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Jenna Murphy

616 7th St. N. #202
Fargo, ND 58102
701-652-5538
jenna.murphy@ndsu.edu
December 6th, 2016
English Department
NDSU—Dept. 2320
P.O. Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108
Dear Assessment Committee,
Over the course of my studies in the English department at North Dakota State University, I have
developed portable and professional skills that I plan to use both in graduate school and in my
life and career. In my attached portfolio, there are a number of pieces of my work that I believe
exemplify the attainment of Departmental Outcomes 1 and 7, as established by the English
department. Outcome 1 relates to the ability of English majors “to write and speak effectively for
a variety of purposes and audiences in a variety of genres and media.” Outcome 7 relates to the
ability of English majors “to develop professionalism exhibited in such qualities as selfdirection, cooperation, civility, reliability, and care in editing and presenting the final product.”
Below, I outline how my selected pieces demonstrate the attainment of these outcomes.
Outcome 1:
English majors will be able to write and speak effectively for a variety of purposes
The literacy narrative entitled, “Footsteps,” exemplifies my ability to write and speak effectively
for a variety of purposes by requiring me to engage in a personal and self-reflective essay that
challenged me to think about my life, extend my understanding of literacy, and provide some
connection between these elements as impetus for change in the world. Because I had never been
invited to complete an assignment of this nature before, this piece presented a unique opportunity
for me.
I used the motif of “footsteps” to lead the reader through the happenings of my life and to
explore how my literacy, in various forms, was developed. I tried to help the reader imagine my
footsteps throughout the narrative, such as, “My bare feet tore across the carpet matted down
with wear,” (Murphy 2) and, “As I gaze down at my pink jelly sandals, the primary colored tile
floor shines under the fluorescent lights,” (Murphy 4). Each of these descriptions leads the reader
into another facet or time period of my life. Highlighting the role of my mother’s mental illness
and how that illness impacted my life, I discuss the impact of expectations and perfectionism
through the metaphor of “eggshells,” because these eggshells are intimately bound up with my
footsteps.

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I also explore various forms of literacy in my life. In Advanced Writing Workshop, Dr. Brooks
had asked us to reflect upon and think of literacy broadly, so while I explain how I developed my
literacy as it is often conventionally considered, I also present other perspectives. For example, I
explain that “I am told that I walked and began to read earlier than most of my peers and that I
was an incredibly independent child. I prided myself in self-sufficiency and learning” (Murphy
3). In an alternative form of literacy, I explain that, “as a result of this pressure, my mother’s
expectations sponsored my education like none other. Because, after all, how could such a
wonderful girl come from such a dysfunctional home?” (Murphy 4). By connecting my literacy
to the circumstances of my life, I develop a deeply personal and reflective essay that stands in
contrast to other genres represented in my portfolio.
Finally, in terms of writing to change the world, I beg the reader at the close of the piece to
disregard the “eggshells” that prevent them from fully engaging with life: “Do not walk lightly
on the eggshells. Do not walk carefully on the eggshells of expectation and perfectionism. It is an
illusion…” (Murphy 7). In order to reach the point of calling for change, I was required to
interweave personal reflection with an understanding of literacy. If I were to revise this essay, I
would like to add a few more “snapshots” of my life to develop even more deeply the
multifaceted objectives of this essay.
English majors will be able to write and speak effectively for a variety of audiences
The poster entitled, “Benefits of Writing Across the Disciplines Pedagogy in a Mid-level
Geomorphology Course,” demonstrates my ability to write and speak effectively for a variety of
audiences. I presented this poster at the Geological Society of America’s annual national
conference in Denver, CO, and needed to make adaptations to delivery and content that would
enable me to communicate effectively with an audience that consisted predominantly of
Geoscience professionals and students.
For example, adapting to my audience required me to think more about the expectations that
Geoscientists would have for data presentation, including the use of graphic, numerical displays.
Figure 1 of the poster, “Average Student Scores on Embedded Writings,” was created in linegraph format to provide a quantified visual of the positive progression of scores over the course
of the semester, instead of merely stating that student scores had improved. Also, Figures 3 and 4
of the poster utilized bar-graphs and pie-charts, respectively, to present a visual representation of
the data.
In addition, both in my delivery and in the written text of the poster, I needed to use Geoscience
jargon correctly to establish credibility with the audience. Because of the interdisciplinary nature
of the research presented in the poster, I needed to cite and reference key sources from rhetoric
and composition studies, which is exemplified specifically in the Introduction section of the
poster. At the same time, I needed to demonstrate that I knew how to appropriately use
Geoscience terminology to develop my ethos with the audience.
I believe Figure 2 of the poster best exemplifies my knowledge of Geoscience jargon because in
this figure, I drew specific quotes from student writing samples to demonstrate comparatively

