July 26, 2023

Haskayne’s Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies grows international reputation as centre of excellence

Business school welcomes American Real Estate Society members to UCalgary for annual centre directors' meeting
Mathison Hall tour held by Jim Dewald, Haskayne School of Business and Jessica Bergen, senior director, Haskayne Centres
Mathison Hall tour held by Jim Dewald, second from left, and Jessica Bergen, centre, leaning on the 'a'. Haskayne School of Business

To say the real estate industry has experienced considerable disruption over the past few years is an understatement. From rising interest rates to a growing urgency on sustainability to capital availability concerns and supply chain shortages and delays, the industry is in flux.

With these trends signalling a significant reset for the Canadian real estate industry, there’s a rapidly growing need for knowledgeable, nimble, responsible and creative real estate professionals underscored by exceptional real estate education offered by reputable universities.

UCalgary is one of the only Canadian universities to offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in real estate, and Haskayne’s Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies is delivering on its vision of serving as a leading centre of excellence for real estate studies by cultivating entrepreneurial and ethical leaders in real estate.

One of the centre’s key differentiators and program strengths lies in its ability to offer courses taught by practising industry professionals who bridge the gap between academia and industry. This gives Haskayne students a competitive edge as they are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and connections to thrive in the real estate industry.

In the decade since its inception, the Westman Centre has established a notable reputation as a leader in higher education. As such, when the Westman Centre was offered the chance to host an annual meeting of American Real Estate Society (ARES) real estate centre directors, the centre jumped at the opportunity to raise its international profile, collaborate with leading American universities and explore ways to bolster its educational programming.

Global exposure for Haskayne’s real estate centre of excellence

Taking place from June 13 to 16, 2023 in both Calgary and Banff, the centre directors' meeting was a unique opportunity for the Westman Centre to network and collaborate with eight real estate centres across the U.S. including Portland State University, University of Florida, University of San Diego, University of Colorado, Santa Clara University, Brandeis University, Villanova University and Marquette University. The Westman Centre was the only Canadian real estate centre to participate.

The meeting is designed to bring together directors from real estate centres to share their insights and strategies for their real estate programs with the goal of continuous improvement, fostering innovative educational approaches, enhancing industry and student support, improving administrative processes and optimizing resource allocation.

“It was a great honour and recognition to host this year’s real estate centre directors meeting, as it not only affords the Westman Centre the opportunity to collaborate and connect with distinguished peers from the higher education landscape, but it demonstrates Haskayne’s collective efforts in building a real estate centre that has captured international respect and attention for its premier educational programming,” says Jessica Bergen, senior director, Haskayne Centres.

“Plus, getting the chance to showcase our city and our school to an international audience was incredibly rewarding. Our guests got to see first hand the intrinsic role the real estate and development industries play in advancing Calgary’s reputation as Canada’s most entrepreneurial city.”

The three-day event kicked off with a welcome reception hosted by Diana Joseph, president of the Westman Charitable Foundation and Dennis Aucoin, senior development manager for Jayman BUILT which included an in-depth development tour of Westman Village.

American Real Estate Society directors in Banff, Alberta

American Real Estate Society directors in Banff.

Haskayne School of Business

Before the group travelled to Banff to continue their meeting in the Rocky Mountains, Bergen and Jim Dewald, former dean of the Haskayne School of Business took them on a tour of Mathison Hall. Guests were impressed by the new business building, its sustainable design and student-centric features.

“The real estate centre directors' meetings are a highlight for me, but this year’s meeting hosted by the Haskayne School of Business took the event to a new level,” says Julie Gibson, Barry Menashe Family executive director, Portland State University Center for Real Estate.

“From touring the university’s new business school to sharing best practices in Banff, one of the world’s most beautiful places, I returned back to Portland State University inspired and re-invigorated with fresh ideas.”

Michael Kercheval, executive director emeritus, CU Real Estate Center at the University of Colorado, echoed a similar sentiment and reinforced the importance of the centres coming together to collaborate and value each other as partners instead of simply seeing each other as competitors.

“Observing that we are more partners than competitors, our objective has been to share best practices with one other and to work collaboratively to solve common challenges, all in the interest of collectively building a stronger and more resilient real estate industry,” says Kercheval.  

“After meeting on a regular basis virtually and throughout the U.S., the meeting hosted by the Haskayne School of Business was our first outside of the U.S.  It reinforced the international nature of the real estate industry and allowed for a warm embrace of the first real estate program in Canada to be a key member of our group.”

Examining innovative educational approaches and addressing industry trends and challenges

The interactive programming included two notable keynotes from Ryan Neale, managing director of SelectLeaders and Dr. Timothy Savage, professor at New York University. Neale shared valuable insights on hiring trends in commercial real estate across Canada and the U.S., and Savage presented a thought-provoking discussion on the intersection of AI, real estate and higher education.

Over the course of the three-day meeting, various topics were discussed both formally and informally such as how to navigate demographic changes and challenges in the future of higher education, stay up to date on real estate capital markets and economic forecasting, enhance alumni relationships and engagement, and develop and expand mentorship programs.

“When we all get together, it’s all about not just what has worked, but our struggles and failures as well,” says Andy Hunt, Vieth director, Marquette University Center for Real Estate. “Everyone cares about being the best we can for our students and alumni, and that translates into a level of trust and openness that allows us to go deep in solving problems and supporting one another’s programs. 

“I think everyone left with a real excitement to get home to our respective universities and start using our lessons learned.”

The Westman Centre has experienced steady enrolment growth since the launch of its BComm and MBA degree programs. In the 2020-2021 year, the centre launched a comprehensive curriculum review, and in fall 2021, course outlines were modified to ensure future-focused, relevant content. Opportunities for the Westman Centre to participate in events like the real estate centre directors' meeting further assure that Haskayne’s programming remains purposeful and at the forefront of industry needs.

“The collective sharing of knowledge and insights by the group was truly invaluable,” says Bergen. “We are thrilled to translate these ideas into action for our upcoming academic year and have our students directly benefit from global perspectives and international industry insights.”

Learn more about the Westman Centre of Real Estate Studies and stay up to date on its programming and thought leadership.

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