Meet Our Faculty

Denise Hildreth
John Reeder

Average class size: 18

Lowry Pei
Marianne Williams
Hugo Kamya
Afaa Weaver

215

Full-time faculty members,
70% of whom are women.

Laura Saunders
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Diane Grossman
Beverly Sealy
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“The faculty are extremely accessible. There’s the sense that we’re here for common goals.”

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Cathryn Mercier
Josephine Atinaja-Faller
Teresa Fung
Denise Hildreth

Denise E. Hildreth

“Live to do good and you will never tire of your employment.”  I read this quote at the age of 17 and, since then, have kept it pinned to my wall. Even before then, my career path was mapped out - I never really wanted to be anything other than a professional social worker.  Looking back more than 20 years later, there is still no career I would rather have and nothing more rewarding than watching students gain a passion for the work that I love. 

I began my career as a child welfare practitioner, working with children and families facing a host of what seemed like impossible challenges. I saw the ways in which their situations were impacted not only by their choices, but by their environmental context and social forces and injustices that impacted their ability to thrive and meet their goals. I learned early on that being a good social worker involved working alongside clients as they confronted personal challenges while also advocating for social change. My professional identity became strongly rooted in a social work strengths perspective and a commitment to social justice. 

I became a social work educator in 2002 out of a desire to share my knowledge and experiences and to be a mentor and guide for the generation of social work professionals that would go on to replace me in the field. As Director of the new BSW Program at Simmons, I have sought to develop a learning community where my students can develop the knowledge, values, and skills needed to become competent, ethical generalist social work practitioners. As a teacher, I look to create a learning environment that is based upon mutual respect and an appreciation for intellectual curiosity, challenge, professionalism, and lifelong growth.  In the classroom, I strive to assist students in developing strong critical thinking, writing, and professional practice skills that allow them not only to assist individual clients in locating needed resources and addressing specific problems, but to examine the critical role that the social environment and systems of power and oppression play in all of our lives. It is my hope that students not only become strong practitioners, but equally strong advocates and agents of social change.  

In addition to my passion for child welfare work, I am a homicide bereavement researcher, specifically examining the ways in which homicide bereavement impacts the employment of surviving family members.


Lowry Pei

Lowry Pei

I grew up in St. Louis, got my B.A. in English at Harvard (1967) and my Ph.D. at Stanford (1975). I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war. I came to Simmons in 1985 after teaching at the University of Missouri, UC San Diego, and Harvard’s Expository Writing Program. Despite having done a dissertation on Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, I didn’t become a Victorianist; instead I’ve spent my career teaching writing. At Simmons I was director of Freshman Writing, later called Writing and Thinking, from 1985 to 1996, and then directed MCC, the first-year core/writing course, from 1996 to 1999. In 2004-2006, I led faculty workshops and seminars on teaching writing as part of the “Writing Infusion” initiative, whose goal is to have writing-intensive courses offered in all majors. I chaired the English Department 2002-2007.

I currently teach creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and Approaches to Literature, otherwise known as spring training for English majors.

Hugo Kamya

Hugo Kamya

Scholarly and Practice Interests

Caring across communities; the psychological impact of war; children living in families with HIV/AIDS; culturally competent family therapy; culturally competent services for immigrants and refugees; youth violence related to HIV/AIDS; interracial relations; spirituality in therapy.

Afaa Weaver

Afaa Weaver

Afaa Michael Weaver (Michael S. Weaver) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute at the age of sixteen as a National Merit finalist. After two years at the University of Maryland, he entered fifteen years of factory work, during which time he wrote and published.

During the Vietnam War, Professor Weaver served honorably in the 342nd Army Security Agency of the Army Reserves. He ended that period of blue collar factory work in 1985, when he received an NEA fellowship in poetry. In that same year Professor Weaver entered Brown University's graduate writing program on a full university fellowship. While completing his M.A. at Brown, he also completed his B.A. in Literature in English at Excelsior College.

Later Professor Weaver taught at Essex County College, Seton Hall Law School, New York University, Brooklyn College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College. He came to Simmons in 1998, after receiving tenure with distinction at Rutgers University. At Simmons he is a tenured full professor and holds the Alumnae Endowed Chair, the first chair to be established at the college and one that is reserved for working writers.

