University of Colorado spearheads diversity-focused real estate education partnership

The University of Colorado Boulder has launched a course program aimed at supporting existing commercial real estate professionals and developing new ones. it provides student access opportunities with Project REAP, a nonprofit group that nurtures real estate professionals from traditionally underrepresented populations in the field.

Manikka Bowman is the executive director of Project REAP, a nonprofit organization with more than 1,700 graduates that aims to reduce barriers for people of color in the commercial real estate industry. (REAP Project/Courtesy Photo)

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

Together, REAP Project Executive Director Manikka Bowman and REAP Project Board Member and Executive Director of CU’s Leeds School of Business Real Estate Center Michael Kercheval developed the advanced learning program, a one-of-a-kind educational initiative. which started 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 really lacked diversity,” Kercheval told BizWest.

The REAP Project, launched in Washington, D.C., in 1998 as a facilitator of meetings between hiring companies and various job candidates, “offers great opportunities for transitioning professionals and a conduit of trained talent to enter the industry,” he said, and “we’re seeing this talent rising into the upper ranks of some major real estate companies.

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

CU’s Advanced Learning Program is a new offering and provides REAP Project participants with subsidized access to a set of non-degree courses on the fundamentals of commercial real estate, industry finance and real estate law taught by CU professors and industry experts from developers, to brokerage firm executives to investors.

The Leeds School property center “will absorb all costs” for REAP project alumni “as part of our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiative,” Kercheval said. “Rather than capitalizing on it, we felt it was much more important to provide this opportunity to a good group of diverse professionals.”

Over 100 people across the country are taking the 12-week online fundamentals course.

Upon course completion, students earn Colorado Continuing Education Credits, a Certificate of Completion, and of course, access to industry leaders for potential mentorship and/or employment opportunities.

“The REAP project sees (partnering with CU) as a way to improve the qualifications and skills of their graduates and the entire real estate industry,” Kercheval said.

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

“An organization that has been around for as long as the REAP Project has reached a point in its growth trajectory and evolution where it has the opportunity to imagine and look at itself in a different way,” said Manikka Bowman, Executive Director of the REAP project, at BizWest. The Advanced Learning Program partnership with CU is an example of the group taking another step forward in evolution.

“What’s exciting to me is the ability to not only continue to build this (talent) pipeline (of real estate professionals from diverse backgrounds) through the REAP Academy, but also the ability to further cultivate a vibrant talent pool” thanks to Project’s REAP relationship with CU, she says.

Accessing opportunities to “be part of commercial real estate and build wealth” has “been a barrier for people of color,” Bowman said. Opening up programs such as the UC Advanced Learning Courses to REAP graduates is “part of the solution”.

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.

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