The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has been ranked one of the top institutions for real estate research productivity in the world, according to the Real Estate Academic Leadership (REAL) Rankings for 2017-2021.
REAL ranked UTEP at No. 14 in a three-way tie with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UTEP also is the highest-ranking institution that went unranked in the last report. Moreover, UTEP’s spot is the highest among institutions in Texas. This is the seventh release of the REAL rankings.
“The real estate ranking has certainly brought credibility and attention to our program and the quality of the research undertaken by our faculty,” said James Payne, Ph.D., dean of the UTEP College of Business Administration (COBA).
REAL rankings highlight faculty and institutions making the most significant contributions to the field of real estate research from 2017 to 2021 based on publications in the top three real estate journals – The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, The Journal of Real Estate Research, and Real Estate Economics.
UTEP’s new ranking expands the University’s prominence in real estate education and research, and highlights the hiring of Zifeng Feng, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance in COBA’s Department of Economics and Finance.
With nine publications, Feng earned the No. 7 spot in the 2017–2021 REAL Author Rankings. He tied with Alex Van de Minne from the University of Connecticut. Feng, who joined UTEP in 2021, is the only early-stage real estate researcher ranked in the top 10.
“There are many great opportunities to grow the real estate program here at UTEP,” Feng said. “The higher our research productivity, the more awareness we create about our commercial real estate minor.”
COBA launched the minor in commercial real estate (CRE) in 2020 to provide undergraduate business students the necessary skills to establish successful careers in real estate in El Paso and the surrounding community. The minor, which only is open to business majors, has grown from 20 to 40 students in two years.
Feng, who teaches courses in the CRE minor, worked for more than 10 years in consultancy and real estate before launching his academic career. He holds a Ph.D. in finance and a Master of Science degree in real estate from Florida International University.
Feng’s research focuses on finance with a specific concentration on private and public real estate such as real estate investment trusts, or REITs, which are companies that own or finance income-producing real estate across a range of property sectors.
Feng’s December 2021 article titled “Rewarding a Long-Term Investment Strategy: REITs” in the Journal of Real Estate Research concluded that REITs would benefit from an ownership structure that fosters property portfolios held and managed for the long-term.
“The longer you hold on to assets, the lower the risk and the higher the returns,” Feng said.
According to Feng, real estate research plays an essential role in helping real estate and development companies make informed decisions about their investments
His research provides insight as to how income and the local economy play a role in real estate performance.
“My research has implications for real estate operations that want to know where to invest or how a location will affect their real estate return and performance,” Feng said.
Feng recently collaborated with Xun Bian, assistant professor of real estate at the University of North Texas, and Erik Devos, Ph.D., UTEP professor of finance and COBA associate dean for faculty, research and graduate programs, on a study that examined the relationship between CRE returns and regional innovativeness. Researchers found that regions with more innovation exhibit higher total returns on commercial property.
Devos said the REAL rankings are an opportunity to highlight the research contributions of Feng and other COBA real estate researchers including, Elizabeth M. Devos., Ph.D., assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems.
“Having such a high ranking immediately puts us on the map in another academic area that is very relevant to the local economy and to local companies, and it helps increase our visibility,” Erik Devos said.
The associate dean said the rankings also add credibility to the real estate minor, which the department established with input from real estate and development companies and local industry experts such as Carleen Barth, who holds a Certified Commercial Investment Member designation and also teaches in the minor.
In addition to a top-notch curriculum, the minor also provides students with real-world opportunities in the CRE development processes. Throughout the fall 2020 semester, UTEP CRE students worked with El Paso International Airport staff in the Aviation Development and Properties Division to assess available commercial real estate located on airport property. The students conducted research and created marketing and property development plans for the real estate parcels that lay within the nearly 7,000 acres of airport-owned property.
“I think that these rankings help the minor in a couple of different ways,” Erik Devos said. “It gives credibility to what we’re doing internally as far as academics and the quality of our curriculum, and that helps in recruiting students. It also raises our profile and increases our visibility in the corporate real estate academic world.”
Click here for more information about the commercial real estate minor.