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To Be Continued

Education is not just for traditional students, and Art Markman wants to take UT’s continuing and professional education to the next level for a growing state

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Art Markman sits outside on campus in a suit

“Is this what I want to say I did for a living?” If you have asked yourself that question, and the answer has been, “not so much,” Art Markman and his team at UT might have some ideas for you.

After wearing many hats (he’s something of an expert on career agility himself), Markman now is UT’s vice provost for continuing and professional education and new education ventures. (He knows the title is a mouthful and calls the latter part his “weasel words,” which allow him space to explore a host of new possibilities.)

If in the past few months you searched for “UT Austin” and “continuing education,” you would have found something called Texas Extended Campus. If you had clicked, it would have showed 11 different centers in places such as the Law School, the McCombs School of Business, the Cockrell School of Engineering and the College of Pharmacy; you also would have found UT High School and Informal Classes. Some of these are executive education degree programs, but many are one-day seminars, four-day certificate programs or six-week boot camps in something that reorients one’s career path. Some offerings are purely for the love of learning. UT serves about 75,000 people a year across all its continuing education programs.

So what’s to improve on? For one thing, sheer volume. Markman would like those 75,000 to become 115,000 in the next five years. Why? Americans are changing jobs 11 or more times over the course of their careers and even changing careers several times. “It’s no longer the case that you exit college, go into a particular profession, and then stick with that profession for the next 40 years,” Markman says. “We’re seeing lots of people making pivots, and it’s not just the 25-year-old who decides they want to do something different. It’s people in their 40s who want to take a new direction. It’s people in their 60s thinking, ‘I enjoyed that first career, but there’s another contribution I want to make.’”

What’s more, the population of Texas is predicted to balloon over the next 20 years from 29 million to more than 40 million. “The flagship university of the state has to be an essential part of making sure all of those people are able to contribute in the way that they want to,” Markman says. “Education isn’t just for traditional students. It’s also for people changing careers and people who have discovered that their career path requires a new set of skills. We should be part of the ecosystem that’s providing that.”

The flagship university of the state has to be an essential part of making sure all of those people are able to contribute in the way that they want to.

Art Markman

To increase UT’s continuing education enrollment that much, it will be necessary to organize better and present a more unified face to the public.

In the house where Markman grew up, there still hangs a needlepoint of a lion he made when he was 9. “The front of it looks, you know, like a lion, and the back of it is this unholy mess of yarn going all over the place, from one patch to another that required the same color of yarn.” Markman says that the way UT sometimes presents itself to the public, because of its decentralized structure, reminds him of the messy back of a needlepoint. “Part of what we’re trying to do is to help turn that around and show the Longhorn on the front.”

Markman says UT’s decentralized structure is good in a lot of ways because it lets units try things without feeling as if they have to clear them with the many layers of bureaucracy. “The danger in that system is that when we have to present a public face to the world, we often don’t do it well.” So the first step has been organizing the online gateway by asking visitors if they’re interested in a degree or nondegree program and in what field.

A second focus is on better coordination. For example, UT has a concerted effort to work with members of the military to enhance their career prospects — soldiers who are looking to get more education while on active duty, are transitioning from military to civilian life, or are veterans. “The watchword here is coordination. We want to learn from others’ successes and not create programs that might slip through the cracks between those silos.”

To plug those gaps and better connect the units, the group known as Texas Extended Campus, about 75 people who report up to Markman, has changed its name to Extended Education Ventures. This self-funded “auxiliary unit” includes the Thompson Conference Center, the Campus Testing Center, Informal Classes, and programs aimed at older adults within UT’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: LAMP, Nova, Sage, Quest, and Forum. UT High School has been moved to the College of Education, “where it makes more sense,” Markman says.

Markman has refocused this unit’s efforts on supporting new continuing and professional education across campus. The core groups within Extended Education Ventures, who work in the UT Administration Building at 1616 Guadalupe St., focus on marketing and public relations, student service, IT support, the handling of the money and business development.

