New Master’s Degree Trains Business Leaders in Understanding Human Behavior

Sept. 25, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — A new Master of Arts degree at The University of Texas at Austin draws on the liberal arts, technology programs and other disciplines to train business and nonprofit leaders who want a better understanding of how human behavior and experience relates to today's global marketplace.

Prospective students can now apply online for Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO). The 18-month degree program will host its first group of students beginning in the fall of 2013. Classes will be offered Friday evenings and Saturdays, twice a month, on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

The program was developed by university faculty members with guidance from business leaders at companies and organizations such as Procter & Gamble, ING and GSD&M.

“It is unlike any other program in the country. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this program both from the faculty and from people in the business community,” said Arthur 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.”

Markman, who recently wrote the best-selling book “Smart Thinking,” offers HDO courses that help professionals develop smarter habits, improve their knowledge and find strategies to use that knowledge in innovative problem-solving.

Students will engage in hands-on research at the university’s Harry Ransom Center, one of the world’s premier archives, and the Austin Technology Incubator, a leading development environment for early-stage technology companies. Those unable to commute to Austin will be able to join classes online through videoconferencing.

A program within the College of Liberal Arts, HDO brings together faculty members specializing in diverse fields to provide converging perspective on how to use today’s knowledge to identify and implement organizational change.

Through HDO’s coursework, Markman explains, students learn to think like sociologists to influence the flow of information in an organization. They learn to think like historians to uncover the real events underlying an organization’s past successes and failures. They learn to think like psychologists to improve the quality of innovative thinking and the level of employee job satisfaction.

“Innovation can’t simply be ordered up,” said Craig Wynett, chief learning officer at Procter & Gamble and a member of HDO’s external board of international business advisers. “To create and sustain an innovative culture, you have to go beyond being managers to becoming leaders, perhaps what can be called intrinsic leaders. HDO can play a fundamental role in this transformation.”

In addition to the new master’s degree, HDO also offers open-enrollment Professional Seminars, one-day courses that explore human-centered issues affecting work culture. Seminar topics include Creativity and Leadership, The Language of Power and Deception, Flourishing in the Workplace, and Maximizing Mental Agility.

“HDO’s new degree program and seminars exemplify how our college and this university are leading the way for higher education in the 21st century,” said Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a psychologist who is a noted leader in language perception research. “Helping professionals learn how to better understand and lead organizations in a global marketplace will bring tremendous benefits to our communities and to the state of Texas.”

For more information, contact: David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts, 512 626 0788; Arthur Markman, Department of Psychology, 512-232-4645