Meet Our Faculty

Donna Beers
Joel Blanco-Rivera

Average class size: 18

Afaa Weaver
Lisa Brown
Valerie Leiter
Shirong Luo
Nancy Lee

215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Katherine Jung Reis
Lowry Pei
Silvana Castenada
Michael Brown
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.

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

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.

Shirong Luo

Shirong Luo

Shirong Luo has been a member of the philosophy department at Simmons College since 2006. Prior to his appointment at Simmons, he had been a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College for two years (2004-2006). The first recipient of the Dean's Award for Exceptional Faculty Scholarship at Simmons College (2012), Dr. Luo has focused his research on Chinese philosophy of the classical period, comparative philosophy, and feminist ethics. He was an invited lecturer at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers (2008).

Among the many courses Dr. Luo has taught at Simmons are Asian Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, World Religions, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Philosophy and the Arts, Philosophy through Literature and Film, Philosophy of Human Nature, American Pragmatism, Biomedical Ethics, and MCC.

Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee

Professor Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and her family immigrated to the US when she was in middle school. She gravitated towards math and science courses in high school due to the language barrier and pursued chemistry at University of Pennsylvania. With BS in chemistry, she worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 4 years where she fell in love with synthetic organic chemistry. She decided to attend Brown to get a Ph.D. in organic synthesis. After a year of postdoctoral work at MIT in organometallic chemistry, she came to Simmons. She’s been teaching organic chemistry to science majors and pre health majors since 1994. She has put much of her effort into innovative teaching. There are two main areas of curricular change that she’s proud of: first is converting traditional lectures into “flipped lectures” for organic chemistry I and II. In the flipped lecture model, students watch a video before class and during "class", which is really a problem solving session, all the students are sent to white boards to solve problems. The second innovative curriculum change is the conversion of traditional labs to research incorporated labs. The recent paper entitled “Using Green Chemistry Principles as a Framework to Incorporate Research into the Organic Laboratory Curriculum” in the Journal of Chemical Education describes how this was accomplished. Research integration has made it possible for students to get involved in research in their first year. Peer mentoring is then used to train students for 2-3 more years in the art of research. This makes it possible for seniors to contribute independently. With these changes in curriculum, there has been tremendous evolution in how research is done by undergraduates at Simmons in the last ten years.

Martha Mahard

Martha Mahard

Martha Mahard has more than three decades of professional experience with the Harvard University Libraries, including work in photography and visual collections at the Fine Arts Library, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the Harvard Theatre Collection of The Houghton Library. In addition to her numerous journal articles and presentations in the field of photographic archives, cultural heritage, and digital preservation, she is the co-author with Ross Harvey, of The Preservation Management Handbook: A 21st Century Guide for Libraries, Archives and Museums (published by Rowman and Littlefield in April 2014). With Michele Cloonan she was co-principal investigator for the IMLS (Institute of Library and Museum Services) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians grant which supported the development and implementation of the Cultural Heritage Informatics concentration. She has served as a consultant on major projects for museums and libraries, including the Worcester Art Museum and the Boston Public Library, and is a current board member at the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Mahard received an M.A. in Theatre History from Tufts University, and her M.S. and D.A. from Simmons SLIS.

Martha Mahard's Curriculum Vitae

Shelly Strowman

Shelley Strowman

Dr. Strowman teaches Biostatistics and Capstone Seminar III in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.  She also provides statistical consultation on Capstone projects and Master's theses in the Nursing and Nutrition departments.  Dr. Strowman joined the School of Nursing and Health Sciences faculty in 2008 after working for several years in the Academic Technology Department as a Statistical Software Consultant.

Professor Strowman has supervised several DNP Capstone projects including:

  • Teleneurology in Long Term Care: Value of a Joint Nurse Practitioner-Neurologist Videoconferencing Clinic
  • Early Integration of Palliative Care in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer: A Quality Improvement Project
  • Survivorship Care Plans: Exploring Lymphoma Patients' Knowledge of their Disease and Follow-Up
  • Improving Exercise Prescribing in a Rural New England Free Clinic: A Quality Improvement Project Implementing Exercise Prescribing Guidelines

Dr. Strowman brings to the classroom over 20 years of experience in research, including several years as a consultant in public health.  She has provided statistical and survey consultation in a variety of areas including cardiovascular health promotion, tobacco control, the relation between stress and hospitalization, and health risk behavior.  Dr. Strowman's professional experience is integrated into her teaching through an emphasis on real-world examples and applications.

Professor Strowman has also taught Statistics and provided consultation in the Schools of Social Work, Management, and Library and Information Science.

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.


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.

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.

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.