In this assignment, you will
- Document and reflect on your university education and on learning experiences outside of the university;
- Articulate how your upper-level coursework is an integrated and individualized curriculum built around your interests; and
- Highlight the experiences, skills, and projects that show what you can do.
A successful report submission will be the product of many hours of work over several weeks.
A report earning maximum available points will be a carefully curated and edited explanation of your work that provides tangible evidence of—and insights into—your competencies and capabilities over time. In each section of this report, you are (1) telling a story about your own abilities, and (2) providing specific examples and evidence that illustrate and support your claims.
Required Report Sections
Here the sections are listed as they must appear in your final graded submission. You’ll arrange the sections in this order when submitting the final report BUT you won’t follow this order when writing drafts of each section. Note that each section description contains a Pro Tip that tells you how to proceed with the work – what to attempt first, second, and third, etc.
❖ I. Statement of Purpose ❖
- Step 1. Read these four very different examples of successful Statement of Purpose sections.
- Step 2. Consider the differences in tone, style, level of detail etc. Your own statement of purpose may resemble one of these. Indeed, writing a first draft based on an example or combination of examples is a good idea. BUT don’t let these examples limit your thinking or personal expression. You may want to begin with a quote from a famous person, use a quote from your mom, or skip the quote. You may want to discuss your personal motivations or get right down to the facts. You may want to list your classes or discuss how your work-life led you to this path.
- Step 3. Write a rough draft – let’s call that Statement of Purpose 1.0. Write Statement of Purpose 1.0 as quickly as you can and then put it away until after you have completed most of the report. Forget about Statement of Purpose 1.0 until most of your report is at least in draft form.
- Step 4. Once you have a draft of all sections of your report, you are in a good position to revise Statement of Purpose 1. You are ready for Step 4. Take Statement of Purpose 1.0 out its dusty vault and hold it up to the sun. Ah. Now read your report draft and compare it to the claims you made in Statement of Purpose 1.0. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does Statement of Purpose 1.0. accurately introduce my report?
- Are there important ideas or representative experiences in the report that should be highlighted in the Statement of Purpose but aren’t? Remember this isn’t a treasure hunt where its your reader’s job to figure out what matters. It’s your job to show the reader what matters.
- If Statement of Purpose 1.0. isn’t the best map it can be for the treasures sprinkled throughout in your report, why not? How can you revise toward this goal?
- Does your Statement of Purpose 1.0 share any Big Ideas or Themes about you and your life? It should. Your reader should understand you (and maybe even like you) and your report better because they read your Statement of purpose. That is the work of a Statement of Purpose.
Be sure to review the Statement of Purpose Section Specifications Checklist and Grading Rubric before getting started.
Pro Tip: Collaborating isn’t cheating. You may want to exchange reports with a writing buddy or two from class and then you and your buddies can help each other to make sure that each of you has a Statement of Purpose that gets the job done.
❖ II. Curriculum ❖
This section requires you to review your upper-level course work 2000-level and above.
Think about what classes you took and what accomplished in them. The successful Curriculum section is about showing rather than just telling. This is your time to show off your best work, focusing on particular skills. For example, pick an assignment (project or paper) where you did a particularly strong job. Fully describe your work. Prove that you can do what you say you can do. This involves making the important distinction AWAY from just a list of your courses and what you did in them—to who you are as a professional and a creative problem solver.
As you list and discuss your advanced course work, you’ll give your readers a glimpse into (1) what you know, as well as what skills you have developed (2) how you have met (or can meet) challenges, (3) how you can help others.
Curriculum Section Examples are provided.
How to Get Started writing your Curriculum Section
- Step 1. Hold a copy of your transcript in front of you and highlight the classes that were most meaningful to you and the ones where you feel you did your best work. You may be able to recall the classes you want to discuss from memory. But most students benefit from a careful review of their academic transcript.
- Step 2. Review the examples of Curriculum sections provided in these instructions. The writers have approached the task with different strategies. You can use these examples to guide you and you may also want to consider working from a more formal template.
- Step 3. Here is a formal template so you can see what each entry does in sharing the story of your academic journey with readers.
- Heading: Provide the reader with an informative subheading, usually either the complete name of the course. Not this: Chem Glassblowing But this: CHM 4090L Introduction to Scientific Glassblowing OR the type of project or paper produced. EX: Spatial Ability and OCHEM Research Presentation
- Body paragraph opening sentences that provide context for what follows : The first sentences should summarize the course content. This information can be found online in the FIU course catalogue. EX: In this class, where the emphasis was on making and repairing of scientific glassware, I learned Basic glassblowing operations with glass tubing and rod.
- The story or example that shows why this course/project/paper matters to you. Here you might share insights, achievements and/or surprises: The next sentences should tell a story about skills or knowledge you acquired or shared. EX: As I worked in the glassblowing lab, I learned more about precision than I expected to. The way getting things exactly right in procedure, measurements, materials, and temperature matters is something I will never forget and that I will bring to my future work in other areas. We didn’t guess and make approximations. We had to get things precisely right. I worked harder for an A in this class than in most of the other classes I have ever taken, etc.
