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: Courses that teach students about collecting and analyzing data that involve statistical analysis. These courses involve development of surveys and experiments; basic statistical analysis; econometrics; and computational methods.

  • Qualitative reasoning: Courses that enhance students' understanding of gathering information about people as they function in groups, cultures, and organizations. These courses introduce students to data gathering methods including observation, ethnography, interviews, history, etc.

  • Creativity and innovation: Courses that require students either to think in new ways about personal and organizational dynamics or to study how organizations promote the development of new ideas. Classes may focus on theater, creative writing or the arts or may study the way individuals, groups, and cultures can generate, evaluate, and implement new ideas.

  • Culture and communication: Courses that develop students' communication skills by challenging them to sharpen their writing/speaking skills and/or their understanding of cultures outside of their own or historical forces that shaped their own culture.
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: Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and HDO Master List. 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 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 with HDO's Senior Advisor Summer Cacciotti online. Please note that all appointments using the above link will be setup via Zoom. Summer can be reached 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!

To Beat COVID-19, Science Needs the Humanities
The American Interest | May 21, 2020

Humanities as Essential Services
Inside Higher ED | May 21, 2020

German humanities scholars enlisted to end coronavirus lockdown
Times Higher Education | April 22, 2020

What Do the Humanities Do in a Crisis?
The New Yorker | April 11, 2020

Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis
Harvard Business Review | April 02, 2020

OPINION: When ‘business as usual’ is no longer defensible in the liberal arts
The Hechinger Report | March 2, 2020

How to optimise your headspace on a mission to Mars
The Atlantic | February 12, 2020

Are the Humanities Really in Crisis?
The Chronicle of Higher Education | February 09, 2020

What it takes to be a CEO in the 2020s
The Economist | February 06, 2020

How the Humanities Can Help Us See What’s Next in Tech
Information Week | January 02, 2020

In Defense Of The Liberal Arts In The Age Of AI
Forbes | December 19, 2019

The Humanities Must Go on the Offensive
The Chronicle of Higher Education | December 08, 2019

The Accidental Experiment That Changed Men’s Lives: The Vietnam draft lotteries
The Atlantic | December 02, 2019

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks
The Atlantic | December 2019 Issue

The Most Unexpected Workplace Trend Coming in 2020: the Return of the Liberal Arts Major
Inc.com | November 26, 2019

I have two liberal arts degrees. Here’s how I got a job in tech.
Fast Company | November 15, 2019

Why hiring managers value a liberal arts education
Times Record News | November 4, 2019

How to Succeed in Business? Major in Liberal Arts
Bloomberg | October 4, 2019

Should New Grads Take Any Job or Wait for the Right One?
Harvard Business Review | September 27, 2019

Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life
The New York Times | September 17, 2019

On Chandler Bing’s Job
The Atlantic | September 12, 2019

A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked
The Atlantic | September 10, 2019

Why Filler Words Like “Um” and “Ah” Are Actually Useful
Harvard Business Review | August 26, 2019

Why Computer Science Needs The Humanities
Forbes | August 6, 2019

Why science needs the humanities to solve climate change
Phys.org | August 6, 2019

Generational Differences At Work Are Small. Thinking They’re Big Affects Our Behavior
Harvard Business Review | August 1, 2019

HDO Students on HDO: Emma Steiner
HDO Blog | June 25, 2019

HDO Students on HDO: Ellen Finke
HDO Blog | June 11, 2019



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.