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First semester trials and triumphs: how a growth mindset helped a new multidisciplinary studies student

At the start of her first semester in the online multidisciplinary studies program at Boise State, Jessika Wass felt a little discomfort. 

“Not only was I learning a lot of new things in the classes, but I was also adapting to online learning using programs like Google Suite and Blackboard. It took me about two months, and then I started to get my flow and feel more comfortable,” she explained. “It’s just about taking one step at a time. I was also surrounded by other adults, many of whom were also out of college for a long time, so I felt a lot less nervous. It feels like we’re a team and in this together!”

Jessika Wass smiles with her workplace apron on.
Jessika Wass knows that her multidisciplinary studies degree applies to her current job and future business goals. Photo provided by Jessika Wass.

With the discomfort came an opportunity to lean into the process of learning and develop a growth mindset. “I started to see how relevant my classes were to so many aspects of life. Applying the leadership skills to my business and with my clients was awesome, and if I ever expand my business and grow it to where I have employees, these skills will be so important,” Wass stated.

More than a degree; innovative, engaging curriculum

And, what was her favorite class? “They’ve all been great, but one class I enjoyed a lot was MDS 305. We learned about the process of odyssey planning and that was so mind-blowing,” Wass exclaimed. “We learned about goal-setting and creating plans for our lives, but it’s in the process of breaking it all down and reflection that you learn so much about yourself.”

Odyssey planning comes from Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans and their #1 New York Times Bestselling book, Designing Your Life. Their approach to planning a meaningful life starts by teaching design thinking and instilling the fundamental skills of problem identification, ideation and prototyping. 

“It helped me get clarity on a lot of my future plans. I know it’s a tool I’ll use for the rest of my life.” Wass loved odyssey planning so much that she recommended and taught the process to her family. “I shared it with my parents and said that they should try it because they’re approaching retirement, and now would be a great time for them to get clear on the next 20 years of their lives.”

Jessika Wass poses with her family with fall foliage in the background.
Jessika Wass shares her learning in the multidisciplinary studies program with those around her, including her family. Photo provided by Jessika Wass.

Tips For Success

Now, after two full semesters in the program, Wass has some tips for success. “Have grace for yourself and try not to stress yourself out too much. You’re doing something new and that can be uncomfortable, so take a moment to do whatever practice helps you calm down,” Wass said. “This was another realization I had that helped me: I don’t have to take 12 credits — it’s okay to do six at a time. Maybe it’ll push my schooling out one more year, but it’s okay to slow down and really just absorb the classes and your learning.”

As Wass mentioned, the multidisciplinary studies program offers students options and flexibility. Multiple start dates are available throughout the academic year. Classes run year-round in 16-week semesters. You can complete the Online Multidisciplinary Studies (MDS) Degree curriculum at a flexible full-time or part-time pace that works for your schedule. Students attending full-time can complete the program in as little as one year.

Why your “why” matters

Another tip for success: know your “why.” “Get clear on what’s going to keep you going on your degree path. So for me, a big part of my ‘why’ is accomplishing a goal — to get my bachelor’s degree,” Wass explained. “I remember when I was first thinking about enrolling in college, I shared that with a client that I see regularly. She is high up in her company and does the interviewing and hiring. She shared something that stuck with me and inspired me to get my degree. She said, ‘When I’m interviewing somebody, and I see on their resume that they have a bachelor’s degree, I don’t look at that and think that they’re an expert in that degree but that they had grit. They set a goal and accomplished it. Even more important than the actual major is that they were able to achieve something important to them.’”

Learn more about the multidisciplinary studies program at Boise State

The Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies (MDS) is an integrative degree program designed to help students creatively combine their ideas and experiences with new, interdisciplinary learning opportunities 1) to better understand context and discover new connections; 2) to create mindful, collaborative, and productive relationships; and 3) to become reflective and adaptive learners.

Ready to learn more? Contact a student success coach today!

Contact a student success coach

Note: The Multidisciplinary Studies Program name was changed to Interdisciplinary Professional Studies in April 2022.

Story by Pamela Craig, Boise State Extended Studies