Meet Our Faculty

Michelle Putnam

Average class size: 18

Johnnie Hamilton-Mason

215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Josephine Atinaja-Faller
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. 


Kelly Hager

I've been at Simmons since 2001, teaching in the departments of English and Women's & Gender Studies, in the undergraduate Honors Program, and in the graduate programs in English, Children's Literature, and Gender/Cultural Studies. I was awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006. I served as Director of the Graduate Program in Gender/Cultural Studies from 2003-2007, as interim Chair of the Department of Women's & Gender Studies in 2010-11, and as Chair of the Department of English from 2011-2014. Before coming to Simmons, I was Head Preceptor in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard and Lecturer and Mentor to new graduate student teachers in the English Department at Yale.

I co-chair the Victorian Literature and Culture Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, and I'm on the editorial board of The Lion and the Unicorn. I'm the author of Dickens and the Rise of Divorce: The Failed-Marriage Plot and the Novel Tradition (chosen by CHOICE as a highly recommended book), the co-author of the Instructor's Guide for the Norton Introduction to Literature, and I co-edited a special issue of Victorian Review on "Extending Families." I've also contributed invited pieces to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, the Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature, Keywords for Children's Literature, BRANCH (Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History), and The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (Wiley-Blackwell).

Michael Brown

Michael L. Brown is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. He came to Simmons in 1986 and, for his first fifteen years at the College, taught half-time in mathematics and statistics, and half-time in computer science. Following that period, he has been teaching entirely in mathematics and statistics.

Professor Brown’s interests have been wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. As an applied mathematician, earlier in his career, he published in major journals in mathematical statistics, biophysics, and medical informatics. He also produced working papers in computer hardware design and econometric modeling. He in addition published expository mathematics. He was a postdoctoral Research Associate at the Computer Research Center of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In recent years his interdisciplinary reach has taken new directions. He seeks to connect the mathematical sciences with issues of public interest, as well as with the arts. Twelve of his Letters to the Editor (eleven signed with his Simmons affiliation) on these topics have appeared in the New York Times. He is also concerned with the deeper motivations for learning and, more generally, questions of meaning and ethics in psychological life. He is a member of the Faculty Learning Community on Student Learning Theory, and has been a longtime member of the Simmons Honor Board. In the arts, he has a particular interest in theatre and drama, exemplified for instance by his very well-received performed readings at the Harvard Strindberg Symposium, a centennial gathering of scholars in honor of one of the founders of the modern theatre.

His Ph.D. is in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in mathematical statistics, from Harvard. His A.M. is in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in the mathematical physics of fluid dynamics, also from Harvard. His B.A. is from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York, where he was the valedictorian of his graduating class of more than 600 students.

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.

Lowry Pei

I grew up in St. Louis, got my B.A. in English at Harvard (1967) and my Ph.D. at Stanford (1975). I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war. I came to Simmons in 1985 after teaching at the University of Missouri, UC San Diego, and Harvard’s Expository Writing Program. Despite having done a dissertation on Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, I didn’t become a Victorianist; instead I’ve spent my career teaching writing. At Simmons I was director of Freshman Writing, later called Writing and Thinking, from 1985 to 1996, and then directed MCC, the first-year core/writing course, from 1996 to 1999. In 2004-2006, I led faculty workshops and seminars on teaching writing as part of the “Writing Infusion” initiative, whose goal is to have writing-intensive courses offered in all majors. I chaired the English Department 2002-2007.

I currently teach creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and Approaches to Literature, otherwise known as spring training for English majors.

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.


Jo O'Connor

O’Connor has worked for nearly 30 years in the marketing communication industry with specialties in entertainment, sports, oral presentation and event planning.

She has held leadership roles for the Boston Celtics, the Boston Garden/FleetCenter, CBS Radio, Sonesta Hotels, the Wang Center for the Performing Arts as well as worked twice in an agency setting.

Previously, O’Connor was full-time faculty member for 10 years at Boston University’s College of Communication – overhauling the oldest student PR agency in the county PRLab and has been awarded numerous teaching awards there. She has also taught advertising at Northeastern University for four years and is currently teaching online communication courses at Lasell College, where she has been for five years. She also runs a boutique mar/comm agency representing several regional clients.

O’Connor is delighted to be teaching full-time at Simmons College in Boston, where she is overseeing the new joint major (a collaboration between the Communication Department and School of Management) in Public Relations and Marketing Communication.

Go Sharks!