Colleges and schools that have been offering continuing and professional education for years, such as business, education, engineering and liberal arts, have had enough runway to get established, staff up and advertise their programs. Now, the expertise that Extended Education Ventures has in running these kinds of programs is being directed at helping to launch new programs. “We’re going to be working with the School of Social Work to build an online Option 3 master’s program to complement their in-person programs. We’re working with the College of Fine Arts to relaunch some of their design-thinking programs. The aim is to provide additional service to units that want to spin new things off so that they don’t have to hire their own staff to do it. Their faculty and experts can focus on what they do best — thinking about what they want to teach and how they want to teach it. We can focus on the details of how to get people there, and when they do show up to the class, how do we make sure they have a good experience?”

To provide more of a unified face and better connect UT’s professional programs to one another, Markman and team have created the Continuing Professional and Online Education Leadership Council, which will allow colleges, schools and units (CSUs) to learn from one another and share best practices. It might reveal some economies of scale too, such as shared software packages to help units manage new customer relations. “It’s not trying to have a central authority for things, but rather just to create communities of practice and to encourage people to find new ways to work together.”

Finally, there is the business of innovations in education itself. Much of the work of innovating in continuing education, in its details, is quite similar to what UT needs to do to be innovative in the ways it educates anyone. “I didn’t want to create a new silo and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to learn a bunch of stuff inside of Continuing Education and then not share it with everyone else.’ So adding ‘New Educational Ventures’ to my title was my way of saying there might be more stuff that relates broadly to the education mission on campus.” So Markman has been collaborating heavily with what is now again called the Center for Teaching and Learning (having been called the Faculty Innovation Center) as well as the Strategic Academic Initiatives. “We’ve been working together to become an academic affairs portfolio,” he says.

Such reorganization and refocus is a massive undertaking, but Markman is combining big-picture thinking with seemingly boundless energy to align UT’s offerings with society’s needs.

Markman meets with the Academic Working Group during the COVID-19 crisis
Markman leads a recent meeting of the COVID-19 Academic Working Group.

Art Markman’s Continuing Education

Career pivots and continuing education are both things to which Art Markman brings firsthand experience. In short, what’s a nice psychology professor like him doing in a place like this? “I’ve had this interesting drift over the course of my career to thinking more broadly about the implications of my field,” he says. That drift started almost 20 years ago simply with trying to do more outward-facing communication. In 2008, he started blogging for Psychology Today magazine.

“What I found is that there are people in this world who won’t really listen to what you have to say unless they’re paying for the information, and who was I to get in their way!” So he began consulting for companies on the side, which made him wonder how the kinds of problems he studied as a psychologist played out in workplaces.

That led to him being asked in 2011 to help form the Human Dimensions of Organizations program in the College of Liberal Arts. He built that program from the ground up — a master’s program, some continuing education, and ultimately, in 2016 an undergraduate major that currently has about 500 students. “That was an experience of working across a single college to bring together a group of people to craft a curriculum and get them working together and then engaging a lot with the outside world to make the case that liberal arts had a lot to say about how you might run an organization.”

Markman says, “I feel like I’m good at building stuff that doesn’t exist and fixing things that are broken, but not so good at running things that are things.” So when Human Dimensions of Organizations began to transition from an academic startup to a mature entity, it was time to move on.

When the interim provost texts you at 5 in the morning on a Saturday and says, ‘Can we talk?,’ he’s not about to make your life easier.

Art Markman

He was asked to direct UT’s IC2 Institute and refocused it on economic development in small communities. Then came “a series of unfortunate events,” as he puts it, chief among them, a pandemic. “I learned that when the interim provost texts you at 5 in the morning on a Saturday and says, ‘Can we talk?,’ he’s not about to make your life easier,” he muses. The subsequent phone call left Markman chairing the Academic Working Group for COVID planning.

