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Ortalo-Magné: UW goes global with new real estate program

For better or worse, the real estate market has gone global.

“The upside is there is more capital flow and a globalization of competence within the industry and a moving toward better allocation of resources,” said François Ortalo-Magné, chair of the UW-Madison Business School’s highly touted real estate program.

“The downside is that when some people in the industry messed up in the financial market, it took a lot of us down,” said Ortalo-Magné, who taught at the London School of Economics before coming to Wisconsin. “Although today in Asia, the markets are hot again and people are worried about a bubble if anything.”

To keep up – and even lead – the business school has created a new graduate global real estate degree in conjunction with leading universities in France, Costa Rica and Hong Kong.

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Ortalo-Magné said the new program, which will bring international students to Madison for the fourth semester of their studies, stems from a push that began about five years ago to “expand our footprint to the global stage” and better compete with other top real estate departments such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The cooperative approach that was successful here could spread to other parts of the university.

“Now we are thinking about how this new model can be used in other areas besides real estate," he said. "I think we are making a contribution to education around the world by pointing out that universities can cooperate to offer outstanding education.”

When discussions about the new program began, Ortalo-Magné said, the industry was becoming more international, at least in terms of capital flow and investment.

“And it has now become very global on the development side in terms of the creation of real estate assets and the construction of properties," he said. “So we rode that wave. We made decisions to invest faculty time in becoming friends with leaders of industry from around the world. Then about three years ago we started discussing partnerships with foreign universities.”

Ortalo-Magné sought out prestigious schools around the globe. The first agreement was with HEC Paris, then came the INCAE Business School in Costa Rica and then the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He said they are all tops on their respective regions.

In the first phase of the program, he said students will spend up to three semesters studying economics and finance to earn an MBA or master of science in a business field. Then, in January 2011, the first participants will arrive in Madison for the real estate component of their degrees.

“We figured we could leverage our expertise here in real estate and put together a consortium of schools from around the world that would use their prestige and brand recognition to source students for us and also generate a very high quality of teaching,” he said.

Ultimately, he said the program will build up to 45 or 50 pupils who will be taught by up to seven UW-Madison faculty.

Ortalo-Magné said he hopes MBA students studying in Madison who are not part of the program can collaborate with the visitors on project teams.

“That is one of my dreams. If we can do that, it will strengthen the educational experience that we are providing to our current MBA students but also to the other graduate students.”

Ortalo-Magné said he hopes that the global real estate program can serve as a model for other areas of excellence at UW-Madison.

“I’m excited about the new degree,” he said. “Despite the heavy bureaucracy, the university was open to innovation and I am grateful for its support."

- By Brian E. Clark
For WisBusiness.com


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