This week we are catching up with Class of 2022 alum Muntaqa “Moon” Zaman (he/she). After graduating from the College with a degree in Medical Anthropology and finishing her time with the Iris team, Moon has been working as a freelance writer. Moon is excited to attend Harvard University in the fall to pursue an M.S. in Medicine, Media, and Health. The program stood out to Moon due to its interdisciplinary strength, and the program’s focus on utilizing creative writing and the arts to improve health outcomes. We are so excited to see all that Moon does at Harvard and beyond.
How has your experience at the Women’s Center influenced your academic/professional pursuits? What are your academic/career aspirations?
My experience at the Women’s Center, particularly as an Iris intern, immensely shaped my professional pursuits. I was initially planning on doing a traditional MPH (Masters of Public Health) program after I graduated. My time at Iris was the first time I got to practice creative writing in a professional setting and I enjoyed the experience so much that I knew I wanted to incorporate the skills, culture, and community of a literary organization into whatever career path I pursued. I took a gap year to figure out what that looked like, and ultimately realized that going into an interdisciplinary health humanities field would be best for me. As for career aspirations, I’m striving to become a journalist and/or researcher.
How have the connections you made at the Women’s Center helped you get to where you are now?
The friends, faculty, and mentors I found and collaborated with at the Women’s Center really helped me gain a sense of confidence. For one, I was surrounded by peers who also enjoyed reading, writing, and inviting discussions about contemporary issues. But even more than that, they held space for me no matter what genres or projects I wanted to pursue.
Tell us about the path you’ve taken to where you are now. Has it been planned? Organic? Some of both?
Oh, definitely organic, haha. I was originally a pre-med student planning to go into medicine. Then I tried my hand at Global Public Health, then Medical Anthropology with a Health minor. I ended up sticking with just Medical Anthropology, alongside literary and creative electives / activities. Even when applying to graduate school, I applied to a few MFA’s (Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing) alongside interdisciplinary health humanities programs. After a lot of exploration, I’m beginning to slowly find what ties my interests all together.
What opportunity, decision or mentor has most shaped your career?
Mary Esselman, my Iris internship supervisor, mentor, and now friend, is someone I credit a lot of my growth and development to. She’s helped deepen my writing skills, connected me to so many resources, and is always cheering for me no matter how big or small a goal I’ve achieved. I only formally met her in my last year of college, but I wish I could’ve met her sooner. She’s a joy and one of the first people to ever believe in my creative capabilities.
How have you found that you are able make a positive impact on the world?
This is a question I think about a lot. I’ve been through some tumultuous times growing up, and as I grew older, I sometimes found it hard to be the social media advocate, or protesting at a rally, or utilizing my voice in a profession like Law. I always wonder if it’s enough to write poems and stories, or just create a safe space for someone else’s. I wonder if I really make a positive impact – something I think all “artists” struggle with. But I remind myself that maybe writing these words is something only I can do, and even if one person can find comfort in it, or feel a little less alone, then that’s enough for me.
How has your view of feminism or yourself as a feminist changed over time?
It may seem obvious, but intersectionality really transformed feminism for me. As a teenager, I used to be a very gung-ho girlboss type of feminist, determined to achieve equality through sheer power of will. And while some of that still rings true, analyzing the different ways that various communities practice feminism has been so eye-opening. It’s very nuanced and culturally-dependent. Feminism for someone like me, who is South Asian for example, will look very different for someone who is Black, or East Asian. The overlap remains central though: equality, fairness, dignity, empowerment.
Looking back, what advice would you give your former, student-self?
You might not know it yet, but your eager exploration of every possibility, every career path, every hobby - it will lead you somewhere. No knowledge is ever lost. Don’t stress! You’re doing just fine and will find your way. And even if you don’t, that’s okay too. That’s the beauty of living: not knowing what happens next.