Faculty Spotlight: Melissa Heischberg

Melissa Heischberg

Melissa Heischberg
Department: Fashion

After working in the tech industry for a decade, Melissa Heischberg came to College of DuPage as a student to major in biology.

Her goal was to become a high school teacher, but that changed within the span of a few months.

"I hit a semester where I was going to have two post-surgical parents, and I 'temporarily' switched to fashion classes because I'd been sewing for years," she said. "I stayed. I loved the department so much I asked what it would take for me to come back and teach, even before I finished my associate's."

Heischberg actually had started teaching computer programming after burning out on it as a career. She discovered that teaching others was like loving it all over again.

"Teaching is amazing -- you get to learn for the first time again through others. All of a sudden, you're not all jaded and old. Everything is fresh and awesome!" she said. "Learning something the first time is amazing. Getting a second chance to experience that is a little miracle.

"Teaching is the only job I've ever had that leaves me with more energy than I went into it with. I leave my classes thinking my students are excited, so I am excited, and what more can I do next time? How do I build on the excitement?"

Heischberg loves fashion, and she spent years obsessing about costume from the late 1500s. She even worked as a re-enactor on weekends at museums or during historical events.

"I love that era of nascent social change, where the printing press had emerged and suddenly books became available based on popular demand. It's the birth of literacy in the emerging middle classes, and I feel like we're just realizing the next half of the revolution that came from the Gutenberg Press.

"The convergence between fashion, business and social psychology is amazing to me. Fashion isn't just clothing. Trends don't just happen. They are a response to the cultural/socio-political/economic conditions of our times, and that response happens because of a cyclical set of stressors. It is a history that can be read and predicted."

Heischberg now finds herself teaching alongside the professors she found so inspiring.

"There is so much legacy in this department. We all go on and do other things on the outside and then bring it back to the students," she said. "I am so grateful for my time as a student here, and so grateful for the chance to return and share with our students."

More about the Fashion Studies program