Meet Our Faculty

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Jennifer Putney

Average class size: 18

Suzanne Leonard
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215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Laura Saunders
Dana Grossman Leeman
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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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Dashottar
Suzanne Leonard

Suzanne Leonard

Suzanne Leonard is Associate Professor of English, and co-coordinator of the college's interdisciplinary minor in Cinema and Media Studies. She is the author of Fatal Attraction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and co-editor of Fifty Hollywood Directors (Routledge, 2014).

She regularly instructs classes on American film and television studies, feminist media studies, women's literature, literary interpretation, and cultural studies, and frequently teaches courses affiliated with the Women's and Gender Studies department and the college's Gender and Cultural Studies Master's program. She also teaches graduate classes through the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies at MIT.

Professor Leonard is most interested in the intersections between feminism and popular culture, and her work has examined topics including: the treatment of the adultery plot in feminist novels; marriage envy; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's epic romance; Lily Tomlin; political spouses and The Good Wife; reality television and celebrity culture; and working women in American film and television.

Professor Leonard is currently working on a book on marriage and wives called Wife, Inc.: The Business of Marriage in Twenty-First Century American Culture.


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.

Randi Lite

As a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), I am passionate about the positive role that physical activity can play in chronic disease management and optimizing health. I am also passionate about service to my profession, in particular to advancing career opportunities for exercise professionals to be engaged in preventive health care.

My introduction to exercise physiology occurred with my first job as an Exercise Specialist in a hospital based sports medicine and fitness program. I was lucky to get in on the ground floor of creating a medical fitness facility that served both healthy adults and those with chronic diseases and conditions, like severe osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive trauma. In those days, even pregnancy was treated like a medical condition when it came to exercise. I was part of a group that pushed for acceptance of a pregnancy exercise program within the sports medicine facility that trained pregnant women like athletes preparing for an event. Our hospital was also an Olympic Research and Training program, so I was privileged to work with Team Handball players before the 1984 games. 

I have also worked in Employee Fitness and Wellness as manager of a hospital based Occupational Health Promotion Program. This program serviced area businesses and industries in Central Massachusetts with programs like Back Care Workshops, Smoking Cessation Programs, Employee Fitness Programs, and Stress Management Programs. Here I learned first hand how physical activity and targeted exercise could alleviate workplace-related stress and injury. Our clients ran the gambit from office workers who sat all day to laborers in manufacturing who had very physical jobs involving lifting, carrying, and twisting motions.

My scholarship at Simmons has taken many directions, like working with K-12 children to use technology to learn about wellness, quantifying energy expenditure and muscular demands of Exergaming, and most recently, assessing and evaluating the physical capacity of athletes on the Simmons Swimming and Diving Team.

I am also very involved in service to my profession. I have been active in both my State and National professional organizations and am currently chairing ACSM’s Exam Development Team, which oversees the revision of five certification exams for Exercise and Fitness professionals (Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Trainer, Health Fitness Specialist, Certified Exercise Specialist, and Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist). 

As Program Director for the BS in Exercise Science, I am committed to engaging students in challenging coursework that provides a firm base in science and research alongside real-world experiences to build skill in exercise assessment, prescription, and programming.

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).

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...

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

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.

Dashottar

Amitabh Dashottar

Dr. Dashottar joined the faculty at Simmons College in January 2013. Before Joining Simmons, Dr. Dashottar did Postdoctoral research at the Laboratory of Investigative Imaging and his doctoral research at the Human Performance Laboratory at the Ohio State University.