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Creative Arts Therapies PhD Student to Receive $19,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

May 4, 2021

Headshot of Nalini PrakashA study proposed by Creative Arts Therapies PhD candidate Nalini Prakash has been approved for a $19,000 Research Grants in the Arts award funded by the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA). Nalini received one of 14 awards given in this category for financial year 2021.

“This award coincides with the 10th anniversary of the NEA Research grants program,” said Director of Research & Analysis Sunil Iyengar. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this project from Drexel University among others that, in a very challenging year, will investigate the value and impact of the arts.”

The project will study dance/movement therapy (DMT) to address ethnic bullying in a school setting. Grant money will be used to support data analysis and reporting as part of a study examining the role of school-based dance/movement therapy in fostering empathy and preventing school violence and ethnic bullying. Analyses will include pre, during and postintervention measures of group synchrony, empathy, quality of peer relationships and frequency of verbal and/or physical aggression from middle-school students with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Also included for analysis are qualitative data from weekly group discussions and through in-depth interviews of participants' experiences with the program. The study will advance public knowledge about the possibility of offering dance/movement therapy as a complementary and creative resource for existing school-violence prevention programs.

Nalini will conduct research at a public middle school in Maryland where she has previously provided dance/movement therapy services, which has a racially and ethnically diverse population. Data collection will begin after the school district resumes in-person learning.

The theme of her research was inspired in part by Nalini’s upbringing. “My interest in social justice developed in India where I was born and raised surrounded by the inequalities of the caste system in addition to religious and socio-economic discrimination,” Nalini said. Her work in India revolved around improving the quality of life for children with disabilities from low socio-economic backgrounds. After moving to the U.S. and working as a clinician in an inpatient psychiatric facility, she began work in violence prevention. “My skills in movement observation and DMT helped me use appropriate interventions that assisted with early de-escalation of clients. My intention was to reduce the frequency of violent incidents at the hospital and ultimately reduce the use of seclusion and restraints that inadvertently dehumanized and retraumatized clients,” she continued.

Nalini noted that receiving the NEA grant is an honor not just for herself, but for the Department of Creative Arts Therapies. “This is the first study in DMT that addresses ethnic bullying and will add important knowledge that is missing in the context of bullying among racially and ethnically diverse middle school children. Using the arts and specifically dance and movement is an enjoyable and creative way to enhance empathy and build positive peer relationships among groups of racially and ethnically diverse young students. As an international student and as an immigrant myself, I understand the urgent need to address the concerning public health problem of ethnic bullying. I hope that my study will add to the larger movement of creating positive change in the United States by impacting young minds.”

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