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Farmer School of Business soon to add real estate major

The Farmer School of Business’s (FSB) class of 2025 may have a new concentration to choose from next fall with the introduction of a real estate major.

Following a donation from Miami University alumni Richard and Carol Puzzitiello in 2019, the department of finance began developing curriculum for a major in real estate. The major was approved by Miami’s Board of Trustees in October 2020 and now awaits state approval from Ohio’s department of higher education.

Joel Harper, chair of the department of finance, said the new major will grow from courses developed for the current real estate minor.

Within the finance department itself, where the new major will be housed, professors are adjusting curriculum to better support students who enter the major directly.

Lee Biggerstaff, an assistant professor of finance, explained how his approach has changed in an email to The Miami Student.

“We started offering FIN431 [real estate investment and finance] last spring, which is a course that was created in support of the new major,” Biggerstaff wrote. “Additionally, I have updated the curriculum in FIN331 [real estate principles] to better support the major and FIN431.”

Harper said Miami students have shown a clear interest in real estate-specific education in Farmer. Students in various degree programs often take principles of real estate as an elective, and hundreds of students attend Farmer’s real estate forum each spring.

“We found that we had a lot of alumni who were working in the commercial real estate space,” Harper said. “As we started looking at [developing the major], we saw that we had a lot of alumni support. We had a lot of alumni looking or interested in helping develop it, and we had a lot of student interest.”

The major wasn’t created for students who want to become real estate agents, though. Harper said the curriculum will prepare students for careers in real estate finance, development and investment, not showing houses.

“I think a common misconception is that, we’re not building a degree for, say, a real estate agent or a broker,” Harper said. “You think of a real estate agent that sells houses. This is really focused more on the commercial real estate market.”

Many students are passionate about real estate outside the classroom, as well. Miami’s real estate club has nearly 150 registered members.

Anna Lehr, a junior marketing major and president of the organization, said the club often brings professionals in to talk about careers in commercial real estate. She hopes the new major will create additional networking opportunities for students.

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“Having that basis of knowledge [provided by the real estate major] will really help people ... start their networking process and [look] for real estate jobs,” Lehr said. “As of now, there isn’t an area where people felt confident enough to go into the industry because there isn’t an area besides one or two classes at Miami that teach you what real estate is.”

Brett Husslein, a junior finance major and vice president of external relations for the real estate club, agreed the new major should highlight the importance of making connections for students.

“Real estate is heavily relationship- and networking-based, and that’s very much a good thing in my opinion,” Husslein said. “[Professionals] are very willing to take phone calls, accept phone calls, even just out of the blue … That’s something I wish I knew as a freshman. Going through Farmer, I think they do a great job, but at least as far as networking, I think that’s something that could be stressed a little bit more.”

While real estate may seem like a business-heavy interest, Harper said it will actually be the first business major at Miami with required coursework outside Farmer. Majors will be required to take geography classes such as regional and urban planning and geographic information systems.

In an email to the Student, FSB’s dean Jenny Darroch wrote she is excited to better serve students interested in careers in real estate.

“We are delighted to be able to offer a real estate major,” Darroch wrote, “as this directly meets the needs of our students and opens up new possibilities for a range of career opportunities.”