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Interdisciplinary Professional Studies Student Changes Careers and Starts a Business — All Before Graduation

Jessi Boyer is a current student in the Interdisciplinary Professional Studies program (formerly known as Multidisciplinary Studies). This uniquely customizable bachelor’s degree allowed her to earn a certificate, launch a new business and successfully transition careers — all before graduation. 

Jessi Boyer sits on orange chair and in front of a camera.
Jessi Boyer, current Boise State Interdisciplinary Professional Studies student.

Jessi Boyer chooses Interdisciplinary Professional Studies to switch careers

Jessi Boyer had already lived a lot of life before coming to Boise State. She ran political campaigns at the local, state and federal level, including two congressional campaigns, and cared for her young daughter. While the political work was fulfilling, it was also unstable. With many interests and varied experiences, Boyer looked into degree programs to facilitate a career change. 

As an adult with an established life, deciding to go back to college is not easy. It means making time for classes while working, parenting and juggling other obligations. 

“My major barrier was being a single mom and trying to keep my daughter in a stable living situation and in her school with her friends. My priority has been to make sure that my finances allow me to go to school because the first priority is my family, “ Boyer explained. “And I feel like I’ve successfully navigated that. There are opportunities for financial aid, and I got good guidance and was able to get scholarships and pell grants. That has allowed me to focus exclusively on school.”

Creating her own degree with emphases and certificates

The unique design of Boise State’s Interdisciplinary Professional Studies degree stood out to Boyer. Students can choose from a variety of emphases and certificates, and online, in-person or hybrid tracks. The diversity of modalities, emphases and certificates empowered Boyer to make decisions that were right for her and her goals. “Creating my Interdisciplinary Professional Studies degree was actually a pretty straightforward process, in that I knew what I wanted to do, which was anthropology,” Boyer said.

Boyer eventually chose the program due to its flexibility and the opportunity to receive credit for prior learning. The IPS degree gives students the ability to use their existing college credits and prior learning experience to create a meaningful, compelling and individualized degree plan. Combined with  a customizable educational pathway of relevant minors, certificates, or emphasis areas students can apply targeted workforce- and industry-relevant skill sets and add career-focused definitions to their degree outcomes.

Boyer chose to add the User Experience (UX) Research Certificate to her IPS degree and shifted careers mid-way through her degree program.

Interdisciplinary Professional Studies student, Jessi Boyer, pointing at post-it notes on a whiteboard
Jessi Boyer customized her Interdisciplinary Professional Studies degree by adding a User Experience Research Certificate.

“I completed the UX certificate and took it and the skills that I gained to start a career in UX immediately. After I graduate, I’ll build on that career. But, it’s given me the ability to start right away.”

The User Experience Research Certificate uncovers how people interact with products, services, policies and organizations. Students learn about the user experience through practical exercises, including planning and executing a project that delivers insight to a real-world stakeholder.

Make connections and gain experience

Universities create opportunities for students to meet other people and form vast professional networks. Many of these can lead to long-time connections, both personal and professional. Even if students study primarily online, there are plenty of ways to meet new people and make connections. Boyer describes how she got involved on the Boise State campus as a Boise resident. 

“The most important campus organization that I’ve gotten involved with is the Honors College, which I absolutely love. They have the same student-centered attitude as the IPS program. I’ve enjoyed their mentorship and professional development opportunities,” Boyer said. 

“I have also taken the opportunity to submit papers to the Undergraduate Research Showcase. I’ll be doing a Lightning Talk in the spring, which is very exciting. And, using the research that I did with the IPS program, I’ve also submitted works to professional conferences, anthropological conferences and student paper competitions. Those things prepare you to go on if you want to get your masters or your Ph.D. or go on in the academic world.”

“This is the perfect program for an adult to come back and complete their bachelor’s degree. Education is an investment in your future, and it’s transformative. It has been for me.”

Graduate school, anthropology and user research

Jessi Boyer already has plans for life after graduation. “After I graduate in August, I will immediately begin grad school — the Master of Arts in Anthropology and the User Research Graduate Certificate. That graduate certificate will immediately benefit my career in UX,” she said. She also recently accepted a graduate assistantship in the Anthropology department for a project funded by the National Science Foundation, titled “Evolutionary Insights into Digital Ecologies of Fear.”

Jessi Boyer sits at a white board table and marks user experience data.
Plans for Jessi Boyer’s future include graduate school and a graduate assistantship, where she’ll help support an anthropology research project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Although the decision to return to college was difficult for Boyer, she doesn’t regret it and recommends the Interdisciplinary Professional Studies program to future students.  “A lot of the research that I did revealed how difficult the decision is [for adult students] to come back to college. A lot of that can be based on shame, financial situations and questions about return on investment. Many say, ‘If I go back now, how much will it benefit me versus not going back and continuing on the path that I’m on?’” she said.

“I’m 38, and there are plenty of people in the program that are older than me, but I’m so glad I did. It was so worth it. This is the perfect program for an adult to come back and complete their bachelor’s degree. Education is an investment in your future, and it’s transformative. It has been for me.”

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Story by Ashley Barnes and Pamela Craig, Boise State Extended Studies