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University of Colorado spearheading first-of-its-kind, diversity-centric real estate education partnership 

BOULDER — The University of Colorado Boulder has launched a program of courses aimed at supporting existing commercial real estate professionals and developing new ones; it is providing opportunities for access by students with Project REAP, a nonprofit group that fosters real estate professionals from populations that have traditionally been underrepresented in the field.

Project REAP, which stands for Real Estate Associate Program, has offices in Boston and New York and is dedicated to real estate diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Together, Project REAP executive director Manikka Bowman and Michael Kercheval, a Project REAP board member and executive director of the Real Estate Center at the CU’s Leeds School of Business, have developed the Advanced Learning program, a first-of-its-kind educational initiative that launched this fall. 

“One of the things that’s fundamentally important to me [is] training people of color and helping them succeed in the real estate industry, an industry that was really lacking in diversity,” Kercheval told BizWest. 

Project REAP, first launched in Washington, D.C., in 1998 as a facilitator of meetings between hiring companies and diverse job candidates, “provides great opportunities for transitioning professionals and a conduit of trained talent to go into the industry,” he said, and “we’re seeing that talent rise through the senior ranks of some major real estate firms.”

The organization also offers the REAP Academy where participants get a crash course in topics such as development, property management, investment and leasing.

The Advanced Learning program at CU is a new offering and provides Project REAP participants subsidized access to a set of non-degree courses in the fundamentals of commercial real estate, industry financials and real estate law taught by CU faculty and industry experts from developers, to brokerage firm leaders to investors.

The Leeds School’s Real Estate Center will “absorb any cost” for Project REAP alumni “as part of our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiative,” Kercheval said. “Rather than make a profit of it, we thought it was far more important to provide that opportunity to a good group of diverse professionals.”

More than 100 people across the country are taking the 12-week, online fundamentals course. 

At the end of the course, students get Colorado continuing education credits, a certificate of completion and, of course, access to industry leaders for potential mentorship and/or employment opportunities.

“Project REAP is seeing [the partnership with CU] as a way to enhance the credentials and skill set of their graduates and the overall real estate industry,” Kercheval said.

There are more than 1,700 Project REAP program alumni across the country. 

“An organization that’s been around for as long as Project REAP reaches a point in its growth trajectory and evolution where it has the opportunity to imagine and look at itself in a different way,” Project REAP executive director Manikka Bowman told BizWest. The Advanced Learning program partnership with CU is an example of the group taking a new evolutionary step forward.

“What’s exciting to me is the ability to not only continue building that [talent] pipeline [of real estate professionals from diverse backgrounds] through the REAP Academy, but also the ability to further cultivate a dynamic talent pool” through Project’s REAP relationship with CU, she said. 

Access to opportunities to “be a part of commercial real estate and build wealth” have “been a barrier for people of color,” Bowman said. Opening programs like the Advanced Learning courses at CU to Project REAP graduates is “part of the solution.”

Source: BizWest

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