Holding on to Music: Shlesha Pradhan '24
Shlesha Pradhan '24, from Kathmandu, Nepal, has always been interested in science, particularly in Biology. While in high school, her initial plan was to enter the field of medicine; however, her perspective shifted when she took a volunteer role at a rehabilitation center.
“I was able to observe a therapy session for a child suffering from polio,” she said. “That sparked my current interest in the area.”
When she was looking for colleges, she was wholly interested in science but also wanted to continue studying music.
“In high school, I enjoyed music as an extracurricular, and I did not want to let it go,” Pradhan said. “Bennington has allowed me to combine music with science in ways that I had not thought about. Instead of it just being a hobby, I can incorporate it into what I hope to do as a career.”
Pradhan studies Biology, Neuroscience, Dance, and Music. She is interested in how music can enhance physical therapy experience.
She particularly likes how Bennington allows her to consider academic interests from various “distances” and perspectives. For example, she has taken classes in music therapy and dance therapy as a way of understanding overarching themes between different therapy types. She has also studied human anatomy through body movement and exercise courses in dance. These experiences have given her both a broader and deeper understanding of how physical therapy repairs internal damages to the body multiple layers deep, which would typically not be a part of a technical physical therapy program.
"At Bennington, you can combine courses from a variety of disciplines that speak on your particular approach and perspectives within your academic focus,” Pradhan said. “It's about how you want to approach that discipline, not following a preset pathway."
Bennington students follow their own unique Plan, one they write themselves. It gives them a greater opportunity to explore their curiosities in the areas of study they have chosen as their academic concentration.
“The whole Plan process is a big ‘why.’ Why are you doing what you do at Bennington?” said Pradhan. “The Plan is essentially a reflection on the answer to that question and knowing where the urge to do this type of work comes from.”
Pradhan’s Plan involves cross enrolling at Community College of Vermont, as a part of a collaborative cross enrollment program available to students at both schools. This allows Pradhan to take classes that are required for entry into a physical therapy graduate program that may not be offered at Bennington.
"While Bennington encourages intellectual exploration, I still have space to specialize and hone in on the technical requirements for graduate school."
Pradhan also completed a Field Work Term at the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University.
“This is where I saw how they used music lessons and music itself as a mode to help neurodivergent children in their speech as well to help bring motor function in people recovering from traumatic incidents. It really helped them overcome their respective challenges,” Pradhan said. “That got me thinking about how music therapy and physical therapy are surprisingly connected in so many aspects that can be used in a collaborative, holistic therapy session.”
Her discoveries became the basis of her senior work: a meta-analysis and literature review regarding the effects of music in physical therapy and rehabilitation, especially in gait training, a type of physical therapy that helps patients improve their motor function and ability to stand and walk.
Pradhan will be continuing her study in physical therapy awareness accessibility in Nepal this winter as a part of the Newman and Cox Public Action Student Fellowship.