Harris Tahir, Ed.D.
Harris Tahir, associate professor of marketing and finance, is a firm believer in following the right path. As a former project manager for The Vanguard Group, Tahir led high-profile, multi-million dollar projects for business technology initiatives, achieving the kind of success that usually provides a substantial sense of professional satisfaction. Around the same time, however, he began teaching a few accelerated business courses at Immaculata as an adjunct faculty member, and it was in the classroom—as instructor rather than student—that he was to discover in himself an unmistakable passion for academic life.
Tahir, who has taught at IU for the past nine years, remembers the day he received a call from the dean of the College of LifeLong Learning inviting him to be the keynote speaker for the hooding ceremony. Still an adjunct, Tahir’s initial response was to politely decline, protesting that, “I am not worthy of this honor.” He eventually was persuaded to accept the invitation, but that unexpected call from the dean prompted Tahir to begin thinking deeply about exactly where, and to what, he was being called.
Influenced in part by the writing of Dr. Phil McGraw, especially his warning about the longer one spends on the wrong path, the longer it takes to readjust, Tahir realized that he had a great deal of passion for teaching in a university setting. Poised on the threshold between spheres—continue in business or switch to teaching full-time—he made the decision that resonated most strongly. “I decided to follow my passion.”
Tahir, who teaches marketing and finance, is still engaged in some entrepreneurial and consulting work. “You have to be an active and practicing business professional,” he said. “To be a role model for the students, you have to be living it on a daily basis.”
Though his schedule is flexible—one of the things Tahir enjoys about academia—it is also full. Between teaching four courses each semester, Tahir spends a couple of hours each day watching CNBC keeping abreast of the latest news and trends. He employs the case-method of teaching, the same used at Harvard Business School, and searches for new cases to present every semester, new simulations, new visual media, new ways to engage the students. “My goal is to continuously be better, to continuously improve in every class session. I look at today and it has to be better than yesterday. I challenge myself to maintain an upward trajectory, to stay at the cutting edge.”
What will benefit his students is always first and foremost for Tahir, who noted that one of the things that stands out about IU’s Business and Accounting Department is that undergrads are required to complete at least one supervised internship. According to Tahir, “It works wonders. Students get to experience professional life, they learn to network, and they bring their experiences back to the classroom. I always encourage students to network, to project a professional persona and to stay engaged with the business world. This is our department’s focus and it is something very special about us.”
Immaculata’s emphasis on academic rigor and integrity, as well as its core values of hospitality, care and kindness are key factors that make teaching at IU “an excellent fit” for Tahir. “I strongly believe in those values, so it’s a perfect alliance.”
Tahir also believes in the unique nature and spirit of the country he has called home for half of his adult life. Born in Pakistan, Tahir came to the U.S. in the late 1990s. “I love this country and its values. Whenever I travel, I am proud to be an ambassador. This is the most amazing country on earth and, because I have traveled so much, I can say that.”
Travel is another of Tahir’s passions, having visited Switzerland, Holland, Egypt, Istanbul and Dubai, with Africa and Rome on the list of places he hopes to explore. “I want to see the whole world,” he said. “I want to meet people of all religions, colors, creeds and backgrounds. I want to see firsthand the beauty in this world.”
One aspect of the American character that continues to impress him is the tradition of philanthropy. “I am a big fan of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Rockefeller…billions are earned and then given away with the stroke of a pen. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.”
Tahir believes it is the fact that, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are ingrained in our core, so we feel we have to give back.”
Giving back is a theme that Tahir returns to again and again. “You have to do good in this world, you have to stay engaged with the people who are doing good, stay with that team and spread good in this world. That is the purpose of our being here in the universe.”
Not surprisingly, Tahir’s view of teaching reflects these values. “I love to see my students successful—that is the big motivation. Teaching gives me the opportunity to be a quarterback. The students take it to the touchdown and that gives me great joy, to see the joy on the face of a student who achieves…someone who enters right out of high school and, four years later, it has been a life-changing experience. You’re making a difference in people’s lives. There is a service aspect to teaching that I love.”
That kind of humility, his fierce commitment to excellence, and his real-world business acumen and experience make Tahir a formidable force for good as he influences, shapes and educates the next generation of business leaders. “Academia gives you so much freedom,” he said, “and with that comes a great deal of responsibility.”