University of St. Thomas Advancing DEI in Real Estate with Opus Foundation® Grant

The Opus Foundation has long supported organizations addressing social, education and economic issues, but since the onset of the pandemic and civil unrest, we have taken a closer look at what more can be done to challenge racial injustices and influence systemic changes. Advancing racial equity is a journey on which the Foundation has taken another step.

The Opus Foundation recently awarded a $1.5M multi-year grant to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. The grant will support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in commercial real estate (CRE) at the University and, ultimately, the industry.

Transformational Growth in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Real Estate Studies program, offered through the university's Opus College of Business, is one of a few undergraduate CRE programs in the Midwest.

The grant will support the transformational growth in the notable program in the following ways:

  • ​creation of the Opus Foundation Real Estate Scholars Cohort Program pilot
  • development of a DEI-focused industry symposium
  • hiring a full-time Real Estate Program Director
  • assist in endowing the program in perpetuity

Education-to-Career Pathways

Currently, the Real Estate Studies program enrolls 72 students – 18% of which identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). By 2023, the goal is to increase that number to 22%. Within 10 years, the goal is for 40% of enrolled students to identify as BIPOC, which aligns with the overall goals of the Opus College of Business.

The Opus Foundation Real Estate Scholars Cohort Program will offer full-ride, three-year renewable Real Estate Studies scholarships to under-resourced students, including graduates of the Dougherty Family College and transfer students. An Opus Foundation grantee​ and one of only two colleges of its kind in the country, Dougherty Family College at University of St. Thomas provides an alternate pathway to college by offering an associate degree program to motivated students from underrepresented communities.

“Dougherty Family College is our main pipeline for the pilot cohort program," said Mark Hintz, Director of Development at the University of St. Thomas. “Qualified students are already enrolled at the college, which puts us in a good position to recruit those who are interested in real estate. There's also a connection to Opus, as the Opus Foundation was instrumental in helping us launch and sustain Dougherty Family College."

Students will receive outside-the-classroom enrichment activities like career coaching, service-learning opportunities, networking, mentoring and memberships in professional real estate organizations.

This summer, the University will select the first students to enter the pilot Opus Foundation Real Estate Scholars Cohort Program for 2021 – 2022.

Industry Engagement: Annual Real Estate Symposium

To drive DEI within the profession, the Real Estate Studies program will launch an annual Real Estate Symposium. It will engage real estate firms, professionals, alumni and students from across the Midwest and provide a venue for sharing best practices for recruiting and retaining diverse talent, networking opportunities for students and alumni, and breakout sessions about industry-related DEI topics. The first symposium is planned for spring 2022. By 2024, the university hopes to engage more than 250 individuals in the symposium annually.

“By the end of the three-year Opus Foundation grant, our goal is to have impacted the real estate profession by making it more diverse, equitable and inclusive," said Hintz.

“I have 23 Minnesota winters under my belt fundraising and this was by far the best grant experience I've ever had," said Hintz. “Opus has been just fantastic – they are exceptionally passionate and earnest in their work."

Our organization has a long history with the University of St. Thomas. Our founder Gerry Rauenhorst helped start the Real Estate Studies program; Tim Murnane serves on the program's Advisory Committee, and Matt Rauenhorst, Executive Vice President & General Manager, serves on the Opus College of Business Dean's advisory board. Many other associates are connected to the university either as alumni or volunteers.

“Opus has proudly been a part of the University of St. Thomas' real estate program since its inception," said Tim Murnane, President & CEO. “I'm very pleased the Opus Foundation was able to make this grant and continue building on our ongoing partnership. Diversity, equity and inclusion are core to the work of the Foundation. This grant represents an exciting opportunity to further expand our collaboration with the University to ultimately advance those values, and to do so specifically in support of both student success and the real estate industry overall." 


The Opus Foundation®​ is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.​