Student Spotlight: Melissa Hedlund

Melissa Hedlund

Melissa Hedlund
Major: Fine Arts

When Melissa Hedlund 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 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."

Since leaving College of DuPage, Hedlund has amassed numerous achievements, starting with 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 the 2013 President-Elect and 2014 President of the Illinois Art Therapy Association, the director on the Board of Directors for the Coalition of Illinois Counseling Organizations, and the Chicagoland Suburbs Regional Representative to the Governing Council of the Illinois Counseling Association.

She 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's 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 healthcare," 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 is honored to be a graduate of College of DuPage and would someday like to teach at COD. As for students thinking about attending, Hedlund doesn't hesitate with her advice.

"Do it! It will change your life."

More about the Fine Arts program