Written Portfolio Guidelines

Written Portfolio Tone, Format, and Length

Organize your written portfolio in a way that expresses your experiences with your community partners and this program, authentically and effectively. In the past, written portfolios have taken the form of academic papers, electronic portfolios, notebook binders, or reflective essays (most common). It is acceptable to write in the first person (i.e., I, we); you are not required to write in the third person (i.e., the researcher, the university partner), but may if you would like to.

All written portfolios include two main sections—your original reflective writing and supporting documents in the appendices which provide examples and supportive evidence of your community-engaged scholarship and practice. There is no minimum or maximum page length for the written portfolio. There is no preferred bibliographic/citation style (e.g., APA, Chicago).

Your written portfolio is due to the program coordinator one week before your presentation. This allows the University Outreach and Engagement committee to review your written portfolio in advance, become familiar with your community-engaged scholarship or practice, and prepare thoughtful questions for your presentation. This is a hard, fast rule. If your written portfolio is not available one week in advance of your scheduled presentation, the program coordinator will cancel your presentation and reschedule it for a future date.


Organize your written portfolio and presentation in ways that makes sense to you and allow your engagement story to be told in its fullest. You do not have to follow the order of required elements outlined below.

  1. Add a cover page. Provide us with a portfolio title, your name, your department, and the year. If your portfolio is over 30 pages, consider adding a table of contents.
  2. Introduce yourself. Describe who you are and why community engagement is important to you. What is your background, level of study (e.g., masters, Ph.D., other), discipline, position, and/or career goals? What attracted to you to community engagement originally? What are your motivations for engagement? What does it mean to you to be an engaged scholar or practitioner?
  3. Overview the portfolio. Provide readers with a brief overview of how the portfolio is organized into sections. If you are reflecting on more than on community engagement experience (not common), be sure to mention that in this overview.
  4. Introduce your mentored community engagement experience. Note what type of community-engaged scholarship you were engaged in (e.g., research; creative activities; teaching & learning; service and practice; commercialized activities, of a combination). Describe the issue you addressed and the anticipated change you were hoping to make through your project.
  5. Describe your foundational scholarship. Explain the theory, conceptual frameworks, or best practices that informed and guided your community engagement experiences. Explain how these connect, if they do, to your discipline and field. If you collaborated on a community-engaged teaching and learning project, be sure to include relevant foundational scholarship from the scholarship of teaching and learning. Draw upon readings from the workshops and from your classes. You may embed references throughout the portfolio, or use endnotes or footnotes, depending on your preference. You should include a reference list/bibliography at the end of your portfolio that has at least 20 citations in it. Be sure to cite the original works within the workshop presentations; do not cite workshop four, for example.
  6. Introduce your community partner(s) and the community they serve. Describe the context in which your community engagement project takes place (e.g., population, demographics, history, issues, etc.). Tell us about your community partner(s). How did you meet them? What pre-engagement steps did you take? Who was your main partner? And if there were additional partners, explain who they were and what role(s) they played. Consider including a partnership diagram to note the roles and relationships among partners. What were the duration, intensity, and scope of your partnership? What steps have you taken to sustain your partnership, or wrap it up if that is more appropriate?
  7. Describe your collaboration. Where would you place your project on the outreach to engagement continuum? What were the steps or phases of your project? How did you listen to your community partners and make decisions with them (e.g., what techniques did you use). Specifically, in what ways did their input influence decisions about the direction of your project? What knowledge, perspective, and skills did they contribute to the project? What were the degrees of collaboration, at different stages of the project? Use the abacus tool, if applicable. What approaches or perspectives guided your work (e.g., assets, capacity building, systems or coalition approaches). Why was that a fitting choice for your project. Provide plenty of details in this section and include artifacts (e.g., photos, agendas, other work products) that help you show not tell your engagement story. These may be included in the body of the portfolio or at the end as appendices.
  8. Convey the results of your project. What happened as a result of your mentored community engagement project? What part of the human-environment system were you hoping to influence or change with your work? What were the intended and unintended consequences? What were the results? How do you know you achieved them? What evidence did you collect or what evaluation data do you have to document the results?
