Putting Liberal Arts to Work

Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO) is a new Bachelor of Arts degree program from the College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin.

HDO teaches students to use the disciplines of the liberal arts—the humanities, and the social and behavioral sciences—to understand workplace interactions and how organizations can best serve their employees, customers, and clients.

This major is intended for students who envision themselves solving human-centered problems in organizations including business, government, nonprofits, and the military. Career paths from HDO include human resources, people management, nonprofit leadership, project management, and government service, among others.

The Liberal Arts have always taught critical thinking skills and effective communication, which are crucial to success in organizations. These disciplines also provide a deeper understanding of culture, motivation and behavior, group dynamics, and individual psychology.

Students with a deep knowledge of these areas of study are well-suited to address the problems that factors like globalization, regulation, linguistic diversity, and cultural differences can cause.

The HDO Bachelor’s Degree provides a broad-based exploration of liberal arts as applied to organizations. It allows students to:

  1. Develop effective, persuasive oral and written communication skills;
  2. Understand ethical behavior in the workplace;
  3. Broaden their knowledge of the types of cultures that influence organizations;
  4. Measure human behavior to inform decision-making, and
  5. Consider how key lessons from the humanities and the social/behavioral sciences can be applied in organizational settings.
  6. It is this last learning outcome that distinguishes HDO from traditional disciplines that make up UT Austin’s College of Liberal Arts.

“The HDO bachelor’s program focuses on understanding organizational dynamics and behaviors—how organizations work—which is an essential skill in today’s rapidly changing work environment. To succeed, leaders need more than good functional skills; they need to communicate well across silos, understand complex organizational interdependencies, and adapt to ambiguous and rapidly changing business environments.”

– Bjorn Billhardt, CEO, Abilitie; HDO External Advisor


Requirements & Courses

The Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Dimensions of Organizations is interdisciplinary, which means that HDO majors take a combination of core HDO classes courses and a variety of approved courses offered in other departments. Students can discuss and review this list of approved courses with HDO’s academic advisor (see the Advising & Careers tab).

Organization of the Major

Thirty semester hours of Human Dimensions of Organizations, at least eighteen of which must be upper-division, including:

1. Human Dimensions of Organizations 301
2. Human Dimensions of Organizations 320
3. At least three hours in each of the following four fields:

  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Qualitative reasoning
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Culture and communication
4. Nine additional semester hours from section 3 above
5. Human Dimensions of Organizations 379
Click here to view/download a current list of courses approved to fulfill Section 3 above. Contact HDO's Academic Advisor with any questions (see the Advising & Careers tab above for contact information).

HDO Course Descriptions

HDO 301: Introduction to the Human Dimensions of Organizations
In this course, students are introduced to what organizations are and how the liberal arts can examine, analyze, and change them. The course will define an organization from a liberal arts standpoint; survey various approaches to understanding organizations, and explore career opportunities related to the human dimensions of organizations.

HDO 320: Multidisciplinary Methods for Exploring Organizations
In this course, students will learn how to analyze and synthesize organizational studies from a liberal arts viewpoint. They will examine types of organizations, explore problems these organizations face, and consider the ways distinct methodologies might address these problems.

HDO 379: Applying the Human Dimensions of Organizations
In this course, students will engage in a connecting experience that allows them to apply the multidisciplinary methods of the Human Dimensions of Organizations with an external entity. These individual projects enable students to broaden their understanding of the role of the liberal arts viewpoint in practical settings.

HDO 359H and 379H: Honors Research in Human Dimensions of Organizations
Students in the honors track will complete an extended connecting experience that they develop in consultation with a member of the faculty. In this connecting experience, they will describe an organizational problem that they witnessed and do an extended thesis that uses one or more disciplines to provide insight into how this problem can be addressed. The program will culminate in a poster session in which honors students present their work to faculty and students.

HDO majors who are interested in pursuing the HDO Honors program, visit the Bachelor's Program Resources page for more information about the program.

Prospective & Current Students

HDO Bachelor's Degree Overview

The three videos in the playlist below provide an introduction to the HDO Bachelor's Degree, an overview of HDO courses and the organization of the major, as well as a discussion of various career paths for HDO majors.

