At its founding in 1953, the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing offered the first baccalaureate nursing program in public higher education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Four years later, the College launched the first Master of Science degree program, and in 1994, the Commonwealth's first publicly supported Ph.D. program in Nursing in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School Graduate School of Nursing. In 2005, the college offered its first Ph.D. program sponsored uniquely by the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing and in 2006 the first Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in the state.

Continuous accreditation first by the National League for Nursing, and currently by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), along with the success of graduates in passing both licensing and certification exams, testify to the enduring quality of the College's programs, faculty, and curriculum.

The Elaine Marieb College of Nursing is one of eleven schools and colleges comprising the University of Massachusetts Amherst, founded in 1863. The University is a Carnegie Designated Research University Very High (RUVH) and the flagship campus of the five-campus public university system. Sponsored research now totals over $220 million a year, with increasing emphasis on the life sciences and biotechnology applications.

Embodying the university's commitment to high quality, accessible education, the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing is committed to meeting the challenges faced by the nursing profession in the context of the changing dynamics of society and the delivery of health care.

The Elaine Marieb College of Nursing is named in honor of distinguished two-time UMass Amherst alumna Elaine Marieb, who earned a Master of Science degree from the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing with a specialization in gerontology in 1985, and a PhD in zoology from the College of Natural Sciences in 1969. A trailblazing educator with an abiding belief in the power of education to change lives, Marieb earned six different higher education degrees in all, and connected deeply with the students she taught at Springfield College and Holyoke Community College. She reached countless more students in classrooms around the world through her many best-selling textbooks and laboratory manuals, widely considered to be the gold standard for teaching anatomy and physiology.

The Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation made a transformational gift of $21.5 million to the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing in 2021. This gift enables the college to bolster student support; expand the simulation labs and other resources to provide a top-tier nursing education; and establish a Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation and an endowed professorship to attract outstanding researchers and educators.