Meet Our Faculty

John Reeder
Justin Beebe

Average class size: 18

Katherine Jung Reis
Edie Bresler
Josephine Atinaja-Faller
Randi Lite
Valerie Leiter

215

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

Afaa Weaver
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Teresa Fung
Judith Aronson
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“The faculty are extremely accessible. There’s the sense that we’re here for common goals.”

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Kimberly O'Brien
Tien Ung
Steve Ortega
LaDonna Christian
Justin Beebe

Justin Beebe

Dr. Beebe joined the faculty at Simmons College in July 2013. He has been a physical therapist since 2000, and practiced primarily in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy settings.  He served as an assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of South Dakota for nearly five years after completing his PhD in Movement Science from Washington University in 2008.  Dr. Beebe has 13 peer-reviewed publications and 30 national and international presentations.  He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association where he serves as Chairman of the Section on Research Abstract Review Committee, and is a member of the Research Committee of the Orthopaedic section.  He is a manuscript reviewer for Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Journal, and SportsHealth.

Katherine Jung Reis

Katherine Jungreis

I am delighted to be beginning my fifth year as a full time faculty member after 23 years as an adjunct here at Simmons School of Social Work. When then Professor Sophie Freud initially suggested that I teach the Psychopathology course (now Assessment and Diagnosis) while I was a doctoral candidate at Simmons, I told her that I had never really considered teaching and wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. She countered with, “this is an offer you can’t refuse” and her wisdom was clear as I quickly found that teaching became one of the greatest pleasures of my social work career. 

Following graduation from Smith School for Social Work, I worked for almost twenty years at a community mental health center in a poor and working class town. My clinical work was with adults, families, groups and emergency services and I dealt with a variety of issues including many people with severe mental illness and their families. During that time Cambodian refugees moved into the community and we were actively involved in trying to provide culturally meaningful mental health services to them.

Like many others in our field, the direction of my work has been constantly evolving. Initially after graduation, I received training and became very involved with family therapy. Later, as I became more attuned to connecting the various parts of myself in my work, I wove in my curiosity about integrating spiritual/religious issues and psychotherapy. I joined the Jewish Therapists Network and taught in the Certificate Program for Jewish Communal and Clinical Social Work at Simmons. Other areas of special interest to me have included social work ethics, working with couples, mindfully connecting theory to practice and the use of movies as a powerful learning tool. Appreciating the meaning of work and the workplace was a central focus during the ten years that I consulted to the staff at the Federal Employee Assistance Program.

Most recently, I have been intrigued with relational aspects of social work supervision. I have given presentations and consulted on this topic and in the summers I teach in the Certificate Program for Advanced Clinical Supervision at Smith School for Social Work. While I no longer supervise students and staff in an agency setting, I have been able to continue a significant amount of clinical consultation to practitioners as well as consulting to staff at South Shore Mental Health Center which afforded me the ability to work again in a community mental health setting.

I believe that to most effectively teach I need to be directly involved in the work and that my ongoing clinical experiences enrich the learning in the classroom. I have found Simmons to be a wonderfully supportive, interesting and committed community that truly cares about helping students to be skillful, thoughtful and caring social workers. I am excited to be part of this community and to contribute to the professional growth of future social workers.


Edie Bresler

Edith Bresler

My photo-based practice includes text, sound and installation. Currently I am examining American communities through the lens of state-run lotteries. My projects have been featured on the PBS show Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, Business Insider, Lenscratch, Photo District News and Virgin Australia Magazine.

Josephine Atinaja-Faller

Josephine Atinaja-Faller

I joined the nursing faculty full-time in 2004 after having taught clinically for Simmons for more than 10 years. I maintain an active clinical practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Center for Women and Newborns in postpartum and the newborn nursery. 

I spearhead the Nursing Simulation Program at Simmons and played an instrumental role in integrating simulation throughout the nursing curriculum and creating the Simulation Lab. I am also the Director of the Dotson Nursing Clinical Simulation and Learning Lab and teach pediatrics/OB.

Randi Lite

Randi Lite

As a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), I am passionate about the positive role that physical activity can play in chronic disease management and optimizing health. I am also passionate about service to my profession, in particular to advancing career opportunities for exercise professionals to be engaged in preventive health care.

My introduction to exercise physiology occurred with my first job as an Exercise Specialist in a hospital based sports medicine and fitness program. I was lucky to get in on the ground floor of creating a medical fitness facility that served both healthy adults and those with chronic diseases and conditions, like severe osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive trauma. In those days, even pregnancy was treated like a medical condition when it came to exercise. I was part of a group that pushed for acceptance of a pregnancy exercise program within the sports medicine facility that trained pregnant women like athletes preparing for an event. Our hospital was also an Olympic Research and Training program, so I was privileged to work with Team Handball players before the 1984 games. 

