The Master of Design Studies allows students to identify unique concentrations that focus on emerging issues. Within the degree structure, cross-disciplinary, design-focused studio courses form the backbone of the curricular structure and cognate courses allow students to build upon existing education and experience to create a program directly informed by their professional goals. The Master of Design Studies currently provides two concentrations, in Resiliency Design and in Retail and Hospitality Design.

Resiliency Design responds to contemporary issues resulting from natural disaster, economic change, and population demands across environmental scales. Graduates will find many professional opportunities to work on complex problems that include water quality, food security, and health and aging. This concentration is anchored by our award-winning University of Arkansas Community Design Center, the Department of Landscape Architecture and the U of A Resiliency Center. One of only six universities selected to anchor the National Resilience Initiative, the Community Design Center has more than 130 design awards and has partnered to garner $70 million in grant funding for community improvement. The Resiliency Center further supports this concentration with nationally recognized faculty and diverse course offerings.

Retail and Hospitality Design is distinctive in its specializations and integrates unique regional and university resources essential for these rapidly evolving environments. In these high-demand specializations, graduates merge critical business strategies with complex economic, environmental, and cultural concerns to solve design problems. Nationally recognized programs in retail excellence and in hospitality innovation support the studio-based curriculum and contribute to dynamic learning scenarios. Retailers today confront major changes in bricks-and-mortar environments as they balance competing demands in online shopping and brand experience. International retailers such as Walmart Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. are located nearby and establish an unparalleled learning environment. Hoteliers seek authenticity and sense of place in new formats as phenomena such as Airbnb transform the lodging industry.

New concentrations are in development, pending approval from the U of A Board of Trustees and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Following final approval, Integrated Wood Design is scheduled to be available in fall 2020 and provides advanced study in one of the most rapidly growing areas of design and construction. Contemporary challenges relative to increasing demand for expertise in wood materials and expanding industrial production of emerging engineered wood products inform the emerging curriculum and position program graduates with a variety of career options. Additional concentrations in Wellness Design and Preservation Design will provide additional areas of study informed by the strengths of the U of A and the region. Please contact the graduate coordinator for anticipated start dates.