the Steven Ott Distinguished Professorship was established to help the Belk College of Business recruit a nationally recognized teacher and scholar in the area of real estate. More than $1.3 million in gifts and pledges from donors, corporate partners and friends of the center were received to endow the professorship.
“Charlotte’s real estate industry wants our program and our students to succeed,” said Wright. “The level of one-on-one interaction between the region’s real estate executives and our students is virtually unheard of at any other university or college program. It’s really a positive, small-town feel with the region’s C-suite executives. They give their time to mentor students, host networking events and offer internships and other learning opportunities.”
One example is the Student-Managed Real Estate Investment Fund, which launched during the 2016-17 academic year. UNC Charlotte is one of just a few institutions to provide its graduate students with a student-managed real estate investment fund that invests in private real estate securities. Each semester, eight to 12 students enroll in the course that manages the fund.
“Ours is the most hands-on investment experience for students with the potential investments being relatively local,” said Wright. “Students meet with owners of the prospective investment properties as part of the information-gathering process and report their findings to advisory board members to evaluate the merits of investing in the properties.”
MSRE alumnus Peter Stipicevic ’18 works in real estate investment and development with Mountain Funding and Crosland Southeast. He views the Student-Managed Real Estate Investment Fund as a critical learning opportunity.
“I have the ability to source and manage real estate projects that I’m passionate about,” said Stipicevic. “Charlotte’s MSRE program cultivated my ability to recognize what makes a real estate opportunity compelling.”
Intensive preparation in real estate issues
UNC Charlotte’s location in the state’s largest metropolitan city exposes MSRE students to issues endemic to a vibrant, urban locale. Important environmental and societal topics — urban sprawl, gentrification, housing affordability, environmental remediation, smart growth, transit and transportation considerations and historic preservation — are infused throughout the interdisciplinary curriculum.
“UNC Charlotte is the state’s urban research university, and the MSRE program supports the University’s commitment to the study of urban and regional development,” said Wright. “Students graduate with an understanding of how real estate development affects economic development, metropolitan infrastructure, transportation and urban planning.”
Alyson Craig ’13, among the program’s first graduates, is interim planning director for the city of Charlotte. She and her team spearheaded the city’s adoption of its first comprehensive planning document in 45 years and helped create an inaugural Unified Development Ordinance that the Charlotte City Council adopted in August 2022.
“The MSRE program provides a pipeline of talent for the Charlotte real estate community,” said Craig. “Not only do these students come to their employers well-educated in real estate fundamentals, but they have had the chance to build critical relationships in the community through the program’s networking and mentoring opportunities.”
Charlotte’s economy of scale affords graduates greater employment opportunities than other similar programs, said Wright.
“Our students attend classes at The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, making living uptown possible,” he said. “The city’s location and its natural benefits, a temperate climate in close proximity to the beaches and mountains, is attractive for not only people but businesses of all sizes. Robust cultural and entertainment options, direct rail to an international airport and a supportive industry environment are factors that make our program highly attractive for prospective students. We offer a wealth of learning opportunities that lead to full-time employment in key areas of real estate: development, investment and asset management.”
Photos: Daniel Wright, top, MSRE program director and lecturer in real estate; inset, MSRE students deliver presentations as part of the Student-Managed Real Estate Investment Fund.