Amanda Baptiste ’21 can pinpoint the precise moment when she realized what her career path should be.
The epiphany came in October 2019 when Baptiste, then a junior exercise physiology major and distance runner on the UML women’s cross country and track and field teams, was representing the River Hawks at the America East Conference’s inaugural Spread Respect Forum at the University of Vermont.
“I was sitting there listening to all these professors and educators talk to us about diversity and inclusion, and I realized that’s the seat I want to be in,” she says. “Teachers had a great impact on me growing up, and I just knew I wanted to be in that position where I could impact the youth in the next generation.”
So while Baptiste finished her undergraduate degree in exercise physiology, she began laying the groundwork for her new goal: to become a high school biology teacher. She squeezed as many biology credits as she could into her schedule, and in spring of her senior year she got started on her Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction: Initial Licensure Option in the School of Education. She expects to complete her master’s degree in spring 2022.
“I plan to find a teaching job and hopefully coach high school track and field and cross country in the process,” she says.
A naturally gifted athlete who grew up playing softball in Taunton, Massachusetts, Baptiste says being part of a Division I athletic program has “enriched my college experience immensely.”
“I’ve found my voice as a student-athlete,” says Baptiste, a member of the Athletics Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and an executive board member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. “Coming in, I never really thought of myself as a leader on campus or someone who has a voice that can create change. To realize that I’m able to speak up for other students around me is hugely important.”
With one year of NCAA eligibility remaining as a graduate student, Baptiste has also made strides on the tracks and trails for the River Hawks. At the 2021 America East Cross Country Championships in Galloway, New Jersey, she helped the UML women’s team win its first-ever conference crown with a 5K time of 19 minutes, 53.45 seconds.
“Running is my escape from the world,” says Baptiste, who found that escape — and the support of her teammates — to be “an amazing resource” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“We’d binge Netflix shows together and find ways to keep ourselves going as a team,” she says.
While UMass Lowell wasn’t originally at the top of her list of potential schools — “It was too close to home; I wanted to make a big change” — she is glad she gave it a closer look.
“From the moment I stepped on this campus, I felt like I can do something here.”