Meet Our Faculty

Average class size: 18

Laura Saunders

215

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

Dana Grossman Leeman
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

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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.

Kirk Beattie

My name is Kirk James Beattie (pronounced bay-tee). I grew up in a small, mostly suburban town called Clarkston on the far northern edge of metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. I attended an excellent, private college, Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan as an undergraduate. I majored in Political Science, and minored in French. I went to southern France on a junior year abroad program, and was totally smitten. I returned to France to conduct my senior thesis on a topic suggested by my college advisor, and about which I knew nothing: French foreign policy in the Middle East. This is literally how my lifelong interest in Middle East and North African politics began. At the time, the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with most countries in the region, a situation I felt could not last because of American allies’ energy needs, if not those of the U.S. Still enamored with France, I returned there for nine months following graduation from college. I audited Arabic and sat in on Political Science courses at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Aix-en-Provence.

During my third stay in France, I applied to graduate school programs in Political Science, and was accepted at The University of Michigan, the #2 program in the U.S. Over time I specialized in Comparative Politics, having acquired the impression that this subfield placed greater emphasis on understanding people’s concerns, beliefs and sentiments than did the International Relations subfield. Because I have a great fondness for foreign languages, and have been relatively adept at their acquisition, I went on to apply for various language grants and fellowships over the coming years, all of which either assisted me to pay for my graduate studies at Michigan in first Arabic, then Persian, and/or enabled me to seek admission to special, federally funded foreign study programs, such as the Tunisian Summer Study program, or the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program in Cairo, Egypt. I was fortunate to be selected for participation in these nationally competitive programs, as well as to be the recipient of several other national grants, such as an International Rotary Foundation Fellowship, and two Fulbright fellowships, that permitted me lengthy stays in Egypt or France.

Benjamin Cole

Ben Cole joined the faculty of Simmons College in 2012 after a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College. Before that, Ben taught for three years as Hood House Lecturer in International Affairs at the University of New Hampshire (his alma mater). Since 2011 he has also served as a Research Associate at the Center for Systemic Peace, where he collaborates with his doctoral research mentor, Dr. Monty G. Marshall, on the production of cross-national governance and conflict datasets and publication of the Global Report series.

Ben’s teaching philosophy is characterized by a passion for collaborating with students in research, learning, and advising. He enjoys leading teams of student researchers, redesigning and teaching new classes, and talking with students about life and career plans. When not working with students, Ben loves spending time working on the family farm with his wife, Shannon, two beautiful children, and his grandfather, sailing along the coast, or settling into a good book with a hot pot of coffee at hand.

Ellen Grabiner

I am currently the Chair of the Communications Department at Simmons College, in Boston, Massachusetts. I was hired fourteen years ago as an instructor quite simply because of my immersion in what were then the newest media in the communications field: the world wide web, digital imaging, and digital video editing. I was hired with the hope that I would help to bring the department into the 21st century, both in terms of preparing the communications students for the world that awaited them, but also in terms of helping them to explore, articulate and question the tremendous changes in media that surrounded them.

Fast-forward fourteen years and we are all still reeling from the accelerating speed at which new media has evolved. There is not a corner in the developed world today that has remained untouched by this gargantuan moving target of change. As a department that understands communication as a discipline that not only utilizes media but also critiques it, at Simmons we have embraced an approach that emphasizes media convergence: we employ new media to observe, explore, question, track, and understand new media. At the same time, we encourage our students to inhabit a meta-space in which they can approach the study of new media through philosophical, theoretical, political, social, technological, and aesthetic lenses.

My work as an educator, mentor, and developer of curricular initiatives includes co-design and co-direction of Simmons’ interdisciplinary minor in Cinema and Media Studies, my pioneering work in the first learning communities as part of the Simmons Honors program, my development of courses in cinema and media theory, storytelling, digital cultures and communications technologies, and my design and leadership of an intensive January course at Simmons called the World Challenge. In this short course that occurs over intersession, students work together in self-guided, faculty supported teams to solve a pressing social/political/environmental problem and develop actionable solutions which they then present to potential funders. The World Challenge I co-taught with Professor Nanette Veilleux and Professor Laura Saunders of SLIS, was entitled, “Would I Lie to You?” and responded to the problematic of the role of media/information today. Many of the solutions the students developed relied on social media, including concepts for mobile apps to alter the ways in which we access and share information.

