Liberal Arts Education

This category contains 8 posts

Agnes Reads Response for Fall 2012

From the desk of Susan Dougherty, Manager of Faculty Services:

[Follow this link to the website: http://www.MyJourneywithHenrietta.info 
Also, here is the Agnes Reads Blog link.]

Ashley Cloud has created a beautiful and moving tribute to the places in the book. She’s produced a photographic essay and web journal from visiting all of the places mentioned in the book. Her photographs are stunning, and her journal of the adventures on the road is well worth your time. I’ve posted it on our Agnes Reads Facebook page, but I wanted to call your attention to it! I’ve pasted below her abstract and the link to her website. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

My name is Ashley Cloud, and my project is part photographic essay, journal entry, and website. For my project I travelled to the places with significance in Henrietta’s life including Lacks Town Cemetery, Clover, South Boston, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sparrows Point, Turner Station, and Crownsville State Hospital for the Negro Insane.
I had no idea while reading this book that I would ever have the chance to experience the life of Henrietta Lacks in such a personal way, so I hope my story helps inspire those who did not have the same opportunity. My process for starting my project started by researching, then ideas started forming, and the next thing I knew I was climbing through the woods and walking inside the Home House! My main goal for this project was to capture in pictures significant life events and places in Henrietta’s life. At the beginning, I had no idea how much I would learn from this journey and how it would open my eyes. In the end, my experience and emotions throughout the journey will be a memory I’ll never forget! I met incredible people along the way, and learned so much about the way life was for Henrietta and her family. I am so thankful to have been able to have this experience!

The first portion of the project is in the form of a website that plays a slideshow of the pictures from my journey. The website also contains my detailed journal entries sharing my experiences and people I met along the way. To supplement my journals, I included detailed maps, an About Me section, and Behind the Scenes pictures to complete the documentation of my journey with Henrietta. A slideshow of images with captions can be found under the Places heading on the website as well.
I hope you enjoy reading through my journals and looking at my pictures! It’s felt like such a long journey since I began planning this project, and I am so glad to finally be able to share My Journey with Henrietta with anyone who is interested!

Follow this link to the website: http://www.MyJourneywithHenrietta.info 

SpARC is coming!!!!!!

I hope you all can appreciate my excitement for the Spring Annual Research Conference at Agnes Scott (you can refer to this post for more of the same). The schedule with presentation details has been released (in PDF), and I’ve spent some time this morning perusing it; for me, this is kind of like academic Christmas. Maybe this makes me a nerd (eh), but I get really psyched about the different presentations that Scotties will be giving. It’s putting semesters of research to the best use possible!

I encourage everyone to check it out, and make time to see me yap about ePortfolios and the liberal arts education — 11:15-11:35 AM, in Room 210 East of the Bullock Science Center.

Here’s a screen cap of my presentation, in case you’re not inclined to download the full program just to check it out:

Around this time last year, I’d spent so much time writing my thesis, I thought my brainwires were going to short out. I was nearly finished with my labor of love by the time of SpARC 2010 (but not quite), and I knew I had to present the thing in French to my Senior Seminar class eventually. Having the option to present my year of labor, in my native language, at SpARC was an invaluable experience — if terrifying, at least at first. But at least I had a captive audience I could yap uninterrupted to about Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for twenty minutes, which is a lot longer than I’d normally subject others (i.e., my friends). Beyond my own presentation, since classes are canceled on SpARC day I was able to attend my friends’ presentations, and whatever else sounded interesting on the program!

A few of this year’s presentations that caught my eye at first perusal: “Violence and Cruelty in French Nursery Rhymes” (9-9:20, Bullock Science Center 103W, and given by a fellow former French Senior Seminar classmate); “Drag Queens: Issues of Femininity Reexamined” (9:40-9:55, BSC 308); and, of course, “Whose Paper Is It Anyway?: Encouraging the Writer’s Ownership in Tutoring Sessions” (9:25-9:45 in BSC 209W, given by my good friend/work spouse and Writing Center Coordinator Neil Simpkins, as well as next year’s WC Coordinator and my soon-to-be housemate, Kate Whitney). I just wish I could attend all presentations at once — there are several during my timeslot that I would really like to watch.

