Student Spotlight: Melissa Hedlund Nelson
Melissa Hedlund Nelson
Major: Fine Arts
When Melissa Hedlund Nelson was a child, she was mesmerized by the book “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson.
“I would check the book out over and over from the library. I loved that whatever Harold created with his purple crayon came to life,” she said. “I still firmly believe that this is true. Art is a way to express and honor your most inner self. It is everything and can make profound changes in your life.”
Hedlund Nelson attended College of DuPage, loving the campus vibe and happy that it was close to home, affordable and had amazing teachers.
“College of DuPage was my baseline for future collegiate education. It prepared me for undergrad work at Eastern Illinois University and grad school,” she said. “Additionally, taking classes in the arts opened my eyes to my love for creating. I absolutely love the painting studio at COD. I would sit for hours painting in the studio, overlooking the water. It was magical and I still miss it.”
After leaving College of DuPage, Hedlund Nelson earned two bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Biological Sciences (Pre-Medicine), a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and Art Therapy, and post-graduate specialized training in trauma and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. She is working on her Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., which she plans to finish in 2019.
Her accomplishments are many: Past President of the Illinois Art Therapy Association, director on the Board of Directors for the Coalition of Illinois Counseling Organizations, and Past Speaker of the Assembly of Chapters for the American Art Therapy Association. She works as a Clinical Art Therapist at Linden Oaks Hospital and is an adjunct faculty member at College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College.
Hedlund Nelson also followed her calling and developed what has become the love of her life, The Light of The Heart: A Community Art Therapy Project. It is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that is not only the first of its kind in Aurora but also in the state of Illinois and the country.
“Our purpose is to provide high quality and affordable art therapy programming for children, adolescents, adults and allied professionals in the Aurora area and beyond, regardless of income level, reaching those who have limited or no access to mental health care,” she said. “Our mission is to provide a safe and encouraging environment for individuals to uncover the light of their hearts through the creative process of art making. Our vision is to create a community that embraces and utilizes the creative process of art making to allow for the light of all of our hearts to shine bright, building a safer, connected and more supportive community for all to heal, grow, prosper and love. We bring words to the wordless through imagery.
“I’ve lectured at Aurora University, for example, for students in the Masters of Social Work program. I am extremely passionate about teaching others, especially those who are interested in becoming art therapists.”
Hedlund Nelson is honored to be a graduate of College of DuPage. As for students thinking about attending, she doesn’t hesitate with her advice.
"Do it! It will change your life."
College of DuPage
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2019 College of DuPage