Meet Our Faculty

Afaa Weaver
Valerie Leiter

Average class size: 18

Donna Beers
Cathryn Mercier
Tang
Josephine Atinaja-Faller

215

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

Gerald Benoit
faculty icon

Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Dana Grossman Leeman
Janie Ward
blue quote

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Silvana Castenada
Kimberly O'Brien
Donna Webber
Stubbs
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.

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.

Donna Beers

Donna Beers

Donna Beers is Professor of Mathematics at Simmons College where she has taught since 1986. At Simmons she has served as chair of the Mathematics Department as well as director of the Honors program.

Cathryn Mercier

Cathryn Mercier

As an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College (BA '81) Cathie Mercier was drawn to the scientific emphasis and empiricism of experimental psychology. A psychology major, she did not take her first course in children's literature until her senior year. "Like Alice, I fell down the rabbit hole and I've yet to come up," said Mercier.


Cathie brought the taut writing style and analytical sensibility required of psychology to the study of literature for children and young adults. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature in 1984; in 1993 she earned a Master of Philosophy in English at Simmons as a steppingstone to her doctoral studies. She pursued doctoral work in the University Professors Program at Boston University ('02) where she wrote about the confluence of social movements and images of the child in American picturebooks. She holds a PhD in Children's Literature.


Cathie was appointed to Simmons in 1985 and has been teaching in the graduate degree program in children's literature ever since. She teaches criticism, contemporary young adult realism, the child in fiction, the picturebook and a survey course. Her thesis, independent study, and internship advising embrace a wide range of topics, from a cultural analysis of Printz titles to an annotated bibliography of historical fiction for curricular use. "As advisor of a thesis that asked, 'What can queer theory tell children's literature?' I met regularly with the student to discuss ideas. We both learned from the books, and I hope she learned from me. But I consider it my best teaching experience because of how very much I learned from her," said Mercier, who was thrilled when part of her student's thesis was included in a book of new voices in children's literary criticism.


In the undergraduate curriculum, she taught children's literature as a key focus in her honors seminar titled "Stories of Childhood," a course that was part of a learning community that paired with Economics professor Niloufer Sohrabji's course "Stories of Democracy." She won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.


At Simmons, Cathie has served in a variety of administrative roles. Currently, she directs the Center for the Study of Children's Literature,the graduate degree programs in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children (on-campus and at The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA), and dual degree programs that combine the MA with degrees in library science, or teaching, or writing for children.


Cathie has been contributed to Children's Literature and to The Horn Book. Her skill at "close reading, an ability to talk about books so that others see the book at its most ambitious and complex, and a talent for collaboration" have made her a valuable member of national book award committee.  She currently serves on the Subaru Prize Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences/ Young Adult Division.


Past award selection service includes the 2012 Caldecott Award (Ball for Daisy),  1999 Newbery Award Committee (Holes), the 1994 Caldecott Award (Grandfather's Journey), and the inaugural 2000 Sibert Award Committee (Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado). Cathie was honored to serve Chair of the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee (Ashley Bryan) and as Chair of the 2004 Sibert Award Committee (The American Plague). She has twice been a member (once chairing) the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and served as a judge for the New York Times Best Illustrated Books.  


Cathie  completed her third study of an important young adult author with co-writer Susan Bloom; it also marks their third book with editor Patty Campbell.  Russell Freedman was published in 2009 by Scarecrow Press and will be the first book at Scarecrow to focus on nonfiction. Prior collaborations are Presenting Avi and Presenting Zibby Oneal. These books and their audience of teachers, librarians, and young adults fit perfectly into Cathie's driving belief that the "work of the critic is not to 'take apart' a book, but to read well and deeply enough to offer insight and illumination to the text and to oneself."

Cathryn Mercier's Curriculum Vitae

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...

Josephine Atinaja-Faller

Josephine Atinaja-Faller

I joined the nursing faculty full-time in 2004 after having taught clinically for Simmons for more than 10 years. I maintain an active clinical practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Center for Women and Newborns in postpartum and the newborn nursery. 

I spearhead the Nursing Simulation Program at Simmons and played an instrumental role in integrating simulation throughout the nursing curriculum and creating the Simulation Lab. I am also the Director of the Dotson Nursing Clinical Simulation and Learning Lab and teach pediatrics/OB.

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).

