The University of Virginia has formally approved the establishment of the Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment at the McIntire School of Commerce. Funding for the Center was initiated with a gift of $10 million from Commerce School alumnus Robert M. White Jr. (McIntire ’87), Founder and former CEO of Real Capital Analytics Inc.
“We are enormously grateful for Bob’s partnership in helping us coalesce the University’s widespread academic pursuits in real estate under one umbrella,” says Nicole Thorne Jenkins, Dean of the McIntire School. “The Center will function as a pan-University real estate hub through which we will bring students and faculty from a variety of disciplines together with alumni and industry to support our academic programs, expand and strengthen our UVA and industry networks, and support the production and dissemination of faculty and industry research.”
This is White’s second major gift in support of real estate at the University. In December 2019, White gave the McIntire School $3 million to establish the Bicentennial Professorship Fund in Real Estate Finance, which established the position held by Drew Sanderford, who will serve as the inaugural Director of the new Center. Matched by an additional $2 million from the University’s Bicentennial Professors Fund, White’s gift ultimately provided $5 million toward faculty support for initiatives in real estate finance.
White, who credits his Finance studies at the Commerce School with preparing him for career success in tracking capital markets for international commercial property, has been vocal and intentional about helping the Commerce School expand its footprint in cross-curricular real estate efforts. With his lead gift, White aims to help spur high-impact activities that will support the University broadly and create a welcoming learning and networking environment for historically underserved or underrepresented people and communities.
“The Center’s mission says it all: It exists to build bridges and to support the exchange of knowledge about commercial real estate and the built environment,” says White. “I am eager to see the Center enhance the real estate experience at UVA for all interested students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners by creating points of exploration and exchange around ideas related to real estate finance and investment, development, design, urban data analysis, urban planning, economics, construction, and the influence of the built environment on society.”
The Center is the culmination of a University-wide longstanding aim to create rich and meaningful interaction between the Commerce School and other interested schools, including Architecture, Arts & Sciences, Batten School of Public Policy, Darden School of Business, Engineering and Applied Science, and Law. In support of UVA’s 2030 Strategic Goals, the Commerce School’s seventh Center of Excellence will enhance and amplify commercial real estate-related programming; support and create resources for students and faculty in multiple units; as well as establish avenues for alumni networking, engagement, and giving back.
Though the Center will not create curriculum, it will help to strengthen cross-disciplinary academic programs, such as McIntire’s multi-course Real Estate Track and its interdisciplinary Real Estate Minor, which begins its first classes in spring 2022. In addition, the Center will also support specialized programs such as the School of Architecture’s recent graduate Certificate in Real Estate + Design & Development and the School of Engineering’s Construction Engineering and Management program. The Center will foster student, alumni, and faculty engagement through activities and events, often in collaboration with student real estate clubs at McIntire and Darden, UVA’s Alumni Real Estate group, and the University’s industry partners.
“The new Center embodies the next step in a developing tradition of intellectual engagement with commercial real estate investment and the built environment at the University that dates back to Professor George Overstreet’s course in 1984,” says Sanderford. “Creation of the Center would not have been possible without strong leadership, thoughtful administration, and the determination and generosity of our alumni and friends. It is a truly exciting opportunity to expand how we can be both great and good.”