Fighting Bees Swimmer Embraces the Challenge in Change


05/11/2021

In the swimming pool, the lanes are drawn, the distance is pre-determined, the primary goal is to finish first.

Shraddha Sudhir's journey from Bangalore, India, to a St. Ambrose University Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree wasn't quite as direct, measurable, or defined.

The reward has been an educational experience that's worth its weight in gold medals. One that has prepared her for a life without lanes and a world that demands readiness to adapt, lean on friends, test personal resolve and discover new directions.

"You have a set plan, a set goal, but the plan keeps changing," said Shraddha, a foundational member of the St. Ambrose swimming and diving team. "Every semester, the plan just changes.

"That's the amazing thing about Ambrose. You have the resources and support around you to help remold your plan. Your goal might change in terms of when and how you want to get there. But you can get there. That's been a great learning experience."

Already a member of India's national swimming and diving program and consistently among her nation's top three swimmers in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys, Shraddha enrolled at St. Ambrose with visions of an Olympic future.

All did not go according to plan.

Shraddha's freshman season showed promise. She finished 13th nationally in the mile freestyle and qualified for the NAIA national meet in three other events. But two years spent fighting shoulder injuries were followed by another year all but lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a fall semester this year spent at home in Bangalore.

Yet, as her original plan changed, the bright and driven young student who earned honorable mention in the 2021 American Kinesiology Association's National Undergraduate Scholar Award competition found new opportunities to shape her future.

Shraddha Sudhir '21


In the swimming pool, the lanes are drawn, the distance is pre-determined, the primary goal is to finish first. Shraddha's journey from Bangalore, India, to a Kinesiology degree wasn’t quite as direct, measurable, or defined.

Her St. Ambrose swim career will extend to next season, with an extra year of eligibility granted to offset her pandemic-interrupted junior year. As much as she's looking forward to one healthy final year in the pool, however, Shraddha is even more excited to build upon a passion for research she discovered during an all-star academic career at St. Ambrose.

She'll do that by enrolling in the St. Ambrose Master of Science in Exercise Physiology program.

Appropriately, it is a program without lanes, one in which students like Shraddha shape their degree's academic emphasis, then work with faculty to achieve their desired learning outcome.

"With our dedicated Ambrose professors and the classes being so small, it's amazing how much freedom you have to choose, and how easy it is to customize your program," said Shraddha, who may expand on her undergraduate honors research project, which set out to assess the risk of long-term injury posed by the ultra-tight, high-tech swimsuits that have changed the pace of competitive swimming over the past decade.

To do so, she relied on lessons in research practice and methodologies gained through her participation in the SAU Honors Program and her Kinesiology courses. She also enlisted 20 Fighting Bees teammates to test jump height and range-of-motion impact in the state-of-the-art bio fitness lab in the Kinesiology wing of the Wellness and Recreation Center.

Shraddha's initial study uncovered some of the anticipated injury risk but she also learned things she hadn't expected. She may choose to continue her research through the MSEP program but she also is considering - what else? - a change in plans.

"Part of me wants to do research in other sports," she said. "I want to be able to think outside the box."

Wherever her journey eventually leads beyond St. Ambrose, Shraddha said she will be changed and enriched by the personal growth she has experienced - through three years working in Residence Life; her trials and successes in the pool; and the opportunities she's found to share her experience with students from across the world through leadership roles in the International Student Organization and the Kinesiology Club.

Like everyone, Shraddha also will be changed by the personal impact of the past year's pandemic. She hadn't expected to spend the first half of her senior year back home in India, but COVID-19 precluded her return from overseas in August. She especially hadn't expected to spend the final weeks before graduation worrying in her SAU Residence Hall about her mother and friends as the virus surged and wreaked havoc across India.

Still, her mother is safe, she said, commencement awaits, and the support system Shraddha quickly discovered at St. Ambrose has helped her cope.

"The huge takeaway for me is, no matter where you come from, St. Ambrose gives you a family to be around," she said of her undergraduate experience. "You are family. You are growing individually but the campus community surrounding you is growing, too. Growing to be better and be more inclusive. I love that part about being an Ambrosian."


"That's the amazing thing about Ambrose. You have the resources and support around you to help remold your plan. Your goal might change in terms of when and how you want to get there. But you can get there. That's been a great learning experience."

Shraddha Sudhir '21


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