Community Building Transforms the College Experience
At NYU, Alia Masud found supportive spaces that have helped her thrive
When you ask Alia Masud what she is most proud to have accomplished at NYU so far, the sophomore is quick to answer: connecting with other people. For someone who has built an impressive résumé in just under two years, Alia’s achievements would not be possible without the collaboration, mutual support, and trust she has built within her on-campus community. For example, she’s been named a Presidential Honors Scholar and secured an internship at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
Choosing an Education with Limitless Opportunities
Even as a high school student in Morristown, New Jersey, Alia was passionate about improving education within her academic community. After observing gaps in the experiences of students of color, she and a friend set out to make a positive change. “We formed committees and focused on specific policies, like adding authors of color to the curriculum and creating resources for bilingual students,” she explains. The entire district eventually adopted their recommendations.
And when it came time for Alia to choose a college, her desire to be part of a community that creates opportunities for students of color to excel motivated her. “What I want to do is interdisciplinary,” she explains. “At NYU, I can explore all my interests. No rules or restrictions limit me.” Through the College of Arts and Science and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Alia is combining an Africana Studies major on a prelaw track with a minor in Social and Public Policy.
Uncovering Purpose Inside and Outside the Classroom
“Everything I’m involved with aligns with my interest in advocacy and public service,” Alia says. She is active in many on-campus organizations—including the Organization of Black Women and the Dean’s Service Honors Corps—but there’s one that has played an especially important role in her NYU experience thus far. “The Academic Achievement Program (AAP) at NYU is a huge organization for students of color,” Alia explains. Designed to be a safe space, the group comprises a variety of committees focused on different services and events, from academic support to community service.
For example, Alia quickly found that AAP’s weekly discussion on current events, the Rap Session, aligned perfectly with her academic trajectory. She now serves as a cochair of Rap Session. Each week, she helps facilitate an open, welcoming environment where students can share without being judged. “Everyone is at an equal level,” Alia explains. “I’ve learned so much from every session.” Topics of discussion have included the effectiveness of the two-party system and how gender plays a role in relationships.
The Womxn of Excellence, Strength, and Tenacity (WEST) committee, which focuses on empowering women of color, is also within AAP. For Alia, a recent retreat was one of the most impactful WEST activities. “It took place in a beautiful, isolated location,” she recalls. “We were able to just connect and be transparent with each other.”
Finding Your Own Communities at NYU
“Do what you’re interested in, whether it relates to your academics or not,” Alia advises. “With more than 300 student clubs at NYU, there is literally something for everyone.” She adds, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You will find people who are welcoming and want you to succeed. I am so thankful for the people I’ve met and communities I’ve become a part of at NYU. I know I can always fall back on these spaces we created. They’re like a second home.”