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how the students had grown in their writing abilities. One of the samples I chose was Student A’s
writing in Lab 2, “Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater, and Wizard Island both have similarities and
differences between them,” and compared it to Student A’s writing in Lab 4, “Cross sections A
and B have some key similarities including physical composition of the underlying beds, similar
elevation, and similar basic curvature of beds,” as an example of growth in the student’s
specificity and terminology usage. In order for these examples to be meaningful for those in the
Geosciences, I needed to choose quotes that directly pertained to Geoscience concepts and
vocabulary in addition to displaying growth in a given category of demonstrated writing ability.
If I were to revise this poster for the Geological Society of America’s conference again, I would
try to eliminate some of the text presented in the Introduction section of the poster. I found that
most people did not find the Introduction to be particularly helpful in understanding my research,
as this section primarily served as a literature review of the sources I drew upon. Given my
audience, I think that citing a few very relevant sources would have been more effective for the
overall presentation.
English majors will be able to write and speak effectively in a variety of genres and media
The “Eggshells” audio essay displays my ability to write and speak effectively in a variety of
genres and media. In the audio essay, I used a selective cutting from my “Footsteps” narrative in
conjunction with relevant sounds to create an audio composition. The sounds that I used with this
cutting included various sounds of cracking eggshells and the sound of ocean waves on a beach.
In addition, variation in vocal inflection and pauses as I read the text of the cutting contributed to
the overall meaning and effectiveness of the piece. For example, when I read the medical
language detailing Borderline Personality Disorder at the beginning of the piece, my pace
gradually quickened as I read the destructive behaviors in succession: “Borderline Personality
disorder is defined as marked impulsivity as indicated by frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined
abandonment, chronic feelings of emptiness,…transient, stress-related paranoid…” Then, when I
read the criterion of “severe dissociative symptoms,” I slowed my pace to mirror the effects of
disassociation on a person.
This piece also exemplifies my ability to communicate through a variety of genres and media
because it uses both a cutting of text from my personal narrative and transforms that text into an
audio composition. Because this piece is an audio essay, it demonstrates my ability to
communicate through a medium that is different from my typical compositions that consist
mainly of text in the form of a paper or essay. This audio composition challenged me to be
thoughtful about effectively communicating and about enhancing my original composition with
sound to create a new piece.
Because of time constraints, the duration of my audio essay is only about four minutes. However,
if I was to revise this piece, I would like to experiment with adding different cuttings from my
original essay to create a longer and more varied composition. In this process, I could introduce
different sounds than I currently am using. These additions would, of course, create a piece of
longer duration.

