This fall, I’m serving as a Mentor in a new program at Bridgewater State College called Portfolios of Excellence, sponsored by a grant from Project Compass. There are five Faculty/Staff Mentors and close to 100 students enrolled. I’ve been assigned 20 first-year students who fall into any of the following categories: 1st generation, low-income, or student of color and I’ve met with over half of them and so far it’s been an amazing experience. I haven’t had as much student interaction since I was promoted to Director of the Rondileau Campus Center over a year ago, so this experience brings me back to the reasons why I started in Higher Education over 12 years ago. All of these students are eager to learn and ready to succeed, and I’m thrilled to be working with them all.
The first phase of the program was our kick-off meeting at the beginning of this month, where I got to meet most of my students and we took care of some small business and had initial “get to know you” conversations. Next, I went through the challenge of scheduling them all for our initial meetings. In these one on one meetings, I tried to get to know each of them by going through general questions about how they were adjusting to college life, how their classes were going, and how commuting or living on campus was going. We also covered our goals and expectations for the semester, and finally proceeded to setup their online “Portfolio of Excellence”. Other schools, such as Eastern Connecticut State University, provide opportunities for students to create an online “snapshot” of their student’s academic progress and examples of their work, and our student’s portfolios were modeling theirs.
All of my students have been encouraged to do journal entries on their portfolios at least once a week, based on a topic that I send out each Monday. In our scheduled meetings (which happen weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on the student) we talk about what they have written/blogged. I have also encouraged all of them to meet and talk with their professors outside of class time to build that relationship and to utilize our Academic Achievement Center for even more help if they need it. The idea is to build their confidence early and give them the tools for success. The first six weeks of school are vital to their first semester in college and my main goal is to exceed their expectations by serving as a support system for them.
We made the decision to use Google Sites as our “host” for these portfolios since Eastern CT State had done the same and had success. I created my portfolio as an example for my students, and since meeting my students, I’ve linked all their portfolio’s as well, so they can read each others journals and comment on how each other are doing. Our hope is to get together at least once month as a group to reconnect in person.
For those of you who work in Higher Education, does your college/university do an online e-portfolio of one’s academic life and work? I’d love to hear more ideas, topics of conversation, and other examples!