Meet Our Faculty

Ellen Grabiner
Joel Blanco-Rivera

Average class size: 18

Lisa Brown
Erica Gunn
Johnnie Hamilton-Mason
Justin Jones
Valerie Leiter

215

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

Martha Mahard
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Marianne Williams
Beverly Sealy
Tien Ung
Arlene Lowenstein
Ellen Grabiner

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.

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

Erica Gunn

Erica Gunn

I am perhaps an unlikely chemist. Naturally inclined to music and language rather than science, I struggled with the basic mechanics of understanding chemistry. After failing my first chemistry test in high school, I knew that I would hate the topic forever. Achieving high final grades in both accelerated. . .

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.


Justin Jones

Justin Jones

I am a physical therapist with orthopedic specialization and have been practicing in outpatient rehabilitation for the past 15 years.  I have an interest in general orthopedics and sports medicine related conditions with a specific focus on rehabilitation of the shoulder.  I have enjoyed teaching at Simmons for the past 8 years and feel that the combination of small class sizes, engaged and accessible faculty, and the incorporation of problem based learning really prepares graduates to be leaders in the changing health care environment.


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.

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.

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.

Tien Ung

Tien Ung

I am a practice researcher - motivated by an unyielding sense of responsibility to capture best practice through collective action in the context of complex, diverse, and uncertain conditions amidst the face of high stress, significant risk, and competing demands.  I believe social workers are like social surgeons and as such are perfectly poised to lead social change, dissect and disrupt the status quo - relentlessly innovating to improve the lives of others.  The roots of my current scholarship can be traced directly to my practice and specifically to my previous career as a child protection social worker.  

My philosophy of teaching, my approach to scholarship, and my commitment to service can be summarized in three words: Engage, discover, and act.   This simple mantra scaffolds my own relentless pursuit of social change via effective knowledge management within non-linear and complex systems of care.  I aim to demonstrate the ways in which practice research can advance reality based teaching, stimulate community and user participation, and promote both service and learning in higher education.  Specifically, my research, teaching, and service inform best practice in the domain of culturally authentic, utilization focused, and community based participatory research.  

At the School of Social Work, I also direct the Urban Leadership Program, a community of engaged emerging leaders who work tirelessly with our local neighbors in order to seed possibilities through collective action.  Through these partnerships we form strategic alliances to develop leadership capacity.  In all that we do, we pledge to demonstrate how an institution of higher education can be a reliable, authentic, hard working, and trustworthy partner and ally.  In this endeavor we aim to contribute and promote knowledge and understanding about what leadership in the context of social work is, along with how it unfolds, evolves,  and works in urban communities.