I have also worked in Employee Fitness and Wellness as manager of a hospital based Occupational Health Promotion Program. This program serviced area businesses and industries in Central Massachusetts with programs like Back Care Workshops, Smoking Cessation Programs, Employee Fitness Programs, and Stress Management Programs. Here I learned first hand how physical activity and targeted exercise could alleviate workplace-related stress and injury. Our clients ran the gambit from office workers who sat all day to laborers in manufacturing who had very physical jobs involving lifting, carrying, and twisting motions.

My scholarship at Simmons has taken many directions, like working with K-12 children to use technology to learn about wellness, quantifying energy expenditure and muscular demands of Exergaming, and most recently, assessing and evaluating the physical capacity of athletes on the Simmons Swimming and Diving Team.

I am also very involved in service to my profession. I have been active in both my State and National professional organizations and am currently chairing ACSM’s Exam Development Team, which oversees the revision of five certification exams for Exercise and Fitness professionals (Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Trainer, Health Fitness Specialist, Certified Exercise Specialist, and Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist). 

As Program Director for the BS in Exercise Science, I am committed to engaging students in challenging coursework that provides a firm base in science and research alongside real-world experiences to build skill in exercise assessment, prescription, and programming.

Valerie Leiter

Valerie Leiter

Val Leiter teaches courses on medical sociology, research methods, and sociology of childhood and youth—these topics dovetail with her research on children and youth with disabilities, medicalization, and gender and health. She received the Irving K. Zola award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies in 2004 for her work on "Parental Activism, Professional Dominance, and Early Childhood Disability." Her first book, Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities on the Cusp of Adulthood, was published in 2012, a result of her William T. Grant Foundation Scholars project on the “Transition to Adulthood Among Youth with Disabilities.” The Sociology of Health & Illness: Critical Perspectives (9th edition), co-edited with Peter Conrad, was also published in 2012.

She is active in the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the American Sociological Association, where she has multiple leadership positions, including membership on ASA’s Committee on Professional Ethics and the Editorial Advisory Board of Social Problems. On campus, Val is the Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board, Co-Director of the Public Health program, and a member of the steering committee for the Master in Public Policy program.

Val mentors several students each year on their independent research projects. Right now, she is working with Sidney Jean (Public Health) on her senior thesis on women’s body images, Renata Bule (Public Health) on her senior thesis on health care for refugees and asylees, Mary Harrington (Public Health) on the role of faith and spirituality in medical care, Sarah Hewitt (Master in Public Policy) on calorie count menu policies, Youjin Kim (Sociology) on youth culture in Korea, and Danielle Funk (Master in Gender and Cultural Studies) on STDs among women who have sex with women.

Val is also a dedicated student of Iyengar yoga, learning from multiple teachers in the Boston area.

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.

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.

Judith Aronson

Judith Aronson

Judith Aronson has been teaching graphic design at Simmons for seventeen years and has been a practicing designer and photographer for more than thirty years. Prior to Simmons she taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University. Earlier in her career she was a program analyst in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington, DC, served as a VISTA Volunteer in East Harlem, and worked as a city planner for the New York City Environmental Protection Administration. For fifteen years she lived overseas: three years in South East Asia and twelve in England where she was a photojournalist. Aronson holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Michigan and a MA in City Planning and a MA in Fine Art/Graphic Design, from Yale University.

Her special interests are typography, environmental design, and photojournalism. In 2003 she received a grant from the Colleges of the Fenway to teach the course Wayfinding: Design, Information Architecture and Public Spaces. Wayfinding is a specialty that applies design principles to information systems that help people move through complex urbanscapes — hospitals, airports, college campuses and the like. In 2006 Aronson had a one person retrospective in Boston of her color photographs, TACTILE |MERCANTILE, with pictures ranging from the young Mick Jagger, to the slums Harlem and the exotic scenery in South East Asia. In 2010 she published LIKENESSES, with the Sitters Writing About One Another, a book of black and white portraits of writers and artists. The book led to a number of exhibitions both in the US and England including at the Picture Gallery, Christ Church, Oxford, The Poetry Society, London and the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. A poetry competition sponsored by Bristol University in conjunction with the last show produced thirty poems each responding to one of her photographs. In 2015 the exhibition will move to the Cambridge University Library in England for twelve months.