Gerald Benoit

Gerald Benoit

Professor Benoit directs the Information Science & Technology Concentration at SLIS and teaches undergraduate computer science, graduate information science, and doctoral-level classes. Prior to entering the academic world, he worked as a rare materials librarian, later settling into programming/analysis and even started the marketing firm, Imada Wong Park + Benoit. Prof Benoit’s work experience and research interests aim at improving the human experience through ethical, technically-informed, and purposeful application of information systems. Consequently, his service, research, and teaching activities integrate the sciences and arts of information. Students in his courses learn standards, hands-on competencies, interoperability of data, professional and scholarly communication to fulfill their own career interests while addressing real-world needs. His work is framed by the philosophy of language, aesthetics, computation, and the emancipatory use of technology. Working with colleagues, Benoit’s research studies the innovation and management of new systems.

Some research projects focus on multilingual issues; others on visual resources; some on digital object repurposing in data-rich settings. All are designed to let students participate and apply their knowledge to their own projects. Active projects include the information science virtual lab, innovation and information discovery, information aesthetics and visualization. The lab’s collections include images from the Boston Public Library’s digital collection, metadata records, social tags and expert text. The whole is a research platform to generate data for retrieval algorithm design, human information seeking behavior, and innovative interfaces.

Since 2004, Benoit has organized a research and discussion colloquium, referred to as the “Lunchtime Lectures”. In 2012, he proposed and lead the Simmons Study Abroad Program in Rome (2013) and Paris (2014).

Gerald Benoit's Curriculum Vitae

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.

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.

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.

Kimberly O'Brien

Kimberly O'Brien

Kimberly H. McManama O’Brien, PhD, LICSW, is an Assistant Professor at Simmons School of Social Work with a joint appointment at Harvard Medical School as an Instructor in Psychiatry. She is also a per diem clinician at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she conducts the majority of her research. Dr. O’Brien is committed to a research agenda focused on the development and testing of brief interventions for suicidal adolescents and their families, with an additional specialization on adolescents who use substances. For example, she is in the second year of a Young Investigator Grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where she is testing a brief alcohol intervention for adolescents who have attempted suicide. She is also currently co-developing and testing a smartphone application intervention for suicidal adolescents and their parents, and is conducting a qualitative study to examine the preparatory thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making processes among adolescents who have attempted suicide. Dr. O’Brien is also committed to the training of social workers and other health professionals in suicide- and substance-related knowledge and brief interventions, as she recently co-developed a course on Understanding Suicide which is now being disseminated and taught nationally, and is the co-director of a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment training grant for social work students at Simmons College, funded by SAMHSA.

Donna Webber

Donna Webber

Donna Webber worked for more than three decades as a professional archivist in Boston-area repositories, including the Schlesinger Library, MIT, and Countway Library at Harvard Medical School. She served as the Simmons College archivist for seven years. Webber began teaching as an adjunct at GSLIS in 2001 and joined the faculty full time in 2011. Webber is active in the Society of American Archivists and New England Archivists and recently co-authored Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors and Students with GSLIS Professor Jeannette Bastian.

Donna Webber's Curriculum Vitae

Stubbs

Amber Stubbs

Amber Stubbs graduated from Simmons College in 2005 with an B.S. in Computer Science and English, then attended Brandeis University where she earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science, specifically in the field of natural language processing. While at Brandeis she co-authored a book, Natural Language Annotation for Machine Learning (O’Reilly, 2012) with James Pustejovksy.

Her doctoral dissertation, "A Methodology for Using Professional Knowledge in Corpus Annotation," involved creating an annotation methodology to extract high-level information — such a hospital patient's medical diagnosis — from narrative texts. As part of that research, she also developed the Multi-Purpose Annotation Environment (MAE) and Multi-document Adjudication Interface (MAI) software, which is used at institutions around the world for natural language processing research.

After completing her Ph.D., Amber worked as a Postdoctoral Associate under Ozlem Uzuner at the State University of New York at Albany.  During that time, she worked on the 2014 i2b2 Natural Language Processing Shared Task, which focused on recognizing risk factors for heart disease in medical records, as well as the identification and removal of personal information about patients from their records.

Amber became an Assistant Professor at Simmons College in 2014, where she teaches courses in both the Computer Science and LIS programs.  She is delighted to be back at Simmons, and enjoys helping students understand technology and how to make it work for them.

Amber Stubbs' Curriculum Vitae