Graduate student Nadia Zaffar, a former reporter for Pakistan’s first English-language television news channel, will serve as the student commencement speaker for the graduate class next month, college officials announced Wednesday.
“I am very excited,” said Zaffar, a journalism student. “I certainly appreciate my hard work here and it makes me happy that Emerson College is willing to hear me.”
While in the journalism department office shortly after the announcement, Zaffar said she was met with hugs from students she tutored and shouts of congratulations.
Zaffar said she plans to speak about her time as a reporter in Pakistan and finding her passion sharing stories through broadcast.
Prior to attending Emerson, Zaffar lived in Karachi, Pakistan, the country’s largest city. Zaffar said her community was stringently religious and tightly controlled by government officials.
“Coming from a place like that, where I couldn’t speak, and now where communication is such a major part of my life, is a great thing,” said Zaffar.
Zaffar has a dual degree in international relations and film production from Mount Holyoke College.
After her graduation in 2004, she worked as the senior producer for Dawn News — Pakistan’s first English-speaking television news channel according to Zaffar. She said she helped launch the Karachi-based station in 2007 and served as an anchor nightly.
“Sometimes I would be anchoring while I was producing — crazy,” she said.
Two years ago, journalism professor Emmanuel Paraschos called Zaffar and offered her a presidential fellowship at Emerson.
“It is a funny memory between us,” said Paraschos, Zaffar’s graduate mentor. “I called her on the phone in Pakistan and told her we were really impressed and would she come. And then she came and the rest is history.”
In her time at Emerson, Zaffar has managed JSONS.org, a website for journalism students to post their class work, and has been a tutor in the writing center.
A current intern at PBS Frontline, Zaffar said she hopes to pursue documentary filmmaking in Pakistan post-graduation.
“I plan to make sure what I do takes me to that dream,” she said.
Ted Gup, the journalism department’s current chair who will leave for sabbatical at the end of the semester, said he believed Zaffar was an excellent choice for the address.
“She is articulate, she is poised, she is mature, and she is experienced in the field,” said Gup. “She is someone that has derived a lot of benefit from her being here, and we have all derived a lot of benefit from her being here.”