“Creating her Sense of Self: Feminist Advising, ePortfolio, and Integrative Learning”

Presentation by Rebecca Reynolds and Abigail Lewis

This was a fascinating presentation (a good example of how great content can overcome not-so-great PowerPoint). Douglass Residential College is a women’s college with a long history that has recently been made a part of Rutgers. The women live together and have advising and support, but their classes and faculty all come from Rutgers–from the wider Rutgers community. Of course I saw analogies to Macaulay here–the challenge of being a separate program within a larger university and having students with dual identities.

There are also some specifics that they have been working out at Douglass, particular to the situation of being a women’s college, and this is where I saw some really unique and powerful intellectual analysis of the eportfolio activity–as something that has precise echoes in feminist and gender theory and feminist pedagogy. As the Douglass students navigate their particular roles and develop their ambitions and progress in eportfolios, the work of doing that documentation (and presenting it) gives them opportunities to think about the conflicts and implications of gender in the world of higher education and beyond. The Douglass team uses these eportfolios to help with advising and counseling their students. But more importantly, the students have the opportunity to use the eportfolios themselves, as they progress, to integrate their personal growth and their academic growth.

Again, lots of parallels to what is happening at Macaulay, and I very much want to connect more with the Douglass folks.

(One take-away tidbit that I found especially thought-provoking: Douglass students have written in their eportfolios about the problematics of the idea of a mirror or the concept of reflection. For young women in particular, these may not be transparent terms or ideas, as they bring up connections to issues of body image and appearance which can have strong emotional and social resonances. This is not to say that those terms should not be used–but that we should be conscious of, and help students to articulate, the tensions in those terms. This is not something I had ever thought about–but something that I will think about from here on.)

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