Meet Our Faculty

Average class size: 18

Laura Saunders
Elizabeth Scott

215

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

Denise Hildreth
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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

Tang
Stubbs

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.

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).

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...

Jo Trigilio

Jo Trigilio received her Ph.D. in Philosophy with a concentration in Feminist Theory from the University of Oregon. Professor Trigilio has a special interest in the intersection of theory and practice. She specializes in oppression/liberation theories, including feminist and gender theories, race theories, and queer theory.

She is politically active in the queer community of Boston. Professor Trigilio has served on the board of directors for the National Women's and Gender Studies Association for six years. She is currently leading The Boston Dyke March History and Archive Project.

Mary Jane Treacy

I am a Professor of Spanish Language and Literatures as well as Director of the Honors Program. I wrote a doctoral dissertation on drama, the emergence of comedy, in 16th-century Spain with an emphasis on the comedia of Lope de Vega. Soon after this, I turned to the other face of Spanish theatre: the famous wife-murder plays of Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca and from there to violence (state violence as well as violence against women) in Latin American and Spanish literature.

Violence took me directly to Latin American experiences of the 60s - 90s to see how literature and film attempted to make sense of political upheaval and state violations of human rights. I also examined how personal writings—autobiography, essays, interviews—by members of guerrilla movements explained and framed their participation and use of violence to bring about social change. My particular interest was, and remains, in how women joined these forces and how they explain their experiences as gendered (or not).

Interest in social movements took me from Latin American guerrilla organizations to U.S. social movements. I was given the opportunity to teach Roots of Feminism in the WGST program. Soon after, I joined Reacting to the Past, a group of historians and political scientists centered at Barnard College who design role-playing games for college courses in a variety of fields. I saw that their approach was one that would ideally suit the Roots course, except that I was going to have to write it myself. So I did. Greenwich Village 1913: Suffrage, Labor and the New Woman has now been featured at many national conferences and is played in universities throughout the United States.

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. 


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.

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.


Lena Zuckerwise

Lena Zuckerwise is a political theorist specializing in contemporary political thought and democratic politics. Her first book, which will be published in 2015, brings the work of Hannah Arendt into the company of several key debates in democratic theory. Professor Zuckerwise’s writings on the subjects of post-colonial feminism, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum, and the theory of foundationalism will appear later this year in the Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Other interests include gender and feminist theory, and the politics of race in the United States. Professor Zuckerwise teaches courses in historical political thought; contemporary feminist theory; the politics of human rights; and modern and contemporary theories of justice. Prior to coming to Simmons, Professor Zuckerwise taught at Wellesley College and Mount Holyoke College in the political science and gender studies departments, respectively. She completed her Ph.D. in 2010 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award. Professor Zuckerwise lives in the city of Boston with her partner, three-year-old son, and corgi, Olive, who has befriended many of her students. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and cooking.

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...

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.

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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

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.