Also, I promise I’ve got a new topic to cover on this site, one that doesn’t involve upcoming events! If it’s not up by tomorrow, expect it early next week — and no complaints from the peanut gallery, please, this week may actually be the end of me.

Why Agnes Scott Needs the Digital Design Fellowship.

I’m a big fan of Worst Professor Ever’s blog, and if you’re at all involved with higher education (on a student, staff, faculty or administrative level), you should be too. She recently attended South by Southwest (aka, SXSW) in Austin, Texas, a huge festival for creative types looking to be discovered in a variety of fields (namely, music, film and interactive tech), specifically to volunteer for SXSW Interactive (or SXSW IA, if you’re into acronyms), a tech segment of the festival that you can read about by following the link. More to the point, Worst Professor Ever has published a couple of posts addressing edutech, and the digital humanities, that I think are super important right now. I’ll let you do some independent reading with links to the posts in question, respectively, and appropriately, titled “SXSW On A Stick (Or: So You Want Your Field to be Taken Seriously?)” and “Bummer Thoughts on the Digital Humanities” — once you’re done with that, come back to this Crafting the Digital Design Fellowship post. Consider it your spring reading assignment; it’s going to be food for thought for what I have to say next. And you might want to get comfortable, because I’ve got a lot to say.

Continue reading

It’s (nearly) That Time of Year again …

What time is it?

(I’ve been itching for a reason to post that clip from Waiting for Guffman, otherwise known as one of my favorite movies of all time.)

Seriously, though. It’s mid-March, which means SpARC is right around the corner. What does this awkwardly-capitalized acronym stand for? (Confession: I have to sound it out every time I type it. No judging.) The Spring Annual Research Conference, held every year at Agnes Scott. Classes are canceled for the day, but that doesn’t mean vacation — students are not only strongly encouraged to present academic research topics of all stripes, but attend the presentations as well. Since I’m in the mood for personal disclosure today, I’ll be honest when I say I didn’t know much about SpARC (or how important it can be as a primer for future important presentations) until my sophomore year. And, as I may have mentioned many moons ago, I spent my junior year abroad, so I didn’t present until my last year of school. I can easily say that waiting until my senior year of college to present at the on-campus conference is one of the largest regrets I have about my time at Agnes Scott. Quelle chance manquée! (Read more about it on my other site.)

There is no substitute for this kind of experience, and nothing quite like defending your carefully chosen, endlessly researched topic of study to a room full of relative strangers. Take my word for it: seize the opportunity while you have it available to you, undergrads — the experience of presenting at this conference will prove invaluable in the long run.

Regrets aside, I have another chance to present at SpARC — though this year, instead of presenting my French thesis, I’ll be talking about e-Portfolios in our liberal arts community. In short, I’m going to discuss many of the points I’ve blogged about this year, possibly including (but not limited to):

  • The benefits to (and relative ease of) creating individual e-Portfolios;
  • Knowing, and Not Knowing, Your Audience: Ways in which blogging can enhance the quality of student writing;
  • How class blogging enhances classroom discussion and collaboration, encouraging a heightened understanding of course material;
  • How a student’s e-Portfolio can be an excellent representation of a liberal arts education;
  • Super Important: Portability and accessibility of externally hosted e-Portfolios; and,
  • Assessing success in the 2nd year of the Digital Design Fellowship: how’s the ASC e-Portfolio initiative coming along?

Well, cats and kittens, it’s obvious I have a lot of editing to do when it comes to writing my abstract. As a gentle reminder, those SpARC abstracts are due March 25; the conference itself will be held Thursday, April 28. I’ll keep you updated as to when my presentation will be that day (please come) — and strongly encourage all members of the ASC community to submit abstracts and present!!

