Postdoctoral Research Associate Becomes First to Receive External Grant

Pensacola – Dr. Ashley Clayson recently became the first postdoctoral research associate at the University of West Florida to be awarded an external grant.

The $5,000 grant from the Association for Business Communication will help Clayson, who works in the Department of English, study the effectiveness of eportfolios for both students and their prospective employers. Students in the Department of English’s Public, Technical, and Workplace Writing Certificate Program create eportfolios. They serve as a digital home for resumes and space to display class projects, such as video essays, podcasts and blog posts.

“There hasn’t been as much work on (whether) once students are out of our program, do they actually take these to employers, and if they do actually manage to get them into the hands of some employers, do the employers actually look at it,” Clayson said.

As part of her research, Clayson will interview students and alumni from UWF to gauge whether they have used eportfolios in the job market and whether they are finding success with them. She will also interview area employers to see what they are looking for in an eportfolio from a job applicant.

“My goal is to reach out to employers that already work with our students through the (English) internship program,” Clayson said.

However, the scope of Clayson’s research will extend beyond the Pensacola area. She will also interview students and alumni from Auburn University and Texas Tech University and interview employers from those areas.

“One advantage of reaching out and working with these other schools is working with programs that have been established for longer and have been doing eportfolios for longer,” Clayson said. “Learning from their students, their alumni and employers that those programs work with will help us bring back some knowledge to UWF so that our students can benefit.”

The grant requires that the study be completed within a year. She said she hopes to have all the data from students compiled by the summer.

“We are excited by the research that Dr. Clayson is undertaking in the Department of English,” said Dr. Greg Tomso, chair of the Department of English. “Normally, when people hear the term ‘postdoc,’ they immediately think of the natural sciences and traditional lab research. UWF is really on the cutting edge of expanding the notion of postdoctoral research by funding postdoctoral positions in the humanities.

“Dr. Clayson’s successful grant proposal shows how investing in the humanities can lead to new knowledge and new funding opportunities.  I’m sure our students will benefit from her research, and we look forward to many new research projects.”

“Dr. Clayson’s research on how students use and design eportfolios for employer delivery is both timely and important,” said Dr. Bre Garrett, an assistant professor of English at UWF who is Clayson’s faculty mentor. “Her project intersects UWF and the business community in a meaningful way that offers benefits for both stakeholders. She also incorporates cross-institutional research that will build alliances among UWF and other universities that offer cutting-edge professional and technical writing programs.”

Dr. Mark Roltsch, vice president for research at UWF, said Clayson’s work is just one example of the value that postdoctoral research associates bring to the University.

“The decision to support bringing postdocs to UWF has made a significant contribution to building research and scholarly activities at UWF,” Roltsch said. “Over the past year, the postdocs have worked with faculty to develop external grants, submitted high-caliber publications, and presented their work at many national conferences.

“They have been instrumental in moving the University research goals. We would not be as far along as we are without having them part of our research teams.”