At a Glance

Year: ’18, ’23
Major: Exercise Science
Master's: Nursing, Family Health Nurse Practitioner

Exercise Science BS

As an exercise science major, you will focus on improving or maintaining health, fitness and performance as well as preventing injury and disease.

Nursing MS

Focus on promoting the health of individuals, families, and groups and identifying and treating common health problems across the life span. 

At UMass Lowell, Yonnie Collins made friends, joined student clubs and academic honor societies, excelled in the classroom and found her path to her current role as a nurse.

“I was very outgoing during my time at UML,” says Collins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree from the Family Health Nurse Practitioner program. “I felt like I could spread my wings and really connect with like-minded people on a very inclusive campus.”

As an undergraduate, Collins enrolled in the exercise science program after winning the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, a merit-based award that provides free state college or university tuition to students who score in the top 25% of the MCAS exam. 

Once on campus, she hit the ground running, becoming a member of the Honors College and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national honor society. She also joined the gospel choir and mentored students as an orientation leader. 

“I was able to get very involved with health majors and beyond,” says Collins. “I connected with students who had diverse perspectives. A lot of my connections came from joining groups and clubs.” 

Collins didn’t initially intend on becoming a nurse. She wanted to forge a different path than her mom, who is a nurse. 

“I loved sports and track, so physical therapy immediately became a focus,” she says. “But once I began to shadow physical therapists and was paired with nurses, I realized that the nursing role was more appealing to me.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, she earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the MGH Institute of Health Professions. Then she returned to UMass Lowell to earn a master of science degree from the Family Health Nurse Practitioner program. Once again, she excelled. But this time, it was under the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“My nursing professors worked hard to get me practicum experience during the pandemic. That guidance and support was incredible,” says Collins, who now works as a nurse for Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts. “My experience in both programs at UML assured me that I made the right choice. Helping patients is what I came to realize that I love most.”

Collins, who attended public schools in Haverhill from kindergarten through high school, ran for office and won a seat on the city’s school committee. Inspired by her pediatric rotation in the nursing program, she wants to get more involved in her community.

“During my nursing practicum, I was amazed at how closely teachers, pediatric primary care clinicians and families had to work as a unit to provide the best care,” she says. “As a practicing nurse, I see children missing school because of physical or mental health challenges and I want to share my ideas on the school committee to find solutions to this problem.”