Melanie Parks, who has been a part of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts for 28 years, is leaving the university at the end of June for sunny California. Parks started her NIU career as Costume Director in the School of Theatre and Dance, and taught all of the theater technical costume classes. In 1998, she became Costume Designer and added Theater Undergraduate Advisor to her duties, which, unbeknownst to her at the time, set her on a course to become associate dean in 2013.
“An an undergraduate advisor you are very involved in admissions events, meeting students and talking to them,” Parks said. “I enjoyed that, and the person who was associate dean at the time, Deborah Robertson, had seen me working and interacting with the students and saw that I had a talent for it. She was planning to retire and encouraged me to pursue the opportunity.”
Working in the theater at NIU was like having a different job all the time, she said. “I really liked working with the students, and every time you are working on a show it feels like a different job. You are working with different people, doing different research for different shows. I really enjoyed teaching, that’s the one thing I’ve missed.”
Even after moving to her associate dean job, Parks stayed active in costume design by doing professional costuming, including a couple of films with NIU ties.
She did the costumes for a movie version of the Mark Twain short story “The $30,000 Bequest” filmed by a crew of NIU students and faculty and headed by NIU Director of the School of Theatre and Dance Alex Gelman.
She had kept in touch with Rachel Rozycki, an alum of the School of Theatre and Dance, who had been in Italy working on a documentary. Rozycki returned to produce a feature film in Chicago and Parks was asked to do the costume design on “Hogtown,” directed by Dan Nearing.
Parks also designed the costumes every year for the Organic Theater Company’s productions of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.”
Now, she’s headed out west to southern California and will be living near her twin sister, Mary.
“In my short time here, Melanie has been wonderful, both in her job as associate dean and as a member of the leadership team, ” said Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Paul Kassel. “We will miss her terribly, but are happy that she will be basking in the sun among family and friends!”
Janet Hathaway will move from her position of Director of the School of Music to become the Acting Associate Dean. “I am proud of the students and faculty of the School of Music, and it’s been gratifying as director to be able to support their work. There are many great things happening in the school, and I have been happy to support what we do and help bring positive attention. In my new role I’m excited for the opportunity to get a broader view of visual and performing arts across the college and to be able to work with all three schools,” she said.
Eric Johnson, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, will step into the role of Acting Director of the School of Music beginning in August. “I am excited to work with the exceptionally talented faculty and students in the School of Music,” he said. “The passion and vision of Dean Kassel and our faculty is a perfect combination to continue our traditions of excellence and chart new ways to improve our educational environment for new and returning students.”
Top banner photo: NIU School of Theatre and Dance 2003 performance of The Nutcracker, costume design by Melanie Parks