Imagining the e-Portfolio: Institutional Differences.

As I’d mentioned before,the 30th Annual Conference on the First Year Experience was my first big-girl academic gathering, and I was a little nervous. After finally securing my registration packet (which included a fancy tote bag, which I’m sure will come in handy for … something, eventually), and attending a few presentations on Sunday and Monday, I felt a little more at ease with the idea of speaking in front of people with my group. On Tuesday morning, our “Uncommon Ideas for Common Reading Programs” presentation went really, really well. We were structured as a sort of “roundtable discussion,” in order for other FYE Conference participants to chime in with their own program ideas, successes and non-successes, and I was glad to get a few specific questions about using technology and social media as a means for students to engage with the common reading program already in place at Agnes Scott. Altogether, I feel our presentation turned out to be exactly the sort of positive, collaborative experience my group aimed for. Plus, we were able to get the word out about Agnes Scott even more, which is a topic I’m going to explore eventually in a post on my other site (i.e., why does Agnes Scott seem to carry such little name recognition for as dynamic of an institution as it is).

imagining the possibilities for my new tote bag

So, attending the conference and other presentations. I am terribly grateful to the College , and my department, for funding my conference fees — they’re certainly steep, and I learned a lot by both presenting at and attending. One of the presentations I sat in on, “e-Portfolios and the First Year Experience,” attempted to explain the process of motivating and sustaining e-Portfolio development for students just entering college. This is right up my alley, as it’s one of the main challenges I face in my job. It’s one thing to promote the marketability and intellectual growth factor of creating e-Portfolios to upperclasswomen, and an entirely different can of beans to do so to first years who are dealing with a number of college issues, to say the least declaring (and sticking with) a major. That issue (namely, and for the sake of brevity, “assessment”) seems to be a constant one for institutions, and there is no single solution. While it may not have been the presenters’ goal (in fact, I’m nearly entirely positive it wasn’t), what I got out of their presentation is that last point: e-Portfolio initiatives, on a campus-wide level, are absolutely contingent on the institution and its particular goals.

So while I sat through this presentation (and took notes, obv), and was shown several “example e-Portfolios” which were, quite frankly, indistinguishable from one another, all I could think was that this type of approach would not be successful at Agnes Scott, nor could I imagine it being as much for any liberal arts college. Which is fine, because the presenting institution is not a liberal arts college, and it was clear their e-Portfolio goals were much different than ours. Primarily, that a student would initiate his or her e-Portfolio experience by building a basic website using Google Sites, and uploading various relevant documents, such as a couple of academic papers and a résumé. This is all fine and good from a pre-professional standpoint, if that’s all you want to do with your e-Portfolio. But it doesn’t give a whole lot of insight into the person behind the website. Now, Google Sites does allow for a blog-like function, but if there is no institutional push behind dynamic personal/intellectual growth (as would be evidenced, at least in theory, through promotion of the blog component), no student is really going to care about cultivating his or her e-Portfolio.

Agnes Scott has changed the way in which it encourages students to create and maintain e-Portfolios, and in my ever-demanded opinion, that’s for the better (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my job). e-Portfolios are relatively new ground to cover in terms of higher education, and as these things go, the technology for creating them has become increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly. The point is, of course, that not only are students able to showcase their work and intellect over the course of four years, but they have externally accessible (and easy-to-use) means by which to reflect on that work. So our students are creating sites that aren’t just a headshot, CV, and random papers or projects, they are creating dynamic, virtual representations of themselves that reflect the individual behind the block of text. Which, if you’ve managed to get this far and have also read my three-part series on Why the Liberal Arts Are Important, is a great way for a student to put her liberal arts education to work.

The main idea being: not all e-Portfolios are created equal, because then, what would be the point of making one at all?

And on that note, not all institutional e-Portfolio campaigns are equal, either.

Happy Thursday!

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