Student Highlight: Benazir Meera

We are very proud of our student, Benazir Meera, for receiving 3rd rank in the “2020 Dream Together Master Alumni contest for Best Practice Paper and Proposal” contest!

Benazir is a second-year doctoral student advised by Dr. Luis Columna in the Promotion of Health Equity and Adapted Physical Activity Lab at UWM. Her research focuses on adapted physical activity programs and implementation of interventions for populations with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She started with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. After receiving her bachelor’s, she switched her focus to sports which had always been her passion.  Benazir is a former athlete of the Indian National Short Track Ice Skating team and has made her country proud by winning the first ever medal for INDIA in Asian Short Track Ice Skating Championship, as well as representing her nation at National Roller-Skating events, World championships, and Asian Championships. She decided to bring her experience and enthusiasm to Sports Management and pursued a graduate degree from Seoul National University, South Korea after which she found her way to Kinesiology at UW-Madison.

The contest was organized by Korean Sports Promotion Organization in association with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, South Korea. They invited alumni to enter a variety of competitions – 50 individuals from around the world participated. With the experience gained from working for Fit Families-UW Madison and constant guidance of her advisor, Dr. Columna, Benazir took part in the project proposal contest and submitted for “Fit Families-India- A physical activity program for children with ASD and their families” and secured 3rd rank, awarding her a $450 prize. Usually they would have funded a trip to Seoul, South Korea to present the proposal at the yearly alumni conference hosted by the Dream Together Master program. However, due to COVID, this year awards are being presented virtually.

When asked about her motivation for this project, Benazir said “I am highly motivated to implement this program because of the experience I gained in Fit Families-UW Madison wherein I had various opportunities to learn in depth about how participation in physical activity can provide a fun and safe environment to promote healthy well-being and an active lifestyle in children with ASD. Further, I learned that children with ASD do not have sufficient opportunities to participate in programs that facilitate physical activity and the acquisition of Fundamental Motor Skills. Thus, by implementing such programs for children with ASD at various places, we can ensure inclusivity. By such an initiative, we can ensure through sports and physical activity participation, there is development and inclusion of all parts of the society.

I also asked about her hope for the results of her research, to which she said, “The proposed project aims to make a significant difference for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) in Bangalore, India by promoting the concept of adapted physical education for children with ASD and their families. Our long-term goal is to increase the Fundamental Motor Skills(FMS) that will allow access to physical activity and sports in Bangalore, India for children with ASD and the impact, if successful, would be able to spread throughout India and beyond to other developing countries. Both parents and their children with ASD will learn strategies to engage in physical activity that will benefit their overall health and further learn lifelong activities that they can use with their peers and family members.

We are very fortunate to have such focused students with big goals for moving the sports industry forward. Congratulations Benazir, and we look forward to seeing what comes next!