Final Thoughts

It still hasn’t hit me that I’m about to graduate, mainly because I am thoroughly convinced that some mishap will occur and I’ll have to stay an extra semester. It’s such a cliché to say, but I can’t believe how fast these four years went by!

 

My project was kind of a question mark in my head for the longest time, but I think it finally came together. As someone who desperately needs a job, I’m always extremely curious about the jobs other people have. Why this job? Why this field? Why this community? Are you happy? Do you wish you chose a different path? In addition, as someone who hasn’t always been happy at U of M, I can’t help but wonder—why do the people around me stay?

 

This year, I took a student job in the Markley Dining Hall, and the same questions began running through my head of the Markley professional staff. I was particularly curious about their stories because many have them have worked in Markley for over twenty years. Why Markley? Why stay? What do you know about the University that the rest of us forget, because we’re only here for four years?

 

I ended up creating three parts to my project: first, I wrote a profile on one of the cooks, Maria, based on four different interviews I conducted. Second, I created a Fun Fact page with a Buzz-Feed-esque format, where I talked about some differences between Markley today and Markley ten to twenty years ago. Finally, I created a page of recipes for food Maria and her co-workers prepared while I conducted interviews.

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The overall purpose of my project (and by extension, my portfolio) was to show U of M students that there are people all around them with life experiences and wisdom that they might find useful in times of feeling lost or unsure of themselves. Hopefully, students will leave with a greater sense of hope and a greater appreciation for the people who work tirelessly all around them to make their college experience positive.

 

Enjoy! And happy almost-graduation!

 

http://ahumphrey19.wix.com/capstone

Community > Everything

Throughout college, I’ve struggled to figure out who I am and what I’m passionate about. My resume is all over the place because I’ve done so many unrelated activities (i.e. singing, writing, gymnastics coaching—to name a few), and I often worry that employers won’t know what to make of me. One common theme, however, ties everything in my life together: community. Every meaningful activity I’ve ever done has made an impact on me because of the people involved. Maybe it’s the burnt-out, second-semester senior side of me talking now, but I genuinely feel like I don’t care what I spend the rest of my life doing, as long as I’m working with great people in a supportive environment.

Given my love of community, I wanted to do a project that focused on a specific community I’m involved in: Markley Dining Hall. From the day I started my first shift in October, I could tell there was something really special about the work environment. Unlike most of the other dorms on campus, Markley has never been closed for renovation, allowing several professional dining staff members to stay in Markley for 10+ years. Because the dining hall is small, staff members have an opportunity to bond in ways that might not be possible in South Quad or Mojo. I guess what I’m most curious about is what role community plays in each worker’s motivation to stay—do the workers stay for the atmosphere or just as a way to pay the bills? If the community is important, what is it about the community that is so special to them?

I think my personality will influence what questions I ask during my interviews. I asked one of my best friends to describe me, and the results are below:

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As I wrote to my friend, it was weird hearing someone say all those nice things about me. I’ve heard other people call me insightful before, though, so maybe that descriptor is accurate and can help me with my project. I’m hoping as I get to know each worker better, I can start asking insightful questions that allow them to really reflect on the community they’re in.

Let me know what you all think!

Similar topics, different platforms

Hi! I’m Annie Humphrey and I’m a senior from Boston, MA studying BCN. I feel such mixed emotions about graduating in April—I’m so relieved to take a break from the stress, but I’m also terrified to leave the comfort of the college community and figure out what I’m doing with my life. I participated in two of my favorite writing communities last semester; I took English 325 (Creative Nonfiction) with Nick Harp and I wrote opinion columns on mental health for the Michigan Daily. Both communities required me to write about fairly personal issues, but the style and platform were very different.

I really loved Nick Harp’s class, but for some reason I found the class more challenging as I went along. The format was open ended, meaning we could write about whatever we wanted from our lives using whatever style we felt was appropriate. This worked out well for my first essay; I had recently gone through a messy breakup and was excited to finally have a chance to write down my feelings. I became so invested in the piece that I kept revising and accidentally submitted it several hours after the due date. This was probably my first essay where I cared so much about the story I was telling that I didn’t care about the grade. Luckily, my passion showed through and I wasn’t marked off for lateness.