- Introduce artifacts shared in the appendix: If you are including an artifact from this class in your appendix, you may want to mention it at this point. EX: My appendix includes a picture of my final project for the class.
- Explain how this course/project/paper will help you to advance your plans for the future: Finish by explaining how you will transfer your skills and knowledge into other areas of your academic or professional life. EX: When I explain to employers and graduate program admissions officers what is special about me, I will tell that I am a meticulous person who notices and manages details, even in high-stress situations and I’ll use my achievements in the glassblowing class as proof.
Be sure to review the Curriculum Section Specifications Checklist and Grading Rubric before getting started.
Pro Tip: When beginning work on this assignment start with this section. Your Statement of Purpose is a summary of the Curriculum and Volunteer or Work Experience sections; the Statement of Purpose ties everything together and helps the reader to make sense of the sections that follow
❖ III. Volunteer or Work Experience ❖
In this section, discuss how your work and/or volunteer experiences have shaped your professional goals and intellectual life. As is true with the other sections, the usefulness of this section depends on your planning what it is you want to say and working to be specific and clear in sharing the most important parts of that experience with your readers.
Volunteer or Work Experience Section Examples are provided.
How to Start Writing your Volunteer or Work Experience Section
Although the course has titled this section “Volunteer or Work Experience” there are many different activities and experiences that you can use to write about meaningful events outside of your academic life. Here is a list of questions that indicate possible entries for this section: Volunteer or Work Experience Questions.
These experiences (and more traditional work and volunteer experiences) are expanded ways to think about how you became who you are now, where you might want to go next, and what you can contribute. As you ask yourself these questions, you may find that this is a section where have a lot to say.
Why this Section Matters
You may recall from the Learning Outcomes sheet that it is a good idea to think of your accomplishments not only as credentials – “I earned my BA at FIU in Liberal Studies” – but also in terms of skills:
❖ Critical thinking
❖ Creative thinking
❖ Written communication
❖ Oral communication
❖ Quantitative literacy
❖ Information literacy
❖ Civic knowledge and engagement – local and global
❖ Intercultural knowledge and competence
❖ Ethical reasoning
❖ Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
❖ Integrative learning
As you write this section, think about which of these skills and attributes you developed and demonstrated outside of your academic life.
Be sure to review the Volunteer or Work Experience Specifications Checklist and Grading Rubric before getting started.
Pro Tip: many people are surprised to find that in order to provide significant context for their experiences, they have to research their own lives. Dude, really! Ex: If you volunteered with an organization that provided relief to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, go to the organization’s webpage to read its description of the crisis and how its team intervened. Contact friends who volunteered with you and ask what part of the experience was meaningful to them and they remember. Check news reports to be sure you remember the name and dates for the storm. Biggest rookie mistake: Writing everything from memory.
❖ IV. Plan for the Future ❖
In this section, develop and reflect on your five-year goals. Think about where you want to be in 5 years.
Your Submission for this Section should have Three Elements:
- Clear and specific statement of your 5-year goal(s). This assignment isn’t a contract with the universe or anyone else; you may refine or completely change your goals in the coming years. So, that means you shouldn’t twist your mind into knots trying to uncover and articulate the “perfect” goal. The point of this exercise is to imagine the concrete steps that someone might take to reach a desired outcome.
- This: In 5 years, I want to be a country Desk Officer for the United States Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
- Not This: My goal is to work as a diplomat or something international. I just love traveling.
- Discuss the tools you’ll need for success. What skills, personal attributes, certifications, credentials, experiences, and/or connections will you need to reach your stated goal(s)?
- This: To reach this goal, I will probably need a master’s degree in International Relations and also some entry-level experience. I am looking into an internship or entry-level job with non-profit organizations that partner with the State Department. One of my professors mentioned the Foreign Service Officer test. I suspect that I will need that too.
- Not This: Getting to be a diplomat is a tough and competitive but I know I can distinguish myself because I am a hard worker who gets along well with other people.
- In your discussion of the tools you’ll need for success, clearly state how you know what you know. In other words, you will need clear and specific references to the research and/or networking activities that you used to inform your thinking.
- This: In researching this career, I studied several Desk Officer biographies on the State Department webpage and observed that most people in the field of diplomacy have advanced degrees, often studying International Relations. I also asked the FIU’s Career and Talent Development office for help in finding Florida organizations that are involved in international diplomacy. Working together, we found Global Ties Miami, an organization that works with the U.S. State Department’s professional exchange program. I have written to the director of Global Ties Miami to share my long-term goals and to ask about volunteer opportunities. I have also located the State Department’s information page for the Foreign Service Officer test. I still have lots of questions but I now I also have some answers too.
What to Avoid
Here are some Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them:
- People who defined their goals in terms of salary often struggle with this section. People who think about their careers as a way to make a meaningful contribution to their communities, country, humanity, other living things or to planetary health, find that their thoughts flow more easily and they have more to think about and to say.
