March is Women's History Month. It's a time to celebrate the contributions of noteworthy women who have helped to change history. In honor of Women's History Month, Printing Industries of America would like to recognize women who have had a significant impact on the printing industry in an encouraging and progressive way.
Dr. Erica Walker is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Graphic Communications, College of Business at Clemson University. She admits that teaching wasn't what she had planned on doing professionally. However, Walker finds working with students to be an exciting and fulfilling career. She enjoys helping her students "find a home" in the industry, matching their interests and talents to opportunities.
Walker grew up in North Atlanta, Georgia and has been living in Clemson, South Carolina now for close to twenty years. She has always had a passion for imagery that stemmed from her grandmother, who was a professional artist. "I spent a lot of time with my grandmother in her studio--painting and looking through this huge drawer of categorized photographs that she used for inspiration," Walker said. "I fell in love with darkroom photography in undergrad and quickly discovered that I liked the challenge of moviemaking even more because it combined elements of motion and sound with photography."
Walker turned her love for film and moviemaking into a career when she co-founded Galatia Films. As co-owner of a film production company, Walker was involved in almost every role in the filmmaking process, from director of photography to casting and location scout, as well as editor and set decoration. She even played a role in marketing and sales by working with print materials, product packaging, social media, and branding.
In 2012, Walker was working full-time with Galatia Films when she was asked to temporarily help teach a course offered at Clemson University. After two semesters of working both jobs, she decided to apply for a full-time faculty/staff position at the university, and she landed the job. Within the first year, she pursued a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction to better understand and calibrate her teaching to positively impact student learning. Today, Dr. Walker teaches courses in Photography, Video, Web Development, and Entrepreneurship.
"The printing industry is ever-changing and at the tip of major disruption," Walker said. She believes that the future of visual communication needs young individuals who are innovative and can think outside of the box to focus on solving customer problems. "There are so many possibilities for visual communication, and I hope to see graphic communication students from across the country leading this change," Walker said.
When asked if being a woman in a male-dominated field, such as filmmaking, web and print, is difficult, Walker said she feels comfortable working in that space because of her familiarity of working within a male-dominated environment. At the same time, she acknowledges that women may face a variety of challenges. "I am happy to see major initiatives pushing for change in this area," Walker said. "I think lack of diversity negatively impacts any industry. We need problem solvers and creatives from every type of background and life experience because their unique vision will provide important perspective and innovation that others, without that perspective, could not bring to the discussion."
Some women may not be as comfortable as Walker in a male-dominated industry, so a word of advice she wants to give to women is to work hard to build relationships with other women in the industry. "Reach out to women who came before you and learn from their experiences. Pay it forward to new, younger women coming up through the industry behind you. We have a lot to learn from each other, so be a part of that conversation."
You can find Dr. Erica Walker and the Clemson Graphic Design department on Twitter at @ebwalker101 and @clemsonGC.