Heide is Board of Trustees Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the History Department at Northern Illinois University. She previously taught at Colgate University (New York) and Emory University (Atlanta). A social and cultural historian, her past scholarship has probed the social and cultural impact of World War, transnational processes of military occupation and democratization in postwar Germany, transitions in racial and gender ideologies after Hitler, and cold-war cultural politics. Recent essays focus on the history of humanitarianism, including international assistance to refugee and migrant women and children since the First World War, the humanitarian origins of international adoption, and the role of visual media in humanitarian advocacy and in conflict resolution over the past century. She has authored three books and edited two, including Humanitarian Photography: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Currently, Heide is at work on a book project that explores the history of humanitarianism through the lens of the camera and its symbolic focus on the child. It suggests that while depictions of children-in-need may appear static and predictable, for over a century they have been deployed in various ways for a broad array of political agendas. A former Guggenheim Fellow, she has received support from the American Academy in Berlin, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.