Monthly Archives: October 2017


This fall the Academy or VTGrATE assisted with the Graduate School’s GTA Workshop sessions on ePortfolios. In the spring, the Graduate School decided to work with the library, which was beginning work on an ePortfolio pilot using Portfolium. Dr. Hajj, the associate dean with the Graduate School who works on the GTA Workshop, approached GrATE to help with this for the workshop.

Through the summer two of the Founding Fellows, myself and Jordan Laney, worked with Dr. Hajj, Dean DePauw, and the staff in Learning Design/Teaching & Learning Engagement within the library to prepare for the ePortfolio sessions within the GTA Workshop. It took some time to figure out how the members, associates, and fellows of GrATE could learn about Portfolium and ePortfolios and then communicate that in a workshop session to new graduate students. Also over the summer around 20 people from GrATE were trained in these areas by Learning Design staff. During the fall, in the GTA Workshop sessions, 15 people from GrATE introduced ePortfolios to around 120 new GTAs. The fall sessions were wonderful. Overall, the GTAs had never heard of ePortfolios, so we had the opportunity to introduce the concept to a new generations of GTAs and future faculty. Most of the session attendees were interested in the concept.

Knowing that  many people would not have an ePortfolio or would be unaware of the concept, the workshops had a two-fold piece to them. First, it was introducing ePortfolios as a tool. A tool for us as professionals and scholar to have a place to demonstrate what we are working on and have learned. We can cultivate our digital presence through ePortfolios and provide access to the work that we are doing/have done.  This can be an individual aspect or for one’s culmination of their major/degree.

The second piece ePortfolios can be used is for teaching and learning. ePortfolios can be used in the classroom to demonstrate what has been gained and learned through a course. By showing elements of skills that were learned, such as communication and critical thinking or collaborative work. A piece of using ePortfolios in the classroom that I like, because of my own teaching philosophy using feminist pedagogy, is the reflection aspect. Making discoveries by taking time to process what you did for a course, why, what was learned, how you came to the final product, etc. A student can show their process, their initial reactions, and how they might take what they did for one course further into other courses or their career.  Hopefully by the end of multiple courses and maybe even an entire degree program, a student will have their own digital identity and professional development presence. This can even include what they have learned outside the classroom through field study, internships, study abroad, clubs, volunteer activities, and more. ePortfolios can help students and professionals present a holistic image of who they are, the skills they have, and what they can bring to a position.

There are two areas that draw me towards ePortfolios. One is the reflection aspect when presenting artifacts (e.g., assignments, CV, research, publications, presentations) on the ePortfolio page.  The second is that ePortfolios are dynamic and accessible ways for us to show who we are in a holistic view. We are not just one piece of what we have done, but a whole collection of what we know, have experienced, and even where we want to go.

Words from Order of the Gavel

Last Friday, the Division of Student Affairs, had the Order of the Gavel induction ceremony. Order of the Gavel is a group of undergraduate and graduate student leaders to promote community and development. I was asked to provide a few words. My speech is included below.

My name is Erin Lavender-Stott and I am in my final year as a PhD student in the department of Human Development and Family Science. I also serve as the Chief Justice of the Graduate Honor System.

As Heather Evans and I were discussing me speaking today, she mentioned that her daughter was running for a leadership position at her elementary school. That brought me back to the library in Gilbert Linkous Elementary School on Tom’s Creek Road in the fourth grade with the daily announcement camera in front of me, where I attempted to be a class leader.

That was the first time I remember feeling the pull to provide service and leadership. I did not get elected to a leadership position that year or during my time in the Blacksburg school system. This was in part because I was not sure how to enter into leadership positions and also in part due to the fact that I was the kid who sat in the front of the classroom with their nose in a book. I was incredibly shy and I rarely spoke to others outside my close friend group and teachers. I could go days without speaking to anyone at school.

After high school I went all the way to Roanoke to Hollins University. Now, for those of you who do not know Hollins, it is a tiny all-women’s college of around 800 students. As soon as I stepped foot on that campus, I knew I found my place. And I did. Within a month of move-in, I became a hall senator, then class treasurer. The next year I became a resident assistant, developing a brand-new hall now called the Mind, Body, Spirit Community. The next year I became swim team captain and SGA Treasurer. Then, my senior year I was SGA President.

Throughout this time, I grew as a person and as a leader. I learned to work with those who did not have the same lived experiences as me or saw the world in the same way I did. I learned to work through challenges of differing values. And working with those who admitted they were scared of me. Also, I clearly did not have any trouble speaking with people anymore.

After Hollins, I went to the coast of North Carolina, UNC Wilmington for my master’s. There I was a graduate student senator, served on the parking appeals committee, and a student leadership conference planning committee.

When I decided to move back to Blacksburg to attend Tech, I also decided to shift my service focus away from student government to more academic areas. That is when I joined the Graduate Honor System. I have been a variety of roles within the GHS, among other roles on campus. I have also begun serving my professional organization at the national level.

Through each role I take on, I do it out of interest, to challenge myself, to learn more, and to serve. As someone who plans to stay in higher education throughout my career, I have taken the opportunity to continue to learn and grow each step of the way. Part of what I have enjoyed about being active as a student, have been the opportunities to mentor other students. Helping them find their own strengths. Or assisting them in making the changes they wish to see. I am an advocate of not simply complaining, but actively working towards something that would be better for all. Though, working with those who know the system in the complicated world of higher education, is helpful.

One of my leadership styles is leading by example. I also value transparency. Because I have had the opportunity to have a seat at the table at each institution, I absorb as much as I can and then try to share what I have learned with others. But it is also about learning from others. Order of the Gavel gives me a chance to learn from others. The three of us graduate students have a chance to see each other and discuss the world at various times, but it is through Order of the Gavel that I get a chance to see undergraduate students who share the institution beyond my classroom. Most graduate students live in this place of being half students and half junior faculty or junior colleagues.

Once a month when we come together for Order of the Gavel (and for the chocolate covered pretzels), it gives us a chance to learn from one another, including me hearing what undergraduate students are experiencing on campus. As a graduate student who is also an instructor, I have enjoyed learning from everyone about what they are going through as a current student and in turn makes me a stronger teacher. As a junior scholar, it allows me to learn about how the university navigates concerns and the challenges of working with students of all ages and academic levels in the 21st century—for today and the future.

One piece that we have not discussed up to this point are the friendships made through leadership and service. I still see and speak to many that I have served with over the years. I have been in the weddings of many of them. My best friends served as the Honor Court Chair or followed me as SGA President at Hollins. And one of the three friends I have kept from UNCW served in student government with me as well. I suspect some of the long-term friendships I will have from Tech will also come from the service and leadership positions.

As a developmental and family scholar, I look back on where I have come and where I hope to go and how my leadership education and service have fit within that. I hope you all will take the people you have met and the skills you have learned from your time as a leader at Tech into whatever endeavors come your way throughout your life. Thank you and I look forward to working with everyone for another year.