In addition to the NEA, Professor Weaver has received several awards over the years, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2014), May Sarton Award (2010), several Pushcart Prizes (2008, 2013, 2014), a Pew fellowship (1998), a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship (1994), and a Fulbright appointment as a scholar (2002) at National Taiwan University and Taipei National University of the Arts.

He is the author of numerous books of poetry, a collection of essays which he edited, several essays and articles in various academic and trade publications, and short fiction. As a freelance journalist he has written for the Baltimore Sunpapers, Baltimore Afro-American, The Philadelphia Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore City Paper, and The Philadelphia Sun. He has been the editor of Obsidian III at North Carolina State University, and the editor and founder of 7th Son Press in Baltimore.

At Brown, Professor Weaver focused on playwriting and theatre. His master's thesis was a full length play entitled Rosa, which was produced professionally in 1993 at Venture Theater in Philadelphia. In that same year he won the PDI Award in playwriting from ETA Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of several other plays, including Berea, which has received two staged readings, one in Chicago and one in Philadelphia.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates of Harvard University has described Professor Weaver as "...one of the most significant poets writing today." Ed Ochester, professor emeritus at University of Pittsburgh has said Professor Weaver is "...the African American successor to Walt Whitman."

Professor Weaver studies Chinese on an ongoing basis, and in 2005 he tested successfully in the intermediate level of fluency in Speaking, Reading, and Writing at the Taipei Language Institute in Taipei, Taiwan. He has convened two international conferences on contemporary Chinese poetry at Simmons and, in that way, given the college an international presence in the world of Chinese poetry. In 2005 he was awarded a gold friendship medal from the Chinese Writers' Association in Beijing, China.

Professor Weaver's papers are held in repository at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

Laura Saunders

Laura Saunders

Laura Saunders received her master's from Simmons College GSLIS in 2001, and after working as a reference and instruction librarian for several years returned to Simmons College and completed her PhD in 2010. She teaches courses in reference and information services, user instruction, services...

Diane Grossman

Diane Grossman

Diane Grossman received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from New York University, where she was an Ida Parker Bowne Scholar. She is a Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Philosophy and Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Grossman has served Simmons as Chair...

Cathryn Mercier

Cathryn Mercier

As an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College (BA '81) Cathie Mercier was drawn to the scientific emphasis and empiricism of experimental psychology. A psychology major, she did not take her first course in children's literature until her senior year. "Like Alice, I fell down the rabbit hole and I've yet to come up," said Mercier.


Cathie brought the taut writing style and analytical sensibility required of psychology to the study of literature for children and young adults. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature in 1984; in 1993 she earned a Master of Philosophy in English at Simmons as a steppingstone to her doctoral studies. She pursued doctoral work in the University Professors Program at Boston University ('02) where she wrote about the confluence of social movements and images of the child in American picturebooks. She holds a PhD in Children's Literature.


Cathie was appointed to Simmons in 1985 and has been teaching in the graduate degree program in children's literature ever since. She teaches criticism, contemporary young adult realism, the child in fiction, the picturebook and a survey course. Her thesis, independent study, and internship advising embrace a wide range of topics, from a cultural analysis of Printz titles to an annotated bibliography of historical fiction for curricular use. "As advisor of a thesis that asked, 'What can queer theory tell children's literature?' I met regularly with the student to discuss ideas. We both learned from the books, and I hope she learned from me. But I consider it my best teaching experience because of how very much I learned from her," said Mercier, who was thrilled when part of her student's thesis was included in a book of new voices in children's literary criticism.


In the undergraduate curriculum, she taught children's literature as a key focus in her honors seminar titled "Stories of Childhood," a course that was part of a learning community that paired with Economics professor Niloufer Sohrabji's course "Stories of Democracy." She won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.


At Simmons, Cathie has served in a variety of administrative roles. Currently, she directs the Center for the Study of Children's Literature,the graduate degree programs in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children (on-campus and at The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA), and dual degree programs that combine the MA with degrees in library science, or teaching, or writing for children.


