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Last week, the University of Cincinnati announced that Dr. Gary Painter joined the Carl H. Lindner College of Business as the real estate program’s new academic director. Painter was previously at the University of Southern California, where he was a professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy and the director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute.

Painter spoke with Weekly Real Estate News regarding his new position.

Congratulations on taking on the position of academic director. What interested you in this particular opportunity?

First, the opportunity to lead a premier real estate center is always going to be attractive. But I think more importantly its connection to the greater university, to the city and region were really appealing to me. As you might know, that university is focused on an urban futures initiative. And, in my view, you can’t think about urban futures without thinking about real estate.

What are your initial priorities going to be at the school?

The initial priorities are to get to know the assets that are there. I know that Board of Executive Advisors in Real Estate (BEARE) has deep roots within the community, and I need to learn as much from as many people as possible to know what the real assets are.

And then from there, I will also make connections within the university context to meet people from public policy, from engineering, from the design, architecture and planning school, etc., and advance high impact research that includes community members in the region in and around Cincinnati.

For the benefit of those who aren’t in the Cincinnati region, how would you describe it?

Cincinnati has a vibrant and diverse economy. There are a lot of headquarters there for major corporations – Procter and Gamble immediately comes to mind, but there are finance hubs with PNC Bank, Fifth Third Bank, etc. And Toyota has a regional hub north of the city.

What supports that economic growth and makes it an attractive region for the knowledge economy is that it is relatively affordable, compared to the region that I’m leaving in the Los Angeles metro region. So, you can attract talent to a place that has diverse cultural assets within the region, that people can really enjoy living in, but at the same time does not have to spend so much just to get the house that they might want to buy.

The real estate world is always evolving, so how will you be able to keep your curriculum up to date?

One has to focus on both hands. The one thing that you need to teach are the fundamentals of how real estate markets work. You need a grounding in finance, you need a grounding in the development process, you need to understand how deals are made, etc. And so, all of that is in many ways not changing.

But the context in which it operates changes, the way government policy may or may not be set in the various cities and jurisdictions can change over time. Certainly, the external macro environment, both domestically and also internationally, can shift.

For example, consider the recent banking crisis: what does that mean for capital that’s available for investment? What does it mean for interest rates, the cost of that capital? All of those things are important, so you have to teach people how to be critical thinkers and lifetime learners when they’re in real estate. You can’t just simply rely on what you learned at the University of Cincinnati – you have to create a posture within your students so they can tackle the new challenges as they emerge and as the ecosystem shifts. They need to learn how to pivot and how to think strategically and how to assess risk appropriately, and then they’re going to be ready for what happens 20 years after they leave the university.

If we were to pick up this conversation a year from now, where do you see the program under your leadership?

I think a year from now, we will have established some concrete priorities for what we need to do to make sure the real estate curriculum is as at the forefront of the real estate industry today. And I think you’re also going to see where our research priorities are going to be within the region. I think you’re going also see a lot of excitement with what’s happening at the University of Cincinnati and in particular in the real estate community.