Meet Our Faculty

Christian LaDonna
Jo O'Connor

Average class size: 18

Rich Gurney
Gary Bailey
Alison Marshall
Lowry Pei
Valerie Leiter

215

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

Catherine Paden
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Stephen Berry
Janie Ward
Tien Ung
Christian LaDonna

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.

Jo O'Connor

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!

Rich Gurney

Rich Gurney

Dr. Gurney is an expert in the field of Green Chemistry Education, where he has been actively developing curricula for the past 13 years. He focuses his teaching and research on the applications of green chemistry and finding solutions for everyday problems using materials that are "benign by design." As the Principle Investigator and Director of the Undergraduate Laboratory Renaissance Program, funded in part by the W. M. Keck Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Dr. Gurney is currently studying the effectiveness of an entirely project-based, research-integrated, greener organic chemistry laboratory experience as one component of a completely re-engineered, undergraduate, green-laboratory curriculum. The ULR Program encompasses a fundamental reengineering of the undergraduate laboratory curriculum using the principles of green chemistry to expose students to the excitement of research beginning in their first-semester of their undergraduate career. The integrity of the knowledge learned within the ULR laboratory sequence has been maintained, while providing an environment for students to hone their higher-order cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. From 2008 – 2013, the W. M. Keck Foundation supported the effort to expand this pedagogy to course-based laboratories not only in Chemistry, but also in Physics and Biology, with a total of 9 faculty participants. Dr. Gurney is also highly active in the development of greener polymeric systems capable of closed-loop molecular recycling, in collaboration with Dr. Debora Martino at INTEC (Instituto de Desarrollo Tecnológico para la Industria Química) and the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina. Funding in part to support undergraduate participation in this collaboration and research has been provided by the (Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina (CAI+D Tipo II PI 11-57), CONICET (PIP 112-200801-01079 and D-1280/2011) Argentina, the NSF OISE (#1031394), the Semiconductor Research Corporation Educational Alliance-Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, and the Presidential Fund for Faculty Excellence at Simmons College for the financial support. Dr. Gurney is one of the 16 founding members of the Green Chemistry Education Network and one of the ten founding faculty Board Members for the Green Chemistry Commitment.

Gary Bailey

Gary Bailey

Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW is currently a Professor of Practice at Simmons College School of Social Work and at the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences. At the School of Social Work he coordinates the Dynamics of Racism and Oppression sequence. He chairs the School of Social Work Awards Committee; is Chair of the Simmons College Black Administrators, Faculty and Staff Council (BAFAS); is a member of the Simmons Faculty Senate; is vice chair of the Simmons President’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (PDIAC) and co-Chaired the Simmons College Initiative on Human Rights and Social Justice.

 In 2010 Professor Bailey was elected President of the International Federation of Social Workers. He is the first person of color to hold this post and only the third person from the United States to do so. IFSW is a federation representing over 90 countries and 746,000 social workers globally. He is a past president of the North American region of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) located in Berne, Switzerland having served in that role from 2003 until 2006.He was appointed as the inaugural Chair of the Policy, Advocacy and Representation Commission (the PARC) in August 2006 where his responsibilities included the review of existing and the development of new policies; and he oversaw  the IFSW representatives at the United Nations in Nairobi, Geneva, and New York City and Vienna.

In 2010 he was appointed to the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) Global Commission. He previously served on the board of the North American and Caribbean Association of Schools of Social Work representing CSWE

He is a member of the board of the Fenway High School in Boston where he serves on the Governance and Facilities committees. In 2009 he was appointed by the Honorable Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, to serve on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). MEFA, created 30 years ago, is a self-financing state authority, not reliant on state or federal appropriation which sells bonds to help undergraduate and graduate students fund higher education. To date, MEFA has issued approximately $4.2 billion and bonds and have assisted hundreds of thousands of families in financing a college education. At MEFA he chairs the Nominating Committee, and is a member of the Audit Committee. He was reappointed by Governor Patrick to a term ending in 2019.
 He is a member of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) Board of Ambassadors and the AIDS Action Advisory Council. He is a Trustee of the Union United Methodist Church (UUMC) in Boston.

Professor Bailey was the Chairperson of the National Social Work Public Education Campaign. He is a former member of the NASW Foundation Board of Directors. He was a member of the board of the NASW Insurance Trust (now Assurance Services, Inc.), a public company which is the largest provider of insurance services for professional social workers. 

