Susan Howard

Susan Howard

Susan Howard

Assistant Professor

Design-thinking, One Health, global health, sustainability, conservation decision-making, application of social marketing, game-based learning and emerging digital and social technologies for behavior change

Susan Howard is a behavioral scientist, educator, and innovator who teaches, mentors, and creates at the nexus of academia, industry, and entrepreneurship. She combines theories from the behavioral and social sciences with best practices in game-based learning technologies, human-centered design, social marketing, and business innovations. Professor Howard's teaching style engages students in a systems-thinking approach to understanding the intrinsic link between health, environmental, social, and economic challenges and provides them with an arsenal of tools to ultimately adopt, advocate for, or design transformative solutions at an individual, campus, community or global level.
Professor Howard is an Assistant Professor in the School of Integrative Studies appointed as the Health, Medicine, and Society Faculty. In the Fall 2020 she will continue to teach the flagship Design Thinking Course (INTS 275/DSGN 101) as part of a new Design Thinking Minor and INTS 391, Introduction to Integrative Studies.  Prior to her appointment as a Medicine, Health & Society faculty, she served as an instructor in the Global and Community Health department and in the Environmental, Science & Policy department. Her educational contribution to enhancing student learning at Mason has been recognized by the Office of the Provost in 2014 for Outstanding Teaching as a result of high student evaluations, through the 2017 Teaching Distinction Award from the Stearns Center for Faculty Teaching Excellence and through the 2019 Faculty Career Connection Award.
Professor Howard’s systems-thinking approach to teaching has been influenced by her early work as an award-winning investigative producer and broadcast journalist at KITV in Honolulu where she reported on community, environmental, health and social issues and uncovered inequities in health care access that resulted in legislative changes in Hawaii. Locally, in Maryland, at WMAR-TV, in collaboration with WRC-TV, she spearheaded a civic, governmental, and corporate initiative combined with a media campaign entitled Closing the Loop that led to the promotion of conservation practices and adoption of recycling policies in the DMV region. Her career then evolved to apply media, marketing, and advertising practices as tools for social and behavior change to solve global health and environmental problems as a co-founder and managing director of the communication and marketing firm, Howard Delafield International, LLP.
Working in over 20 countries, Professor Howard has designed and implemented programs and projects that embody a systems-approach to problem-solving including leveraging the link between mobile access, direct-to-consumer innovations and adolescent reproductive health; highlighting the connection between environmental change and infectious diseases through game-based learning; creating markets and income generation for  fuel-efficient stoves, safe-birthing kits and and family planning products;  ensuring integration of nutrition and agriculture in infant and young child feeding practices and the engagement of men to reduce stunting;  incorporating market-based approaches to family planning and reproductive health including social franchising and microenterprises; and capitalizing on consumer insights to mobilize health access and product uptake.
Clients/funders have included the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Development Bank (KfW), UN agencies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and corporations and non-profit organizations including Save the Children, Family Health International, the International Rescue Committee, Abt Associates, Tetra Tech, Chemonics, and the Manoff Group. Professor Howard is currently producing and managing several USAID-funded game-design and development projects in collaboration with Mason faculty and students to affect behavior change in global health.

Howard received her Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Hawaii with a dual specialization in Health Systems and Global Health, and her doctoral degree at Mason’s Environmental Science and Policy Department. Howard is of South Asian descent and is herself a product of an integrative undergraduate education from Wesleyan University. Finally, complementing her teaching background and professional experience, is her commitment to service that includes her active volunteer involvement with the National Park Service where she earned recognition through the 2016 NPS Centennial Service Award, and her support of the arts, through her membership in the Arts Club of Washington.

Current Research

Use of choice-based digital games to analyze the feedback effect of park visitor behavior on wildlife, ecosystem and human health

Direct-to-consumer approaches using video game technology on fertility awareness and reproductive health information for adolescents in India

Web-based behavior frameworks as a discovery and decision-making tool to accelerate global health results


Selected Publications

Howard, S., Buttke, D.E., Lovejoy, T.E., Clark, K.A., Ashby, E.J., & Aguirre, A.A. (2020). The Loop Trail “Quest”: Use of a choice-based digital simulation, an interactive video, and a booklet to communicate and analyze decision-making of park visitors. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Howard, S., Livermore, M. (2016) Applications of marketing practices and agent-based modeling to promote the principles of One Health in the C&O Canal National Historic Park. Prepared for the C&O Canal National Historic Park & Wildlife Biology and Public Health Divisions of the National Park Service.