- People who try to write this section without networking or research often find that even their best ideas seem superficial and vague when they try to write them down. Sometimes we get a notion (a vague information-less idea) from movies or television shows that suggests a career path to us. Or out of sense of romance, we connect two things that might not be as connected as they seem.
- Joe saw a movie about a stock trader and now tells everyone he’s headed to Wall Street. But Joe knows very little about what college degrees most traders have or what actual traders do all day. He also hasn’t kept up with technological advancements; he has no idea, for example, about how algorithmic trading might change his prospects.
- Linda loves dogs – old ones, puppies, big ones, little ones. Since junior high, she’s been telling everyone that she wants to be a veterinarian. But she doesn’t know how long people study to have that career or even if there are veterinary schools near her parents’ home. She’d like to stay in South Florida and raise her children near their grandparents, aunts, and cousins. How much student loan debt do most veterinarians carry. And mostly she has no idea what veterinarians do all day. What percentage of each day is spent on accounting, draining infected boils, euthanizing or sterilizing animals, cuddling cute puppies, and so on?
In both cases, Joe and Linda need more information:
- People who wait until the fourth or fifth week of the semester to start work on this section often find that networking opportunities take time to set up and that research can lead to a dead end or to more questions. People who start late, sometimes imagine that this work can be effectively started and completed over one weekend or even one night. Although, you are only required to produce 300-400 words, this assignment will take most people several hour-long sessions to complete. That is because each sentence must convey a deep and informed understanding of your goal and how to reach it.
How to Get Started
- Step 1: Here are three scenarios. Read each one and then imagine how this person might write his or her Plan for the Future section. Plan for the Future Section Examples.
- Step 2: After you read the three scenarios, think about your own story. You might even try writing down your own story and printing it out. Then go back to the three required elements for this section of the report. Compare your story to the elements you’ll need to include for this section.
Be sure to review the Plan for the Future Section Specifications Checklist and Grading Rubric before getting started.
Pro Tip: Many students use thinking about and writing this section as an opportunity to network or investigate graduate programs. Things you might do: Using the internet, personal contacts or the FIU directory, locate someone who has already achieved your goal. Read their biography or informally interview them about the path they took to reach the goal. For example, if you are thinking of a career in video game story design, research which universities offer advanced training for this career; go to the library to locate books about it; talk your friends; visit your professors during office hours.
❖ V. Appendix ❖
In this section, attach your CV and any artifacts: papers, images, presentations, group projects, digital media (video and audio), creative artwork, links, internship reflections etc. Each artifact must be labeled.
Review each section of your report. In many places, you will have made a claim about something you have accomplished. Here, in this section, you will provide the proof of your claim by attaching evidence.
- If in the Curriculum section you discuss a course where you and your team made an effective video (Prezi, PowerPoint presentation etc.), include a link to the video in your appendix.
- If in the Curriculum section you discuss a course where you wrote a paper or annotated bibliography that shows your research and critical thinking skills, include a copy of the paper in your appendix.
- If in the Volunteer section you tell of a trip where you studied abroad in France, include pictures from the trip in your appendix.
- If for the Plan for the Future section you interviewed a local business leader, include a photo of your meeting notes.
Appendix Grading | An appendix that Earns all the Section V Points will Include:
- CV with a file name that makes it easy for the reader to know at a glance which CV goes with which report.
- This file name: MartinezTM CV Spring 2019.docx (Author’s last name and first initials, type of document, month and year created)
- Not this file name: CV.docx
- Not this file name: CV IDS Capstone.docx
Imagine you are an instructor with 50 students. Which file name would be most helpful to you? Suppose 20 of your students label their CV as CV.docx. How do you easily tell one CV from the other? The clear-labeling requirement is a good rule to follow when applying for jobs. The recruiter or boss may have a stack of electronic files to review; don’t make her search to find yours.
- In addition to the CV, include at least three different artifacts, each with a file name that makes it easy for the reader to know at a glance which artifacts go with which report. Three is the minimum but you may want to include far more. Remember: No orphan artifacts. Each artifact in the appendix must be referenced clearly somewhere in the report.
- An appendix that is missing artifacts, has mislabeled or deceptive artifacts, or in any other way does not follow these directions, will sacrifice points accordingly.
Imagine that your reader may know far less than you about the areas where you are developing expertise. At any point in the Report, you may want (need!) to insert an explanation that provides context for your interests, accomplishments, and goals. Ex: If you are excited by the ways that data collection might prepare our society for climate change, you will have to devote time and intellectual energy to helping your reader to understand systems that collect data, typical uses for collected data, and how your ideas depart from or add to the ongoing data-collection conversation between experts and stakeholders that are taking place around you.
Dos and Don’ts
DO carefully balance a personal approach with professionalism (but not too personal)
DO explore a blend of academics AND action
DO more showing than telling, but both are necessary
✘ DON’T include everything you have done—only those samples and artifacts that best represent your work
✘ DON’T retell your academic history; think about the skills and knowledge that are a part of your work at the university.
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