The University of Texas at Austin Plans Innovative Liberal Arts Master's Program

The University of Texas at Austin plans to offer a new master's and executive seminar program called Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO), which is touted as "a liberal arts education for the modern professional."

Created by the College of Liberal Arts, the program is geared toward leaders in the business and nonprofit sectors seeking to improve their professional lives. Participants may, for example, explore methods from sociology to improve their organization's information flow. Or they may investigate events that have led to innovation or drastic change within their own organizations. Led by noted faculty members from across campus, the program will offer open-enrollment professional seminars beginning February 2012, and a specialized master of arts program is planned for Fall 2013.

"There is a lot of excitement surrounding this program both from the faculty and from people in the business community," says Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at The University of Texas at Austin and founding director of HDO. "In this competitive work environment, business leaders realize that an understanding of their employees and customers is crucial for success."

The new program's mission is to help working professionals analyze how businesses are influenced by tradition, history, psychology, language and new media; bridge their creative and professional lives and foster creativity in those around them; build strong organizations by providing leaders with comprehensive understanding of the global workplace; and generate real-world skills that will improve the structure and function of organizations.

To accommodate professional work schedules, on-campus classes will be on Friday evenings and on Saturdays. Videoconferencing will also be offered for students nationwide who cannot commute. Specific areas of concentration include: Organizations, Cultures and Diversity; Language, Logic, Communication and New Media; and Creativity, Innovation and Information.

In addition to this 18-month degree, the program is currently offering open enrollment for its professional seminars. These one-day courses explore human-centered issues affecting work culture and aim to help employees become internal consultants for their own companies. Seminar topics will include: The Language of Power, Organizations under Stress, Ethics and Behavior in Asia, and Maximizing Mental Agility.

"The unique value of our seminars is that we are providing methods from the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences that people can use to understand their organizations more deeply," Markman says. "Not only are we giving suggestions for how to improve relationships inside and outside a company, but we are also helping people to analyze their businesses in new ways."

Markman says he will teach Maximizing Mental Agility, a course that he developed in collaboration with Procter and Gamble. Rooted in the principles of his forthcoming book "Smart Thinking," the course provides six lessons to help professionals develop smarter habits, improve their knowledge and find strategies to use that knowledge in innovative problem-solving.