The traditional approach of choosing a single path and pursuing a specific career is being challenged by the idea of embracing multiple interests, talents, and passions. By encouraging online college instructors and students to adopt a multipotentialite mentality, we can empower them to explore diverse academic paths and enhance their versatility for future employment. This article discusses the significance of promoting multiple interests and career paths, highlights the characteristics of multipotentialites, and presents practical strategies for instructors to enrich the student experience.
The conventional notion of pursuing a single career path has limitations in the complex education and career development landscape. Multipotentialism offers an alternative perspective, advocating for the exploration of multiple academic interests and career paths. By empowering students to embrace their diverse passions and talents, educators can foster adaptability, synthesis, and rapid learning, which are essential skills in today’s ever-changing professional world.
What is Multipotentialism?
Multipotentialism refers to individuals with a wide range of interests, talents, and potential career endeavors. It goes beyond mere curiosity in various subjects, emphasizing the encouragement of individuals with extraordinary talents across multiple domains. According to Emilie Wapnick, “the word multipotentiality is a psychological and educational term used to describe people who display aptitudes across multiple disciplines” (Wapnick, 2015). This concept has been recognized prior to Wapnick’s popular 2015 TED Talk, with references to Renaissance souls, jack of all trades, generalists, and scanners in books such as Margaret Lobenstine’s “The Renaissance Soul” (2006) and Barbara Sher’s “Refuse to Choose” (2006). No matter what moniker is used, multipotentialites thrive on learning new skills and exploring new topics, making them exceptional problem solvers and collaborative teammates.
The superpowers of multipotentialites
Multipotentialites possess unique strengths that can greatly benefit their personal and professional lives. The first superpower is synthesis, enabling them to combine knowledge and skills from multiple disciplines, leading to innovative and creative solutions. As Wapnick explains, “Multipotential superpower number one is synthesis. That is, combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection” (Wapnick, 2015). The second superpower is rapid learning, as multipotentialites immerse themselves fully in new areas of interest, leveraging transferable skills acquired across different domains. Wapnick states, “When multipotentialites become interested in something, they are all in. What’s more, many skills are transferable across disciplines, and they bring everything they’ve learned to every new area we pursue” (Wapnick, 2015). The third superpower is adaptability, allowing multipotentialites to morph into different roles as required by various situations.
Significance and benefits
Recognizing and promoting multipotentialism among students is crucial because it helps them realize the value and versatility of their diverse interests. Multipotentialites can overcome contemporary workforce and higher education challenges, demonstrating outstanding leadership, collaborative abilities, and adaptability. As Rhodes (2021) emphasizes, “employment can require one role to focus on multiple topics or tasks, requiring flexibility.” By embracing multipotentialism, students can enhance their employability and thrive on lifelong learning.
Encouraging multipotentialism in the classroom and beyond
Instructors play a vital role in enriching the student experience by embracing multipotentialism and encouraging students to explore their diverse interests. Here are some practical strategies to foster multipotentiality in the classroom:
- Embrace project-based learning: Provide opportunities for students to work on interdisciplinary projects that allow them to apply knowledge from various fields and explore their diverse interests.
- Cultivate a culture of curiosity: Encourage students to ask questions, explore different subjects, and connect concepts from different disciplines. Create a safe and supportive environment where students feel empowered to pursue their passions.
- Offer flexible learning paths: Provide options for students to choose their learning paths, allowing them to dive deeper into subjects of interest while still meeting the required learning objectives.
- Facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities: Connect students with professionals from different fields who can serve as mentors and provide insights into various career paths. This can help students explore different options and gain valuable guidance.
- Highlight success stories: Share stories of successful multipotentialites who have made significant contributions in diverse fields. This can inspire students and help them see the value of embracing their multiple interests.
Embracing multipotentialism is beneficial not only for students but also for the educational system and society as a whole. By encouraging students to explore their diverse interests and talents, we can cultivate adaptable and innovative individuals who can thrive in a rapidly changing world. Through a multipotentialite mentality, students can develop crucial skills such as synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability, which are highly sought after in today’s workforce. As educators, it is our responsibility to create an environment that supports and nurtures multipotentiality, enabling students to unleash their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the world.
Multipotentialism challenges the traditional notion of a single career path. We can empower students to embrace their diverse interests, talents, and passions. This article has discussed the significance of multipotentialism, highlighted the superpowers, and provided practical strategies for instructors to encourage multipotentiality in the classroom. We can prepare students to navigate the complexities of the modern world and become versatile, adaptable, successful individuals.
Jason Waldow has served as a communications professor for over 15 years in both on-ground and online settings. Most of his studies focus on cultural and educational communication. Waldow’s current research centers on executive function regarding the communication process, specifically TBI’s and learning obstacles. Professor Waldow has served as a team leadership consultant for organizational executives and has also utilized his communication background to help create crisis management strategies for organizations. He enjoys working with local non-profits that help “at-risk” youth and has been involved with the Big Brother Big Sister organization for many years.
Lindsey Jarvie is a curriculum content editor and adjunct instructor of communication with Purdue Global. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in integrated global communications. Her research efforts include strategic collaboration, organizational communication, and change management. In addition to working in higher education, Jarvie also works in the nonprofit sector serving sex trafficking victims.
Lobenstine, M. (2006). The Renaissance soul: Life design for people with too many passions to pick just one. Broadway Books.
Rhodes, T. (2021). Within our reach: Essential learning outcomes, engaged pedagogy, and assessment for quality learning. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 166, 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20448
Sher, B. (2006). Refuse to choose! A revolutionary program for doing everything that you love. Rodale.
Wapnick, E. (2015, October 2). Why some of us don’t have one true calling [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en
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