“That was actually a full-blown exercise in all the principles of the Human Dimensions of Organizations: How do you take a small city and operate it as well as possible during a pandemic, knowing that you can’t please everybody and, in fact, the situation is so complicated you’re going to upset everybody to some degree? How do you create processes that people trust enough to buy into them despite the uncertainty? That was a fascinating exercise that sadly is still going on.” He is still on the COVID-19 Executive Committee. He officially stepped down from IC2 in December 2021.

“I’ve always said that life, when you look back on it, all makes sense; if you look in the forward direction, it’s all chaos,” he says. “That’s true with me: You can find the through line, but I’m not sure I would have been able to tell you each of these steps was actually a step along some coherent path.”

Texas Executive Education at McCombs 2018 20180912LG-T Texas Executive Education at McCombs 2018 EEClass029[4] copy
Texas Executive Education advocacy class in Rowling Hall on September 12, 2018. Photo by Lauren Gerson DeLeon.

What UT Extended Education Graduates Have to Say

Online Project Management Certificate Program

“This course was the complete, end-to-end handbook of Project Management. It is indeed rare for an online training to possess various shapes of learning: videos, click-and-go graphics, imagery, case studies, and role-playing interactive activities. I highly recommend this certificate program.”

— Kristen Chou, Project Coordinator
VMware

Business Analysis Certificate Program

“This program was practical, relevant, and hands-on. The instructors have a wealth of business analysis knowledge and experience, and they do a fantastic job of sharing it. I have been able to immediately apply concepts and tools at work. I highly recommend this course for anyone seeking to become a business analyst, learn about the business analysis discipline or add to their business analyst toolbox.”

— Amanda Bennett, Business Analyst
BNSF Railway

Cybersecurity Boot Camp

“When I (was promoted to) the Lieutenant of Technology Services position I had no IT experience whatsoever. I knew I needed to upskill. The cybersecurity boot camp was the longest boot camp program offered, covered more areas of IT, and I found it to be intellectually interesting. Because the boot camp was associated with UT Austin, I expected a certain level of expertise in the teaching, labs, and classwork. After I graduated, I took a few months to self-teach and study, and I passed the CompTIA+ exams on the first sitting. I’m using my current job to seek out projects where I can apply my new cybersecurity and IT skill set.”

— Ian Driscoll
Travis County Sheriff’s Office

Business Analysis Certificate Program

“As a senior software quality assurance professional, I have worked very closely with Business Analysts for over 20 years. After completing this program, I found that there was so much more to the purpose, depth and breadth of business analysis and its applicability to downstream processes. This realization has allowed me to quickly apply some of the knowledge gained on my current work projects. In addition, the group exercises, focused instruction and real-world examples enabled me to better digest the content.”

— Cynthia A. Bell, Senior IT QA/QC Analyst
Lower Colorado River Authority

Graphic Design Certificate Program

“The Graphic Design Certificate Program is the course I wish I had taken when I first started out in my career 20 years ago. As a mid-career professional, I was looking to develop new skills in Adobe Creative Suite and HTML/CSS, and this program delivered a high-quality educational experience. The instructor has a wealth of knowledge, and it was evident he put a lot of effort into creating the course materials.”

— Tammy Wheatley, Features Designer
Gannett Co. Inc.

Leadership Academy Certificate Program

“As a Longhorn alum, I follow University of Texas continuing education offerings. In addition to helpful reminders of best practices, this Leadership Certificate provided additional insights into how to lead with the move to the work-from-home reality. I was impressed how quickly CPE was able to adjust and bring in best-in-class offerings to account for the COVID challenges. Hook ’em!”

— Charles Mack

Nonprofit Management Certificate Program

“I chose the Nonprofit Management Certificate Program at THE University of Texas because of its affordability when compared to other programs and the self-paced option. The program was very comprehensive, and the instructors were very knowledgeable. In addition, the program was more than textbook reading; it was interactive and included videos, flash cards to practice concepts, questions that required typed responses and simulations. Lastly, the program was very user friendly, and I was able to complete the class on my laptop as well as my iPad when traveling.”

— Crystal Smith