  9. Describe your scholarly academic and public products. Community-engaged scholarship generates products that are valuable to both academic and public audiences. What were those proposed, planned, or developed products? For academic products, where would you submit a conference poster or presentation, a grant proposal, or peer-reviewed journal article? Why would that be good choice for your work? For the public products, how did you make sure the outcomes/results of your collaboration were given back to partners in ways that were understandable and useful to them? Who are there other public or practitioner audiences that might find your work valuable? Specifically, who are those audiences and what communication channels or formats would be best suited to reach them?
  10. Provide evidence of collaboration from other perspectives. In addition to your own reflections, please include documentation from your mentor and community partner in the form of an email or letter from each of them. Consult the templates for mentor and community partner feedback. Include these two items in your portfolio appendices.
  11. Reflect on the workshops and your mentored community engagement experience. What were your main learnings? Your reflections may be embedded throughout the body of the portfolio, or they may appear in a separate section towards the end. Be sure to address three distinct aspects of reflection.
    • Critical reflection: Critically reflect on your role in the project. How did who you are influence your role and relationship with your community partners? Be sure to address how your personal identity (e.g., background, race, ethnicity, gender, class, or other privileges) may have affected power and relationship dynamics in the partnership. Note any cross-cultural differences you may have encountered and how you ethically and respectfully recognized them. In retrospect, what might you have done differently? Looking forward, what might you change in your own practice?
    • Critical thinking: Critically analyze the ideas you put into practice in your project. What scholarly ideas did you put into practice? How did your foundational scholarship contribute to the project's success or pose challenges with your partners or your work in this particular context? In retrospect, what might you have done differently? Looking forward, what might you change in your own practice based on these reflections?
    • Ethics. What ethical issues did you encounter in your collaboration and in your project? How did you handle them? If you collaborated on community-engaged research, or some forms of community-engaged teaching and learning, be sure to confirm that you received IRB approval for your project. If your project involved youth, be sure to confirm you worked with MSU Youth programs. If your field has a professional code of conduct or ethical guidelines, discuss how those principles apply (or don't apply) to your project. Knowing what you know now, what might you do differently in future community-engaged scholarship or practice?
  12. Address community engagement competencies. In your written portfolio, demonstrate your understanding of 15 of the 22 core competencies. Describe how you applied those ideas to your practice. Some competencies will be more important to you (and others less so). As a result, you may write more about some competencies than others. As you address the competencies, you may embed them throughout the body of your portfolio (e.g., write about initiating and sustaining partnership in the partnership section), or you may have a separate section for competencies, or you may use a combination of approaches. If you did not have an opportunity to apply ideas from a core competency, it is acceptable to write what you would have done if you had had the chance to implement ideas from that competency. Most portfolios include a combination of actual and proposed examples of moving the competency ideas from theory to practice.
  13. Conclude with overall reflections. Now that you have been through this program and collaborated with a community partner on a project, what are your thoughts about community-engaged scholarship and practice? What was successful? Challenging? Meaningful? How have your thoughts, feelings, practices changed as a result of this program and its three elements (e.g., workshops, project, portfolio)? In what ways did participating in the Graduate Certification in Community Engagement contribute to your experience at MSU?
  14. Note future directions. For your project, what are any next steps in your partnership or your project? Are there ways you plan to build upon this experience as you move forward? Personally, what are your next steps in your career as a community-engaged scholar or practitioner? How are those choices aligned with your experiences, values, and aspirations?
  15. Include an updated c.v., or resume.
  16. Appendices, as needed to support your portfolio.

Optional Review

The program coordinator is available to review and comment on outlines and drafts of your written portfolio and presentation. Though not required, this is highly recommended.

Info Session

Learn about program requirements, the online application process, and examples from past students in the program.

August 28, 2024

  10:00 – 11:30am   ||
  Zoom Meeting

Learn more about the Graduate Certification