Meet Our Faculty

Donna Webber

Average class size: 18

Cathryn Mercier
koeniger

215

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

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Student-to-faculty
ratio of 10:1

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

Kara Mellonakos '15HCMBA

Hugo Kamya
Joel Blanco-Rivera
Donna Webber

Donna Webber

Donna Webber worked for more than three decades as a professional archivist in Boston-area repositories, including the Schlesinger Library, MIT, and Countway Library at Harvard Medical School. She served as the Simmons College archivist for seven years. Webber began teaching as an adjunct at GSLIS in 2001 and joined the faculty full time in 2011. Webber is active in the Society of American Archivists and New England Archivists and recently co-authored Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors and Students with GSLIS Professor Jeannette Bastian.

Donna Webber's Curriculum Vitae

Kirk Beattie

My name is Kirk James Beattie (pronounced bay-tee). I grew up in a small, mostly suburban town called Clarkston on the far northern edge of metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. I attended an excellent, private college, Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan as an undergraduate. I majored in Political Science, and minored in French. I went to southern France on a junior year abroad program, and was totally smitten. I returned to France to conduct my senior thesis on a topic suggested by my college advisor, and about which I knew nothing: French foreign policy in the Middle East. This is literally how my lifelong interest in Middle East and North African politics began. At the time, the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with most countries in the region, a situation I felt could not last because of American allies’ energy needs, if not those of the U.S. Still enamored with France, I returned there for nine months following graduation from college. I audited Arabic and sat in on Political Science courses at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Aix-en-Provence.

During my third stay in France, I applied to graduate school programs in Political Science, and was accepted at The University of Michigan, the #2 program in the U.S. Over time I specialized in Comparative Politics, having acquired the impression that this subfield placed greater emphasis on understanding people’s concerns, beliefs and sentiments than did the International Relations subfield. Because I have a great fondness for foreign languages, and have been relatively adept at their acquisition, I went on to apply for various language grants and fellowships over the coming years, all of which either assisted me to pay for my graduate studies at Michigan in first Arabic, then Persian, and/or enabled me to seek admission to special, federally funded foreign study programs, such as the Tunisian Summer Study program, or the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program in Cairo, Egypt. I was fortunate to be selected for participation in these nationally competitive programs, as well as to be the recipient of several other national grants, such as an International Rotary Foundation Fellowship, and two Fulbright fellowships, that permitted me lengthy stays in Egypt or France.

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.

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

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.

Shirong Luo

Shirong Luo has been a member of the philosophy department at Simmons College since 2006. Prior to his appointment at Simmons, he had been a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College for two years (2004-2006). The first recipient of the Dean's Award for Exceptional Faculty Scholarship at Simmons College (2012), Dr. Luo has focused his research on Chinese philosophy of the classical period, comparative philosophy, and feminist ethics. He was an invited lecturer at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers (2008).

Among the many courses Dr. Luo has taught at Simmons are Asian Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, World Religions, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Philosophy and the Arts, Philosophy through Literature and Film, Philosophy of Human Nature, American Pragmatism, Biomedical Ethics, and MCC.

Carole Biewener

With a background in Economic Development and Political Economy and a joint appointment in Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies, Professor Biewener’s most current research interests address the political economy of food – a fabulous way of combining her love of gardening and food with her keen interest in community economies.

In 2013 she completed a long-term, collaborative research project with Marie-Hélène Bacqué (Professor of Urban Studies, Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre) that traced the genealogy of the term "empowerment" in the fields of gender and development, urban policy and social work. Publications from this research include “Feminism and the Politics of Empowerment in International Development” (forthcoming in Air and Space Power Journal–Africa and Francophonie); L’empowerment, une pratique emancipatrice (Editions La Découverte, 2013; Spanish translation forthcoming in 2015); and “Different manifestations of the concept of empowerment. The politics of urban renewal in the United States and Great Britain” (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, August 2012).