Becky Thompson

Becky Thompson, Ph.D. is a scholar, poet, activist, and yoga teacher whose work focuses on trauma and healing. She is the author of several books on social justice including Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for those Healing from Trauma, When the Center is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for Our Times, (co-author, Diane Harriford); Mothering without a Compass: White Mother’s Love, Black Son’s Courage; A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women's Eating Problems, A Promise and a Way of Life and a recently published book of poetry, Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night.  She is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Simmons College and has taught at Duke University, Wesleyan University, the University of Colorado, Bowdoin College, and elsewhere. She has received numerous honors and awards, including from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association for University Women, the Ford Foundation, Political Research Associates, the Creative Justice Poetry Prize, and the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Books on Human Rights. Becky is a senior level yoga teacher (RYT-500) and teaches at conferences, workshops, in college classes, and community centers internationally and nationally.

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...

Dana Grossman Leeman

Dana Grossman Leeman

Program director and associate professor of practice Dana Grossman Leeman, MSW, PhD, is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Massachusetts Chapter of the International Association of Social Work with Groups (IASWG), and the co-chair of Symposia for the International Board of the IASWG. She is on the editorial advisory board of the journal Social Work with Groups and is a consulting editor for Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping. Dr. Leeman teaches Social Work with Groups, Advanced Clinical Practice, and Advanced Group Work with Vulnerable and Resilient Populations.

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.

Michael Brown

Michael L. Brown is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. He came to Simmons in 1986 and, for his first fifteen years at the College, taught half-time in mathematics and statistics, and half-time in computer science. Following that period, he has been teaching entirely in mathematics and statistics.

Professor Brown’s interests have been wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. As an applied mathematician, earlier in his career, he published in major journals in mathematical statistics, biophysics, and medical informatics. He also produced working papers in computer hardware design and econometric modeling. He in addition published expository mathematics. He was a postdoctoral Research Associate at the Computer Research Center of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In recent years his interdisciplinary reach has taken new directions. He seeks to connect the mathematical sciences with issues of public interest, as well as with the arts. Twelve of his Letters to the Editor (eleven signed with his Simmons affiliation) on these topics have appeared in the New York Times. He is also concerned with the deeper motivations for learning and, more generally, questions of meaning and ethics in psychological life. He is a member of the Faculty Learning Community on Student Learning Theory, and has been a longtime member of the Simmons Honor Board. In the arts, he has a particular interest in theatre and drama, exemplified for instance by his very well-received performed readings at the Harvard Strindberg Symposium, a centennial gathering of scholars in honor of one of the founders of the modern theatre.

His Ph.D. is in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in mathematical statistics, from Harvard. His A.M. is in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in the mathematical physics of fluid dynamics, also from Harvard. His B.A. is from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York, where he was the valedictorian of his graduating class of more than 600 students.

Masato Aoki

I started my own college education as a pre-med major. (Guess what my parents did.) In my second semester, I discovered economics, and I’ve been a student of economic systems ever since. I continue to be fascinated by the dynamics that subject the economy to instability and even crisis; competing economic theories, from those that celebrate market outcomes to those that problematize class; economics as a window into social justice issues; and education reform movements as reflections of economic priorities. While I did not become a physician, I have devoted my life to studying the physiology and metabolic system of an important patient: the economy.

I love teaching as a craft, as a way to inspire students, and as a way to be inspired by students and colleagues. The classroom is a sanctuary, and time preparing for class and helping students pursue their own research is precious. Teaching extends to working one-on-one with students during office hours and engaging in intellectual play with the Economics Student Liaison (similar to economics “clubs” at other institutions). I also take great pleasure in advising students, which for me means helping them (1) discover their passions, (2) figure out what difference they want to make in the world and how to prepare to make that difference, and (3) navigate Simmons and Boston to get to most out of their college experience.

Jo O'Connor

O’Connor has worked for nearly 30 years in the marketing communication industry with specialties in entertainment, sports, oral presentation and event planning.

She has held leadership roles for the Boston Celtics, the Boston Garden/FleetCenter, CBS Radio, Sonesta Hotels, the Wang Center for the Performing Arts as well as worked twice in an agency setting.

Previously, O’Connor was full-time faculty member for 10 years at Boston University’s College of Communication – overhauling the oldest student PR agency in the county PRLab and has been awarded numerous teaching awards there. She has also taught advertising at Northeastern University for four years and is currently teaching online communication courses at Lasell College, where she has been for five years. She also runs a boutique mar/comm agency representing several regional clients.

O’Connor is delighted to be teaching full-time at Simmons College in Boston, where she is overseeing the new joint major (a collaboration between the Communication Department and School of Management) in Public Relations and Marketing Communication.

Go Sharks!

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.

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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.