Welcome to my portfolio.
My name is Chelsea Vollrath, and I am
an English major at Elon University.
When I meet someone for the first time and they ask what I am studying, I am often met by disapproving facial expressions and “polite” head nods, put into motion to hide the obvious concern of, “What is she going to do with that when she graduates?” I usually follow it up by saying “with a concentration in Professional Writing and Rhetoric,” but by then, the damage is already done. If only they knew…
I spent the past four years studying rhetorical strategies of both classical and modern rhetors and rhetoricians. The implementation of these strategies has not been confined to classroom assignments that are typically submitted for a grade and then never looked at again. I applied these strategies while working hands-on with actual clients and learned how to adapt them to rhetorical situations (and the challenges associated with the rhetorical situations) along the way. I learned to assess and reflect on complex contexts, developing my identity as a professional writer with a wide rhetorical-knowledge base. I view writing differently than I used to. I see it as a socially constructed act, with each document created being a piece of a communicative chain; this perspective has made me take writing more seriously. It has made me take myself more seriously. My studies in Professional Writing and Rhetoric have developed more than just my writing skills. The scope is much wider than that. My coursework has allowed me to develop skills in professional communication, which will be essential in any path my life takes.
Supporting my professional communication skills, I have become well versed in research and the ways in which it can be presented. My understanding of not just rhetoric in written form but the influencing potential of visual rhetoric has enabled me to create documents, using a variety of software programs, that are best suited to their purpose and audience. I pride myself on my over-analytical nature; it allows me to think critically and thoroughly about all of the work I am involved with and produce.
I can research. I can create. I can analyze. My portfolio is divided into these three sections and includes documents that I believe best outline these abilities. The documents are from a variety of experiences, both within and outside of the classroom. They are arranged in chronological order of when I completed them to show my progression.
While the organization pattern of my portfolio suggests a linear process, of researching, then creating, and then analyzing, that is not what I am suggesting of the documents I’ve included. Though typically I do follow that process when producing a document, the pieces in this portfolio exemplify my abilities exclusively in the three skill sets used to divide the portfolios content.
Unlike research papers I wrote in high school, the documents included in the “Research” section were created with a rhetorical perspective. I let expectations dictate the pieces’ language and content. I knew the article I wrote for Phi Beta Kappa’s magazine, The Key Reporter, should discuss academic content in a fairly serious tone, while for the article I wrote for a website about North Carolina’s Highway 64 should be more ethnographic and playful. Being more flexible in my approach to research and how it is presented and considering the influence of rhetorical context have become ingrained in the way I respond to such assignments.
My approach to visual rhetoric has developed, as well. I now recognize that creating an effective visual is more than just a consideration of what “looks good,” but why it looks good and how it will effectively influence the intended audience. Documents don’t exist in a vacuum; I have become very aware of their influence, and I regarded my potential influence as a personal responsibility. I saw it as my responsibility to entice students to attend the speaking event I created a flyer for. I wanted to encourage interest in the American Studies program, and also felt responsible for setting up a document that would be useful in the future.
Analysis has come to mean more than just having a critical opinion. It is being able to form a persuasive argument based on that opinion, whether the argument is obvious or conveys a message less directly. My pieces about an experience in China and an experience working with a client that I chose to include in this section are examples of pieces that present arguments about the experiences in the less-obvious sense of the word but nevertheless still influence the audience of my view of the situations. The other pieces included more closely fit the expectation of argument-based work, analyzing the application of law to a hypothetical case and reviewing a travel-writing novel. All of the pieces involve the creation of ideas and evolution of opinions through the process of analysis and synthesize the processes involved when thinking with a rhetorical perspective.
I appreciate your taking the time to review my work. Enjoy.