Dear Dr. Staggers,
Welcome to my senior portfolio! My name is Mary Kate Hinshaw, and I am a senior Honors Fellow at Elon University in North Carolina. I will graduate in May of 2012 with a major in English, with concentrations in both Literature and Professional Writing and Rhetoric. I was originally drawn to the field of English by my love of reading and analyzing literature, but after taking a few classes in the Professional Writing and Rhetoric concentration, I realized that I was also interested in the writing and rhetoric aspects of English as well. I am especially interested in the view of rhetoric as a kind of complex social action that can be used to understand and improve human relations in an increasingly connected and globalized world.
The writing I have done throughout my time at Elon both spans a wide range of topics and demonstrates the identity I have developed as a writer. I have collaborated with others in many stages of the writing process, such as with classmates in participating in a wiki community and with other classmates on producing documents for faculty members of the univerity. I also have a strong background in research, especially in the areas of writing pedagogy, student writing processes, current writing technologies, and digital rhetoric. I believe that my own writing skills have improved as a direct result of my work in this field, and that my work has allowed me to develop into a critical thinker and a conscientious, analytical, reflective writer.
Each section of my portfolio represents an important part of my identify as a writer. I have had many opportunities throughout my four years at Elon to hone and develop these identities both inside and outside the classroom.
One of the aspects of Professional Writing and Rhetoric that is most interesting to me is the writing that students do in the academic realm of their lives. Throughout my time at Elon, I have had the opportunity to take a class devoted entirely to examining composition theory and writing pedagogies, as well as to work in the Elon University Writing Center with students on their work in various disciplines, throughout all stages of the writing process. These experiences have allowed me to develop one of my primary identities as a professional writer, and are showcased in my first section, “Writing as an Educator.”
My second section, “Writing as a Collaborator,” demonstrates another identity which I have developed as a writer throughout my time in the PWR field. My PWR classes have been extraordinary in allowing me to develop my understanding of writing as truly collaborative. The documents in this section are some of the most impressive collaborative projects I have had the opportunity to work on during my time as an undergraduate. Working with other, diverse, skilled writers in all stages of the writing process, from conducting research to writing and producing a wide range of documents, has helped me to develop and strengthen my personal writing skills as well as my ability to work with others.
The third section, “Writing as a Researcher,” is the one I am most proud of, because it represents my most diverse range of work as a student. As an Honors Fellow at Elon, I have had several unique opportunities, which included taking several multidisciplinary classes specifically designed for Honors students with a concentration on conducting in-depth research. In my writing for these classes as well as for classes in my Literature concentration, I have been able to analyze other scholars' arguments, identify their rhetorical strategies, and incorporate them persuasively into my own work. As an Honors Fellow, I also developed my own research question and conducted my own primary research study over the last year-and-a-half on a topic of my choice. I chose to study the role of text-messaging in Elon students’ personal, professional, and academic lives, and the overall conclusion I have drawn from my data is that Elon students primarily use text-messaging as a way to establish, build, and maintain relationships, especially through the use of phatic communication.. This research study allowed me to bring together many of my interests from the PWR field, including studying student writing and new forms of digital rhetoric.
Next year, I will be moving to the Mississippi Delta region to teach elementary school for two years as a member of the 2012 Teach for America Corps. I look forward to bringing the communication, critical thinking, rhetorical, and collaborative skills I have gained from my PWR major and academic experiences into my work with both students and other educators.
My hope is that you will get a sense of how my academic career has helped me to develop my identity as a writer, student, and professional. Thank you for taking the time to read through my portfolio.
Mary Kate Hinshaw