Anna Carapellotti (LPS Bachelor of Arts, Cognitive Science ’15) has been awarded a Fulbright Grant to conduct international research.
Previously a dancer and teacher with First State Ballet Theater, Anna’s love of dance drew her to cognitive science—and to the Bachelor of Arts program at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS).
“Being a dancer, I’ve always been interested in learning about the body and mind and how it all works. What appealed to me most about the LPS program was the opportunity to study at a competitive university with a great deal of flexibility,” she says. “I started out taking just one class in the evenings during my last season of dancing professionally before becoming a full-time student. And even while studying full-time, I was able to continue teaching ballet.”
Although Anna had long been interested in the mind-body connection, enrolling at LPS helped her find her passion. While researching a paper for one of her cognitive science classes, Anna discovered the concept of dance as a form of rehabilitation for people with Parkinson’s, which led her to focus her studies on the theory.
Today, Anna is pursuing a PhD in psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, where she is doing research on dance and Parkinson’s—and teaching dance classes for patients with the disease.
“Penn has provided me with so many opportunities. I was awarded a Thouron Award, a scholarship only accessible to Penn students in the US, which has supported my postgraduate work at Queen’s University Belfast for the past two years,” she says. “To be a part of the Thouron community, and now also a part of the Fulbright community is incredible.”
With her Fulbright, Anna will travel to the Netherlands and explore the lived experience of dancing with Parkinson’s—this time through a qualitative lens. “My research into dance up until this point has been primarily quantitative—meaning I’ve used standardized outcome measures to look at changes over time in things like balance, cognition, and quality of life.” Much can be learned, she theorizes, by working with participants and discussing their subjective experiences dancing and discovering new ways of moving. While there, she also plans to learn about ParkinsonNet, a country-wide network working to improve quality of care for people with Parkinson’s by building expertise among health professionals, and encouraging collaboration between patients and practitioners.
Looking back on her time at LPS, Anna hopes other students find their passions—and encourages them to pursue fellowship opportunities.
“When I first started applying for fellowships, I was concerned that I might not be a good candidate because I was a ‘non-traditional student,’” she says. “But the Center for Undergraduates and Research—and all of the mentors I worked with through the application processes—were so supportive. I think that having had different sorts of life experiences behind me may have made my applications stronger. So, if you are an LPS student doubting whether or not to apply—don’t be shy and go for it!”