Meet Our Faculty

Dana Grossman Leeman
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Average class size: 18

Beverly Sealy
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Hugo Kamya
Silvana Castenada
Katherine Jung Reis

215

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

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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

Joel Blanco-Rivera
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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.

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LaDonna Christian

LaDonna L. Christian, BSN, MSN, APHN-BC,  joined the department of nursing at Simmons College five years ago as faculty in the Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program and a year later she was named the program Director. She is pursuing a Doctorate in Health Professions Education at Simmons College. She received her undergraduate degree from the University Of Michigan College Of Nursing and her Masters Degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Community Health Nursing. She also completed her Advance Practice Certification in Community Health Nursing and a Certificate Advance Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Health Professions Education. Her background and clinical expertise is in Public Health Nursing and Environmental Health with a focus on policy and the underserved and minority population. LaDonna spent 17 years in public health working with HIV, STI, and TB patients. She began teaching at Brockton Hospital School of Nursing, but has also taught at South Shore Regional Technical, and Coppin State University School of Nursing in Baltimore MD.  LaDonna is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Theta Kappa Chapter at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Theta at Large Chapter at Simmons College, The Mary Mahoney Nursing Honor Society, American Nurses Association, and Chi Eta Phi Black Nurses Association, The National Black Nurses Association and the New England Regional Black Nurses Association.  Some of her presentations include the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators conference in Hartford CT (ACHNE), Society of Public Health Educators conference in Boston MA (SOPHE), The M. Elizabeth Carnegie Research Conference at Howard University Washington DC, Robert Wood Johnson New Careers in Nursing Conference in Washington DC, The University of the Virgin Islands Health Disparities Conference, the Hawaii International Conference on Education in Honolulu Hawaii, the National Black Nurses Association 40th and 41st Annual Conferences and the Organization of Nurse Educators Leadership Training.

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Nanette Veilleux

Nanette Veilleux is a professor in the computer science and information technology department. Her research interests include primary research in computational models of speech, as well as investigations of pedagogical methods in STEM education. The first topic involves primary research into the categories of English prosody (emphasis and phrasing) and can be used to improve automatic speech understanding. The later topic involves an approach to pedagogy that is not only effective to convey discipline knowledge but also encourages students to remain and thrive in their disciplines. She is currently principle investigator on two collaborative NSF funded grants.

Nanette Veilleux's Curriculum Vitae


Hugo Kamya

Hugo Kamya

Scholarly and Practice Interests

Caring across communities; the psychological impact of war; children living in families with HIV/AIDS; culturally competent family therapy; culturally competent services for immigrants and refugees; youth violence related to HIV/AIDS; interracial relations; spirituality in therapy.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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).

Naresh Agarwal

Naresh Agarwal, who joined the faculty in Fall 2009, earned his doctorate from the National University of Singapore (NUS)'s Department of Information Systems, School of Computing. His teaching areas are evaluation of information services, technology for information professionals, web development & information architecture, and knowledge management. Agarwal's research area is information behavior and knowledge management – the way people look for information and the contextual factors that impact their choice of information sources. He seeks to understand and synthesize the apparent contradictions in this phenomenon and tries to reconcile multiple perspectives – the user (context, seeking, sense-making, serendipity) versus systems/technology, theoretical and empirical studies, and a variety of contexts - office workers, medical residents, LIS students, faculty, librarians, toddlers, etc. His publications span these areas. Agarwal has held various leadership positions at ASIS&T - the Association for Information Science and Technology. He was a member of the ASIS&T Board of Directors from 2012-2014. Agarwal was awarded the ASIS&T James M. Cretsos Leadership Award in 2012. Prior to entering the doctoral program at NUS, he worked for six years in technology roles in the voice-over-IP, bioInformatics and digital cinema industries. Among other things, Agarwal has been a debater and public speaker and likes to paint in oil and watercolor in his free time. You can learn more about him at http://www.nareshagarwal.co.nr/.

Naresh Agarwal's Curriculum Vitae

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

Diane Grossman

Diane Grossman received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from New York University, where she was an Ida Parker Bowne Scholar. She is a Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Philosophy and Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Grossman has served Simmons as Chair...