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Continued: Herb Tousley's take on the future of real estate

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 3, 2010 - 1:33 PM

Herb Tousley, a longtime executive in the Twin Cities commercial real estate market, recently left the business for academia, becoming director of the University of St. Thomas' real estate master's degree program and the university's Shenehon Center for Real Estate. He succeeds Thomas Musil, who moved to full-time teaching at St. Thomas.

Tousley had been teaching graduate and undergraduate real estate courses as an adjunct faculty member since 2003. His real estate experience includes work in multifamily, affordable housing, office, mixed-use and retail properties. He most recently was a senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial Griffin Companies. Before that he was an executive at Omni Investment Properties and Hennessey Financial, a St. Paul commercial real estate lender.

St. Thomas offers a bachelor's degree in real estate studies, a master's in real estate and a professional designation program developed by the Shenehon Center. The university also offers a real estate track in its full-time and evening MBA programs. St. Thomas has 74 undergraduates majoring in real estate and 21 pursuing a master's degree in real estate.

Tousley recently talked about his interest in real estate education and his goals for St. Thomas' programs. Excerpts from his comments follow.

Why were you interested in taking this job?

It's a great opportunity to take a great program to the next level. I've been an adjunct professor here since 2003, so I've had some exposure to it. There are great opportunities to expand the program and make it even better.

How do you feel your experience in the field has helped you in teaching and now in directing the program?

There are two programs here I'm responsible for -- the master's in real estate and the Shenehon Center, which offers non-degree continuing education for people already in the industry. Part of my role is to be the liaison between the university and the real estate community.

We like to bring a lot of people from the industry in to speak to our classes -- knowing so many people from my years in the business helps a lot.

What are your goals for the program?

I'm working with the faculty, trying to make it easier for people to customize the program to fit their needs -- for example, if they're interested in development they can take more classes in development. We're adding a development class, a valuation class. We're trying give people more options and make it easier for people to go through the program. In the master's program, we're looking at a full-time program that people can get through in 16 months. We have a part-time program in the evening for people who are out working that you can get through in two years. Most of the classes now are in the evenings. We're also looking at the possibility of adding a dual-degree program that would combine a master's in real estate with an MBA.

How has the real estate downturn affected what the program is offering and what students need to be taught?

It hasn't changed our classes, but it has changed people's interests. You're not seeing as many people interested in development, because development's really tough right now. Now we're seeing more interest in areas that are still seeing some growth -- asset management, property management, corporate real estate.

What are students' biggest concerns right now?

Jobs. It's like they're going to graduate in two semesters and they're very concerned about being able to find a job in the field. For people graduating in the next couple of semesters, that's a valid concern. We do what we can through our placement department. It's actually a good time for people just starting in the program, because by the time they get out, things should be improving, and companies will be hiring.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

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