Aronson’s photographs are held in collections at The National Portrait Gallery, London; Christ College, Cambridge; Keble College and Christ Church, Oxford University; Brotherton Library, Leeds University; and the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Institute), Washington, DC. Her work has been published in The Sunday Telegraph, England, the New York Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, Ms. Magazine, and the Boston Globe.

Kimberly O'Brien

Kimberly O'Brien

Kimberly H. McManama O’Brien, PhD, LICSW, is an Assistant Professor at Simmons School of Social Work with a joint appointment at Harvard Medical School as an Instructor in Psychiatry. She is also a per diem clinician at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she conducts the majority of her research. Dr. O’Brien is committed to a research agenda focused on the development and testing of brief interventions for suicidal adolescents and their families, with an additional specialization on adolescents who use substances. For example, she is in the second year of a Young Investigator Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where she is testing a brief alcohol intervention for adolescents who have attempted suicide. She is also currently co-developing and testing a smartphone application intervention for suicidal adolescents and their parents, and is conducting a qualitative study to examine the preparatory thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making processes among adolescents who have attempted suicide. Dr. O’Brien is also committed to the training of social workers and other health professionals in suicide- and substance-related knowledge and brief interventions, as she recently co-developed a course on Understanding Suicide which is now being disseminated and taught nationally, and is the co-director of a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment training grant for social work students at Simmons College, funded by SAMHSA.

Tien Ung

Tien Ung

I am a practice researcher - motivated by an unyielding sense of responsibility to capture best practice through collective action in the context of complex, diverse, and uncertain conditions amidst the face of high stress, significant risk, and competing demands.  I believe social workers are like social surgeons and as such are perfectly poised to lead social change, dissect and disrupt the status quo - relentlessly innovating to improve the lives of others.  The roots of my current scholarship can be traced directly to my practice and specifically to my previous career as a child protection social worker.  

My philosophy of teaching, my approach to scholarship, and my commitment to service can be summarized in three words: Engage, discover, and act.   This simple mantra scaffolds my own relentless pursuit of social change via effective knowledge management within non-linear and complex systems of care.  I aim to demonstrate the ways in which practice research can advance reality based teaching, stimulate community and user participation, and promote both service and learning in higher education.  Specifically, my research, teaching, and service inform best practice in the domain of culturally authentic, utilization focused, and community based participatory research.  

At the School of Social Work, I also direct the Urban Leadership Program, a community of engaged emerging leaders who work tirelessly with our local neighbors in order to seed possibilities through collective action.  Through these partnerships we form strategic alliances to develop leadership capacity.  In all that we do, we pledge to demonstrate how an institution of higher education can be a reliable, authentic, hard working, and trustworthy partner and ally.  In this endeavor we aim to contribute and promote knowledge and understanding about what leadership in the context of social work is, along with how it unfolds, evolves,  and works in urban communities. 


Steve Ortega

Stephen Ortega

My name is Steve Ortega, and I teach in the History Department at Simmons College. I have a Bachelor’s degree from New York University, a Master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD. from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. I am the director of the History MA program, which includes...

LaDonna Christian

LaDonna Christian

LaDonna L. Christian, BSN, MSN, APHN-BC,  joined the department of nursing at Simmons College five years ago as faculty in the Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program and a year later she was named the program Director. She is pursuing a Doctorate in Health Professions Education at Simmons College. She received her undergraduate degree from the University Of Michigan College Of Nursing and her Masters Degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Community Health Nursing. She also completed her Advance Practice Certification in Community Health Nursing and a Certificate Advance Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Health Professions Education. Her background and clinical expertise is in Public Health Nursing and Environmental Health with a focus on policy and the underserved and minority population. LaDonna spent 17 years in public health working with HIV, STI, and TB patients. She began teaching at Brockton Hospital School of Nursing, but has also taught at South Shore Regional Technical, and Coppin State University School of Nursing in Baltimore MD.  LaDonna is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Theta Kappa Chapter at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Theta at Large Chapter at Simmons College, The Mary Mahoney Nursing Honor Society, American Nurses Association, and Chi Eta Phi Black Nurses Association, The National Black Nurses Association and the New England Regional Black Nurses Association.  Some of her presentations include the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators conference in Hartford CT (ACHNE), Society of Public Health Educators conference in Boston MA (SOPHE), The M. Elizabeth Carnegie Research Conference at Howard University Washington DC, Robert Wood Johnson New Careers in Nursing Conference in Washington DC, The University of the Virgin Islands Health Disparities Conference, the Hawaii International Conference on Education in Honolulu Hawaii, the National Black Nurses Association 40th and 41st Annual Conferences and the Organization of Nurse Educators Leadership Training.