The culminating project for the capstone course is a portfolio that captures the skills, experience, knowledge, disposition, and values that you have cultivated during your time as an English major. You can’t tell the story of everything, of course. The goal in your portfolio is to tell a compelling, focused, and coherent story through artifacts (things you’ve done) and reflection (why the things you have done matter). These artifacts will be curated in a well-designed, visually appealing personal website.
Guiding Principles and Concepts:
Integration & Connection: Your artifacts do not stand alone, but gesture back to a core set of themes that unify the portfolio. These connections are at times intentional and actual: we pursue X project because we are interested in Y. But they can also be improvisational and invented: we pursue project X, only to realize later–perhaps just now!–that it relates back to a core set of interests related to Y. This is a trick of narrative: it creates coherence where none existed. Think broadly about the kinds of themes around which your artifacts might cluster: perhaps there is a persistent thread of social justice concerns; a consistent kind of attention to detail; or a penchant for rich contextualization.
Design and Compose for an External Audience: today–more than a decade ago, and more than even five years ago–you can put together a website that looks polished and professional. You own your portfolio, and if it is not immediately useful for you–for the reflective and compositional and cultural and literary intelligence it shows–it is not useful at all. Work hard on it. Consider investing in it (purchasing your own URL and springing for a template that might cost a few extra dollars). And do your best to think about how digital design might also capture the core sensibility you’re hoping to portray. What shapes, colors, fonts, and other design elements best reflect the self you’re creating here? Or, to be more direct: if you were a font, which one would you be?
Think English and Beyond: This portfolio must represent some artifacts that relate to skills honed in the English classroom. This is, after all, the Lit&Film capstone course. But it encompasses much more: work you’ve accomplished in other classes, work you’ve produced outside the classroom, and even work that you might not think you have concrete evidence for. Which brings us to…
What counts as an artifact? Think creatively about what qualifies as an artifact. It is easy to think of an artifact as a finished product: a paper, a presentation, a poster, a podcast. But some experiences aren’t easily captured in a class project or work-related outcome. Maybe you studied abroad. Maybe you’re a server at a restaurant. Maybe you worked hard on something for an organization but don’t have a concrete “artifact” that serves as proof. Maybe you have a sharable life experience that speaks to your deeper values, but don’t have anything concrete to back it up. What to do? Write a blog post about it. Tell a story about it. Share some pictures. Describe what you did or experienced and what it meant. I find that using the “blog” feature of your website is a great way to capture these less formal artifacts.
What must be included?
Three Academic Artifacts
(1) Academic Artifacts in English and beyond: your portfolio should include at least two artifacts from English courses, one of which should be in the form of a more traditional researched analysis adapted for presentation online. Moving between website style and links to PDFs will be jarring, and no one wants to be dragged back to the land of Times-New-Roman-12-Point-Font-One-Inch-Margins-Prof’s-Name-In-Header.
The second academic artifact from an English could be in any genre, and it should represent your ability to adapt what you have learned for a new audience and in a new genre. If you don’t have anything in a new genre, you can invent it by recasting a paper in a new genre and for a new audience. Sometimes the shift can be significant: transforming an academic paper into a podcast or poster, for example quite radically shifts the genre. But the genre shift can also be subtle. You might transform a term paper into a more lively public-facing engagement, for example, extracting some of the research and emphasizing contemporary relevance and engagement with the text itself. In either case, where we’re doing is called genre remediation, which some of you might recall from ENGL 110.
As a third academic artifact, your portfolio should include at least one additional item from a course in English or other disciplines–this is an open choice in terms of both field and genre.
Don’t like this set-up? Don’t think it fits your unique goals for your website? Then let m know what you think would work better for you and I’ll help you think through the possibilities. While I want to provide some guidance here, I don’t want you to feel overly constrained. This thing is yours, after all.
Professional Documents / Links:
Your portfolio should include your resume and a link to your LinkedIn profile. The resume, in this case, should be a more expansive and less focused version of your experiences–what we’ll call your “exploded” resume from which you would carve our more specific and strategically focused version for specific opportunities. If you are gearing up for a Ph.D. program or an academically (rather than professionally) oriented MA, you might consider including a CV instead, which is a more comprehensive document that can go into more detail on relevant coursework and outcomes.
Your portfolio should include your Personal-Professional Narrative. An “About Me” blurb will provide a brief 3-5 sentence statement in which you identify the basics: who you are, where you are, and what your personal webpage aims to accomplish. This should link to a more expansive personal-professional narrative that you’ve been piecing together across the semester, and that will serve as a more expansive introduction to you and to the portfolio.
You might consider using your template’s blog feature to post additional writing–your reflections on Gay’s Delights, your alumni profile, your journey through the flower. Perhaps the adaptation of a previous work would work better as a “post” rather than as a “page.” You could also consider including aspects of your campus, community, or professional engagement that goes beyond the classroom in this category. You should have at least two items in this “other” category. Again, whether these appear as posts (which we might think of as more active, stand-alone reflections) or a page (which we might think of as more static and permanent content) is a rhetorical choice: what makes most sense given the occasion and audience.
Framing and Explaining
All of your artifacts–and the website itself–will need to be framed and explained. “Framing” refers to how an artifact is presented visually, in terms of both layout and use of images or other media. “Explaining” refers to how you introduce a given artifact, giving us a glimpse of what is to follow while also weaving the artifact into the broader “story” of the portfolio. The only items that will not require framing are the opening page (which is the dominant frame) and blog posts, which should speak for themselves. If your artifact has no concrete evidence (an experience, for example), then the framing should be more expansive; or rather, in this case, the framing is the artifact.
All students will present their final personal websites during the last week of class. Each student will have 5 minutes to present. These presentations can be viewed as personal pitches. Please structure your presentation as follows:
Your Personal Pitch
- Begin with your website displayed on the classroom screens
- Introduce yourself: your name, where you’re from, something unique or memorable about you
- Major Vision: Offer your vision for the values and viability of the English major
- Major Skills: note some key skills you’ve gained through the major and other coursework
- Give Examples: weave in some reflection on at least two pieces of evidence from your website that supports the vision / skills you present
- Briefly introduce your personal website: What can we find on your personal website? What did you choose to showcase from English and beyond?
- Conclude by making a statement about your possible future: What are your work or graduate school goals or plans? How do you hope the foundation you have established through your English major will power that future? What do you most hope to take with you from your studies? If the future remains fuzzy, don’t worry about it. The future hasn’t happened yet (so obvious, yet profound) so this is a platform for invention, articulating a possible world in which your future-English-major-self is thriving.
In addition to offering your final presentation, your final portfolio / personal website will be linked through a final reflective blog post of 200-300 words. In your reflection, please describe your design and structural choices and your artifact selection and revision process. Please also note how well you think the website reflects the skills and values noted in your presentation, and what you wish you had more time to improve. Please use the “final reflection” category on the blog.
Final Project Grading
Please consult this rubric to get a sense of how your final portfolio will be evaluated. We will also use this rubric for our virtual peer review.