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 the humanities, behavioral, social, and natural sciences with best practices in game-based learning, digital technologies, human-centered design, direct-to-consumer marketing, and other business innovations in her teaching and applied research. 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 2018. Her educational contribution to enhancing student learning at Mason has been recognized for 4 consecutive years by the Office of the Provost for Outstanding Teaching as a result of high student evaluations of Mason Core Courses. In  2019 she was awarded the Faculty Career Connection Award by students from among 200 nominees for "for baking in" (as described by one of her student nominees) job-readiness skills and tools into her courses and coursework.
Professor Howard designed and taught the flagship Design Thinking course where students follow the Stanford Design Thinking Process to create a prototype that solves a problem. She currently teaches Sustainable World (INTS 210) where students apply principles of design thinking to solve an environmental or health challenge on campus or in their community. She also teaches Digital Literacy (INTS 249) where students similarly gain design thinking skills and learn how to appropriately leverage digital tools to communicate and advocate for topics related to social, health, or environmental issues. Prior to her appointment as Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health & Society, Professor Howard served as an adjunct instructor in the Global and Community Health department and as an instructor in the Environmental, Science & Policy department. In her role as adjunct faculty, Professor Howard was awarded the Stearn's Teaching Distinction Award.
Professor Howard’s solutions-approach to teaching has been influenced by her real-world work experience.  Working in over 25 countries as a consultant with USAID, the Gates Foundation, UN agencies, the German Development Bank, NGOs, country governments, and others, Professor Howard has led teams to design products and implemented social impact 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 micro-enterprises; and capitalizing on consumer insights to mobilize health access and product uptake. Professor Howard is currently managing externally funded game-design and development projects in India and Nepal in collaboration with Mason faculty and students to effect behavior change in global health. The flagship game designed for girls in India is available on the Google Play Store.
Professor Howard received her Bachelor's Degree in English literature from Wesleyan University and with that humanities foundation came an understanding that peoples' stories, their histories, their wants and needs are at the core of social, health, and environmental change.  She subsequently 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 in Environmental Science from GMU when she realized that healthy people cannot exist without a healthy planet. Howard is of Indian descent and the founder and steward of the Drs. Surya and Cecil Howard Scholarship Fund which she set up in memory of her immigrant parents.  In addition to supporting student financial needs, she also is a patron of the arts with support to national and international artists and a member of the Arts Club of Washington. Her service also includes being an active volunteer with the National Park Service where she earned recognition through the 2016 NPS Centennial Service Award.  Professor Howard is an amateur acrylic painter with her work recently featured in the Arts Club of Washington Members Show in the Summer of 2022. She lives with her partner and two dogs along the C&O Canal. She is an avid hiker in pursuit of a good bottle of red wine as a reward.

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., (2021) 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, Environmental Communication, 15:8, 1025-1044, DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2021.1927129

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

INTS 249 Digital Literacy




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, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.



Recent Presentations

Conference Panels Chaired:

  • Howard, S., Mohandas, N., Ayyagari, K., Batarseh, F., 2020 Global Digital Health Conference, Panel Moderator, A Game of Choice, Not Chance: Designing a Direct-to-Consumer Mobile Game with and for Girls in India, Washington, DC (virtual), December 9, 2020.
  • Howard, S., Banerjee, S., Game of Choice, Not Chance: Building an immersive decision-making tool for adolescent girls in India. Interactive workshop at the Youth Tech Health (YTH) Conference. San Francisco, California, August 3, 2020 (virtual).
  • Howard, S. (Chair), Banerjee, S., Serious Games and Avatars to Influence Real World Behavior Change, Global Digital Health Forum, December 9, 2019, N. Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Howard, S. (Chair), Livermore, M., Schneider, A., Practicing Design-thinking: Case Studies from Asia and Africa. Accepted symposium presentation at the NCSE’s 18th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment: The Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure: Building Resilience in a Changing World. January 23-24, 2018, Washington, DC.

