2018 has ended, marking both the conclusions of the fall semester and another calendar year. December 2018 also marked the end of an era with Associate Professor Paula Differding, who retired after 33 years of teaching visual communication design (VCD).
Over the decades, Differding has played an indelible role in shaping our VCD program and has transformed the lives of numerous Herron students. Though Differding will be missed, she will continue to be a valued and esteemed member of the Herron community as Associate Professor Emerita, effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Here, Professor and Department Chair Eva Roberts shares a summary of Differding's illustrious academic career, followed by a selection of praise from current students and alumni.
Paula Differding has had an exceptionally long relationship with Herron, one that began when she was a student. In 1979, she earned a second undergraduate degree, a BFA in visual communication that launched her award-winning professional career in Indianapolis. As her career advanced, she continued contact with Herron through students who worked under her guidance as design interns until 1985 when she was recruited to teach and joined the Herron faculty. She brought with her a deep commitment to foster professionalism in young designers. This remains her passion that promises to continue even in retirement.
Professor Differding was crucial in responding to the ever-evolving profession that is design and helped guide the program's transition from a hands-on practice to one that is now dominated by digital technologies. She has worked continuously to develop curriculum during her decades of teaching and has been awarded development grants for her efforts by such programs as the Engaged Department Grant and the IUPUI–Near Westside Faculty Community Fellows. She has always dedicated her time and energy as a faculty member invested in the success of students and has been honored with the Harry Davis Teaching Award, the Trustees Teaching Award for Civic Engagement, and the Teaching Excellence Award from Indiana University.
She has taught virtually all of the students who have graduated from VCD. In doing so, she has given her caring support to thousands of students during her thirty-three years of teaching. Most telling perhaps is that she maintains contact with hundreds of her former students. As they depart for exciting futures, she tells them, "My class never ends." Certainly, she has never stopped learning and growing as a teacher; and she is always welcoming of students, current or former, who seek her advice or just her kindness and bright smile.
In addition to teaching, professor Differding has served in many roles for the department, from director of the IRIS Center for Digital Arts (1996-2004) to coordinator of the department (1996-1998). Her service to the department, school, and university is extensive. She spent numerous years working at the university level on the Promotion and Tenure committee; she has worked extensively with community engaged projects and guided the design and production of work for non-profits ranging from IUPUI Urban Farm to AMPATH, IU Kenya.
Professor Differding is a truly special individual, who deeply values students and their success. She has been a warm and generous colleague whose energy will be missed.
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