Meet Our Faculty

Sarah Volkman
Dolores Pelaez

Average class size: 18

Katherine Jung Reis
Denise Hildreth
Carole Biewener
Silvana Castenada
Rebecca Koeniger-Donohue

215

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

Michelle Putnam
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Abbie Frost
Margaret Costello
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“The faculty are extremely accessible. There’s the sense that we’re here for common goals.”

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Nancy Lee
Kathleen Millstein
Edie Bresler
Lisa Brown
Sarah Volkman

Sarah Volkman

Sarah Volkman is a Professor of Nursing at Simmons who has been involved in preparing nursing students in the basic science content since 1989. She is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She holds a joint appointment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Immunology and Infectious Diseases where she is a Principal Research Scientist. 

In addition to teaching at Simmons, she continues to teach Infectious Diseases at Harvard University, where her scientific research interests involve understanding population genetics and the mechanisms of drug resistance in the human pathogen, Plasmodium falciparum. Dr. Volkman is an international expert on malaria and works with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Worldwide Antimalarial Drug Resistance Network, among other international groups focused on malaria. She is a Councilor for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. She has received several awards including the Young Investigator Award by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and was a Senior Teaching Fellow and a Christensen Fellow at Harvard University. Dr. Volkman has been recognized for both her research and teaching at the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Dolores Pelaez

Maria Dolores Pelaez Benitez

I am a native of Spain and hold a doctoral degree in Hispanic Literature from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.  After teaching Spanish at Boston University, I joined the faculty of Simmons College in 1992, where I became Associate professor (1999) and Professor of Spanish (2010).

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.


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.


Carole Biewener

Carole Biewener

With a background in Economic Development and Political Economy and a joint appointment in Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies, Professor Biewener’s most current research interests address the political economy of food – a fabulous way of combining her love of gardening and food with her keen interest in community economies.

In 2013 she completed a long-term, collaborative research project with Marie-Hélène Bacqué (Professor of Urban Studies, Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre) that traced the genealogy of the term "empowerment" in the fields of gender and development, urban policy and social work. Publications from this research include “Feminism and the Politics of Empowerment in International Development” (forthcoming in Air and Space Power Journal–Africa and Francophonie); L’empowerment, une pratique emancipatrice (Editions La Découverte, 2013; Spanish translation forthcoming in 2015); and “Different manifestations of the concept of empowerment. The politics of urban renewal in the United States and Great Britain” (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, August 2012).

Prior research and publications have addressed community development and social economy projects in the United States and Canada, debates at the intersection of poststructuralist feminism and postmodern Marxism, and the French Socialist government's financial and industrial policies in the 1980s.

Currently Professor Biewener is an Associate Editor for Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society and she has served on the Editorial Board of Rethinking Marxism (1990-2001). In 2009 she co-organized (with Randy Albelda, UMass-Boston) the 18th Annual Conference of the International Association for Feminist Economics, “Engendering Economic Policy,” which was hosted by Simmons College.

Professor Biewener oversees the Economics Department Internship program, and was Coordinator for the interdisciplinary minor in Social Justice from 2004-2013.

Silvana Castenada

Silvana Castaneda

Silvana Castaneda, MSW, LICSW is the Field Education of the Simmons online program at Simmons School of Social Work, she has been working at Simmons School of Social work since 2010 as a Field Education Coordinator, in that role she has most enjoyed getting to know and mentoring students. Ms. Castaneda graduated from Simmons School of Social Work in 1987. As a family and couples therapist of 20 years she has worked in community based settings with a particular interest in immigrant families impacted by separation and reunification. She was the Clinical Director at The Family Center Inc. until 2010 where she administered outpatient and home-based teams. In addition to her position as the online director of Field education at Simmons She is also an associate at the Family Centered Services Project in Watertown Ma where she provides training and organizational consulting to mental health and social services, health care agencies embrace and sustain family centered philosophy and practice.  She is also a member the CANS Training Collaborative, a public advisory group of the The Children’s Behavioral Health Initiatives (CBHI) and the CANS Training Program at UMass Medical School. This advisory group was established to provide guidance regarding training content, opportunities, and needs associated with the quality of CANS training resources.

Rebecca Koeniger-Donohue

Rebecca Koeniger-Donohue

Rebecca Koeniger-Donohue is a Professor of Practice in the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs at Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences, in Boston, MA. Dr. Koeniger-Donohue has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, as well as a case study review book for board certification. She gives frequent professional presentations, regionally and nationally, on both health information technology tools and Women’s Health in Primary Care. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Nursing; an international journal based in the United Kingdom and is a fellow in both the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) and the interdisciplinary National Academy of Practice. She is dedicated to the global advancement of nurse practitioners and the high-quality health care they deliver. 

