Baker Program in Real Estate Announces STEM Designation and +1 Option for Undergrads

By: Janice Endresen
A graphic design treatment of STEM: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics

The Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate announces that its Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate’s two-year Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate (MPS-RE) degree has received STEM designation and, beginning later this spring, expects to begin offering a +1 option enabling Cornell students to complete their undergraduate degree and earn the MPS-RE by adding just one year of study.

Both developments are among efforts underway to enhance the value of the Baker Program’s master’s in real estate and open up more opportunities for students to participate in the degree, said Stuart Rosenthal, chair of the Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate. “It’s a terrific degree and a wonderful launching platform for graduates as they pursue their careers,” he said.

The Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate is managed between the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and faculty from both colleges teach its courses.

A focus on analytical coursework qualifies the MPS-RE for STEM designation

The Baker MPS-RE program provides strong training in finance and applied analytics, including urban planning and economics, making it a good candidate for STEM designation. “Students take classes in finance, economics, and planning and evaluate and analyze market conditions and principles that drive development decisions,” Rosenthal said. “While the degree coursework encompasses different perspectives and includes classes that are not STEM-oriented—such as real estate law, communication, and leadership—the majority of the program is analytical in nature.”

Getting the STEM designation required changing the degree program’s “classification of instructional program,” or CIP code—a designation every degree program has. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security determines which CIP codes qualify for STEM designation. “We closely documented the nature of each and every required course in the MPS-RE program and proposed a new CIP code that better reflects the technical and analytical nature of the program,” said Rosenthal. “The university agreed that the new CIP code is appropriate.”

STEM OPT enables international students to work in the U.S. following graduation

International students on an F-1 visa who are enrolled in a STEM program are eligible for STEM OPT (optional practical training), enabling them to work in their field in the U.S. for up to 36 months following graduation. That’s two years longer than for graduates of programs that are not STEM-designated.

So for international students, STEM designation is significant and important. “We’re very pleased that this is available to students in the Baker MPS-RE program, and current students are really happy about this, too,” said Rosenthal. “It basically it enhances the value of the degree.”

International STEM graduates who work in the U.S. gain experience that makes them more valuable job candidates in their home countries—plus eligibility for an additional chance in the U.S. lottery for the limited number of H-1B skilled worker visas. At the same time, the U.S. gains the expertise of highly educated workers in professions where demand outpaces supply.

Domestic students also benefit from the MPS-RE degree’s STEM designation, Rosenthal added, because the degree’s emphasis on analytics has greater value when students seek jobs in real estate-related fields.

+1 option attracts students from diverse disciplines

The Baker Program’s +1 option brings together students with a broad range of backgrounds but a shared interest in real estate, reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of real estate careers. It provides an opportunity for undergraduates from across the university to do the first year of the two-year Baker MPS-RE program as their last year of undergraduate work. Interested students have to plan ahead and apply for the +1 option in the penultimate year of their undergraduate degree.

How it works: Cornell students in a four-year program can apply any time after the January of their third year and will be considered alongside applicants from outside the university; students in five-year programs apply in their fourth year. Students accepted into the +1 option will be in the MPS-RE program with first-year graduate students during their final undergraduate year, then proceed to their summer internship and complete the degree with one more year. For the inaugural year of the +1 option, a launching fund will provide applicants accepted into the program up to $10,000 in scholarships.

“What’s exciting about the +1 option,” said Rosenthal, “is it opens up an opportunity for students across Cornell to pursue real estate.” When Rosenthal and the MPS-RE program leaders held an information session about the +1 option on January 19, before spring semester classes began, 27 interested students attended. Among them were real estate undergraduates in the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration; students in urban regional studies and architecture programs in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; Department of Economics majors and minors; and civil and environmental engineering students in the College of Engineering.

“They stayed for over an hour, asked lots of questions, and seemed really eager,” said Rosenthal. “It’s just wonderful to me that we can reach out and broaden opportunities for such a wide range of students. And we’ve received a number of inquiries from students since then.”

Note: The +1 option is still under review, and the program approval process is expected to be completed later this spring. 

Building on a strong foundation

The Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate was established in June 2022 with a gift from Paul Rubacha ’72, MBA ’73, to “create an innovative, multicollege department of real estate, uniting partners across academia and industry and building on Cornell’s strengths in engaged learning and impact-focused scholarship to increase opportunities for students and advance the field.” Until then, the Baker Program was jointly managed by the Nolan School and AAP. “The Nolan School, in partnership with AAP, did a great job with the Baker MPS program, so we are building on a great tradition,” said Rosenthal. Citing the Baker Program’s large, active, and enthusiastic alumni base, he added, “It’s a credit to the Nolan School and AAP that our alumni are doing so well and are very enthusiastic about seeing the program continue to thrive.”

Real estate touches everyone

To Rosenthal, real estate is fascinating because it touches everyone; everybody lives somewhere, and many work somewhere, whether in an office or at home. “So we all engage in real estate-related decisions,” he said. “We take it for granted, but much of what we do in the course of our day is linked to real estate markets.” A lot of different perspectives and stakeholders are impacted in any real estate project and by local government decisions that seek to better manage how space is utilized in a city, including setting zoning laws and ordinances. “All of it comes back to STEM,” said Rosenthal. “A lot of analysis is crucial for people to think through these issues carefully.”