Rising star: Computer science undergraduate awarded for new digital portfolio product

MURALS 2023 Rising Star Award winner Elita Danilyuk
Senior computer science student Elita Danilyuk.

“Please submit your portfolio” – intimidating words for many job applicants.

Digital portfolios are increasingly valuable in the competitive job market, but creating one can feel overwhelming, particularly for novices. The process is often a bewildering, time-wasting slog through scattered and hard-to-find online resources, complicated tools, dead ends and paywalls.

After navigating this process, Department of Computer Science senior Elita Danilyuk was motivated to find a solution. She invented a comprehensive, easy-to-use product – PortfoliU Project – that helps users quickly build customized, professional-looking portfolio websites for free.

This spring, PortfoliU Project earned her the Rising Star award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category at the CSU Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium (MURALS).

Helping “code-phobes”

Most job applicants face a significant hurdle to making a portfolio website – they have no web development or coding skills. Danilyuk’s project eases the burden for what one MURALS judge called “code-phobes”.

PortfoliU Project is an open-source GitHub product that centralizes resources users need to create portfolio websites from scratch, including design templates, tutorials, web hosting information, tips and tricks. Templates are customized for different difficulty levels, and documentation is provided for the CodePen development environment. PortfoliU requires no design or coding skills, and all resources are free and open source.

This work is also Danilyuk’s Honors Program thesis, and after presenting it at the Rocky Mountain Celebration of Women in Computing (RMCWiC), faculty advisor Nate Blanchard nominated her to present it at MURALS.

The MURALS Entrepreneurship and Innovation submission required a professional poster, scholarly work summary and abstract explaining the product idea, target customer, methods, final project format and insights from customer interviews. At the symposium, students gave a 10-minute oral presentation and Q&A judged by faculty and graduate students.

Danilyuk enjoyed the diversity of MURALS participants. “I was surprised by how creative the projects were,” she said. “You see everyone being so unique, and that encourages you to be yourself too.”

The annual daylong MURALS event provides a platform for undergraduate students with marginalized identities from across campus to showcase their scholarly work. Awards are given in five categories plus overall. Students also network, receive mentoring and feedback, and learn about multicultural leadership.

Sharing what you learn

Danilyuk is experienced at overcoming challenges. She is a first-generation Ukrainian American, first-generation college student, community college transfer student, Honors student and earning her degree in computer science, a field where women are severely underrepresented.

For Danilyuk, success is all about sharing what she learns.

“Growing up in a Ukrainian household as a first-generation American, you learn to find the resources you need yourself. If I’m going to go through something hard, why not use what I learn to help others?”

As a “code-phobe” herself, Danilyuk never imagined being a computer scientist. PorfoliU is a personal passion project she wants to expand with visual user interactions, code documentation and step-by-step guides, but her sights are set much higher – an industry position as chief information or technology officer.

“I want to encourage corporate leadership diversity and am passionate about mentoring employees,” she said. She also plans to continue presenting, teaching and working in the open source community.

Danilyuk acknowledges mentorship and support from CSU professor Nate Blanchard, Front Range Community College instructor Travis Sharpe and software developer Daniel Danilyuk.