Cathie has been contributed to Children's Literature and to The Horn Book. Her skill at "close reading, an ability to talk about books so that others see the book at its most ambitious and complex, and a talent for collaboration" have made her a valuable member of national book award committee.  She currently serves on the Subaru Prize Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences/ Young Adult Division.


Past award selection service includes the 2012 Caldecott Award (Ball for Daisy),  1999 Newbery Award Committee (Holes), the 1994 Caldecott Award (Grandfather's Journey), and the inaugural 2000 Sibert Award Committee (Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado). Cathie was honored to serve Chair of the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee (Ashley Bryan) and as Chair of the 2004 Sibert Award Committee (The American Plague). She has twice been a member (once chairing) the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and served as a judge for the New York Times Best Illustrated Books.  


Cathie  completed her third study of an important young adult author with co-writer Susan Bloom; it also marks their third book with editor Patty Campbell.  Russell Freedman was published in 2009 by Scarecrow Press and will be the first book at Scarecrow to focus on nonfiction. Prior collaborations are Presenting Avi and Presenting Zibby Oneal. These books and their audience of teachers, librarians, and young adults fit perfectly into Cathie's driving belief that the "work of the critic is not to 'take apart' a book, but to read well and deeply enough to offer insight and illumination to the text and to oneself."

Cathryn Mercier's Curriculum Vitae

Megan Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert holds an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons College (2002) and received her BA from Smith College (1996), double majoring in Government and African American Studies. She is a full-time Senior Lecturer in Children's Literature at Simmons, teaching the undergraduate Survey of Children's and YA Literature as well as courses in the graduate programs in Boston and at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. She also coordinates mentorships for MFA students in the program. She has also served as a Visiting Lecturer in the English Department at Mt. Holyoke College, the School of Education at Boston University, and at several other schools throughout the northeast.

For nearly ten years Megan worked in the Education Department at The Carle. This work began in the fall of 2001, a year before The Carle opened, when Megan earned the final four credits of her MA in Children's Literature at Simmons by conducting an Independent Study that was the genesis of her development of the Whole Book Approach and A Book in Hand, two interactive story time models designed to engage children with picture book art and design. This work evolved into professional development programs and outreach work with schools and libraries in which Megan reached over 25,000 participants during her tenure at The Carle. In 2009 she was named a Massachusetts Literacy Champion by the Mass Literacy in recognition of this work.

Megan is a frequent speaker at conferences and provides professional development training for teachers, librarians, and others who work with children and books. A guest reviewer and regular contributor to The Horn Book Magazine's "Books in the Home" column, Megan is also a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, and her writing has appeared in numerous other journals including Children & Libraries, Bookbird Magazine, Riverbank Review, CREArTA, The Five Owls, Children's Literature, and The Children's Literature Quarterly. She served on the 2009 Geisel Committee, the 2011 Caldecott Committee, and the 2012 Boston Globe Horn Book Award Committee. Her first picturebook, A Crow of His Own, will be published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2015 with illustrations by David Hyde Costello, and Charlesbridge will also publish her forthcoming professional title, Storytime Stories: The Whole Book Approach to Reading Picture Books with Children that year. A third title, Real Sisters Pretend, is under contract as a picture book with Tilbury House Publishers.

Teresa Fung

Teresa Fung

I graduated from Cornell University with BS and MS degrees in Nutrition and completed my dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital.  I then stayed on as a clinical nutrition specialist (RD) working in a variety of nutrition specialties.  After a few years, I moved to Boston for a dual Doctor of Science degree in nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.  I have been at Simmons since 2000 and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses while maintain research collaboration at the Harvard School of Public Health where I am an Adjunct Professor.  

I am currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Nutrition and a panelist for the U.S. News and World Reports Best Diet rankings.  I have previously been on a Technical Expert Committee at the United States Department of Agriculture to evaluate scientific evidence on dietary patterns and health outcomes.

I believe in preparing students for a fast paced and quick changing work place.  In that light my teaching focus on providing students with the most updated technical knowledge, skills for critical thinking, problem solving, as well as locating and evaluating scientific information.