Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Welcome to the Labyrinth

Let me first explain why the metaphor of a labyrinth is meaningful and connects to my PhD journey. 

     During the Doctoral Seminar 1, that was held at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, one of the additional opportunities was a labyrinth walk that many of my classmates completed, but I did not. I regretted this missed opportunity, so during the Doctoral Seminar 2 experience, held at Brock University in St. Catherines, I was excited to read that there was a recently created labyrinth on campus. I was lucky enough to arrange for a guided walk. As I engaged in this experience, I was struck by the relevance of this physical and reflective practice as a metaphor for my PhD journey.

     After I applied and was accepted into the Joint PhD program, I considered how I would capture the story of this journey. I knew it was going to be a long process, with many forgotten moments that I wanted to capture along the way. As I was familiar with blogging, and was aware of others in my personal learning networks who blogged through their PhD process, I started a new blog site titled Step By Step on January 3, 2018 with a few posts about First Steps. It's an explicit connection to how a labyrinth is experienced step by step.

     This comprehensive portfolio captures my journey, at each step, into the center of the labyrinth, the center of the PhD experience. This journey is one of becoming; becoming an academic, a scholar, a writer, a researcher ‒ of becoming literate in my field of study. Saldaña (2016) suggests the "products we create embody who we are ... the environments we establish for ourselves may also embody who we are" (p. 61). This labyrinthine portfolio is an embodiment of not only the steps I have taken, but my reflexivity within these PhD spaces, places, and experiences. After the completion of my courses, I began to research the labyrinth as a metaphor and practice, not only for the PhD odyssey, but for this comprehensive portfolio. Through reading and reflecting, I see how this metaphor is a relevant visual, physical, and metaphoric image for my PhD experience.

     Comprehensive portfolios and dissertations are documents that are traditionally linear, bound into a sequence of chapters that lay out a research argument and defence of that argument. This is not that kind of document. While the elements included may appear familiar, the navigation will be untried. There is no right order or clear path to constructing or navigating through this portfolio. In order to accommodate the traditionalist academic reader, and any linear thinkers who explore this document, I will nonetheless attempt to provide a quasi-structured map to guide the way (Kilbourn, 2001).

     In this pathway into the comprehensive portfolio, I will explain how the labyrinth is representative as an overarching metaphor for academic and scholarly work. This is followed by an exploration of a labyrinth experience from a Joint PhD student perspective. I will conclude with a constructed labyrinthine pathway through the Joint PhD program which will metaphorically end in the centre of the labyrinth. This comprehensive portfolio stories my time and experiences as a PhD student as it also ends in this centering and centered moment, before I begin the outward journey toward the completion of my research and dissertation.

     But, before you begin, I suggest a look at the navigational tips and strategies as you follow the pathways and venture into this labyrinthian comprehensive portfolio.

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