Beth Huffman is a full-time Lecturer of Interior Design Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. An architect by training, but also practiced and registered in Interior Design, Beth in adept at immersing her students in opportunities which engage them in critical thinking, connect them with the international community, and teach them practical lessons about sustainable design and construction practices.
In the spring of 2015, Beth partnered with an organization called Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach (SOHO). The group is revered for its work which seeks to improve the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in households which have been devastated by HIV and AIDS, mostly in the continent of Africa. Through this partnership, Beth challenged a 200-level studio course with designing new, sustainable housing for this vulnerable population.
For 16 weeks students engaged in rigorous exercises in an effort to successfully program, conceptualize, develop, construct and test their housing creations. Cultural norms and materials indigenous to Africa were studied while construction methods and sustainable strategies were discussed. In the end, students exhibited and presented their work, including a life-sized replica of the housing sleeping quarters, at a local art gallery and were able to articulate their experience and efforts to the community at large.
At the conclusion of the course, eight students traveled to Swaziland to construct a home for a woman and the series of orphans living with her on the plains of Africa. The knowledge and experience gained by these students is invaluable, and has provided each with an enlightening education relative to service, compassion and the use of ones talents for the greater good of humanity. In addition, students gained practical skills including experience building a structure using Earthbag construction. Traits such as flexibility, realism and teamwork were imparted in these future design professionals, instilling within them qualities that cannot be otherwise gained outside of a once in a lifetime opportunity such as this project offered.
Beth continues to use this project in her coursework, and remains committed to the continuous improvement of the mission and the venture. The travel abroad opportunity is offered every other summer through the Interior Design Technology program at IUPUI, and is open to any major, therefore further impacting society and making others aware of the amazing contributions taking place in our profession.