Dr. Koeniger-Donohue maintains an active clinical NP practice and is an investigator in several applied clinical research projects.

Michelle Putnam

Michelle Putnam

Dr. Putnam’s research focuses on the intersections of aging and disability, with particular emphasis on understanding how public programs and public policy meets the needs of persons aging with disability. Within this area, her work examines collaborations between aging and disability service providers and their capacity to serve the aging with disability population, long-term care and support needs of persons aging with disabilities, the role of activity portfolios in fostering well being among older adults, and the relationship of asset accumulation in fostering financial security and independent living among older adults and persons aging with disability.

Dr. Putnam’s scholarship is both independent and done in collaboration with colleagues across institutions and disciplines, and when possible with direct stakeholders. Funders of Dr. Putnam’s research and/or research collaborations include the John A. Hartford Foundation, the AARP Foundation, National Institute of Aging, and the Productive Living Board of St. Louis County. She is frequently engaged to speak about aging with disability and public policy to research, practice, and policy audiences.

In addition to her research, Dr. Putnam actively participates at the national and international level in building bridges across the aging and disability fields of policy and practice. Most recently she is serving on the expert panel that drafted the Toronto declaration on bridging knowledge, policy and practice in aging and disability, a product of the 2011 Growing Older with Disability meeting at the Festival of International Conferences on Caregiveing, Disabiliity, Aging, and Technology held in Toronto, Canada. With the help of March of Dimes Canada, she coordinated a supplement issue of the International Journal of Integrated Care about bridging aging and disability and the rationale or and need for the Toronto Declaration. Dr. Putnam continues to coordinate the activities of that expert panel as they develop the entity, Bridging Aging and Disability International Network, to facilitate knowledge development, transfer, and translation between the fields of aging and disability. She was recently appointed as Editor of the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

Dr. Putnam is one of the few scholars in the field of social work studying aging with disability and is recognized for her leadership in this area. She has actively worked to build awareness of the distinctions between aging with long-term disability and incurring disability for the first time in later life as it relates to provision of supports and services and the overall experience of aging. Her work is both theoretical and empirical, but always related to public policy and the practical aspects of making aging and disability policies and programs work well for people aging with disabilities and their families. Dr. Putnam’s current interest in capacity building within aging and disability service networks directly stems from her prior work. She believes that building capacity to meet unique needs of aging with disability populations has potential to compliment and move current discussions focused on institutional systems change to also include discourse what individuals and their families need to live independently, engage in their community, and experience positive aging.

Margaret Costello

Margaret Costello

Dr. Costello teaches Clinical Decision Making, Medical-Surgical Nursing and Nursing Research. She has been a nurse since 1983 and continues to practice medical-surgical nursing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She has a Master’s degree in Health Care Administration from Simmons College, a Master’s degree in Cross Cultural Family Nursing and has trained as a family nurse practitioner. She received her PhD in Health Professions Education from Simmons College. Her area of expertise is adult medical surgical nursing, spirituality, interprofessional care and research. She has been published in Nurse Educator, Journal of Holistic Nursing, Nursing Management, American Journal of Nursing and Pain Management Nursing. Dr. Costello has presented her research both locally and nationally.

Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee

Professor Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and her family immigrated to the US when she was in middle school. She gravitated towards math and science courses in high school due to the language barrier and pursued chemistry at University of Pennsylvania. With BS in chemistry, she worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 4 years where she fell in love with synthetic organic chemistry. She decided to attend Brown to get a Ph.D. in organic synthesis. After a year of postdoctoral work at MIT in organometallic chemistry, she came to Simmons. She’s been teaching organic chemistry to science majors and pre health majors since 1994. She has put much of her effort into innovative teaching. There are two main areas of curricular change that she’s proud of: first is converting traditional lectures into “flipped lectures” for organic chemistry I and II. In the flipped lecture model, students watch a video before class and during "class", which is really a problem solving session, all the students are sent to white boards to solve problems. The second innovative curriculum change is the conversion of traditional labs to research incorporated labs. The recent paper entitled “Using Green Chemistry Principles as a Framework to Incorporate Research into the Organic Laboratory Curriculum” in the Journal of Chemical Education describes how this was accomplished. Research integration has made it possible for students to get involved in research in their first year. Peer mentoring is then used to train students for 2-3 more years in the art of research. This makes it possible for seniors to contribute independently. With these changes in curriculum, there has been tremendous evolution in how research is done by undergraduates at Simmons in the last ten years.

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.