Howard, S. Mustafa, S. (2016) EcoTEX Academy: STEM in Nature. A prototype for place-based experiential learning. Prepared for the National Park Service Wildlife Biology Division, Office of Public Health and Conservation Stewardship Division.

Howard, S., Singhal, V., Haider, N., Singh, J, Sharma, Sl, Chowdhury, A. (2013) Mind the gap: Uttar Pradesh Program Review. Prepared for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Howard, S. Knapp, C. Adnan, A. (2013) We are the Government: Strategic Communication for Citizen Participation in Local Governance in Bangladesh. Prepared on behalf of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Tetra Tech.

Howard, S., (2011) Multi-Media & Training Catalogue. Alive & Thrive Ethiopia.   A compilation of media products produced by a creative team that HDI managed. Prepared for the Alive & Thrive Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Howard, S., (2010) Application of marketing principles to accelerate stunting reduction in Ethiopia. Prepared for the Alive & Thrive Initiative of the Gates Foundation.

Howard, S. (2009) Media Toolkit with Discussion Guide. A compilation of media products produced by a creative team that HDI managed. Prepared on behalf of the Ministry of Health in Guyana, the National AIDS Programme and USAID.

Howard, S., (2010) National Plan for Integrated Maternal Neonatal Child Health, Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan. A strategy paper produced as a result of a high-level ministerial forum in Dubai, UAE.

Bradley, P., Howard, S., (2008) Innovative Approaches to Mobilizing Communities for Vaccination. UNICEF/Save the Children.



Expanded Publication List




Grants and Fellowships

Teaching Assistant Fellowship, Environmental Science & Policy, AY 2016 & 2017

Curriculum Impact Grant, Office of the Provost, Conceived of and developed course modules to reflect professional development needs of sustainability professionals; co-wrote, revised, and solicited department and college feedback for successful grant. AY 2018-2019, Environmental Science & Policy Department, George Mason University


Courses Taught

DSGN 101/INTS 275 Introduction to Design Thinking

INTS 375 Special Topics: Health, Medicine & Society - Systems Thinking

INTS 410 Contemporary Health Issues

INTS 210 Sustainable World

INTS 391 Introduction to Integrative Studies



PhD, (2020) Environment, Science and Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.

MPH, (1999), International Health/Health Services Administration & Planning, School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI.

BA, English and East Asian Studies, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.



Recent Presentations

Howard, S. and Banerjee, S. (2020, August 3-5). Game of Choice, Not Chance: Building an immersive decision-making tool for adolescents [Virtual Interactive Workshop]. Youth Tech Health Conference, San Francisco, CA, United States.

Howard, S. and Banerjee, S. (2019, December 9-11). Serious games and avatars to influence real-world behavior change [Conference Presentation]. Global Digital Health Forum, N. Bethesda, MD, United States.

Howard, S. (Chair), Livermore, M., Schneider, A., (2018, January 23-24) Practicing Design-thinking: Case Studies from Asia and Africa. [Symposium presentation].National Council for Science and the Environment Annual Conference Washington, DC.

Howard, S., Aguirre, A.  (2018)  Loop Trail “Quest”: Use of choice-based digital games to analyze the feedback effect of park visitor behavior on wildlife, ecosystem and human health. [Accepted poster]. Planetary Health Annual Meeting, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Howard, S., Aguirre, A. (2018)  Loop Trail “Quest”: Use of choice-based digital games to analyze the feedback effect of park visitor behavior on wildlife, ecosystem and human health.[Accepted poster] NACCB Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada.

Howard, S., (2017, November) Hunger, Beyond Food: Case Study of Ethiopia [Invited Key Note Speaker] Annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet, SAIL, Social Action and Integrative Learning, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Howard, S., (2017, May) Social marketing in global health with applications to ecological health in protected areas [Brown Bag Talk] National Park Service, Wildlife Biology, Conservation Stewardship and Public Health Division Chiefs and Staff, Ft. Collins, Colorado. 

Howard, S., (2017, April and November) One Health in the C&O Canal. [Volunteers in the Park Speakers Series] National Park Service, Great Falls, Maryland.

Howard, S., Pederson, B., Cogswell, L., Wakefield, C., Shah, N., (2017, September) The Global Malaria Behavior Framework: a discovery and decision-making tool to accelerate results.  [Oral Presentation]  Annual Meeting of the Roll Back Malaria Communication Working Group Convening, Dakar, Senegal.

Howard, S., Swarup, S., (2016, February ) We are the government: Strengthening Local Governance in Bangladesh Through Strategic Behavior Change Communication.  [Oral Presentation]  USAID’s International SBCC Summit 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.