Meet Our Faculty

Abbie Frost
Michelle Putnam

Average class size: 18

LaDonna Christian
Ellen Grabiner
Tien Ung
Rachel Galli
Judith Aronson

215

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

Marianne Williams
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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

Suzanne Leonard
Mary Wilkins Jordan
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“The faculty are extremely accessible. There’s the sense that we’re here for common goals.”

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Katherine Wisser
James Huddleston
Erica Gunn
Jo Trigilio
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.

LaDonna Christian

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.

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.

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. 


Rachel Galli

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.

Judith Aronson

Judith Aronson

Judith Aronson has been teaching graphic design at Simmons for seventeen years and has been a practicing designer and photographer for more than thirty years. Prior to Simmons she taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University. Earlier in her career she was a program analyst in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington, DC, served as a VISTA Volunteer in East Harlem, and worked as a city planner for the New York City Environmental Protection Administration. For fifteen years she lived overseas: three years in South East Asia and twelve in England where she was a photojournalist. Aronson holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Michigan and a MA in City Planning and a MA in Fine Art/Graphic Design, from Yale University.

Her special interests are typography, environmental design, and photojournalism. In 2003 she received a grant from the Colleges of the Fenway to teach the course Wayfinding: Design, Information Architecture and Public Spaces. Wayfinding is a specialty that applies design principles to information systems that help people move through complex urbanscapes — hospitals, airports, college campuses and the like. In 2006 Aronson had a one person retrospective in Boston of her color photographs, TACTILE |MERCANTILE, with pictures ranging from the young Mick Jagger, to the slums Harlem and the exotic scenery in South East Asia. In 2010 she published LIKENESSES, with the Sitters Writing About One Another, a book of black and white portraits of writers and artists. The book led to a number of exhibitions both in the US and England including at the Picture Gallery, Christ Church, Oxford, The Poetry Society, London and the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. A poetry competition sponsored by Bristol University in conjunction with the last show produced thirty poems each responding to one of her photographs. In 2015 the exhibition will move to the Cambridge University Library in England for twelve months.

Aronson’s photographs are held in collections at The National Portrait Gallery, London; Christ College, Cambridge; Keble College and Christ Church, Oxford University; Brotherton Library, Leeds University; and the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Institute), Washington, DC. Her work has been published in The Sunday Telegraph, England, the New York Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, Ms. Magazine, and the Boston Globe.

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.

Mary Wilkins Jordan

Mary Wilkins Jordan

Mary Wilkins Jordan came to Simmons SLIS from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she earned her doctorate. Prior to entering academia, Jordan worked in public libraries as a director and administrator. Her research and consulting work now focuses on ways to help libraries to function better and to serve their communities more effectively. She teaches Management and also Evaluation classes, as well as Public Libraries, Reference, and the Internship class, all with a focus on helping students acquire the skills they need to be successful in their professional careers. Jordan also has a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and worked as an attorney before entering the library field.

Mary Wilkins Jordan's Curriculum Vitae

Katherine Wisser

Katherine Wisser

Katherine Wisser comes to SLIS from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she earned her doctorate in 2009 and master's degree in library and information science in 2000. Wisser also holds a master's degree in early American history from the University of New Hampshire. While in North Carolina, Wisser spent five years as the metadata coordinator for NC ECHO, a statewide program that encourages and supports use of appropriate metadata by member institutions to ensure online access to cultural heritage information facilitation, workshop instruction and individual institutional consultation. Prior to that, she spent two years as a libraries fellow in the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries cataloging and special collections departments. Wisser's articles have been published in, among others, American Archivist, Library HiTech, and Library Resources and Technical Services. She currently serves as the co-chair of the Technical subcommittee for Encoded Archival Context for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF). Wisser joined the Simmons SLIS faculty in Fall 2009.

Katherine Wisser's Curriculum Vitae

James Huddleston

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.


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. . .

Jo Trigilio

Jo Trigilio

Jo Trigilio received her Ph.D. in Philosophy with a concentration in Feminist Theory from the University of Oregon. Professor Trigilio has a special interest in the intersection of theory and practice. She specializes in oppression/liberation theories, including feminist and gender theories, race theories, and queer theory.

She is politically active in the queer community of Boston. Professor Trigilio has served on the board of directors for the National Women's and Gender Studies Association for six years. She is currently leading The Boston Dyke March History and Archive Project.