He is a past President of National NASW having served as President from 2003 until 2005. He was President-elect from 2002-2003. His tenure at NASW National has included serving as the NASW National 2nd Vice President from 2000-2002 and as the Associations Treasurer from 1995-1997. He was also the President of the Massachusetts Chapter of NASW from 1993-1995

Professor Bailey is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He was named Social Worker of the Year by both the National and Massachusetts NASW in 1998. He was made a Social Work Pioneer by NASW in 2005, making him the youngest individual to receive this honor and joining individuals such as Jane Addams and Whitney M. Young.

In May 2013 Professor Bailey received the degree Doctor of Humane letters , honoris causa, from the University of Connecticut


Alison Marshall

Alison Marshall

I am a Boston transplant from Denver.  I live in Boston with my husband and daughter.  I came to nursing via a winding road, but am so happy to have arrived.  I am a family nurse practitioner and work at a community health center and for the CDC.  I joined Simmons in 2014 and am so happy to be here!

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.

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.

Catherine Paden

Catherine Paden

Catherine Paden (PhD, Northwestern University) is Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science at Simmons College. Her research and teaching interests focus on racial politics, social movements, interest groups, and how underrepresented groups gain political representation. She is the author of Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor (2011, pb 2013), which assesses whether, and how, low-income African Americans gain representation in anti-poverty legislative battles. Her current research examines the impact of local civil rights and economic justice organizing on national policy and interest group priorities. She has published her research in the DuBois Review and has contributed research on the Nation of Islam to a volume on religion and American politics (University of Virginia, 2012). At Simmons, Paden serves as the Faculty Assistant to the Dean on Diversity Initiatives, on the Dean's Diversity Task Force, and on the President's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (PDIAC).

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).

Stephen Berry

Stephen Berry

I attended Vanderbilt University where I double majored in History and Fine Arts earning the Bachelor of Arts and later a Masters of Education degrees. I also hold a M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a M.L.I.S. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. I earned my doctoral degree in the Graduate Program in Religion of Duke University with qualifying exams on colonial America history, the history of religion in America, history of Reformation Europe, and Atlantic World travel literature. My doctoral dissertation, “Seaborne Conversions 1700-1800” examined the role of religion aboard eighteenth-century British sailing vessels crossing the Atlantic.

I have been a member of the History Department at Simmons College in Boston since 2007 where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in Early American and Atlantic World history. I currently direct the department’s undergraduate program in public history, which means I teach an introductory course on public history that is combined with the history of Boston, a course that focuses on the role of objects in historical understanding, as well as supervising internships at a variety of museums and historic sites in the area. I teach separate graduate and undergraduate courses on the history of the Atlantic World from Columbus to the Haitian Revolution. I normally handle the first half of the American history survey, which covers colonization through reconstruction as well as an African-American history survey course. Finally, I typically teach our department’s core seminar for our undergraduate majors, “Interpreting the Past,” which introduces students to the theory and method of history. As a teacher of the humanities, my two overall goals for students in all of my courses are to be critical thinkers and excellent writers.

My wife Dana and I live in Maynard, Massachusetts with our teenage daughter and son. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and playing board games. In addition to writing about ships, I love sailing, but I know just enough about boats to be a danger to others and myself.

Janie Ward

Janie Ward

I am the co-editor of three books, Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Research (Harvard University Press, 1988), Souls Looking Back: Life Stories of Growing Up Black (Routledge, 1999) and Gender and Teaching, with Frances Maher, published in 2001 by Lawrence Erlbaum. I also wrote the book, The Skin We're In: Teaching Our Children to be Emotionally Strong, Socially Smart and Spiritually Connected (Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2000). 

In 1990-92 I was the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture, University of Pennsylvania, and in 1996-97 I was a Visiting Scholar at the Wellesley College Centers for Women. From 2000-2003, I served as the Director for the Alliance on Gender, Culture and School Practice at Harvard Graduate School of Education. With Harvard Professor Wendy Luttrell, I was Co-Principal Investigator of Project ASSERT, a five-year school based research study and curriculum development project exploring issues of gender, culture and school practice for urban elementary and middle school teachers. This project ended in 2006.

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.