Meet Our Faculty

Average class size: 18

Jennifer Putney
Cathryn Mercier
Joel Blanco-Rivera

215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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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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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).

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. 

Naresh Agarwal

Naresh Agarwal, who joined the faculty in Fall 2009, earned his doctorate from the National University of Singapore (NUS)'s Department of Information Systems, School of Computing. His teaching areas are evaluation of information services, technology for information professionals, web development & information architecture, and knowledge management. Agarwal's research area is information behavior and knowledge management – the way people look for information and the contextual factors that impact their choice of information sources. He seeks to understand and synthesize the apparent contradictions in this phenomenon and tries to reconcile multiple perspectives – the user (context, seeking, sense-making, serendipity) versus systems/technology, theoretical and empirical studies, and a variety of contexts - office workers, medical residents, LIS students, faculty, librarians, toddlers, etc. His publications span these areas. Agarwal has held various leadership positions at ASIS&T - the Association for Information Science and Technology. He was a member of the ASIS&T Board of Directors from 2012-2014. Agarwal was awarded the ASIS&T James M. Cretsos Leadership Award in 2012. Prior to entering the doctoral program at NUS, he worked for six years in technology roles in the voice-over-IP, bioInformatics and digital cinema industries. Among other things, Agarwal has been a debater and public speaker and likes to paint in oil and watercolor in his free time. You can learn more about him at http://www.nareshagarwal.co.nr/.

Naresh Agarwal's Curriculum Vitae

Janie Ward

I am the co-editor of three books, Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Research (Harvard University Press, 1988), Souls Looking Back: Life Stories of Growing Up Black (Routledge, 1999) and Gender and Teaching, with Frances Maher, published in 2001 by Lawrence Erlbaum. I also wrote the book, The Skin We're In: Teaching Our Children to be Emotionally Strong, Socially Smart and Spiritually Connected (Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2000). 

In 1990-92 I was the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture, University of Pennsylvania, and in 1996-97 I was a Visiting Scholar at the Wellesley College Centers for Women. From 2000-2003, I served as the Director for the Alliance on Gender, Culture and School Practice at Harvard Graduate School of Education. With Harvard Professor Wendy Luttrell, I was Co-Principal Investigator of Project ASSERT, a five-year school based research study and curriculum development project exploring issues of gender, culture and school practice for urban elementary and middle school teachers. This project ended in 2006.

Cathryn Mercier

Cathryn Mercier

As an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College (BA '81) Cathie Mercier was drawn to the scientific emphasis and empiricism of experimental psychology. A psychology major, she did not take her first course in children's literature until her senior year. "Like Alice, I fell down the rabbit hole and I've yet to come up," said Mercier.


Cathie brought the taut writing style and analytical sensibility required of psychology to the study of literature for children and young adults. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature in 1984; in 1993 she earned a Master of Philosophy in English at Simmons as a steppingstone to her doctoral studies. She pursued doctoral work in the University Professors Program at Boston University ('02) where she wrote about the confluence of social movements and images of the child in American picturebooks. She holds a PhD in Children's Literature.


Cathie was appointed to Simmons in 1985 and has been teaching in the graduate degree program in children's literature ever since. She teaches criticism, contemporary young adult realism, the child in fiction, the picturebook and a survey course. Her thesis, independent study, and internship advising embrace a wide range of topics, from a cultural analysis of Printz titles to an annotated bibliography of historical fiction for curricular use. "As advisor of a thesis that asked, 'What can queer theory tell children's literature?' I met regularly with the student to discuss ideas. We both learned from the books, and I hope she learned from me. But I consider it my best teaching experience because of how very much I learned from her," said Mercier, who was thrilled when part of her student's thesis was included in a book of new voices in children's literary criticism.


In the undergraduate curriculum, she taught children's literature as a key focus in her honors seminar titled "Stories of Childhood," a course that was part of a learning community that paired with Economics professor Niloufer Sohrabji's course "Stories of Democracy." She won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.


At Simmons, Cathie has served in a variety of administrative roles. Currently, she directs the Center for the Study of Children's Literature,the graduate degree programs in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children (on-campus and at The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA), and dual degree programs that combine the MA with degrees in library science, or teaching, or writing for children.


Cathie has been contributed to Children's Literature and to The Horn Book. Her skill at "close reading, an ability to talk about books so that others see the book at its most ambitious and complex, and a talent for collaboration" have made her a valuable member of national book award committee.  She currently serves on the Subaru Prize Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences/ Young Adult Division.


Past award selection service includes the 2012 Caldecott Award (Ball for Daisy),  1999 Newbery Award Committee (Holes), the 1994 Caldecott Award (Grandfather's Journey), and the inaugural 2000 Sibert Award Committee (Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado). Cathie was honored to serve Chair of the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee (Ashley Bryan) and as Chair of the 2004 Sibert Award Committee (The American Plague). She has twice been a member (once chairing) the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and served as a judge for the New York Times Best Illustrated Books.  


Cathie  completed her third study of an important young adult author with co-writer Susan Bloom; it also marks their third book with editor Patty Campbell.  Russell Freedman was published in 2009 by Scarecrow Press and will be the first book at Scarecrow to focus on nonfiction. Prior collaborations are Presenting Avi and Presenting Zibby Oneal. These books and their audience of teachers, librarians, and young adults fit perfectly into Cathie's driving belief that the "work of the critic is not to 'take apart' a book, but to read well and deeply enough to offer insight and illumination to the text and to oneself."

Cathryn Mercier's Curriculum Vitae

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

Stephen Berry

I attended Vanderbilt University where I double majored in History and Fine Arts earning the Bachelor of Arts and later a Masters of Education degrees. I also hold a M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a M.L.I.S. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. I earned my doctoral degree in the Graduate Program in Religion of Duke University with qualifying exams on colonial America history, the history of religion in America, history of Reformation Europe, and Atlantic World travel literature. My doctoral dissertation, “Seaborne Conversions 1700-1800” examined the role of religion aboard eighteenth-century British sailing vessels crossing the Atlantic.

I have been a member of the History Department at Simmons College in Boston since 2007 where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in Early American and Atlantic World history. I currently direct the department’s undergraduate program in public history, which means I teach an introductory course on public history that is combined with the history of Boston, a course that focuses on the role of objects in historical understanding, as well as supervising internships at a variety of museums and historic sites in the area. I teach separate graduate and undergraduate courses on the history of the Atlantic World from Columbus to the Haitian Revolution. I normally handle the first half of the American history survey, which covers colonization through reconstruction as well as an African-American history survey course. Finally, I typically teach our department’s core seminar for our undergraduate majors, “Interpreting the Past,” which introduces students to the theory and method of history. As a teacher of the humanities, my two overall goals for students in all of my courses are to be critical thinkers and excellent writers.

My wife Dana and I live in Maynard, Massachusetts with our teenage daughter and son. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and playing board games. In addition to writing about ships, I love sailing, but I know just enough about boats to be a danger to others and myself.

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.

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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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.


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.

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.

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Nanette Veilleux

Nanette Veilleux is a professor in the computer science and information technology department. Her research interests include primary research in computational models of speech, as well as investigations of pedagogical methods in STEM education. The first topic involves primary research into the categories of English prosody (emphasis and phrasing) and can be used to improve automatic speech understanding. The later topic involves an approach to pedagogy that is not only effective to convey discipline knowledge but also encourages students to remain and thrive in their disciplines. She is currently principle investigator on two collaborative NSF funded grants.

Nanette Veilleux's Curriculum Vitae