Unfortunately, this trend did not continue in the class. After the first piece, I felt like I had nothing else left to say. The aftermath of my breakup took up so much energy that I couldn’t seem to access my emotions from any other challenges in my life and write about them. In addition, I had become so used to the writing style I used in my biweekly columns that I couldn’t remember how to show and not tell. For the Daily, I used concise language and always said exactly what I wanted to say without embellishment. While being direct worked will in a newspaper, it frankly sounded boring and preachy when it began spilling over into my English 325 essays.

Writing for the Daily was a great experience for me. I had never written for a newspaper before, and I loved the challenge of figuring out how much to share with the world. At first I was worried that a lot of people would criticize what I had to say, but everyone was really supportive and nothing in my life changed dramatically after broadcasting my voice to the world. However, I realized I still had to be careful with what I said because I lot of people had access to my articles—professors, administrators, residents (I’m an RA), and future employers. There were times when I wanted to be as open about my life as I was in English 325, but I knew that mentioning things like my breakup wouldn’t be appropriate or wise because my ex still went here and a lot of our mutual contacts were reading my articles. At times I grew frustrated with the limits that my lack of anonymity gave me, but in the end I think this was all part of the fun of writing these columns.

ePortfolio Reflection: Time to Move On

I could keep working on my ePortfolio but I think it’s time to let it go and press the submit button on this assignment. The most satisfying part of the process was figuring out how to display the documents the way I wanted to. I had seen past ePortfolios use embedded PDFs but I had no idea how to do this. What I thought would be a simple feature on Wix turned out to be somewhat complicated, but luckily I was able to go to the Tech Deck and get help. It turned out I needed to use HTML code, which the person at the Tech Deck copied and pasted from someone else’s project into my project. All I needed to do was change the part of the code that came after “I frame” and copy and paste a link to the document I wanted to display (I have no idea what all this means so I apologize for not having the correct lingo down). Using a link meant that I had to display my documents on a page somewhere on the internet. After unsuccessfully attempting to use Google Docs, I decided to create an extra page on my ePortfolio and hide it from display. Although at first this process was tedious, I became used to the task and by the end it became quite simple.

Another success was displaying my remediation project on my website. I used the PDF reader Flipsnack to make my document look like a booklet, and Flipsnack gave me a link to embed so I was able to do so easily. The only problem was that my PDF was grainy and barely readable in some places. In desperation, I decided to try the live 24-hour chat feature on the Flipsnack website. Flo, the Flipsnack girl, was extremely helpful. She told me to email her my PDF and when she emailed it back to me it was magically fixed and readable on Flipsnack!

The most frustrating process was trying to do last-minute edits. I thought I would add in a few more buttons and images to my project just to spruce things up a bit, but when I attempted to do so the formatting got messed up and I spent more time trying to undo what I added than actually add new things. At that point, I decided it was time to lay this project to rest and move on with my life. I’m a little disappointed that my site is so basic, but I think ultimately I got my point across and was able to organize my thoughts clearly since I followed such a uniform format on all my pages.

Before starting this ePortfolio, I was convinced that I would never use it again. I had made an ePortfolio in a class last year and did not have a positive experience. I just couldn’t see the utility in creating a website about myself. However, now that I’m done with my site I think it could serve as a great add-on to my resume in case I ever need to showcase my writing abilities for any type of job application. Since this blog is public, employers will probably find it anyway when they search my name. If so, a compilation of some of my best writing definitely isn’t a bad thing for them to stumble upon.

http://ahumphrey19.wix.com/anniesportfolio

My Advice to Future Minors: Have Fun!!

This class is almost so open-ended that it’s hard to give advice. Your experience is almost guaranteed to be entirely different from my experience because you will end up choosing different genres and media for your repurposing and remediation projects. The best advice I can give is to find enjoyment in your assignments!

First, don’t let the little assignments bog you down. Before this class, I was not a fan of blogging. I had previously blogged in a high school journalism class and I felt like all my peers were judging me every time I made a comment. However, the environment in this class was very different. My peers were encouraging rather than judgmental, and this lessened my anxiety toward publishing my words on the internet for all to see. What initially seemed like busy work served as yet another creative outlet. By the end I slowly started finding my voice and was able to add humor into my posts, which made them more enjoyable to write. I think if the class had gone on longer I would have developed an even stronger voice. So don’t let blog prompts stress you out! Think of them as a productive study-break from your other classes and just be yourself without worrying about what you sound like to others.

