Typical college majors tend to fall in a few basic categories: arts and humanities, STEM and business or education, to name a few. At the University of Houston, one master’s degree stands out above the rest: a Master of Science in Foresight, or what some might call studying “futurism.”
This program is only offered at 12 universities throughout the world, and the University of Houston currently houses the only program based in the United States. It is a degree most people have not heard of, and it usually is not something small children will say when asked what they want to be when they grow up, according to Professor Andy Hines, who works as an associate professor and coordinator for the program. However, when breaking down what they actually study, it starts to sound like something most people do on a daily basis.
“We all plan for our future, sort of informally. What we've done is basically put together a set of methodologies, and we typically help organizations with how do you look at the future more systematically,” Hines said. “We all do it, and it's just having a tool set and a framework and way to think about it, and we've packaged it together into a master's program.”
The program currently has around 70 students enrolled, which is an unusually high number to be pursuing this degree. Hines attributes this to the pandemic.
“This is one of the ironies of the program: disasters are good for our business. The pandemic put a whole bunch of people into our program,” Hines said.
Even though the program itself is quite unique, requirements to graduate look about the same as a standard master’s degree. The degree plan is 30 credits long, and students are required to check off familiar boxes such as completing internships, attending seminars and taking methodology classes. Foresight students have gone on to work with major companies such as NASA and Disney, where they discuss the future of storytelling.
Another area of study with unique standing at UH is the Organizational Sciences Path of the College of Technology’s graduate degree offerings. Within this degree path, the two most commonly sought degrees are the Master of Science in Human Resource Development and the Master of Science in Global Retailing.
The Human Resource Development program has produced many HR professionals across the Greater Houston area who work in a variety of companies and industries. What sets this program apart from other universities is the hands-on approach they take to the degree.
“Most of our classes are project based. Students really leave the program with applied skills that they can immediately put to practice in their jobs,” assistant professor Melika Shirmohammadi said. “Another feature is that we are very well connected with the industry. We have this approach that we call “from-outside-in.” People in the industry with high level HR positions come and tell us what's going on out there in the industry and we include it in how we prepare students and in our courses.”
The Master of Science in Global Retail program lives up to its name; as retail is the number one employer for developed countries worldwide, its study is a key educational and experiential focus for students earning this degree. Classes take deep dives into the prospect of worldwide retail success by learning about the myriad cultural customs, regulations, opportunities, and potential challenges that the global marketplace offers. Upon completion, these students are prepared to put their skills to the test anywhere in the world.
“Retail is everywhere. The global retailing program prepares candidates by helping to understand the culture of what it's like to do business in various regions of the world,” department chair Barbara Stewart said. “There are in the United States other master's programs in retailing or in consumer behavior, but the global retailing program differentiates because it is global in nature. Our focus is not on domestic retail, but it's on expanding the capability to be able to do business in retail, internationally.”
For those interested in learning more about or applying to any of these programs, more information can be found at https://uh.edu/technology/programs/graduate/.
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