First-generation, transfer student writes her own story at Pacific

Wajiha Tahir ’20, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in marketing, will be moving to San Francisco to start her job as a financial product analyst for Bloomberg.

Wajiha Tahir ’20 knew early on she had made the right choice to attend University of the Pacific.

“I noticed people were leaving their classes and I noticed how approachable the professors looked,” said Tahir on a visit with a counselor from Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business. “That’s when I realized I wanted to go to a school where there were professors I could learn from and have genuine conversations with. That day walking around Pacific’s Stockton Campus felt like home to me. Strangers looked up and said ‘Hi’ and it was just a very heartwarming feeling for me. I definitely made the right choice in choosing Pacific. I’m taking so many memories away from this place.”

Tahir, a transfer student from San Joaquin Delta Community College, came to Pacific as part of the Community Involvement Program, a comprehensive need-based scholarship and retention program for first-generation college students from the Stockton area who have demonstrated the potential for sustainable leadership, community awareness and involvement.

“Community Involvement Program is my second family,” she said. “Every person in the program is so genuine and interested in helping each other out. The program offers so much more than a scholarship. I learned so much about the community, social justice, equity and about myself.”

She said that as a first-generation college student she at first felt responsible for learning everything on her own and being her own mentor. But as part of CIP she found mentors in Allison Dumas, Student Life’s associate vice president for student involvement and equity and former CIP director, and Kori Jones, CIP coordinator.

“It was like I finally found answers to all my questions,” said Tahir, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in marketing. In mid-July she will be moving to San Francisco to start her job as a financial product analyst for Bloomberg.

She said the advice she would give herself entering Pacific would be to “leave fear at the door and try everything,” which is what she has done. Besides CIP’s community engagement obligations, she worked at part-time jobs in marketing, served as the chief of marketing officer and chief of investments officer for Eberhardt’s Student Investment Fund, an experiential learning opportunity in which students manage a real-money investment portfolio nearing $3.7 million, and was also in the Muslim Student Association.

She also helped to form the Pacific Society of Women in Business.

“This organization was founded upon the realization that there was no organization on campus that exists to help women succeed in the workplace,” said Tahir of Pacific Society of Women in Business. “We wanted to create an environment where we could have open and honest discussions with women and the issues they face in the workplace. We also wanted to give women the necessary tools to be successful in their professional and personal lives.”

Tahir was doing for others what Pacific has done for her.

“One of the most special things about Pacific is how they want us to find our purpose,” said Tahir. “I really appreciated the fact that I was writing my own destiny here. I was able to join so many organizations, start one, jump around concentrations and make memories. I didn’t feel like my university experience was suffocating, instead, I had the freedom to write my own story at Pacific.”

She also appreciated the student-centered approach.

“I loved how I wasn’t just a number at Pacific,” Tahir said. “People recognized me from multiple spotlights and accomplishments I’ve had. Pacific made me realize that I have this amazing voice and story and people actually want to listen to me. I’m leaving Pacific as a much more confidant woman than I’ve ever been.”

She spoke of these things and how she was able to practice and celebrate her Muslim faith while at Pacific when she spoke during the virtual 2020 Interfaith Baccalaureate Service. (She appears beginning at about 12:28.)

There is no getting around how disruptive the COVID-19 pandemic has been and Tahir was “hurt” that in-person commencement ceremonies were postponed. It meant she could not give her parents Tahir Mehmood and Fehmida Bibi that moment to acknowledge the sacrifices they made in immigrating to the United States from Pakistan in 2007 to give their family a better life. But she appreciates a lesson from the circumstances.

“I think this situation and Pacific taught me that I can adapt to any change the world throws at me,” said Tahir. “I’m amazed at how well my professors shifted everything to virtual learning. It was as if nothing changed. I want to continue this ability to adapt to my circumstances.”