Meet Our Faculty

Dolores Pelaez
Tang

Average class size: 18

Cathryn Mercier
Jennifer Putney
Rachel Galli
Rich Gurney
Eduardo Febles

215

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

Donna Webber
faculty icon

Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Jo O'Connor
Michelle Putnam
blue quote

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Teresa Fung
beal
Steve Ortega
Katherine Jung Reis
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).

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...

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

Rachel Galli

Rachel Galli

Nobel prize winning geneticist Barbara McClintock wrote, “Everything is one. There is no way to draw a line between things.” This is certainly true in my own field of Neuroscience, where the study of brain and behavior integrates many areas of study and emphasizes the connection between mind and body. It is also true of my work here at Simmons. It is difficult to draw a line between my teaching, research, and mentoring efforts, in part because they are intertwined around a central theme of increasing the participation of women in the sciences. I traveled a nontraditional path in finding my passion and vocation, and I especially enjoy helping others explore their interests and career possibilities. Sometimes you’ll be surprised where life takes you, and it is the life skills and education you acquire in college that can help you make the most of your opportunities. I love to teach, and here at Simmons I’m able to work closely with students as they become active participants in a learning process that occurs in the classroom, in the research lab, and in advising relationships and extracurricular activities.

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.

Eduardo Febles

Eduardo Febles

Professor Febles, a native of Puerto Rico, received a B.A. in French and Political Economy from Tulane University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in French Studies from Brown University. He also studied at L'École Normale Supérieure, L'Institut d'Études Politiques, and La Sorbonne in Paris. Before coming to Simmons, he taught at Goucher College and Brandeis University. His research focuses on the intersections between politics and literature, especially in 19th century France. He is the author of Explosive Narratives: Anarchy and Terrorism in the Works of Emile Zola, published by Rodopi Press in 2010. He also edited with his mother, Dr. María Vega de Febles, a collection of articles written by his grandfather entitled Crónicas Ejemplares and published by Ediciones Universal in 2010. He is presently working on a project about the connections between homophobia and anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair. He is also the author of several scholarly articles, book reviews, and short stories.

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 SLIS Professor Jeannette Bastian.

Donna Webber's Curriculum Vitae

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!

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.

Teresa Fung

Teresa Fung

I graduated from Cornell University with BS and MS degrees in Nutrition and completed my dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital.  I then stayed on as a clinical nutrition specialist (RD) working in a variety of nutrition specialties.  After a few years, I moved to Boston for a dual Doctor of Science degree in nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.  I have been at Simmons since 2000 and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses while maintain research collaboration at the Harvard School of Public Health where I am an Adjunct Professor.  

I am currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Nutrition and a panelist for the U.S. News and World Reports Best Diet rankings.  I have previously been on a Technical Expert Committee at the United States Department of Agriculture to evaluate scientific evidence on dietary patterns and health outcomes.

I believe in preparing students for a fast paced and quick changing work place.  In that light my teaching focus on providing students with the most updated technical knowledge, skills for critical thinking, problem solving, as well as locating and evaluating scientific information.

beal

Judy Beal

I have had many leadership roles in my 43 years as a nurse. I currently serve as Professor and Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Simmons College. Prior to coming to Simmons in 1983, I taught at Boston University and Skidmore College.

At Simmons, I have been instrumental in building early innovative models of academic practice partnerships locally and then globally. In Boston, the unique model of "hospital as client” with the hospital financing the academic progression of employees in RN-BSN and RN-MSN programs grew from one partnership five years ago to eight partnerships. With foundation funding, she partnered with the University of Cairo to replicate an accelerated second degree BSN program for unemployed university graduates. This effort significantly advanced workforce capacity and elevated the level of professional nursing practice in Egypt. With academic and practice partners in Saudi Arabia and with philanthropists in Bangladesh and Israel, I am further replicating these programs.

As a RWJ Executive Nurse Fellow from 2008-2011, I created a national forum on academic-practice partnership by successfully engaging a national association to identify this issue as a strategic priority. I developed and co-led the AACN-AONE Task Force on Academic-Practice Partnerships. This group has significantly elevated the conversation on and strategy for developing academic-practice partnerships.

I have served as president, secretary, director and chair in many organizations including: Sigma Theta Tau International, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing (MACN), Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses (MARN), and Yale University Alumni Association. Most recently, I have served as a two term, elected board member and the secretary of AACN, secretary and vice president of MACN, chair of the MARN Nominations Committee, and co-lead of the RWJF Massachusetts Action Coalition.

I am widely published with more than 120 peer reviewed articles. I am on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing as well as a peer reviewer for the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, the Journal of Professional Nursing, and Research in Nursing and Health. 

I received my BSN from Skidmore College, MSN from Yale, and DNSc from Boston University. I am a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the National Academies of Practice.

Steve Ortega

Stephen Ortega

My name is Steve Ortega, and I teach in the History Department at Simmons College. I have a Bachelor’s degree from New York University, a Master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD. from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. I am the director of the History MA program, which includes...

Katherine Jung Reis

Katherine Jungreis

I am delighted to be beginning my fifth year as a full time faculty member after 23 years as an adjunct here at Simmons School of Social Work. When then Professor Sophie Freud initially suggested that I teach the Psychopathology course (now Assessment and Diagnosis) while I was a doctoral candidate at Simmons, I told her that I had never really considered teaching and wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. She countered with, “this is an offer you can’t refuse” and her wisdom was clear as I quickly found that teaching became one of the greatest pleasures of my social work career. 

Following graduation from Smith School for Social Work, I worked for almost twenty years at a community mental health center in a poor and working class town. My clinical work was with adults, families, groups and emergency services and I dealt with a variety of issues including many people with severe mental illness and their families. During that time Cambodian refugees moved into the community and we were actively involved in trying to provide culturally meaningful mental health services to them.

Like many others in our field, the direction of my work has been constantly evolving. Initially after graduation, I received training and became very involved with family therapy. Later, as I became more attuned to connecting the various parts of myself in my work, I wove in my curiosity about integrating spiritual/religious issues and psychotherapy. I joined the Jewish Therapists Network and taught in the Certificate Program for Jewish Communal and Clinical Social Work at Simmons. Other areas of special interest to me have included social work ethics, working with couples, mindfully connecting theory to practice and the use of movies as a powerful learning tool. Appreciating the meaning of work and the workplace was a central focus during the ten years that I consulted to the staff at the Federal Employee Assistance Program.

Most recently, I have been intrigued with relational aspects of social work supervision. I have given presentations and consulted on this topic and in the summers I teach in the Certificate Program for Advanced Clinical Supervision at Smith School for Social Work. While I no longer supervise students and staff in an agency setting, I have been able to continue a significant amount of clinical consultation to practitioners as well as consulting to staff at South Shore Mental Health Center which afforded me the ability to work again in a community mental health setting.

I believe that to most effectively teach I need to be directly involved in the work and that my ongoing clinical experiences enrich the learning in the classroom. I have found Simmons to be a wonderfully supportive, interesting and committed community that truly cares about helping students to be skillful, thoughtful and caring social workers. I am excited to be part of this community and to contribute to the professional growth of future social workers.