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June 19, 2018

Penning New Chapters Where It Started: Mahaffey’s Montevallo Journey

By Madison Griggs ’17

Dr. Paul Mahaffey began his Montevallo journey in the spring of 1989 and is still on that journey today. As a freshman mass communication major, he quickly found UM to be a safe haven and somewhere he could call home.

By his junior year, Mahaffey found himself taking more English classes than required for his degree. He wanted to read everything he could get his hands on, so he became a double mass communication and English major.

After graduating in 1993, he wasted no time continuing to learn from Montevallo and received his M.A. in English in 1995. Working as a full-time adjunct professor from 1995 to 1997 and then part-time while he earned his Ph.D. from The University of Alabama, Mahaffey experienced Montevallo from the other side of the desk. He began his tenure-track position in the fall of 2000.

“Being here as a teacher where I once studied feels comfortable,” Mahaffey said. “The professors who taught me have all retired, and the people I studied with have long graduated, but it still feels like home.”

Mahaffey loves teaching and especially enjoys watching those he teaches transform from students into friends and colleagues. As a professor and as chair of the English Department, he has to adapt to the many different personalities found in every class and the diverse issues that come with both jobs.

Since attending the University, Mahaffey said that the biggest change has been the people. To him, Montevallo maintains its special “vibe,” as he calls it, that makes it physically small, academically giant and simply unique.

Montevallo equipped Mahaffey for both life and work, having taught him the value of inclusivity. “It has instilled in me a desire to critically question those who would deny a sense of humanity to all. It creates a sense of community, an appreciation of diverse cultures and a foundation of knowledge that can be built upon each day,” he said.

Mahaffey’s Montevallo journey is not over, and it was recently extended to his son, Paul Douglas Mahaffey II or “Dee,” when he started at the University in 2013. The choice was his own, but Mahaffey made sure Dee knew all of the advantages of UM, and those advantages stuck with him. He told Dee to make the Montevallo experience his own, just as he did. Dee graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in management.

To current and prospective students, Mahaffey encourages making the most of these important years. “The college journey, especially the college journey as it is experienced at Montevallo, is important because it is that moment in your life where you become ‘you’ through the people you meet and the practical knowledge you learn.”