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More professionals considering real estate graduate school in down market

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While the commercial real estate market sags, more real estate professionals are considering beefing up their resumes by pursuing graduate school so that they can be better positioned when the economy recovers. Admissions counselors at the University of San Diego's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, which offers a master's degree in real estate, say that numbers are up for 2010 applications, and apparently not despite current economic woes, but because of them.

"Real estate professionals at every level are realizing more than ever the importance of acquiring new skills in a world that has changed so much," said Ines Kraft, the program's administrative director. "Many are finding this to be a perfect time to pursue graduate school since there is not as much happening on the business front, which affords them more time for graduate studies."

Professionals often prefer the USD program to other graduate real estate programs, Kraft said, because of its accelerated timeline: Full-time students complete the program in just 10 months, while part-time students finish in two years. A joint MBA/MSRE degree can be completed in 2 1/2 years.

All program options provide students with intense interaction with the real estate industry, both inside the classroom and through extracurricular programs. Graduate students attend monthly networking events, which give them opportunities to interact with bankers, developers and investment managers, and forge the connections that can have a profound impact on their careers.

Since the program operates out of USD's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, students benefit from the center's strong connections to senior real estate professionals in the area, who provide invaluable contributions and a wide range of career-oriented opportunities. A mentor relationship with a seasoned local real estate professional is mandatory for students in the program, as is training toward LEED and Argus accreditation. In real-time, project-based courses, students also gain full comprehension of and appreciation for the myriad new options and opportunities in real estate today.

Just last year, the MSRE curriculum was retooled to place a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship, so that students would be prepared to create their own livelihoods when they graduated, given the scarcity of corporate positions. Each student was required to craft a business plan that they presented to senior real estate executives. A number of students in the Class of 2009 put these plans into action and established their own companies.

Courtland Weisleder, a 2009 USD MSRE alum and president of Greener Dawn Inc., took it one step further and actually launched his company, which provides energy and water efficiency advisory and cleantech consulting, while he was still enrolled in USD's graduate real estate program. Greener Dawn, which is housed in a 3,000-square-foot office space in Solana Beach and includes Greener Dawn Investment Group, now has 12 employees and four business lines: residential energy efficiency, commercial sustainable advisory, institutional cleantech research and cleantech investment banking. Weisleder plans to double the company's size in the next six months and credits the input he received from his USD professors with getting him to where he is today.

"The MSRE program is a key reason for my success," he said.

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