E-portfolios and shared academic programs impact student success

Shawnna on laptop

Shawnna Meyers (pictured) was hired before her May graduation largely due to the e-portfolio she created during her time in the shared Corporate Communication program. 

Credit: Courtesy of Shawnna Meyers

One of the first graduates of Penn State’s shared Corporate Communication program, Shawnna Meyers, participated in her commencement this past weekend, and she attributes much of her success to her professional e-portfolio.

Recently, we asked Meyers to share her story with us and explored how the use of e-portfolios and being part of a shared academic program has helped her succeed, both in college and in acquiring her first career-related job.

Shared programs are academic degree programs that operate as one program across multiple campuses. One such program is the bachelor of arts in Corporate Communication, which is offered as a consortium by Penn State Hazleton, Schuylkill, Wilkes-Barre, and Worthington Scranton.

E-portfolios are digital portfolios that can be created through various online platforms, and Meyers took advantage of Sites at Penn State to create hers. Resources for creating e-portfolios at Penn State can be found through the Portfolios at Penn State website.

“Digital portfolios allow authors to work in and through multiple forms of media and in ways that are personally meaningful,” said Heather Hughes, campus learning design consultant and Portfolios at Penn State project lead. “In addition to showcasing achievement and reflection, digital portfolios are ideal spaces for collaboration and feedback.”

Meyers, 25, graduated from West Scranton High School in 2008 and has an associate’s degree in Business from Lackawanna College. During her time at Penn State Worthington Scranton, she completed three internships, was named an outstanding Corporate Communication student, and one of her articles was recently linked in an NBC News story about FitDesks.

Meyers served as vice president of education for the Penn State Worthington Scranton Toastmasters Club, where she was also one of its founding members, and she was a Lion Ambassador and member of the business club. She also served as a student marshal at commencement. In her free time, she said she enjoys traveling to new places, hiking, fishing, reading, watching her favorite television shows, and going to the movies.

Toastmasters Club members at fundraiser

Meyers (second from left) at a Penn State Worthington Scranton Toastmasters Club fundraiser event. The Toastmasters Club was created to help students conquer their fear of public speaking and prepare them for their future careers.

Credit: Courtesy of Shawnna Meyers

Meyers said she chose the Corporate Communication program because she was in the business (marketing and management) program and knew she liked the marketing part of the business program, but did not really like anything else about it.

“I knew I didn’t want to own my own business, or do accounting; I didn’t want to be a manager or work in finance,” Meyers said. “I liked marketing but even that I was a little unsure.”

For advising, Meyers said she met with John Drake, her professor for an entrepreneur class. Drake pointed her in the direction of Eva Tettenborn, who talked to Meyers about the new Corporate Communication program.

“I did some research and was extremely interested in what I found with the program. I love to write and realized communications was definitely a good fit for me.”

Meyers acquired her first career-related job prior to graduation. She said the interviewer told her that her professional e-portfolio is what set her apart from the other candidates.

When she went in to interview for the position of a communications specialist within the IT department at TMG Health, her interviewer was pleasantly surprised when she mentioned her e-portfolio. Meyers said he gave her his card and told her to email him her e-portfolio after the interview.

“The world is consumed with technology that is ever changing, and I think if you’re able to stand out by creating an e-portfolio where you can have all of your information (resume, articles, about me, and contact form) in one place it shows you are able to use technology to make it easier for the interviewer to have one place to look instead of several."

-- Shawnna Meyers, one of the first graduates of Penn State’s shared
Corporate Communication program

Meyers said she realized with working communications in an IT department, being able to navigate Sites at Penn State to create an e-portfolio is a great skill to have.

"The more knowledge you have of technology and being able to use it, the more it will benefit you. My e-portfolio is something I can transfer over to another site after graduation and continue to use throughout my career."

One key benefit of creating an e-portfolio is the ability to add additional information to it easily to keep track of experience and accomplishments, Meyers said. Another is having all professional information in just one place.

My resume is on there and I have an about me section with some pictures of myself being involved in a variety of activities,” Meyers said. “I have a contact form to easily contact me, along with a link to my LinkedIn account. I have a section that links to all of the articles that I have written, which is one of the most beneficial parts of the e-portfolio for me.”

When she was interning in the community relations office at Penn State Worthington Scranton, Meyers said she wrote a lot of articles that were published on the Penn State Worthington Scranton website. She kept pondering how she could use those articles as samples when applying for jobs, as she was not sure how to organize the website links in a way to show her articles to employers.

“The e-portfolio does just that for me,” Meyers said.

Shawnna on laptop at internship office

During her internship with the Penn State Community Relations Office, Meyers wrote a lot of articles for publication on the Penn State Worthington Scranton website.

Credit: Courtesy of Shawnna Meyers

The Corporate Communication shared program also helped Meyers prepare better for her future career.

One way the program helped her was by teaching her how to be self-sufficient. Her job as a communications specialist is to rebrand internally and increase employee engagement. She is also in charge of helping externally with bringing in interns.

“In order to be successful in my position, I need to be creative but also need to be able to come up with ideas on my own,” Meyers said. “I report directly to the VP/CIO of the company; he has a vision and it’s my job to design a plan to make that vision happen.”

In the Corporate Communication shared program, she also needed to find classes that weren’t always offered at my campus, since it was a new program, in order to graduate on time. Meyers said she would talk with her adviser about the courses she needed to take and if they were not offered at the Penn State Worthington Scranton campus, her adviser would help her contact the correct campus to get into the courses she needed.

“I personally took a credit overload my last two semester, 24 and then 28 credits in order to graduate while completing two internships, working part-time, and being involved in several clubs and organizations,” Meyers said. “It was very difficult, but I knew I wanted to graduate and that it was possible.”

club members at Nittany Lion shrine

Shawnna (center) and other members of Penn State Worthington Scranton's Blue & White Society, the student contingent of the Penn State Alumni Association, took a trip to Penn State University Park for All Hoops Day last November.

Credit: Courtesy of Shawnna Meyers

A significant portion of Meyer’s courses in the shared program had to be online, which required motivation, dedication and organizational skills, Meyers said. To keep up with deadlines, she developed better time management skills. Those skills prepared her for better for her first job after graduation, she said, especially since she will be creating a communications plan for the department.

“Being able to connect with professors from other campuses was helpful,” Meyers said. “The writing assignments — such as articles, brochures, press releases and other writing assignments in my 400-level CAS and CC classes — definitely helped me with both my internship and my position at TMG Health.”