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Dr. Melissa Heil

Assistant Professor of Geography
  • About
  • Education
  • Awards & Honors
  • Research


Melissa Heil is an urban geographer who studies cities of the American Rustbelt. Her research has focused on urban planning, economic development, social services, and community development in cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan. Dr. Heil’s most recent research examines urban water systems and barriers to water access in US cities.

Current Courses

142.003Human Geography

287.011Independent Study - Geography

336.001Urban Geography

436.001Urban Geography

PhD Geography

University of Illinois

MA Geography

University of Illinois

BA Organizational Studies

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Research Initiative Award

Illinois State University

Winner, Graduate Student Paper Competition

Urban Geography Specialty Group American Association of Geographers

Book Review

Heil, M. Review: "Nor Any Drop to Drink: Flint's Water Crisis" (2018 Film). Water Alternatives (2022)
Heil, Melissa. "Won’t you be my neighbor? Race, class, and residence in Los Angeles, by Camille Zubrinsky Charles." Book Review. Urban Geography. (2015)

Book, Chapter

Melissa Heil, Lou Turner, and David Wilson. “People of Color: Countering White Supremacy in Planning" Alternative Planning History and Theory. Routledge.
Heil, M. Community Development Corporations in the Right-Sizing City: Remaking the CDC Model of Urban Redevelopment.. The Affordable Housing Reader (2022)

Journal Article

Heil, M. Negotiating Infrastructural Citizenship Beyond the State: Philanthropy, Non-Profit Organizations, and The Flint Water Crisis. Urban Geography (2023)
Heil, M., Bollin, R., & Gallagher, L. The Geography of Water Disconnection Policy in Central Illinois. Illinois Geographer (2023)
Heil, M. Barriers to Accessing Emergency Water Infrastructure: Lessons from Flint, MI. Water Alternatives (2022)
Heil, Melissa (2021). Debtor Spaces: Austerity, Space, and Financialized Dispossession. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space
Wilson, David and Melissa Heil (2020). Decline Machines: Economic Development in the American Rustbelt and Flint, MI.


Building Civic Connections for Students: Designing Courses for Civic and Political Engagement. 2023 University Teaching and Learning Symposium. Illinois State University. (2023)

Grants & Contracts

New Faculty Initiative Grant. College of Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University. Illinois State University. (2021)
Illinois Geographical Society Research Grant. Illinois Geographical Society. Private. (2020)
Graduate College Dissertation Completion Fellowship. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other. (2019)
Charles S. Alexander Fellowship Graduate Fellowship for Women in Geography. Department of Geography and GIScience University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other. (2018)