Monique Zabihzadeh shares her experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far.
In which program are you enrolled and when is your expected graduation date?
M.A. Human Rights Studies, 2024
What is your research focus? What drew you to this particular issue/set of issues?
My research focus is on child marriage. I am a child sex crimes attorney in Manhattan. I speak to child survivors every day and plan to focus my career on children's rights. I personally view child marriage as a form of trafficking and an issue that is largely neglected. I am very interested in learning about the correlation between education and child marriage - specifically girls who are taken out of school sometimes as young as 8 years old in order to be a wife and mother.
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
I grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland (just outside of Baltimore). My family now lives in Southern California. I have lived in New York for the last 10 years.
Can you describe any volunteer or extracurricular activities that you have been a part of during your time at Columbia and how this experience has impacted you?
I recently co-sponsored "Summer Dance Camp" in the Bronx. The program was for children who were either themselves victims of a sex crime or whose parents were the victim of a sex crime or domestic violence. For six weeks, the children attended dance classes until eventually performed in a recital for their friends and families. This program was a way for these children to reconnect with the innocence that was stripped away from them and to feel safe, joyful, and confident again. It was an incredible experience and reaffirmed my commitment to this work.
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
I love the interdisciplinary nature of the program and that we can all learn so much from one another. In one class, you will have someone passionate about disability rights, someone passionate about women's rights, someone passionate about refugee rights, the list goes on and on. We all just want to create a better world.
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
All part-time students will understand this - balancing an MA program and a full-time job. My Google Calendar and reminders app are my saviors.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My current job will be hard to leave but when I do I hope to work in international human rights law or for a local non-profit.
What is your favorite spot to study (or spend time) on campus?
There is something magical about sitting on the steps of Low Library.
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
I am first generation Iranian-American
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Blue crabs! It's been 10 years since I've lived in Maryland and I still put Old Bay on everything.