Second, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone for your repurposing and remediation project. Since this class is so open-ended, why not try a genre you’ve never tried before instead of sticking to something that you know? My strength has always been writing analytical essays, but creating an analytical piece for my repurposing project would have been boring. Instead I created a work of creative non-fiction modeled after a piece from the New Yorker. In the end, the fact that I enjoyed what I was doing made the work less daunting and less stressful. The same goes for the remediation project. Although certain genres will be extremely difficult if you’ve never tried them before, challenging yourself will still be worthwhile because in the end you’ll feel proud of your work. For example, I used InDesign to create a brochure from scratch (i.e. without the aid of templates such as the one I used for my ePortfolio). Formatting was hard, but in the end I was very satisfied with my work because it was all completely mine. If you have the time, I would highly recommend taking the challenge of trying something new.

Lastly, don’t forget to reflect on the progress you make along the way. I chose to minor in writing so that I could improve my writing skills. However, this class focuses more on crafting projects than actually working on grammar and sentence-level editing. If you came into the minor with the same expectations as me, remember that you are improving your writing skills through this class even if you don’t realize it. Just by actively writing every day and trying new forms of writing you are gaining so many new skills. The best way to improve a skill is to practice, and there’s certainly no shortage of writing practice in this class. You can take other classes for the minor that focus more on writing skills, so just enjoy this class for what it is while you’re in it.

I hope my advice helps! Good luck with the minor!

Final Projects vs. Final Exams: Choosing between the lesser of two evils

As a naturally lazy person, I would prefer to say no to both final exams and final projects and instead curl up in my onesie and binge-watch Netflix. Choosing between exams and projects is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.

Although I am enjoying the projects we do for this class, as a general rule I tend to prefer final exams. With exams, there’s a starting point and an ending point. I usually start studying a week before the exam, and once I take the exam it’s over. Finals are more of a pain than regular exams since they’re often cumulative, but as long as I give myself a week I’m usually set. And by the time finals arrive I have a study method for each class that is guaranteed to work.

Final projects are a different story. For some reason they always end up on the bottom of my to-do list and result in me scrambling to finish them on time. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, so pressing submit always gives me anxiety. What if there was more I could have done? In this class we have the option to revise a lot of our work, but this sometimes adds to my anxiety. With exams, there’s no option to revisit them. Once they’re done, they’re done. I can move on and start preparing for the next exam. Revisiting old projects requires diving back into my work and trying to remember what my original vision was and what more needed to be added. And then with resubmission comes the same question—was there more I could have done?

With all this being said, I would like to reiterate that I love the projects we’re doing for this class. I had so much fun finishing my remediation project (despite the familiar anxiety I felt when pressing submit) because I was able to be creative and explore a new medium I had never tried before. Perhaps if I didn’t have to worry about grades and hard deadlines for projects I would prefer them to exams.

Reflection on Clark’s Arguments

Clark had some great points on digital rhetoric, and I definitely noticed connections between her arguments in favor of incorporating digital rhetoric in the classroom and the ways we have been using digital rhetoric. One aspect I identified with was how digital rhetoric can help strengthen an argument in ways traditional writing lacks. For example, she talked about Ray, a student from China, who was able to make his arguments much more powerful by providing visual rhetoric in addition to words. In traditional papers, we often limit ourselves to text, and consequently limit the arguments we can make. With digital rhetoric, we can incorporate pictures, videos, hyperlinks and much more, making our arguments stronger and more engaging for the audience. In this class, we have been encouraged to add media to our blog posts, and I find the posts much more engaging to read when they contain images and links.

One aspect I hadn’t thought about until reading this paper was understanding the impact of writing for a public audience. As an extreme example, Clark talked about an undocumented student who posted a personal essay on her ePortfolio chronicling her illegal arrival to the United States. Clark made the student take down the paper in order to protect her, but the situation prompts some tough questions. When is a professor allowed to step in and make a student remove work? Is this considered censorship? Was threatening to fail her student the right course of action to take or was she taking advantage of someone who had little power? Conversely, what if students feel uncomfortable making all their work public but are afraid to speak up for fear of having points deducted?

