Alumni, Community Members Offer Advice During Student ePortfolio Presentations
There’s always that one person in your workplace that’s great at talking about themselves. You know, the one who speaks about their accomplishments and rattles off their to-do lists with an ego-less sincerity that makes you think both, “Ugh! How do they do that?” and also, “Can we be best friends now?”
…and then there’s the rest of us.
Katie P. Desiderio, associate professor of management, is trying to put her students in that first camp before they even cross the commencement stage. For the fourth consecutive year, students in her Management 342 class presented their self-created ePortfolios to panels of esteemed alumni and members of the community who have experience hiring employees.
What is an ePortfolio, you ask? Think of a virtual resume, but more personal. Desiderio’s students create comprehensive websites that contain all the pertinent information an employer could want or need to know: relevant coursework, resumes, community service, work experience, and more. But here’s where an ePortfolio goes beyond a resume: each site had a dedicated page for a personal story. For some, that page detailed a student’s love of animals and included photos of her volunteering with deer, dogs, and other rescue efforts. Others chronicled their journeys from Saudi Arabia and their reason for pursuing an American education. No matter what the content, this personal element of the ePortfolio bridges the gap between employee and employer while increasing student confidence on the spot.
“The most challenging part for me is to build, from the first class, and create a safe learning environment where students are willing and able to be vulnerable,” says Desiderio. “The depth of this process requires unwavering support for students (Amy Saul and I work so well together that our shared support is valued by the students; she is a terrific partner!), assurance that students know their contributions matter, effective communication of our shared vision, and, of course, the important of personal investment.”
Yes, ePortfolios may seem like a digital upgrade for your paper CV, but they are so much more than a career tool. Reflection and self-discovery are two huge pillars of Moravian University’s liberal arts vision, and ePortfolios have a unique way of encouraging both while connecting the why with the how. “Students not only participate in deep self-discovery where they experience epistemological crises, but they also make rich connections of leadership theories to practice,” explains Desiderio. “The development of the ePortfolio not only encourages students to deconstruct the meaning of being an effective leader, but also they engage in building new meaning of, in many cases, common language; we encourage one another to use different lenses in the decision making process where empathy and trust are foundational in the process.”
In 2013, Desiderio built the comprehensive ePortfolio program in partnership with Saul and the Center for Career and Civic Engagement, along with Pat Hanna '82 in Alumni Engagement and Sylvia Doyle in Institutional Advancement, in an effort to engage the community in this unique and rich learning experience. The three offices came together to help fill panels, on which alumni and community members in hiring positions serve as sounding boards as students present their ePortfolios (and, in many ways, themselves).
“The panel has been an integral part of the learning process,” says Desiderio. “I am a collaborator by nature, and I understand the value of fully embracing and connecting our rich community members. The alumni who come back as panelists ask me to invite them again the following year; this is very telling in terms of the reciprocal returns for both students and alumni.” This year, Ryan Onushco '13 came back to share his expertise in talent acquisition. just three short years after presenting his own ePortfolio in Desiderio’s class. Another first-timer: Ali Hoffman ’07, a “passionate alumna” and friend of Desiderio. “I just found it to be such a unique approach for the students to show their personality and work experience,” Hoffman said, moments before her first round of presentations. Her advice to these students: “Take risks. Go outside your comfort zone and let your personality show.”
The rest of this year’s panelists, along with Hoffman and Onushco: Allison Harteveld '00, Bob Schoenen, Tara Davis, Chris Donigan, Dustin Levy '01, Glenn Geissinger '88, Karen Yeakel '82, Joe Kroboth '82, Laura Haffner '86, Joseph King, and George Bright, Athletic Director for the University.
Desiderio finds herself declaring each spring semester her favorite semester, largely because her ePortfolio program allows her to see her students stretching and growing in new and exciting ways. Each year is a little different, she says. And with a larger Saudi Arabian population in her class this semester, she truly appreciated the opportunity to experience ePortfolios on a transnational level. “I am so incredibly proud of the students for fully embracing this learning journey, and I am deeply grateful for the support and unwavering partnership of the Moravian Community members.”