In addition to the videos below, we asked some Human Dimensions of Organizations majors to describe the Bachelor's degree, in their own words:

"HDO majors research the secret ingredient of success for any profession or organization: the humans. Understanding the subtle rhythms and patterns of human interaction can help us better understand why we act the way we do, and how we can cultivate proactive relationships with each other. This introspective system is valuable not only to an individual, but also to a company as a whole. The more we understand about the people we interact with—be they friend, family, coworker, or even stranger—the better we can all work together, and the more we can all achieve together." - Clint Stepp, HDO Major

"I chose HDO as my major because it allows me to specialize in my interests while exposing me to different perspectives offered within a liberal arts education. As I became more exposed to the professional world, I have realized how important it is to develop exceptional soft skills to connect with others and solve problems. HDO has taught me how to evaluate my own strengths and personality, so I can better cooperate with different types of people because understanding the motivation behind how people think and react is necessary to become a courageous leader.” - Maryam Blooki, HDO Major

"HDO creates the ultimate team player. With its traditional liberal arts curriculum and its focus on synthesizing the different areas of study, students grow in their ability to entertain different perspectives. When it comes to working with others, the HDO approach looks different. Unlike business education, HDO fosters a 'we' mentality as opposed to a 'me' mentality. Instead of winning, it promotes collaboration. Instead of competition, it preaches strategy. This major doesn't constrain one to any specific field or job; that's the beauty of it. With these classes, I can apply what I'm learning in the classroom to my personal life and can see how they are preparing me for the professional life." - Emily Tabor, HDO Major

For more information on the HDO Bachelor's Degree, contact Associate Director Dr. Amy Ware.


HDO Bachelor's Degree Brochure

View the brochure below. Click here to download. 

Advising & Careers

What can you do with an HDO degree? Our majors may move into Human Resources, Organizational Development, Consulting, Nonprofit Leadership, or Civil Service, to name a few possibilities. A degree in HDO prepares you to understand and lead people, manage change, and influence decision-making in any number of organizational settings.

The College’s Liberal Arts Career Services offers tools to help undergraduates translate their in-class work into real-life jobs.

Current and prospective HDO majors can schedule an advising appointment by contacting HDO's Senior Advisor Summer Cacciotti at s.cacciotti@austin.utexas.edu / 512-471-4410 / Burdine Hall Room 436F.

Liberal Arts in the News

A collection of recent news and opinion pieces on the importance of liberal arts education for workplace success. Check back regularly for new entries!

How to prepare your kids for jobs that don’t exist yet
Fast Company | June 27, 2018

How the humanities are more than just 'soft skills'
World Economic Forum | June 14, 2018

Why liberal arts and the humanities are as important as engineering
VentureBeat | June 12, 2018

Why liberal arts degrees are valuable in tech
CIO Magazine | May 2, 2018

Why We Should Spend More on Humanities Research in a High-Tech World
The Chronicle of Higher Education | April 17, 2018

Yes, Studying the Humanities Might Make You a Better Doctor
Slate | April 9, 2018

Teaching And Learning At The Boundaries Of 2 Cultures
NPR | March 28, 2018

The Trail From Liberal Arts to Big Tech
Salesforce | March 21, 2018

How anthropology can heal the anxiety of our broken relationship with money
Quartz | March 7, 2018

STEM may be the future—but liberal arts are timeless
Quartz | February 27, 2018

Forget learning to code, bosses value collaboration and communication
Fast Company | February 27, 2018

Thanks, Robots! Now These Four Non-Tech Job Skills Are In Demand
Fast Company | February 20, 2018

Don't Want a Robot to Replace You? Study Tolstoy
Institute for New Economic Thinking | February 20, 2018

The Secret to Midcareer Success
The Wall Street Journal | February 11, 2018

Why scientists need arts training for the safety of society
World Economic Forum | February 5, 2018

As AI Makes More Decisions, the Nature of Leadership Will Change
Harvard Business Review | January 22, 2018

Once written off as worthless, humanities students are now the future of business
The Times of London | December 8, 2017

The Baltimore Cops Studying Plato and James Baldwin
The Atlantic | November 25, 2017

Beyond tech, business: Why liberal arts education in an uncertain economy is the answer
Economic Times | November 18, 2017

How to Spark “Next-Gen” Creativity
Strategy + Business | November 14, 2017

Why Economists Need Tolstoy: How Public Policy Can Benefit from a Focus on Humanities
The Washington Post | November 10, 2017

Teaching business within the liberal arts could help avoid the next Uber or Harvey Weinstein
Quartz | November 9, 2017

How Silicon Valley learnt to love the liberal arts
Financial Times | November 1, 2017



What is HDO?

In the video below, HDO’s Founding Director Dr. Art Markman provides an overview of the Human Dimensions of Organizations Bachelor’s Degree program at The University of Texas at Austin.