Conference Papers accepted/presented:

  • Howard, S., Batarseh, F., Shankar, L., Unlocking girls’ potential through gameplay. Virtual oral presentation at the YTH (Youth Tech Health) Live Global 2021 conference (October 5, 2021).
  • Ayyagari, K., Howard, S., Bridging in-game decisions and choices with real life access to FP/RH information, products, and services. Virtual oral presentation at Global Health Science and Practice Technical Exchange Conference (May 25, 2021).
  • Howard, S., Ayyagari, K., Unlocking girls’ potential through gameplay: How mobile games empower girls to make confident choices, develop strong voices, and gain ability to share their own futures. Virtual oral presentation at Global Digital Development Forum (May 5, 2021)
  • Howard, S., Mohandas, N., Misri, A., Navigating an adolescent’s life through an avatar: A Game of Choice, Not Chance. Accepted oral presentation at the Annual International Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit, Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, Marrakech, Morocco (March 2020 Postponed until December 2022).
  • Howard, S., Aguirre, A. A, The Loop Trail Quest: Use of a choice-based digital game to analyze the feedback effect of park visitor behavior on wildlife, ecosystem and human health. Accepted oral presentation at the Annual International Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit, Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, Marrakech, Morocco (March 2020 Postponed until December 2022).
  • Howard, S., Synergies between entrepreneurs, academia, and the private sector to create social impact. Virtual oral presentation at FIESA 2020. (October 13, 2020)
  • 2020 mEducation Alliance Virtual Symposia, Panel Discussant: Gaming for Youth Engagement and Teacher Training, September 14-16, 2020.
  • Howard, S., Oser, R., Joyce, M., Adcox, O., Playing Games to Save Lives – Bringing Serious Gaming to Behavior Change. Interactive Workshop presentation at the 2018 Global Digital Health Forum, December 8-9, 2018, Washington, DC.
  • Howard, S., Aguirre, A. 2018 Planetary Health Annual Meeting, Edinburg, Scotland 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 abstract.
  • Howard, S., Aguirre, A. 2018 NACCB Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada, 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 abstract.
  • Howard, S., Pederson, B., Cogswell, L., Wakefield, C., Shah, N., (September 2017) The Global Malaria Behavior Framework: a discovery and decision-making tool to accelerate results. Accepted Abstract and Oral Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Roll Back Malaria Communication Working Group Convening 2017, Dakar, Senegal.
  • Howard, S., Swarup, S., (February 2016) We are the government: Strengthening Local Governance in Bangladesh Through Strategic Behavior Change Communication. Accepted Abstract and Oral Presentation at USAID’s International SBCC Summit 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Invited Talks:

  • 2021 USAID Brown Bag Series, the US Agency for International Development, Bureau for Global Health, A Game of Choice, Not Chance, Washington, DC, February 23, 2021.
  • 2020-2021 Seminar Series – Environmental Science and Policy Department, College of Science, George Mason University, Oral Presentation, “The Loop Trail Quest”: Use of a Choice-based digital simulation, interactive video, and booklet to analyze decision-making of park visitors (postponed due to COVID).
  • 2020 Webinar on Social Entrepreneurship. University of Mar del Plata / US Embassy in Argentina and George Mason University, Office of International Enrollment and Partnerships, October 13, 2020.
  • 2019 WESEMINAR Funders and Founders, Panel Discussant. Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Wesleyan University, May 24, 2019.
  • National Conclave (India): Catalyzing Adolescent Health Outcomes through Technology, Panel Discussant. Population Services International in collaboration with USAID, Delhi, India, December 21, 2019.
  • College of Humanities and Social Science Design Challenges, George Mason University, November 11, 2019.
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences Fall Admissions Event, Professor-Student Spotlight, October 21, 2018.
  • 2017 Annual Hunger Banquet, Social Action Integrative Learning, George Mason University, November 14, 2017.
  • 2017 Volunteers in the Park Speaker Series. The National Park Service, Great Falls, Maryland., C&O Canal, April 2017.
  • Global Health ‘Gurus’, The MedX Program, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA., November 2016.