Meet Our Faculty

Suzanne Leonard
Judith Aronson

Average class size: 18

Jo O'Connor
Sarah Volkman
Denise Hildreth
Wanda Torres Gregory
Lowry Pei

215

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

Michael Brown
faculty icon

Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Joel Blanco-Rivera
James Huddleston
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“The faculty are extremely accessible. There’s the sense that we’re here for common goals.”

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Valerie Leiter
Arlene Lowenstein
Kirk Beattie
Afaa Weaver
Suzanne Leonard

Suzanne Leonard

Suzanne Leonard is Associate Professor of English, and co-coordinator of the college's interdisciplinary minor in Cinema and Media Studies. She is the author of Fatal Attraction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and co-editor of Fifty Hollywood Directors (Routledge, 2014).

She regularly instructs classes on American film and television studies, feminist media studies, women's literature, literary interpretation, and cultural studies, and frequently teaches courses affiliated with the Women's and Gender Studies department and the college's Gender and Cultural Studies Master's program. She also teaches graduate classes through the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies at MIT.

Professor Leonard is most interested in the intersections between feminism and popular culture, and her work has examined topics including: the treatment of the adultery plot in feminist novels; marriage envy; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's epic romance; Lily Tomlin; political spouses and The Good Wife; reality television and celebrity culture; and working women in American film and television.

Professor Leonard is currently working on a book on marriage and wives called Wife, Inc.: The Business of Marriage in Twenty-First Century American Culture.

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.

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!

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.

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.


Wanda Torres Gregory

Wanda Torres Gregory

My areas of teaching include contemporary philosophy, ethics, logic, nineteenth-century philosophy, and philosophy of language. A recipient of the 2001 Simmons College Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, I have taught many different courses with the same objective of guiding students on the path of philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom. My mission as a teacher is to inspire students to think philosophically—to wonder, reflect, and reason methodically about the great problems. The synergy of my teaching and scholarship is reflected in my textbook as leading editor, World Ethics (CA: Wadsworth, 2003), which includes multicultural and feminist perspectives along with the European classics in one comprehensive anthology in ethics.

My scholarship is dedicated to the philosophy of language and I specialize in twentieth-century German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. In addition to professional presentations and journal articles that focus on Heidegger and compare his views with those of twentieth-century analytic philosophers W.V. Quine, Rudolf Carnap, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, I have published the following two co-translations of Heidegger's works on language: On the Essence of Language (NY: SUNY Press, 2004), which was nominated in the spring of 2005 for the German Translation Award presented by the American Translators Association; and Logic as the Question Concerning the Essence of Language (NY: SUNY Press, 2009), which was nominated for the Goethe Institute’s 2010 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize.

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.

Michael Brown

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.

Joel Blanco-Rivera

Joel Blanco-Rivera

Joel A. Blanco-Rivera earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. His research interests are the study of the relation between archives and transitional justice in Latin America, government accountability, and the documentation of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States. He has an MSI with specialization in archive and records management from the School of Information at the University of Michigan. From 2004 to 2005, he was a lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico's Graduate School of Information Sciences and Technologies, where he taught courses for the certificate in archives and records management. His dissertation research is a case study of the work of the National Security Archive in the context of transitional justice in Latin America. It focuses on the efforts of this organization to obtain U.S. declassified records for investigations about past human rights violations in Latin America. He has been teaching in the archives area at Simmons since the spring of 2012.

Joel Blanco-Rivera's Curriculum Vitae

James Huddleston

James Huddleston

License/ Certifications/Awards 

License in Physical Therapy (MA, ME, NH)
Certified Health Coach (CHC): National Society of Health Coaches
The Stephen London Faculty-Staff Community Service Award, 2015

Professional Organizations Membership

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
Massachusetts Chapter of the APTA
National Society of Health Coaches

Dr. Huddleston joined the physical therapy faculty at Simmons College in 2008, after several years as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. He has worked in many different health care settings over the course of his career, with a concentration in acute care and mind/body medicine settings, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Benson/Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH in Boston, and York Hospital in York, ME. He has a strong clinical background in physical rehabilitation, cardiac wellness and lifestyle behavior change. Dr. Huddleston is the author of several book chapters and articles on topics ranging from exercise to health behavior change. His current clinical work and areas of interest are in cardiac wellness, and health coaching for health promotion, wellness and chronic disease management.


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.

Kirk Beattie

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.

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.