Prior research and publications have addressed community development and social economy projects in the United States and Canada, debates at the intersection of poststructuralist feminism and postmodern Marxism, and the French Socialist government's financial and industrial policies in the 1980s.

Currently Professor Biewener is an Associate Editor for Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society and she has served on the Editorial Board of Rethinking Marxism (1990-2001). In 2009 she co-organized (with Randy Albelda, UMass-Boston) the 18th Annual Conference of the International Association for Feminist Economics, “Engendering Economic Policy,” which was hosted by Simmons College.

Professor Biewener oversees the Economics Department Internship program, and was Coordinator for the interdisciplinary minor in Social Justice from 2004-2013.

Duty

Susan Duty

After obtaining her doctoral degree in occupational epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002, Dr. Susan Duty joined the nursing faculty in the nursing program at Simmons College. She is an associate professor and teaches across the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral curriculums. She is also certified as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with specialization in Occupational Health.


In addition to her teaching responsibilities at Simmons, Susan works clinically at South Shore Hospital as a Nurse Research Scientist and is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research agenda explores environmental exposures to plasticizers including phthalates and bisphenol A and works collaborative with students and multidisciplinary faculty on studies exploring Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization of people, pets and surfaces. She has many peer reviewed publications and has presented her work regionally, nationally and internationally. She has more recently extended her scholarly activity into clinical research translation aimed at reducing 30-day readmissions, enhancing mammography compliance, improving satisfaction with patient care and reducing hospital acquired adverse outcomes.

Grant funding has been secured from highly competitive National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, the National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety, as well as from the Simmons College President's Fund and from private foundations like the Passport Foundation and the New England Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association.

Dr. Duty is a member of the Organization of Nurse Leaders Research Council. She also serves as a peer reviewer for many top tier journals. Dr. Duty received The Theresa LaPlante Award for Excellence in Administration from Sigma Theta Tau and is President of the Theta-at-large Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International.

Rich 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.

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.

Megan Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert holds an MA in Children's Literature from Simmons College (2002) and received her BA from Smith College (1996), double majoring in Government and African American Studies. She is a full-time Senior Lecturer in Children's Literature at Simmons, teaching the undergraduate Survey of Children's and YA Literature as well as courses in the graduate programs in Boston and at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. She also coordinates mentorships for MFA students in the program. She has also served as a Visiting Lecturer in the English Department at Mt. Holyoke College, the School of Education at Boston University, and at several other schools throughout the northeast.

For nearly ten years Megan worked in the Education Department at The Carle. This work began in the fall of 2001, a year before The Carle opened, when Megan earned the final four credits of her MA in Children's Literature at Simmons by conducting an Independent Study that was the genesis of her development of the Whole Book Approach and A Book in Hand, two interactive story time models designed to engage children with picture book art and design. This work evolved into professional development programs and outreach work with schools and libraries in which Megan reached over 25,000 participants during her tenure at The Carle. In 2009 she was named a Massachusetts Literacy Champion by the Mass Literacy in recognition of this work.

Megan is a frequent speaker at conferences and provides professional development training for teachers, librarians, and others who work with children and books. A guest reviewer and regular contributor to The Horn Book Magazine's "Books in the Home" column, Megan is also a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, and her writing has appeared in numerous other journals including Children & Libraries, Bookbird Magazine, Riverbank Review, CREArTA, The Five Owls, Children's Literature, and The Children's Literature Quarterly. She served on the 2009 Geisel Committee, the 2011 Caldecott Committee, and the 2012 Boston Globe Horn Book Award Committee. Her first picturebook, A Crow of His Own, will be published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2015 with illustrations by David Hyde Costello, and Charlesbridge will also publish her forthcoming professional title, Storytime Stories: The Whole Book Approach to Reading Picture Books with Children that year. A third title, Real Sisters Pretend, is under contract as a picture book with Tilbury House Publishers.

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