Pursuing knowledge to help others: PhD in kinesiology graduate Manisha Rao
Working as a physical therapist in Maharashtra, India, Texas Woman’s kinesiology doctoral May graduate Manisha Rao (MS ’13) provided rehabilitative support to patients with medical, neurological and orthopedic conditions. But, as she helped patients with their rehabilitation, she felt the need to upgrade her knowledge and skills on therapeutic exercise. That’s when she discovered TWU, which expanded her expertise in ways she never dreamed and provided opportunities for her to help her fellow international students.
“On most occasions, the experience as a physical therapist was very rewarding,” Rao said. “But at other times, I felt the need to boost my knowledge about exercise performance.”
That need originally led her to TWU’s master’s in kinesiology program.
“Among all the master’s programs I checked out, TWU seemed to the best fit,” she said. “The affordable cost of attendance, highly qualified teaching staff, opportunities for hands-on research and the presence of a friendly international community made the choice easier.”
The master’s program offered Rao so many opportunities for growth and learning that she decided to stay and pursue her PhD.
“The interdisciplinary and collaborative research, availability of scholarships and assistantships, multicultural landscape and close interpersonal relationships were major factors for the decision to continue my education at TWU,” Rao said. “They all helped develop my technical and soft skills to advance my knowledge.”
Rao’s journey at TWU also put her in the path of excellent mentors and led her toward interdisciplinary studies focused on using lifestyle modifications for the improvement of health outcomes in women. Her research mainly focused on using different dietary and exercise-based strategies to improve physiological aspects of health.
The objective of her dissertation was to test the efficacy of milk proteins in regulating blood glucose levels in young women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that increases the risk of metabolic abnormalities like diabetes mellitus and hypertension in affected women. Her study evaluated the effects of a novel method of dietary protein supplementation on diabetic hormones in this cohort. It also started a much-needed dialogue on campus about the disorder, its effects and management.
“The PhD program helped me develop strong collaborative relationships within and outside of the TWU community,” said Rao. “It enhanced my knowledge base, confidence, analytical and critical thinking skills and improved my employment opportunities.”
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic caused hiring freezes in academia and the research industry, but Rao remains positive about her future career plans.
“I would like to leverage my experiences and technical and soft skills to thrive as a collaborative clinical researcher,” she said.
Reaching out to international students
In addition to her academic work, Rao was involved with the TWU International Mentoring Program (IMP), which promotes cultural growth and success among the TWU community by pairing new international students with current students. She strongly believes in paying forward the kindness she received as an international student by connecting students to campus resources as they navigate cultural, academic and social challenges.
“I am glad to have been a part of IMP since its conception,” she said. “The program offers flexible mentoring according to the personal preferences, while providing structural support. IMP gave me the opportunity to build incredible relationships with mentees and other mentors and walk in someone else’s shoes. I enjoyed broadening my ideas of diversity, understanding all its aspects wholly and getting a global perspective on life.”
Rao also has advice for other international students who might be thinking of attending TWU.
“The prospect of traveling far from home to study in a foreign land can feel daunting,” she said. “The thought of acclimating to an unfamiliar culture and education system may be nerve-racking. But familiarizing yourself with the courses, professors, campus and city can help put you at ease. The TWU community is closely knit, personable, forthcoming and helpful.”
Director of Communications, Jane Nelson Institute for Women's Leadership
Page last updated 9:59 AM, June 3, 2020