Meet Our Faculty

Dana Grossman Leeman

Average class size: 18

Hugo Kamya
Kimberly O'Brien
Johnnie Hamilton-Mason

215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

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Amy Pattee
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.

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.

Kimberly O'Brien

Kimberly O'Brien

Assistant Professor Kimberly O’Brien, LICSW, PhD, has a joint appointment as Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and holds a per diem clinical position as a psychiatric social worker in the Emergency Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. She teaches clinical practice courses at Simmons and focuses her research on the development of interventions for adolescents with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and/or substance abuse problems.


Curriculum Vitae (pdf) 

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).

Johnnie Hamilton-Mason

Johnnie Hamilton-Mason

Dr. Johnnie Hamilton-Mason is a Professor at Simmons College School of Social Work.  She teaches Advanced Clinical Practice, HBSE, Leadership, Political Strategies for Clinical Social Workers Practice, Practice with Immigrants and Refugees, Realities of Racism and Oppression and Qualitative Research. From 2004- 2007, Dr. Hamilton-Mason served as Director of the Doctoral Program at SSW.  In 2005 she co-founded the SSW’s Pharnal Longus Academy for Undoing Racism. From 2001 through 2008, she served as a Harvard University W.E.B. DuBois Institute non-resident fellow in African American research.  Her scholarship and research interests are primarily on African American Women and Families, the intersection of cross cultural theory and practice, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. She has served as a Researcher at the University of Texas’s Hurricane Katrina Researcher Collaborative.  She has recent publications entitled “Working with African American Families”, “Work-life fit: The intersection of Developmental Life cycle and Academic Life Cycle”, “Hope Floats: African American Women's Survival Experiences after Katrina”, “Black Women talk about Workplace Stress and How They Cope”, “And Some of us are Braver: Stress and Coping among African American women”, “Psychoanalytic Theory: Responding to the Assessment Needs of People of Color?” "Using the Color of Fear as a Racial Identity Catalyst", and “Children and Urban Poverty.” With over twenty-one years of full-time teaching experience, she continues to enhance her teaching through clinical practice in urban agencies, as well as through consultation and education locally and internationally.

       Dr. Hamilton-Mason presents papers regularly at national and international conferences on such topics as the dynamics of diversity; teaching and learning issues related to diversity; HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the United States and Africa; urban practice and urban leadership educational outcomes; cross cultural competency and racial identity theory in clinical work. Previously, Dr. Hamilton-Mason was appointed as Co-Chair of the HIV/AIDS Task force for the National Association of Black Social Workers and currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Council on Social Work Education’s Council on the Role and Status of Women in Higher Education. Dr. Hamilton-Mason is currently on the editorial board for Health and Social Work and the Journal of Social Work Education.  She is also a Board of Trustees member for Research Education Collaborative for Al Quds University and the Heritage Guild.  In 2013, she was honored to receive the Massachusetts NASW Social Work Educator of the Year Award.  As a practitioner, researcher and scholar, her passion lies with serving underrepresented populations and communities.


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.

Leanne Doherty

Dr. Doherty received her PhD in Government with a concentration in Public Policy from Northeastern University after receiving a BA in Government from Clark University. As an undergrad, she had many different roles as a student, not unlike many of our students here at Simmons: captain of the Women’s Basketball team, member of the Admissions Staff, and explorer of the many academic opportunities that a liberal arts college has to offer.

Currently, Dr. Doherty serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences where she supports the Dean of CAS around faculty and student academic needs. These include areas such as general education, academic support, and majors/program curriculum. She is also the director of the graduate Program in Public Policy as well as the 3+1 accelerated program in Public Policy. 

A proud member of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Dr. Doherty’s teaching is centered around the American Political System, with a concentration on gender and politics, popular culture and public policy. She was honored to be named Professor of the Year by students in 2008 and received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising in 2009. 

She is also the co-host of the Sports Profs, a weekly sports talk radio show on Simmons College internet Radio. Each week, Dr. Doherty with Dr. Daren Graves from the Education department talk sports as it intersects with race, gender, and class. “Real talk, with an academic twist.” When not at Simmons, Dr. Doherty enjoys watching and playing all sports with her two partners in crime, husband Mark and son, Donovan. She also enjoys music, reading, and really bad television.

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. 


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James Huddleston

Dr. Huddleston joined the physical therapy faculty at Simmons College in 2008, after several years as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. He has worked in many different health care settings over the course of his career, with a concentration in acute care and mind/body medicine settings, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Benson/Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH in Boston, and York Hospital in York, ME.  He has a strong clinical background in physical rehabilitation, cardiac wellness and lifestyle behavior change.  Dr. Huddleston is the author of several book chapters and articles on topics ranging from exercise to health behavior change, and he is a member of both state and national chapters of the APTA.  His current clinical work and area of interest is in cardiac wellness, and health coaching for health promotion, wellness and chronic disease management.


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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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.

Edith Bresler

My photo-based practice includes text, sound and installation. Currently I am examining American communities through the lens of state-run lotteries. My projects have been featured on the PBS show Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, Business Insider, Lenscratch, Photo District News and Virgin Australia Magazine.

Amy Pattee

Amy Pattee

After completing her master's in library science at Rutgers University, Amy Pattee worked as a children's librarian at public libraries in Ocean County and Burlington County, New Jersey. She received her doctorate in library and information science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She has published in journals related to library science and children's literature, and has contribute to professional journals School Library Journal and The Horn Book. Her most recent book, Developing Library Collections for Today's Young Adults, was published by Scarecrow in 2013. She teaches children's and young adult literature; you can read her blog at http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/yaorstfu/.

Amy Pattee's Curriculum Vitae