Notable UMass Amherst Alumnae
Madeleine May Kunin ’56
Madeleine May Kunin was the first female governor of Vermont and the first woman in the U.S. to serve three terms. She served as deputy secretary of the US department of Education and U.S. ambassador to Switzerland in the Clinton administration. She is the founder and board member of the Global Institute for Sustainable Communities, focused on climate change and civil society, as well as Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits and trains women to run for public office.
Buffy Sainte-Marie '70, '90H
Even before graduating from UMass Amherst, Buffy Sainte-Marie was a force to be reckoned with as a singer, songwriter, and cultural icon. She has gone on to receive recognition as a visual artist (and pioneer in digital imaging), educator, and social activist. In 1983, she became the first Indigenous American person to win an Oscar, when her song "Up Where We Belong", co-written for the film An Officer and a Gentleman, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 55th Academy Awards.
Natalie Cole ’72
Natalie Cole (1950-2015) was a singer, songwriter, and actress. Daughter of singer and jazz pianist Nat King Cole, she rose to success in the mid-1970s as an R&B singer. In the 1990s, she sang traditional pop by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable... with Love, which sold over seven million copies and won her seven Grammy Awards. She sold over 30 million records worldwide.
Betty Shabazz ’75EdD
Betty Shabazz (1934-1977) was an educator and civil rights activist. The wife of Malcolm X, Shabazz became an important political activist after her husband's assassination in 1965. In the 1970s, Shabazz began giving public lectures on the African American condition, fighting for education and human rights causes.
Elaine Marieb ’69PHD, ’85MS
Best known as the author of Human Anatomy & Physiology, Elaine Marieb’s (1936-2018) textbooks are taught in more than 2,400 classrooms around the world. Time magazine ranked her the seventh most-read female writer in the college classroom, behind such literary luminaries as Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf. Though the world lost this titan in 2018, her legacy, impact, and influence continue to grow, thanks to her generous philanthropy. After the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation made a gift to UMass Amherst of $21.5 million, UMass officially named the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing in her honor.
Cady Coleman ’91
Catherine "Cady" Coleman is a chemist, engineer, former United States Air Force colonel, and retired NASA astronaut. She is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, and departed the International Space Station on May 23, 2011, as a crew member of Expedition 27 after logging 159 days in space.
Briana Scurry ’95
Briana Scurry is a legendary U.S. goalkeeper, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and a World Cup champion. Briana played a pivotal role in soccer history as one of the first African American professional female players and has helped to diversify the sport.
Natasha Trethewey ’95MFA
Natasha Trethewey is a poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2013. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection, Native Guard, and is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
Emily Brewster '99
As senior editor and editorial ambassador from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it's lexicographer Emily Brewster's job to pin down new words and decide when to add them to the dictionary. Brewster and her colleagues are keenly aware of the zeitgeist and the constantly shifting usage of words. They record shifts in society—transcribing the ever-evolving human story that the dictionary tells.
Audie Cornish ’01
Journalist Audie Cornish is an anchor and correspondent for CNN. Previously, she was a co-host for NPR's All Things Considered, panelist on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and host of NPR Presents, a long-form conversation series with creatives about their projects and shaping culture in America. She currently hosts the CNN Audio podcast "The Assignment" and appears on CNN covering national, political, and breaking news.
Ana Reyes '03
Landing a book on the New York Times Bestseller List is an author's dream. Alumna Ana Reyes not only achieved this accomplishment, but her debut novel, The House in the Pines, is also a pick for actress Reese Witherspoon's famous book club.
Lauren Anders Brown '07
Award-winning independent filmmaker and photographer Lauren Anders Brown believes in the power of visual storytelling to amplify the stories of people who cannot tell them on their own. Her curated exhibition for the United Nations, “Wanted: A World for One Billion,” raised awareness about the sexual and reproductive health and rights and bodily autonomy of women and young people with disabilities around the world, highlighting their voices and experiences and promoting access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services.
Varshini Prakash ’15
Varshini Prakash is a climate activist and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a 501(c)(4) organization which she co-founded in 2017. She was named on the 2019 Time 100 Next list, and was a co-recipient of the Sierra Club John Muir Award in 2019.