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Runstad Department Experiences Growth and Change

The 2022-2023 academic year was a busy one for the Runstad Department of Real Estate. The popular undergraduate major in real estate continued to attract new students throughout the year, with an enrollment of nearly 300 by the end of the year. Over 100 students graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Real Estate. The Master of Science in Real Estate program enrolled nearly 50 students, a majority of which were in the new advanced-standing (one-year) program. Of these, 26 graduated during the year. The undergraduate minor had over 100 students enrolled.

Over the course of the year, the faculty devoted significant time and effort to developing the department’s first strategic plan. This effort included multiple meetings of faculty and key stakeholders as well as a retreat that involved faculty and representatives of other stakeholder groups. These meetings identified issues and defined broad goals and specific measurable objectives, as well as target dates and responsible parties. The final plan was approved by the faculty in May and is intended to guide the department through 2028. It includes five broad goals focused on: (1) academic programs; (2) student experience; (3) research; (4) community engagement; and (5) equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is now being formatted into a brochure that will be distributed to interested individuals and posted on the department’s website.

The department welcomed several new faculty and staff. Steve Bourassa and Vince Wang both joined the department at the beginning of the year. Steve was appointed to the role of chair and H. Jon and Judith M. Runstad Endowed Professor; he also took on the position of Director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research. He has held multiple chair roles at other universities, including at the University of Auckland, where he chaired the real estate department. His research focuses on various aspects of housing markets and policy, including measurement of house prices and modeling of house price changes. Vince was appointed to the position of Assistant Professor of Real Estate. He was previously research manager and director at Grounded Solutions Network, a national non-profit organization providing support for community land trusts. His research focuses on ways to improve housing affordability, including community land trusts and inclusionary zoning.

The department conducted a national search for new full-time teaching faculty, which resulted in the appointment of Shannon Affholter as Assistant Teaching Professor starting with the Spring 2023 Quarter. Shannon was previously teaching as an affiliate instructor for the department and has held numerous positions in the real estate industry, including as Chief Operating Officer for Oakpointe Communities and Executive Director of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. The department also appointed Eli Heller as Graduate Programs Advisor and Career Advisor. Eli previously worked in a variety of advising and career counseling roles at the University of Washington and other higher education institutions.

The Runstad Advisory Board, under the leadership of chair Shannon Underwood, continued to provide strong support for the department in a variety of ways. In particular, the annual Runstad Leadership Dinner, hosted by the board in October, raised a record amount of funding for undergraduate scholarships. In addition, the board continues to be instrumental in enhancing student experience through activities such as mentorships, internships, and hosting of property tours in collaboration with the student-led Real Estate Club. The department is grateful to Shannon for her dedicated service as chair and looks forward to working with Kelley Lovshin, who is taking on the chair’s role for 2023-2024.

The beginning of the year saw the administrative relocation of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER) into the department; it had previously resided in the College of Built Environments dean’s office. As WCRER Director, Steve Bourassa is working to improve and expand the range of activities and products of the center. The center is funded entirely with external grants, which currently support the production of quarterly housing and apartment market reports for the state of Washington, including data intended to help cities and counties with planning for affordable housing.

Department faculty continued to be quite productive with respect to research and publication. Gregg Colburn’s co-authored book, Homelessness is a Housing Problem, attracted a lot of attention throughout the year, including an invitation to speak on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Sofia Dermisi was a co-author of the latest edition of the Urban Land Institute’s popular textbook, Professional Real Estate Development. Faculty also published research on a variety of topics in leading academic journals.

The department’s strengths in housing research attracted the attention of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who met with several faculty on the UW campus in March to discuss housing policy issues, including affordability, homelessness, community land trusts, and transit-oriented development. Participating Runstad faculty were Steve Bourassa, Gregg Colburn, and Vince Wang; they were joined by Rick Mohler from the Department of Architecture. The meeting concluded with the governor filming a brief interview with Gregg to promote his book on homelessness.

All in all, this has been a very positive year for the Runstad Department of Real Estate. While much has been accomplished, there remains a lot to do. Fortunately, the new strategic plan provides a clear roadmap for further advancement over the coming years.