When Mary Brown boards the team bus for a field hockey road trip, she makes sure to have the game-day essentials stored in her duffle bag, which include her uniform, cleats, nursing textbooks and homework.
"If we have a three-hour bus ride, from the second we sit down to the moment we start to get pumped up I am doing homework," said the junior field hockey and the academic standout.
Where some may find the balance of an intercollegiate sport and a demanding major as nearly impossible, Brown sees it as an opportunity to make the most of her four years at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Because of that outlook, she has become the epitome of the word "student-athlete."
In the classroom, she has earned a spot on the Chancellor's List twice and Dean's List three times through her first five semesters. In the Little East Conference (LEC) she was recognized on All-Academic team's following the Fall of 2016 and 2017. On the field, she has started in 44 of 55 career contests, recording 15 goals and six assists over the past three seasons. The Leicester, Mass. product has registered season-highs in goals (8), assists (5) and points (21) during her junior campaign. She produced a career-best five points on two markers and an assist in the Oct. 10 victory over Framingham State.
"Mary does an amazing job combining both and holds herself to a really high standard not only in field hockey but in academics," said Linee Mello-Frost, a 2011 nursing graduate and head coach of the field hockey team. "That's a nursing student's trait. She produces, she has amazing grades, always gives 120% and knows how to balance both which is hard."
Brown not only improved yearly on the athletic field but has continued to demonstrate growth in the classroom, recently being awarded a research grant to pursue a topic of personal investment – diabetes and its effect on athletic performance. Her research topic, titled "Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus in Collegiate Athletics," is near to her heart as Brown's younger brother, who is also an athlete, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just two years old.
"This is something I'm working on all semester, in the off semester, and potentially into the summer so I knew I had to do something I like. I'm passionate about diabetes, I'm passionate about athletics, so put them together, why not?" the field hockey captain said about her decision to research diabetes and its effect in sports.
With endless hours devoted to school work, preparation for her senior year of field hockey and school, and now intensive research on a topic that will assuredly open opportunities in her future profession, passion has been the fuel keeping her internal engine moving.
"For me, it's worth it to be up late doing homework and awake early to play a sport. I just want to be the best I can be," she said when asked how she balances the two worlds. "You have 70 minutes of field hockey each game and you only have four years of school. I'm not going to put 15 hours into studying for a test and then get a 70 on it. If I'm going to put the work in, I want to get the results. I don't want it to be for nothing."
That approach to her jam-packed schedule has not gone unnoticed by her coaches, teammates, classmates, and even professors in the nursing program as they all recognize the relentless drive exhibited in Brown's day-to-day life.
"I first met Mary Brown at UMass Dartmouth Convocation during the first day of her freshman year and I found her to be poised and articulate, and her passion for starting her coursework in the nursing program was evident," said Dr. Maryellen Brisbois, who oversaw the research about Type 1 diabetes in sports conducted by Brown.
"I believe that nursing student-athletes, like Mary Brown, are an asset to the College of Nursing and as future nurses. Student-athletes are driven, organized and have strong time management skills; all of which are important to the profession of nursing," she added.
Despite the high-volume of tasks to be done and the minimal time to do them, it is all worth it for Brown. She understands that when you are finished with your time in college, all you have is the road that you were able to pave for yourself.
"You have four years. You have to make the most of it. You can't sit and wait for your time to shine, you have to take it. You just have to take the opportunities to do it. It's an incredible thing to be able to be a college athlete cause not everyone is.
"It's crazy, but it's absolutely doable. I tell everybody who is coming into college that if you play a sport and are good enough to play in college, take that opportunity," said Brown.