Q&A with Mashrafi Anwar, BS Class of 2024

Mashrafi Anwar, wearing a purple and white NYU Sweatshirt, leans against an waist-high iron fence in a park with trees, and a path behind him and a building in the distance

Mashrafi “Mash” Anwar, BS ’24, is an NYU Silver undergraduate student from Astoria, Queens. He is also a research assistant for the School’s Center for Health and Aging Innovation (NYU CHAI) and the NYU Intergenerational Home Share Program, whose websites and social media he keeps up to date with the latest program information, publications regarding age discrimination, and future events. In addition, he aids Associate Professor Ernest Gonzales, the Director the School’s MSW Program as well as of NYU CHAI and the Home Share Program, by writing literature reviews and preparing grant publications, scientific presentations, webinars, and manuscripts. He recently spoke with NYU Silver about his pathway to social work and NYU Silver, his experience as a research assistant, and what he looks forward to next.

What led you to major in social work?

For the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I had been looking for a hands-on internship working with children or older adults. I landed one at DOROT’s senior service center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I was part of a team of teen interns who led and created events for the seniors to participate in, including intergenerational work, like doing arts and crafts together, and asking questions about one another’s upbringings, and a lot of really fun exercises. Each morning, there would be a meeting with all the summer interns to plan the different activities and it was an amazing experience. I feel like the internship is what led me into social work because I had met an older adult there who was a social worker and she was telling me more about it and that it might be something I would be interested in doing. 

What made you choose NYU Silver?

My older sister actually went to NYU for undergrad and grad school so as a little kid, I was always hanging around campus. I just loved the energy at NYU and especially being surrounded by other people of color. It was a super safe feeling. I also loved how there was so much to do. While I didn’t have a dream school per se, I always thought I would love to go to NYU. Then, when I realized that social work is what I wanted to do, I found that many schools offered psychology and sociology majors but not social work. So that also drove me towards Silver’s BS in social work program. 

In your first year, did you take any social work courses in addition to liberal arts requirements?

I feel like most of my courses so far have been social work classes or at least were social work infused. For example, I took Human Biology for Social Work, which put human bio in a social work context. Then I had probably the greatest class I’ve ever taken, Society and Social Welfare, with all credit to my professor, Dr. Zoila del Villar. She taught us to apply an anti-oppression lens to helping others and in our own lives. And then there was Writing in Community, where we did regular essay work that we would do in other classes and also helped underserved kids with their writing homework.

When and how did you become a research assistant for NYU CHAI and the Intergenerational Home Share Program?

Last year, I was part of NYU’s FOCUS Mentorship Program for first-year undergraduate students who identify as first-generation college students of color. They match you up with a faculty, staff, graduate student, or alumni mentor based on your interests and preferences. By fate, I matched with Dr. Gonzales. We met bi-weekly throughout the year and he helped me with a lot of my goals. And then when it came towards the summertime and l was thinking about internships, Dr. Gonzales offered me the opportunity to be part of the team for the Intergenerational Home Share Program and CHAI. And it was an incredible opportunity that I couldn't say no to.

How many hours a week do you work on these projects?

I work 20 hours a week doing a mix of everything. For NYU CHAI, the bulk of my work is research. That entails gathering a lot of journal articles and then sorting them by name, intervention, variables, outcomes, and so on. On top of that, I am managing the Intergenerational Home Share and CHAI websites, the social media pages, and also responding to anyone who expresses interest in either.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned through your research assistantship?

I did not come from a research background so when I started, I didn’t realize how dense a lot of the research can be. When it comes to writing a literature review, you need to go through sometimes 200 to 250 articles and find the specifics of what makes one better than the other, and then also go into the experimental condition, the control, the population, what did they measure, etc. There are so many little things that go into it. And I also learned how important organization is ‒ I’m really using my Excel skills ‒ and how enjoyable research can be, as long as it’s a subject you are interested in.

Why would you encourage graduate students to be part of the Intergenerational Home Share program?

In addition to the affordability, it’s a very different experience living with an older adult. A lot of times, graduate students are used to living with people their own age in a dorm or shared apartment. There are things that older adults do that may not be offered by their fellow graduate students and there’s a special feeling of home.

What has been your favorite part of your NYU Silver experience so far?

It has definitely been a highlight being part of the Undergraduate Student Government (USGA) at Silver. I was the First-year Representative and now I'm going to be the Sophomore Representative. I am responsible for addressing any kind of issue, handling any kind of communication that needs to be done between our cohort and the higher ups, and leading a lot of events. 

I will really miss the USGA leaders who were seniors and graduated last May, but meeting them was great and the advice that they gave was terrific, especially coming in as a first-year student during a pandemic. I didn’t know how to feel or what to expect, and they were there to guide us while holding all kinds of events. We would have game nights or movie nights or we discussed courses and just met fellow classmates. USGA was definitely something that helped familiarize me with NYU.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

There are so many things I’m looking forward to but one of the biggest is my courses. It may seem like an odd answer since a lot of students dread school work. Growing up, I wasn’t big on STEM classes, but now that I’ve chosen social work, I feel like I was made for it. It just comes naturally to me and I feel like I am learning so many practical lessons. The more coursework that I go through, the more I learn, and the better I’ll be able to help a friend out or a stranger out. And then when I’m a social worker, I’ll be able to help even more.