Cultural Studies is a portfolio-based program. Your Portfolio is a self-curated collection of your work which articulates your accomplishments, skills, and commitments in relation to Cultural Studies and to your chosen professional, personal, and educational ambitions. The portfolio-building process is also central to the advising structure of the program and is based in UW Google Sites, the digital tool where you will create a workspace for the development of your capstone portfolio. The portfolio (along with any other portfolios you choose to produce) draws on the work samples archived in your site. Constructing the portfolio requires that you use a selection of those work samples to make an evidence-based argument for a specific audience.
Beginning in BCULST 500 and continuing throughout the program, you will receive support for building your workspace. BCULST 500 introduces you to UW Google Sites, the tool used for collecting, annotating, arranging, and displaying samples or artifacts of your work. You will use this tool to store collected artifacts, and to create and submit the portfolio to your advisor/s. You may also use the tool to create portfolios for specific courses, community partners, peers and/or collaborators, or other audiences. You will engage in facilitated discussions and collaborative peer review in core courses leading up to each of the two formal portfolio review moments – and the end of Year 1 and year 2.
The sections that follow offer some suggestions/guidelines for building your workspace and for transforming the artifacts contained there into evidence of claims you want to make for specific audiences. More information and feedback will come from interactions with course faculty, Portfolio Advisors (see below), Capstone Advisors, and fellow students.
The portfolio should consist of a limited set artifacts or work samples, accompanied by a framing statement that explains the significance of these materials. As you progress through the program, you will generate an expanding set of artifacts and accomplishments for potential inclusion in your portfolio, so you will need to make thoughtful, deliberate choices among them. Too many artifacts will make it difficult to tell a focused and contextualized story about the portfolio and its intents; too few will not allow you to highlight your diverse capacities and skills.
UW Google Sites allows you to upload and save all of your work as artifacts and then to choose among them for inclusion in the portfolio. Within the program, key audiences will be your Portfolio Advisor and Capstone Advisors (see below for details about the PA), some course instructors, and your peers. But as you progress, you will want to think about aiming the portfolio at professional and/or broader academic audiences, as well as community partners and collaborators. You should get in the habit of uploading all of your work, including notes, reflections, and speculations into your archive. Visit and revisit your archive throughout the program as you think about the arguments or claims you want to make, and the audiences you want to address or cultivate.
Reflecting on/Framing the Significance of Artifacts
A portfolio is more than an archive of your work in the program; it should highlight and make an argument about how the work you have done in the program has built your knowledge and the knowledge of others. To this end, you will be asked to shape the claims you make in your portfolio in relation to one of the following prompts:
- How/where do you locate yourself as an interlocutor or participant in one or more Cultural Studies conversations? Why? How does this location constrain you and what does this particular location open up?
- What should Cultural Studies research be? What should it be designed to do? Why do it? What particular forms are most complementary to your projected long-term work (not just capstone) as a graduate from Cultural Studies? Which parts of the requisite skill sets do you have; which ones do you need to acquire?
- What Cultural Studies work have you already completed that indicates how you work with (or imagine that you will work with) a specific community or organization? What are the ways in which you have begun to consider the ethical issues regarding your engagement?
The portfolio’s framing (sic) essay should be an evidence-based response to one of these prompts. It should situate and explicate the intentions and effects of the work you have chosen to feature in your portfolio. Try to choose the question that best relates to your particular commitments and career objectives, and that best allows you to frame and engage the work contained in your portfolio. Use the prompt as a pointed instrument for situating and explicating the intention and effect of the work you feature in your portfolio. Use the question and the work in your portfolio to explicate the relationships between the samples of your work, and the relationship of the portfolio as a whole to your own concerns and to those of Cultural Studies as a field.
You should be proactive in scheduling meetings with your Portfolio Advisor (PA) well in advance of the formal review meetings. Your PA will also be able to help you select electives, directed studies, and internships that will best advance your goals and objectives, assure that you will meet program objectives, and develop a portfolio that represents you well. Be prepared for your advisor to ask for revisions of your portfolio; take the revision process seriously because it is aimed at enhancing your reflexive capacity, along with your presentation and communication skills.
As you develop your portfolio, please keep the following tips in mind:
- Building a portfolio requires an iterative process of developing skills for critically engaging your work as if it were the work of another. This will require you to develop some critical and reflective “distance” from your work, to articulate some share-able interpretive framework for the analysis, and some sense of a “location” of the work and yourself in the broader cultural studies conversation.
- You should be able to articulate meaningful relationships among the examples of work you have chosen to include in your portfolio—or how the portfolio as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You should then be able to articulate the relationship of the portfolio as a whole to broader goals and concerns within Cultural Studies and to the particular communities and commitments you have identified as important to you as a cultural worker.
Remember that the goal of the portfolio process is to hone your ability to present yourself and your work to different audiences (including yourself), as well as to make thoughtful decisions about the audiences and collaborators that are or will be important to you as a cultural worker (employers, doctoral programs, colleagues).
The Portfolio Advisor
Your PA works with you to:
- develop and articulate the direction, contents, and intentions of the Portfolio;
- make other program-related choices such as electives, internships, and directed studies/readings;
- think through such things as methodologies, documentation forms, and the capstone pre-proposal process;
- identify potential faculty for the role of Capstone Advisor, and perhaps facilitate other connections with different faculty members;
- resolve any problems that may arise with progress in the program.
Your PA will always be apprised by the Grad Office, the Faculty Coordinator or your course instructors of any difficulties you may be having with the completion/quality of coursework. The PA will also be the person to sign-off on certain petitions you submit to the Grad Office (e.g. requests for conference travel funding, and requests for internships, directed research or directed reading). The PA serves as part of the Portfolio and Capstone review team throughout the program and at the final graduate review.
In the second year, your PA continues to work with you on portfolio development, helping to ensure that it is moving towards meeting graduation expectations. Unlike the Capstone Advisor, who will not be identified until late in the first year and whose primary responsibilities relate to the capstone project, the PA stays with you through the entire program and attends to the overall Portfolio process. (If your PA becomes your CA, then you will be assigned a new PA.) After time and experience in the program, students may request a change in PA, with a rationale; if the alternate faculty member is agreeable and has an appropriate current advising load, the change can be approved through a petition process (the current or “old” PA should be kept informed of changes). The petition is available online.
Sample Cultural Studies Portfolios