Meet Our Faculty

Paul Abraham
Rich Gurney

Average class size: 18

John Reeder
Erica Gunn
Elizabeth Scott
Denise Hildreth

215

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

Marianne Williams
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Michelle Putnam
Valerie Leiter
Lisa Brown
Tang
Paul Abraham

Paul Abraham

Paul Abraham was born and raised in Boston and was connected enough to the “Athens of America” to stay here for his degrees: his undergraduate studies at Boston College, his master’s at Boston University and his Doctorate at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  He majored in French at BC and started traveling back then with a year in France and a semester in Mexico. His first position was teaching French and Spanish in Brookline, Subsequently, he spent a summer in Spain and a sabbatical in Japan, just after earning his TESL degree at BU.

After several years in Brookline, Abraham went on to teach international students and do administration at the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP) at Boston University. From there, he went to head up a similar program at Bradford College in Haverhill, MA.

After completing his doctorate in Reading and Second Language Acquisition at Harvard, he became a faculty member in the Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language Program at Simmons. A few years later, he became the Program Director. 

Abraham’s first sabbatical in 2003 took him to the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) as a Fulbright Scholar where he taught a graduate seminar in second language reading as well as an undergraduate course in applied linguistics.  The Fulbright was followed up by a Fulbright Alumni Award between USACH and Simmons College with faculty and student exchanges from 2004-2007.  

Abraham calls his second sabbatical his “Asian” sabbatical. In spring 2013, Abraham served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist for a month at Dong Thap University in Cao Lahn, Vietnam, where he taught undergraduates, English language faculty, and local teachers. His focus was on test taking skills and strategies.

He followed up with a trip to China with Primary Source where he visited migrant schools in Shi-an and Beijing.  At the end of the term, he was invited to Yamagata University in Yamagata, Japan, where he observed classes in public schools and universities and piloted a small research project on teacher attitudes towards teaching English.  

Currently, Abraham directs both the MATESL Program and the Language and Literacy Program, a Special Education language-based reading program, in the Education Department. 

Abraham is a frequent presenter at TESOL and he has coauthored, with Daphne Mackey, an ESL reading and vocabulary series, Contact USA, with Pearson as well as Get Ready: Interactive Listening and Speaking, a low-level listening and speaking book.

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.

Kelly Hager

I've been at Simmons since 2001, teaching in the departments of English and Women's & Gender Studies, in the undergraduate Honors Program, and in the graduate programs in English, Children's Literature, and Gender/Cultural Studies. I was awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006. I served as Director of the Graduate Program in Gender/Cultural Studies from 2003-2007, as interim Chair of the D epartment of Women's & Gender Studies in 2010-11, and as Chair of the Department of English from 2011-2014. Before coming to Simmons, I was Head Preceptor in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard and Lecturer and Mentor to new graduate student teachers in the English Department at Yale.

I co-chair the Victorian Literature and Culture Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, and I'm on the editorial board of The Lion and the Unicorn. I'm the author of Dickens and the Rise of Divorce: The Failed-Marriage Plot and the Novel Tradition (chosen by CHOICE as a highly recommended book), the co-author of the Instructor's Guide for the Norton Introduction to Literature, and I co-edited a special issue of Victorian Review on "Extending Families." I've also contributed invited pieces to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, the Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature, Keywords for Children's Literature, BRANCH (Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History), and The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (Wiley-Blackwell).

Erica Gunn

Erica Gunn

I am perhaps an unlikely chemist. Naturally inclined to music and language rather than science, I struggled with the basic mechanics of understanding chemistry. After failing my first chemistry test in high school, I knew that I would hate the topic forever. Achieving high final grades in both accelerated. . .

Elizabeth Scott

Elizabeth Scott

I am an Associate Professor of Biology and co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Public Health.  I did my graduate training in Applied Microbiology at London University. I am also the co-director and founder of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community Settings

My research looks at broad issues associated with the transmission of microbial pathogens in the indoor environment. The applied research in my lab allows undergraduate students to get involved in developing and piloting research methodologies and also, to get published in peer review journals. 
 
I serve as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Forum on Home Hygiene and on the editorial board of the American Journal of Infection Control. This allows me to disseminate information on matters of hygiene and infection control and I am frequently quoted in the press. 

My passion is for microbiology and public health and I am committed to the rigorous preparation of Simmons students for graduate programs and careers in this field. I am also deeply committed to two other related issues. One is finding strategies to inform the general public on aspects of microbiology and infection control that impact our daily lives. The other is the issue of keeping women in the STEM disciplines and strengthening the STEM pipeline for women from school through to postdoctoral careers. 


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.


Amitabh Dashottar

Amitabh Dashottar

Dr. Dashottar joined the faculty at Simmons College in January 2013. Before Joining Simmons, Dr. Dashottar did Postdoctoral research at the Laboratory of Investigative Imaging and his doctoral research at the Human Performance Laboratory at the Ohio State University.

Ellen Grabiner

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.

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. 


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.

Tang

Rong Tang

Rong Tang received her doctorate from the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She has taught evaluation of information services, technology for information professionals, library automation systems, digital information services and providers...