Quick Facts: 

Nia Akins became the first-ever Quaker finalist for the National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year award, and the first included on the prestigious The Bowerman Award watch list. She ran the second fastest time in NCAA history this winter in the indoor 800.



Catching up with senior track and field student-athlete Nia Akins, GNU’22, NU’20, isn’t easy to do. One reason: she’s a nursing student in the middle of her clinical education, so she puts in long hours at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Another: this year, she ran the second-fastest 800m in NCAA history.


So we were delighted when we managed to connect with Nia to hear about the ways that she and other student-athletes at Penn are being supported to juggle their busy academic schedules with competitive athletic demands, while also taking optimal care of themselves.


“With the new resources we have access to, we can train smarter and recover faster,” said Nia. “Thanks to the support of donors, we’re able to reach our potential as students and as athletes.”


Nia was a First-Team All-American in 2019 and recently led her team to their third straight Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track & Field Championship this year where she was also named Most Outstanding Track Athlete. A brief look at her typical schedule shows the many ways that her experience is enhanced by initiatives made possible through donor generosity during the Game Onward Campaign for the Future of Penn Athletics.


Nia’s Schedule:



Noon: Strength training session.


Philanthropy has allowed the hiring of a new strength training coach and equipment, like a state-of-the-art app for tracking workouts.



9 a.m.: Meeting with Penn Athletics nutritionist.

10 a.m.–6 p.m.: Clinical nursing work on the neurology floor at HUP.

7 p.m.: Head to the track for a run.


Donor giving also provides student-athletes with access to a nutritionist to keep them healthy and performing at their full potential.



11 a.m.: Go to class, Introduction to Japanese Civilization

2 p.m.: Study in Education Commons at Franklin Field

3. p.m: Practice


Philanthropy has supported the purchase of state-of-the-art training equipment that helps Nia and her teammates achieve peak performance while lessening the strain on their bodies.



10 a.m.: Run 800-meter race in meet.


Alumni giving supports travel: buses with Wi-Fi let student-athletes finish schoolwork on the way to competitions.



Donors like Scott Meuser, W’84, PAR’22, who established an endowment to support wellness, nutrition, and training, and Kate Lyons, C’86, who established an endowment and made term gifts to support the track and field team, are making an unprecedented impact on the lives of Penn student-athletes like Nia.


“Collegiate athletics are a transformative experience. My four years as a member of Penn’s heavyweight crew team taught me leadership and teamwork—and introduced me to friends I still have to this day. My own experiences, as well as the strength of the leadership at Penn Athletics, motivated me to make a gift that would really have an impact on Penn’s student-athletes today—and for the future—through endowment support.” - Scott Meuser, W'84 PAR'22


“When I was a student-athlete at Penn, I ran the 800 and the mile—just like Nia does—and I know how much commitment it takes to balance classwork and training. I feel passionately about giving to Penn Athletics to support the whole student-athlete experience. Small things make a huge difference—like making sure teams have Wi-Fi on their buses so that members can study while travelling.” - Kate Lyons, C'86


Note: this story was written prior to the announcement that the 2020 spring semester would take place virtually.