Shelley White

Associate Professor
  • Sociology
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(617) 521-2088

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About Me

Shelley White is Associate Professor of Public Health and Sociology, and served as the inaugural Program Director of the Master of Public Health in Health Equity. An interdisciplinary scholar, Shelley completed her PhD in Sociology at Boston College, and both her Master of Public Health in International Health, and Bachelor in Occupational Therapy at Boston University. The common vein of her career is a commitment to health and human rights.

Shelley began her career as a pediatric Occupational Therapist, supporting bilingual and integrative public school programs for children with complex learning needs, many recent immigrants to the Boston area. Having also worked with migrant youth in Mexico, she discovered her passion for global health. Upon completing her MPH, she worked on HIV/AIDS policy and programming, overseeing federal and state HIV care programs for the State of Maine and implementing early response programs in Lesotho, southern Africa. Shelley was drawn to sociology to better understand global and domestic inequities, power dynamics in society, and the promise of social movements. She greatly enjoys working with her students as they develop their own critical analyses in learning about health and social inequities, and understanding how collectives mobilize for social change. She teaches in the undergraduate sociology and public health programs, coordinated the Simmons World Challenge program in 2012-2013, and is the recipient of the 2013 Professor of the Year Award. She was enthusiastic to collaboratively design and launch Simmons University's MPH in Health Equity in 2017, a program that examines health through political economic analyses, advances racial and intersectional justice, and works toward structural change.

Shelley's research focuses on social movements and social justice, the politics of health and health policy, and socio-structural determinants of health, including the influences of corporations, trade, militarism, borders, and social inequities on health. She uses qualitative and mixed methods, and is informed by theories of knowledge and power, stratification, and social movements. She is also engaged in scholarship on teaching and learning.

Shelley has served as a board member and pro-bono consultant for a number of global and domestic organizations promoting peace, justice and community development. She served as inaugural Director of Academic Development for the Advanced Placement with Service-Learning program; Founding Chair of the Public Health Working Group on Primary Prevention of War; past Chair of the American Public Health Association's Trade and Health Forum; and past Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for Human Rights Cities: Boston and Beyond. She was honored as the American Public Health Association’s 2019 recipient of the Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace.

When she is not in the classroom, Professor White enjoys playing tennis, doing artwork, spending time on the water, and particularly loves spending time with her thirteen nieces and nephews.

What I Teach

  • Health Equity and Social Justice
  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Global Health
  • Health Systems and Policy
  • Organizing for Social Change
  • Health, Illness, and Society
  • Internship Seminar

Past Courses

  • Sociology of HIV/AIDS
  • African World Perspectives
  • Environmental Health
  • Public Health and Social Justice

Research/Creative Activities

Dr. White's research focuses on political economic factors shaping health, health inequities, and health policy. Her recent studies examine immigration justice and social movements intersectionality at the US-Mexico border; the impacts of economic globalization, corporations, extractive economy, and trade; FDA regulation of gendered medical devices; social movements for single payer health care; and primary preventive approaches to war and militarism. She engages sociological theories of knowledge, power, and stratication, and scholarship on social movements and social change, to understand how institutions and collectives respond to upstream factors shaping health and social outcomes. Her recent publications appear in the American Journal of Public Health; Journal of Human Rights Practice; Health, Risk, and Society; Education, Citizenship and Social Justice; Interface; Critical Public Health; and Public Health Reports.

Shelley is also involved in teaching and learning scholarship and has served on the Eastern Sociological Society's Committee on Undergraduate Education, and as past editor of the American Sociological Association's Teaching/Learning Matters newsletter. She has authored and edited books focused on leveraging sociological skills for social change, including The Engaged Sociologist: Connecting the Classroom to the Community (Sage, 2020), Sociologists in Action: Sociology, Social Change and Social Justice (Sage, 2011, 2013) and Sociologists in Action on Inequalities: Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality (Sage 2014).