Cathy Hessick

With degrees in musical theater and business, Hessick began teaching to connect more with students.

The wallpaper is pastel pink with pictures of French bulldogs hanging on the walls. Her bookshelves are lined with music books, marketing books and books on every subject in between. Small elephant sculptures sit on her desk and shelves. This is the office of professor Cathy Hessick.

Hessick is one of the newest faculty members in the marketing department of the College of Business. She started in the fall semester of 2017 and continues to teach multiple sections of Business 160. While it’s no secret that many students aren’t enthusiastic about GenEd courses, Hessick enjoys teaching them.

“I love helping students,” Hessick said. “Seeing them come in with all of these ideas and watching them blossom. That’s why I like teaching the freshmen because they are coming in with all of these ideas and learning about college, but at the same time, they learn about themselves.”

While she’s passionate about business — specifically marketing — there are many other sides to Hessick. She’s a jack of all trades, dabbling in many different industries.

She started as a singer, first going to the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford and then transferring to New York University’s highly competitive musical theater program. After a semester in the city, Hessick realized that living in New York wasn’t for her and she wasn’t prepared to endure a life of cutthroat auditioning to make it in the performing world.

“At the end of my sophomore year, I took a hard realistic look at would I make it into music?” Hessick said. “My faculty members said ‘you’re an excellent singer, you’re an excellent actress, but you are always going to be character roles, so you need to be comfortable with the fact that you are never going to be the lead in anything.’ And at that time I said, ‘Well I am already $60,000 dollars in debt, is this really something that I wanted to do?’”

Hessick then transferred to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where she pursued a degree in business. She spent two years in Ohio while fully realizing her passion for business and also continuing to be involved in musical theater, starting a club at her school.

Following graduation, Hessick held a wide variety of jobs that took her all around the world. Her journey spanned from Texas, where she pursued graduate degrees and worked with the National Hockey League, to Germany, where she worked for the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler AG.

After a couple of years of traveling for work, Hessick decided she wanted a place to call home. She began teaching and never looked back, realizing that it was a perfect culmination of her previous experience.

“Teaching is a performance. You are standing in front of people who may not want to be there, may not be energetic, may have a million things on their mind,” Hessick said. “You’re trying to take them for a certain amount of time and get them to focus and believe in what you’re saying and to inspire them somehow.”

Her versatility helps her connect with students from any background, making her the prime candidate for teaching a GenEd.

“That’s the purpose of General Education, it’s to have a mixed background,” Andy Wood, head of the department of marketing, said. “We particularly hired her because of her business background, but she is able to bring a lot of different industries into the classroom as examples. It really helps.”

One of Professor Hessick’s main goals is to connect with her students and encourage more interaction between students and professors. She explained that her office hours are an open space for her students, whether they have a question about class or simply need a friendly face to talk to. She’s more than happy to talk to students about anything, from marketing to the Goo Goo Dolls and, of course, dogs.

Above all, Hessick’s goal is to help students in any way she can. She thinks it’s important for professors to not only connect on an educational level, but a personal level as well. 

“My passion is to help people and to do it however I can, whether it’s through education, whether it’s through baking or whether it’s through volunteering with rescue dogs,” Hessick said. “I just love helping and I think that’s one of the things that resonates with me so much when it comes to teaching.”

Contact Camryn Finn at finnce@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.

Camryn Finn is a writer for the Culture section of The Breeze from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a sophomore media arts and design major with a concentration in journalism and a music major with a concentration in vocal performance.