Colleen J. Burnham

Curriculum Vitae

e-Portfolio Thoughts

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There is a standard vocabulary associated with e-Portfolio production that can be identified in one sentence: We collect artifacts for the purpose of selecting particular artifacts that most accurately represent our work and or education for the purpose of reflecting on the whence and potential impact of that work and or education. It is a process that humans do naturally every day. Our “selfness” is a representation of all of the experiences that we have had; we give more weight to some events than to others; we are most often able to articulate how we feel about something based on that weighting of experiences.

Interestingly, the e-Portfolio is an artifact all by itself. While it is essentially a web page filled with links to the items that represent one’s work and experience, the act of building the “e-Port” is also a demonstration of “the one”. The e-Portfolio itself represents one’s work and experience. It is its artifact value that makes the process of creating an e-Portfolio a logical “capstone” situation in almost any venue – building an e-Portfolio causes its author to review his or her whence personally, professionally, academically, allowing a clearer glimpse at tendencies and interests. 

I remember from an Introduction to Philosophy course [years ago!] that Plato supported the premise that we know we’re happy when we look at ourselves and discover a smile on our face. The e-Portfolio is precisely the same exercise. By looking at ourselves (and our work) we are more able to discover who we are. The academic e-Portfolio allows its author to tease out real interests and abilities for the purpose of articulating those traits. The e-Portfolio is Plato’s “smile” – we know who we are, what we’ve done, and what value can be attributed to our work by virtue of having formally looked at it all.


A New vocabulary word…


As I’ve travelled through my career, my skills and interests have grown such that I’ve come to consider myself a sort of specialized hybrid. That is, while I am most comfortable in the world of higher education, the particular professional repertoire with which I originally began my career has morphed in such a way that there is a constant blurring of both the whence and purpose of my responsibilities. My specialty is working with an academic community, using any skill that may seem appropriate. My fascination with human behavior makes me a valuable mentor and colleague. The scientist in me puts me into conversations that allow me to question and to find answers. The part of me that loves to build things is able to tease out the real problem when it comes time to support a colleague with ideas, software, protocol, and outcome predictions. I am comfortable on either side of the identifiable lines between administration and faculty, faculty and student, and student and administration. I have become hybridized: a little administrator mixed with a little faculty, and always a student.


Today, digging into the materials offered in the Organizational Theory and Behavior course in which I am currently registered, I found myself flipping through Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat. I discovered the term versatilist in the context of beefing up the qualifications and adaptability of employees. As I read, I realized that rather than thinking of myself as a hybrid – specialized or otherwise – I prefer the descriptor reciprocal versatilist. Friedman’s words, “…versatilists who build a rich portfolio of knowledge and competencies to fuel [multiple] business objectives” (p.291)  really better describes the roles and responsibilities that I have come to include in my professional repertoire. The reciprocal versatilist is one who is not only constantly expanding his or her own repertoire, but also creating learning opportunities for all members of the particular community – all for the shared purpose of contributing positively to the quality of, in my case, the overall undergraduate experience.


Friedman, T.L. (2005). The world is flat. NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.



Written by Colleen J Burnham

December 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Posted in Reflection

Tagged with , ,

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