Virginia Tech earns state approval for new Blackwood Department of Real Estate
The highly interdisciplinary department serves as model of integrative education at Virginia Tech.
Building on a foundation of success as one of the nation’s best undergraduate real estate programs, Virginia Tech’s new Blackwood Department of Real Estate will deliver world-class educational and growth opportunities to develop generations of real estate leaders.
With State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) approval, the Blackwood Program in Real Estate within the Pamplin College of Business became the Blackwood Department of Real Estate on Nov. 1.
Departmental designation will help the Blackwood Department of Real Estate expand enrollment, enhance academic and experiential learning offerings, and recruit top faculty talent to advance research programing.
“When we started out, our goal was to be an innovative, interdisciplinary program, and it has differentiated us from other programs around the country which were more finance oriented,” said Kevin Boyle, Willis Blackwood department head. “Becoming a department will enable access to more resources that will enrich the educational experience for our students and raise our profile externally among other universities and industry professionals who hire our students.”
Established as an academic program in 2013 with four first-year students and named in recognition of the Blackwood family in 2021 through a $10 million philanthropic gift, the new department progresses on a trajectory of tremendous growth. Today, about 400 students are enrolled in three majors that focus on the commercial, residential, and financial areas of real estate.
The department is garnering national recognition. It is ranked first for best bachelor’s in real estate by the Bachelor's Degree Center; third among the nation’s top 25 real estate programs by Great Business Schools; and the fourth most popular real estate school by College Factual.
“The stature of the program becoming a department in Pamplin is critical for its growth and recognition,” said Willis Blackwood ’72. “It affirms the value of the degree and the high level of expertise and broad background students gain in all facets of real estate. This is a proud achievement for Virginia Tech and for all Hokies making a positive impact in the real estate industry.”
As the size of the global real estate market is expected to climb to nearly $5.85 trillion by 2030, the opportunities to develop spaces where people live, work, shop, and play across every sector of the economy are limitless.
Virginia Tech real estate graduates are prepared to seize these opportunities thanks to the highly interdisciplinary and comprehensive education they receive.
To strengthen their expertise, most students pursue a double major or a minor from an extensive selection of relevant opportunities across Virginia Tech to achieve breadth and depth in their education. This allows students to refine their education around the sector of the industry where they wish to pursue their professional careers.
Across the life cycle of real estate properties, graduates enter the workforce with the skills and exposure needed to work in planning, design or construction, finance, leasing, property or asset management, or brokerage and sale of the assets. Equipped with a strong educational foundation, graduates can also choose specific sectors or product types where they would like to work such as data centers, health care, industrial, multifamily, retail, and much more.
“The real estate educational ecosystem at Virginia Tech is reflective of the real estate industry at large — highly collaborative, ever-evolving, and most of all, exciting,” said Roberta "Robin" Russell, interim dean of the Pamplin College of Business. “The Blackwood Department of Real Estate serves as a model of success for integrative education and partnership-building within the university.”
Experiential learning is a key element in this integrative real estate education approach. Students engage with alumni and industry leaders through class speakers and specialized career events. Outside the classroom, students can be found touring real estate assets on campus and in the Blacksburg community. Most students also gain valuable experience through one or more summer internships.
Blackwood department students take their skills on the road, participating in national collegiate real estate competitions such as the 2022 Mulroy Real Estate Challenge, where Virginia Tech took home first place. The Mulroy Real Estate Challenge is akin to March Madness for undergraduate real estate where the best students from the top real estate programs in the U.S. compete using a realistic case study.
“My coursework and real-world experiences as a student in the Blackwood Program in Real Estate provided an incredible knowledge base for launching my career in commercial real estate,” said Josh Greenberg ’17, vice president at CBRE. “The exposure to all sides of the business and multiple asset classes, and networking with industry professionals was integral to a successful start in the brokerage world. After five years in the industry, I still use concepts and skills I acquired at Virginia Tech.”
“The Blackwood Program in Real Estate has really activated my passion for real estate,” shared senior Leslie Ornella, who has a primary major in real estate and a second major in building construction. She also serves as president of the Real Estate Club. “Our professors are dynamic and always willing to work one-on-one with students to ensure that they have all the tools and support to succeed.”