I can’t think of alternative methods of teaching modern-day rhetoric, but one thing I think our classroom could improve upon is the connection between audience and writer. We are able to receive instant feedback on our blog posts, but the audience interaction stops there. Very rarely do students reply to comments that other students have left on their posts, thus eliminating true dialogue. In addition, although we do peer editing in class for our papers, the final draft is ultimately what goes on our ePortfolios. In future classes it might be interesting to post a close-to-final draft online and see what kind of feedback the online community provides, which would include feedback from beyond just our classmates. Of course, this could get tricky with all the internet trolls and Negative Nancies of the world, but it may be worth exploring.

Remediation & ePortfolio Mockups

For my remediation project, I made a very basic mock-up of my brochure. I didn’t have a clear vision for what colors and themes I wanted to use so I just drew a very simple layout for each page. It made me realize that I definitely want to explore online brochure templates so that I don’t have to create my layout from scratch. The Brother Creative Center offers a lot of free brochure templates so I’ll have to look into those for the next phase of my project. I’m sure I’ll start running into problems once I start using the templates, but so far my project seems like it will be fairly straightforward.

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For my ePortfolio, I found a template on WiX that I love so I based my mockup entirely on that. For the main page, the layout has a simple title and background photo without any explanatory text. I like this template because it allows me to ease the audience into my ePortfolio without first becoming immediately overwhelmed with text. There are tabs at the top that users can click on to navigate, including an “About” button that will link to an explanation of my portfolio. Certain features of editing have been a little frustrating but for the most part things are going smoothly. My only concern is how I plan on displaying all my writing from this class. I can’t decide if I want each project in a separate tab or if I should put all the pieces under one general category and do sub-tabs.

photo1-6Eportfolio screenshot

Infographics & Tutorials

For my remediation project, I will be relying heavily on infographics, which are visual depictions of information. Based on recommendations from my peers, I decided to use the website infogr.am to create my infographics. The website seems very simple and easy to use. There are plenty of layouts to choose from but the options are not too overwhelming. As someone who has always struggled with inputting data into Excel spreadsheets, I found data entry on this site much simpler and more user-friendly. I created a very basic graph about college enrollment (pictured below) and even though this is just a rough version, the visual representation already supports my arguments much more strongly than merely listing the numbers ever could have. The only problem is the y-axis scale looks a little off, so I will have to check into fixing that.

My one worry about this site is that its templates seem limited to charts and graphs. I am thinking of creating more general diagrams such as timelines that do include specific data, so I would need a more sophisticated means of infographic production, which of course means I need to find support resources to tell me how to do this. Upon searching “infographics tutorial,” I came across an in-depth course form lynda.com on how to create infographics, including choosing color schemes, fonts, and backgrounds. As we mentioned in class, however, lynda.com requires a paid subscription, which the University does not offer to its students. I browsed more and found free tutorials on how to create infographics using Adobe Illustrator, but the application itself costs money. Luckily, it looks like the University has access to Adobe Illustrator so I may look into using this application for my project.

College Enrollment Infographic

Digital Rhetoric and Yik Yak

I recently downloaded Yik Yak onto my phone and while scrolling through it today in procrastination I realized that this would be a perfect example of a medium to analyze for its digital rhetoric. For those who don’t know, Yik Yak works as an anonymous Twitter that filters posts by geographic location. This app is popular on college campuses and allows students to create a sense of community by yakking posts that are relevant to their peers. The confines of this app have sparked unique forms of digital rhetoric. With a 200-character limit, the app has compelled users to use concise language in a similar fashion to Twitter. With no way to include pictures, tags, or links, users must come up with creative posts using only words and emojis. Posts can be “upvoted” or “downvoted,” giving users an incentive to say something that appeals to their audience. Again, the geographic radius limit means that their audience is the people around them. For example, if someone yaks on U of M’s campus, the Yaks would need to appeal to students who attend U of M. The downvote button incentivizes users to post only nice things; just five downvotes on a post will automatically delete a post and a user who creates too many downvoted posts will be suspended. Thus, although some offensive posts are bound to survive, the creators of the app have attempted to establish a non-hostile environment. In addition, users can comment on each other’s posts, allowing for anonymous dialogue between strangers in a community.

Since this app is relatively new, the creators are constantly developing and adding features. The digital rhetoric available to the users will inevitably increase with every new feature as users gain tools to put forth their ideas and appeal to their audience. I am curious to see in what direction the digital rhetoric heads!