Richard Gurney

Dr. Gurney is an expert in the field of Green Chemistry Education, where he has been actively developing curricula for the past 13 years. He focuses his teaching and research on the applications of green chemistry and finding solutions for everyday problems using materials that are "benign by design." As the Principle Investigator and Director of the Undergraduate Laboratory Renaissance Program, funded in part by the W. M. Keck Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Dr. Gurney is currently studying the effectiveness of an entirely project-based, research-integrated, greener organic chemistry laboratory experience as one component of a completely re-engineered, undergraduate, green-laboratory curriculum. The ULR Program encompasses a fundamental reengineering of the undergraduate laboratory curriculum using the principles of green chemistry to expose students to the excitement of research beginning in their first-semester of their undergraduate career. The integrity of the knowledge learned within the ULR laboratory sequence has been maintained, while providing an environment for students to hone their higher-order cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. From 2008 – 2013, the W. M. Keck Foundation supported the effort to expand this pedagogy to course-based laboratories not only in Chemistry, but also in Physics and Biology, with a total of 9 faculty participants. Dr. Gurney is also highly active in the development of greener polymeric systems capable of closed-loop molecular recycling, in collaboration with Dr. Debora Martino at INTEC (Instituto de Desarrollo Tecnológico para la Industria Química) and the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina. Funding in part to support undergraduate participation in this collaboration and research has been provided by the (Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina (CAI+D Tipo II PI 11-57), CONICET (PIP 112-200801-01079 and D-1280/2011) Argentina, the NSF OISE (#1031394), the Semiconductor Research Corporation Educational Alliance-Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, and the Presidential Fund for Faculty Excellence at Simmons College for the financial support. Dr. Gurney is one of the 16 founding members of the Green Chemistry Education Network and one of the ten founding faculty Board Members for the Green Chemistry Commitment.

Heather Hole

Heather Hole is Assistant Professor of Arts Administration and Art History in the Department of Art and Music at Simmons College. She is the author of the book Marsden Hartley and the West: The Search for An American Modernism, published by Yale University Press, and the curator of the traveling exhibition of the same name. In her previous position as curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she played a key role in planning and installing the new Art of the Americas Wing, which opened in November of 2010. 

Gerald Benoit

Gerald Benoit

Professor Benoit directs the Information Science & Technology Concentration at SLIS and teaches undergraduate computer science, graduate information science, and doctoral-level classes. Prior to entering the academic world, he worked as a rare materials librarian, later settling into programming/analysis and even started the marketing firm, Imada Wong Park + Benoit. Prof Benoit’s work experience and research interests aim at improving the human experience through ethical, technically-informed, and purposeful application of information systems. Consequently, his service, research, and teaching activities integrate the sciences and arts of information. Students in his courses learn standards, hands-on competencies, interoperability of data, professional and scholarly communication to fulfill their own career interests while addressing real-world needs. His work is framed by the philosophy of language, aesthetics, computation, and the emancipatory use of technology. Working with colleagues, Benoit’s research studies the innovation and management of new systems.

Some research projects focus on multilingual issues; others on visual resources; some on digital object repurposing in data-rich settings. All are designed to let students participate and apply their knowledge to their own projects. Active projects include the information science virtual lab, innovation and information discovery, information aesthetics and visualization. The lab’s collections include images from the Boston Public Library’s digital collection, metadata records, social tags and expert text. The whole is a research platform to generate data for retrieval algorithm design, human information seeking behavior, and innovative interfaces.

Since 2004, Benoit has organized a research and discussion colloquium, referred to as the “Lunchtime Lectures”. In 2012, he proposed and lead the Simmons Study Abroad Program in Rome (2013) and Paris (2014).

Gerald Benoit's Curriculum Vitae

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.

Gregory Slowik

Music courses cover a wide range, including music history, theory, and performance (through an inter-institutional agreement with the New England Conservatory of Music.) The music program at Simmons is an academically oriented one designed for liberal arts students who study music as a humanistic pursuit; examining prevailing musical, social and expressive influences from diverse eras and cultures.

My professional life has been divided into two areas, performer and teacher. Luckily, one enhances the other. For many years I performed a great deal of piano solo repertoire, a piano concerto and chamber music with colleagues in Boston, around New England and beyond. A solo concert at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, will always remain a highlight, closely followed by a number of chamber music concerts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and a radio broadcast on Chamberworks, heard on WGBH Radio, Boston.

Teaching has always been my first love, however, and I have served on the faculty of a small, European-style conservatory, The Longy School of Music in Cambridge, and at a large research institution where I taught music theory for 10 years at MIT, also in Cambridge. But teaching music history and theory in a liberal arts college is my preferred academic venue and Simmons College and I have been together for many years.

Writings on music appear in the Journal of the Haydn Society of Great Britain and in Abafazi, a journal exploring women of African descent ("Marian Anderson: The Lady from Philadelphia Revisited.") I frequently judge piano competitions for private music schools, statewide piano competitions for the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Music Teachers Associations as well as national competitions for the National Music Teachers Association.

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.