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Outcome 7:
English majors will develop professionalism exhibited in such qualities as self-direction,
cooperation, civility, and reliability
The completion of my Capstone paper and research demonstrates my ability to develop
professionalism exhibited in such qualities as self-direction, cooperation, civility, and reliability.
Throughout my Capstone course, I was required to take the initiative in completing the IRB
paperwork for my research, including initiating contact and gathering information through email
and phone calls with personnel there. I have also needed to be reliable in several ways, including
attending regular meetings and completing necessary tasks, such as revisions to my project
proposal and paper draft. In addition, I needed to be civil and cooperative with my mentor by
receiving constructive criticism and making modifications to my research approach. Overall,
during this semester I needed to approach my mentor relationship with maturity. A project of the
type that I was undertaking required me to behave in a professional manner.
At the same time, I also sought the help of my mentor when I knew I needed another perspective
or additional help. I found my mentor particularly helpful when I was drafting my Capstone
paper. I initially was overwhelmed by the amount of data that I had collected, but my mentor
helped me to categorize the information into seven key categories: “Writing Practices of Geology
Majors,” “Transfer and a Writing Vocabulary,” “Expert or Novice?,” “Relevance of Prior
Courses and the Role of Genre,” “Content Knowledge and Writing Knowledge,” “Absent Prior
Knowledge and a Call for a Vertical Curriculum,” and “Writing Myths and Misunderstandings.”
For each of these categories, my mentor suggested incorporating a theoretical lens to frame the
data presented in each section. For example, when I discuss how “Expert” or “Novice”
designations are highlighted as a key area in fostering transfer by various researchers, I cite the
following conceptual lens from Bransford’s How People Learn to begin my presentation of
results in this section “ ‘noviceship is a state all writers potentially inhabit and yet not one that
students necessarily recognize their need to inhabit…writing development is predicated on
noviceship’ (39)” (Murphy 12).
If I were to revise my Capstone paper and process in the future, I would have spent less time
transcribing the interviews, and more time developing the seven key categories and then
selectively drawing from the interviews. I think that part of my difficulty wrangling the data had
to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time transcribing the interviews, only to revisit the audio
recordings again as I began drafting the results sections. However, I learned a lot about
qualitative research and interviews as a data source in the process.
English majors will develop professionalism exhibited in such qualities as care in editing and
presenting a final product
My Usability Test Report and Instructions required me to develop professionalism exhibited in
such qualities as care in editing and presenting a final product. The Usability Test Report
required me to very carefully conduct a usability test, then analyze the data from that test, and
finally, produce an IMRAD report outlining my findings. Because the IMRAD format was new

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to me, I needed to make revisions to this draft that were informed by several meetings with Dr.
Maylath. One of the changes I made as a result of this draft was the addition of various charts
and graphs that better communicated my data in terms of a specific method. Dr. Maylath
suggested using a Likert scale to present my test subjects’ ratings of the quality of the final
product. Because of this suggestion, I created Figure 6 in my report to visually represent this
specific data. I also needed to be very careful in presenting each section of the report, due to tis
rigid nature. I needed to keep my results, which were objective in nature, separate from my
conclusions, which allowed me to infer and correlate problems with potential solutions.
The Instructions portion of this assignment also required care in editing and presenting a final
product. Because the Instructions were completed in collaboration with my Transatlantic and
Pacific partners in Spain, who were non-native English speakers and the subject matter experts
for the project, I needed to be very clear in my communication with them to obtain the
information I needed. The Instructions, which I was tailoring for an American audience and
depended on their input, also needed to be very carefully edited for consistency and overall
understandability. For example, I need to use the imperative mood throughout the text of the
Instructions and think about document design, including the navigability of my instructions. To
increase the overall navigability of the document, I included a table of contents that outlines the
contents of the instructions.
If I could revise the process for the Usability Test Report and Instructions, I would have
personally tested the instructions from my Spanish partners much earlier. If I had done this, I
would have made necessary equipment changes much sooner, and these equipment changes
would have impacted the test subjects’ experience, giving me more fine-tuned results to report.
In turn, I believe that this process would have led to a more streamlined report, with fewer
variables to consider.
I believe that the assignments I have outlined above provide ample evidence of my achievement
of Departmental Outcomes 1 and 7. My courses as an English major have given me the
opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that I will use in my future studies and career. I am
grateful for my time in the English department at North Dakota State University and the ways in
which faculty have both challenged me to develop and helped me to hone my abilities as a
student.
The following link leads to my online portfolio: www.jennamurphyblog.wordpress.com
All of my Capstone Portfolio Pieces can be found under the menu item on the homepage of the
site that reads, “English 367: Capstone.”
Thank you so much.
Sincerely,

Jenna Murphy