Electronic Portfolio

This electronic portfolio was originally created in conjunction with completion of the degree requirements for the Master of Distance Education at the University of Maryland University College. It has been maintained since then in order to provide a summary of experiences, work background, academic participation, published and unpublished manuscripts, and a detailed resume.

Biographical Summary

Ellen Blackmun has spent most of her life involved with educational institutions and learning communities. She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a family that placed a high premium on education. From an early age, Ellen traveled to southwestern New York state with her family to spend summer periods at the Chautauqua Institution. Ellen's mother Florence had first visited Chautauqua at the age of nine, and continued to make the trek north well into her eighties. Ellen and Florence graduated together from the reading program offered through the Chautauqua Scientific and Literary Circle, one of the oldest book clubs in the United States, and an important early originator of adult continuing education in the US, especially for women who did not have access to opportunities in higher educaiton. Today, Florence is buried in the beautiful Chautauqua cemetery, where Ellen and her sister visit each summer, to enjoy the Chautauqua lecture series, symphony orchestra, and peaceful streets amidst Victorian architecture.

Ellen also inherited a love of travel and an interested in politics from her family, and so went off to the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s to major in French. She participated in the Wisconsin-Michigan Junior Year in France program in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, and traveled extensively through western Europe. She then went on to graduate school in the Ph.D. program in French literature at Indiana University, where she earned an M.A. in French and participated in a year-long American Embassy teaching exchange program in Paris.

Upon her return from Paris, Ellen encountered the kinds of financial difficulties that affect graduate students everywhere. Thus began her long career as a student financial aid administrator, first in Louisville, Kentucky, where she worked for a group of business colleges and earned an M.B.A. in management from Bellarmine University, and continuing after her return to Pittsburgh in 1988 to work for the Art Institutes (Education Management Corporation). Over more than 25 years in this profession, Ellen has earned a reputation as an innovative practictioner who takes the lead in implementing new systems to better deliver aid to students and as an expert in the legislative and regulatory side of the profession.

In the early 1990s, Ellen purchased her first home computer, and went online using an early version of AOL. There she met her husband, Jim, and began to navigate the road taken earlier by her sister, who was an early provider of online distance education to higher education, and her brother, who worked for many years in college and university information technology. In the mid-1990s, Ellen moved to Washington, DC, where she combined her years as a financial aid administrator with her growing interest in technology and the Internet as the Director of Technology Initiatives and Distance Learning for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) . She also began to work on a part-time basis for AOL as a remote staff member, providing training and support to AOL's community-building efforts. In 1999, NASFAA was one of the first recipients of a Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnership (LAAP) grant through the U.S. Department of Education, designated for the development of a Web-based training program for student financial aid administrators. As the project director for this effort, Ellen has applied her expertise in distance education and learning communities to her knowledge of student financial aid. In 2003, she initiated the process of implementing a new content management system, ANGEL, for delivery of courses and knowledge base materials to NASFAA's members through LearnStudentAid.org.

About this page

This electronic portfolio as been created in satisfaction of a final requirement for the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Master of Distance Education (MDE).

For information about the MDE program, its objectives, content, and requirements, visit the MDE program Web page. For general information, visit UMUC on the Web...

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