CAFNR Celebrates Women’s History Month: Q&A with Tahira Hira

Hira is a CAFNR Column award winner and CAFNR alumna

Portrait of Tahira Hira

Tahira Hira (MS Agricultural Economics ’73; PhD Family Economics & Financial Management ’76) is an internationally recognized leader in personal finance and consumer economics. She is professor emeritus in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University and also served as senior policy advisor to the president of the university, overseeing initiatives around enhancing research, awards/honors and the student experience. Her research and teaching focused around consumer behavior, financial literacy, investment behavior and financial education.

She has served as a member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, chaired the NYSE committee on financial literacy, was founding president of the Association for Financial Counseling, and founded the Iowa State Financial Counseling Center.

In fall 2022, she received the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources’ Column Award for Distinguished Alumni, the only award specifically for alumni presented by the college. The awardee class includes one graduate from each of CAFNR’s six divisions, reflecting the six historic columns at the University of Missouri.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Tahira a few questions about her distinguished career, women who have inspired her along the way, and how she is supporting the next generation of women in her field.

Tell us about your current or most recent role and what you enjoy about it

Currently I am retired. I served my university (Iowa State University) for the first half of my career as a teacher and researcher. The second half my career included various central administrative positions. My last position was “Senior Policy Advisor to Iowa State University President.” I served in this position for 10 years. In that position I closely worked with several key departments such as marketing, audit, athletics, legal and people in leadership positions in all areas such as students, faculty, staff, alumni and development.

Every aspect of my job was enjoyable because the ultimate goal of every thing we did was create a better place for our students.

Share with us a woman who has inspired you in your life/career

Early on in my career during a research session I met a prominent researcher (Dr. Alyce Fanslow). I was familiar with her work, and was her admirer. She was also the editor of a top journal in my field. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions after the session. That brief time we spent together became the foundation of a long-term relationship. For years I continued to reach out to her when I needed advice and guidance for both personal and professional issues. The relationship grew in to a close friendship and I became a member of her family. Over three decade later we are still friends, and I still consider her my advisor.

How do you strive to set an example for the next generation of women leaders?

I have been fortunate throughout my career to have the opportunity to work closely with young people – I thought of them as future leaders. During the first phase of my career they were my students both undergraduate and graduate. When I worked with them, I saw their unique characteristics and potential to succeed. In my role I set an example that they would respect and admire. I wanted to be a good role model for them.

I am lucky to have many of my students around the country and world who are performing successfully in leadership positions. During the second phase of my career as senior administrator I had the opportunity to work with young professionals and budding leaders. During that time I did my best to understand their challenges, be supportive and offer my best insights to help them succeed in their positions. I set examples for them by handling issues with integrity and empathy. I made myself available to them whenever they needed me.

What advice do you have for women entering your industry?

Regardless of the industry we choose, what makes us successful is that we love and enjoy our work. And we are passionate about what we do. When we derive joy from our work, it’s not work, it’s not hard. People who take pride in doing what it takes to make their chosen work place successful – that results in their own personal success as well.