Looking Back on Leadership: Hira Mustafa

Hira Mustafa graduated on May 11th with degrees in ethics and public policy and business, with a philosophy minor. Mustafa is originally from West Des Moines, Iowa and recently finished serving as the undergraduate student body president of The University of Iowa.

What do you love the most about The University of Iowa?

What I love most about The University of Iowa are the people here, hands-down. I think the relationships I’ve built here are ones I’ll carry throughout my lifetime. And there are so many people I connect with on a day-to-day basis, that I call anytime that there is a crisis or I wanna celebrate something. And although [I'll] still have those connections after I move out of Iowa, it will just be different not seeing and interacting with those same people every day. But I’ll cherish our time here at Iowa together.

Can you speak towards your plans for after graduation?

After graduating I will be spending time with family before moving to Minneapolis to work at a business consulting firm. I hope that eventually I’ll be able to do consulting work in the social impact field. One of the most important things I’ve learned as a Hawkeye is that your life is more meaningful when you’re able to positively impact your community, and one day I hope I get an opportunity to do just that on a global scale.

What about your role in UI student government? How has that prepared you?

I think it’s taught me a lot. It's been managing so many different things at one time and having to figure out a balance between my personal, academic, and work life. But then also how to work with other people. How to motivate them, how to get them to come together, how to navigate conflict, how to figure out how you’re going to get a project done over years and play your part in that year. Just how to juggle a lot of things at once. I think that will come in handy regardless of what I go into.

 ...Trying to be present is so important.

How has your time at Iowa (classes, etc.) prepared you for your next step?

In terms of my classes, I think the professors I’ve had really pushed me to dig deeper in courses. So for example, Dave Gould, I took The Green Room with him and it’s a very exciting course. He allowed me to work with his TAs to develop a way to connect the community. So it was something that was outside the typical coursework but helped expand my experience and make me more invested in what I was doing. And Ken Brown, I’m doing research with him right now in an area I care about, same with doctor Amy Colbert — they’re really pushing me to think more experiential and hands-on in what you think of as a typical classroom. And I think that’s the way the world works, I don’t think you stop learning. I think the way your education is delivered just looks different as you get older. And so I think that has helped prepare me to figure out how to navigate that space, and how to continue learning and not just plateau and be like, ‘okay well I’m done with the learning part of my life and now I can get to work.’ It's a continual process.

Do you have a favorite memory specifically?

I think my favorite memory at The University of Iowa was during the election results. I had made so many new friends in such a short time because we had built a team from people that were all across the university, that so many of them didn’t know each other before. I was looking around, and by the end of the campaign period, I had people who were best friends that had never met each other before. There’s a couple that is dating from my team that hadn’t met before. And so being able to see all of that develop, and then people put all of their trust in me to run a campaign with them was so incredible. When they announced the results, I was so confident I had lost that I just wanted to see if my senators had made it. After they started announcing and I kept hearing, “Surge, Surge, Surge,” I saw all of their faces in shock and it warmed my heart that I was able to help them get positions that they wanted and that their trust in me was well worth it for them.

I think that’s the way the world works, I don’t think you stop learning.

What will you miss most about being student body president?

I think I’ll miss being at the center of a lot of action. When big things happen at the university whether it's rolling out the diversity, equity, and inclusion plan or when there’s a crisis happening, I’m often at the center of that. And to be able to see every corner of the university come together during that time, and problem solve in a time crunch when it’s high-stress is so exciting to me.

What general advice would you give to rising seniors?

I think trying to be present is so important. I struggle with this because I have so much to look forward to in the coming months: getting married and moving to a new city and starting a new job. And it can make it seem like your final few months don’t matter as much, but they matter quite a bit. You’re at the top and regardless of what you’re doing next, you’re going to be interacting with new people and start over in some sense. So really cherishing your moments of, 'I know the people when I walk around campus, I know who I’m around, I have a structure built here, I have my relationships, my friends here.' Because after you graduate, all of those people are all over the world.

Looking towards the future, is there anything you’re hoping to accomplish outside of your role, outside of college?

My major goal right now is figuring out what area of work I want to go into. You see some of the more traditional paths: you’re pre-med and you go to med school and you’re a doctor. And when you are ethics and public policy and business, there’s a lot of different things that you could do. And so right now as I’ve been interviewing for jobs, I see my fierce passion for social justice come out anytime I’m doing too heavy of a business role, and vice versa. And so trying to figure out what that balance looks like. And trying to place myself in a position where I can continue to grow, but also continue to engage with the variety of different things that I’ve been able to do here. So it’s tough.