Biosystems engineering senior receives ePortfolio award

By Virginia Speirs

Published: Aug 1, 2021 12:00:00 AM

 Naomi Pitts Naomi Pitts

When Naomi Pitts, senior in Biosystems Engineering, was a freshman, she thought completing an ePortfolio was just a trivial class assignment.

Now, that same portfolio has won her a Certificate of Excellence from the Office of University Writing and a nomination to be featured in the 2021 International Meeting of the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), an international professional development organization for ePortfolio practitioners and researchers.

Pitts included more than just her academic profile in her portfolio — she got personal. She shared her journey battling cancer — she’s a two-time survivor — as well as her extracurricular activities and why she chose her major. Allowing herself to be vulnerable on her portfolio was a risk, but she knew that by sharing her story she could display a more authentic version of herself. 

“I wanted employers to realize the type of personality I have, and just to get a better idea of who I am,” Pitts said.

“When I first made my portfolio, it was actually for a class because the Department of Biosystems Engineering is aware that the name of our major may throw people off and, and maybe people may not understand what we do,” Pitts said. “They require every student to make a portfolio. It was part of an assignment, but I kind of took it and made it my own.”

When Pitts was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare type of lymphatic cancer, and endured intense treatments to survive it. When she was a freshman in college, the cancer returned. Again, she went through treatment while taking time away from classes. She worried that sharing her medical history might make her appear as a health risk to potential employers, but instead she found her story to be an inspiration to many of her portfolio viewers. 

“I was really scared because I thought that people would think I was a liability for having cancer,” Pitts said. “But that’s not at all what happened. I went full-force back to school and class, into internships and everything was back to normal. Now people see my story not as a liability, but as an inspiring story of perseverance.”

Aesthetically, Pitts’ portfolio looks like a cross between an Instagram profile and a LinkedIn profile. This is so that potential employers can see both her personal story and professional history, she said. Whenever she gains more personal or professional experience, such as volunteering with a club or completing another class, she expands the portfolio accordingly.

“Once you get the base structure of your portfolio, it’s not too hard to keep adding to it from there, and of course changing it if you need to,” Pitts said. “Every time I do a role, I add it to my ePortfolio.”

Pitts is thankful to the Department of Biosystems Engineering for helping her develop her ePortfolio, she said. 

“It’s allowed me to be vulnerable and share a bit about my battle with cancer along with other personal touches,” she said. “I was nervous to do that at first, but I realized how empowering it is to share my story as it has helped me to become the person I am today. I’m honored that my portfolio has been recognized by Auburn and the AAEEBL, and I hope that it helps people to not only learn about me, but to learn what it means to be an Auburn biosystems engineer.”

To learn more about AAEEBL and to view Pitts’ portfolio, visit https://aaeebl.org/2021meeting/students/

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson, jdh0123@auburn.edu, 334-844-3591

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