This edition of “Who Makes Millersville Special” features Dr. Kimberly Mahaffy, associate professor of sociology and director of Latino Studies.
Q: Where are you originally from?
I was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but I was raised in western Pennsylvania.
Q: What is your educational background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Gordon College in Massachusetts. After teaching high school for two years in New Hampshire, I switched occupations and began working with welfare recipients in Massachusetts. Through the experience, it prompted me to get a master’s degree in human resource counseling from Northeastern University. At the end of my master’s degree, I realized that I had been helping people improve their lives, but had not worked to change the system that contributes to poverty and inequality. I wanted to be part of systemic change, so I enrolled in a sociology master’s program at the University of New Hampshire while I continued working. After completing my second master’s degree, I was admitted to University of New Hampshire’s Ph.D. program in sociology and four years later, I earned my doctorate in sociology.
Q: How did you become interested in Latino Studies?
My interest comes from personal experiences and academic exposure. My personal experiences acquainted me with different Latino groups: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, Argentinians and Panamanians. In my sociology program, one faculty member introduced us to works by Chicana feminists, because she had been taught by them. Without specialists in Latina/o studies at the graduate level, it is difficult to develop expertise, thus I was self-taught.
Q: How many years have you been at Millersville?
I have been here 15 years.
Q: Do you have a favorite class to teach at Millersville? Why?
My favorite class is always the one where students are engaged and applying the material to their daily lives. Some semesters, it is my Introduction to Latina/o Studies course and other semesters, it is the Social Research Methods course.
Q: Do you have any research projects you are working on? If so, what do they focus on?
I have several projects. I have a long- term project on U.S. intervention in Panama and Puerto Rico. I am interested in explaining why the U.S. relinquished the Panama Canal, but has maintained a territorial relationship with Puerto Rico. I am also studying the impact of the Latino Student Leadership Institute on students at Millersville.
Q: Have you traveled outside the U.S.? If so, what was your favorite country to visit?
I have traveled to Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Panama. It is hard to say which is my favorite, because Panama is the country of origin for my mother and grandmother. I appreciated traveling there as an adult, so I could better understand the stories that they told when I was growing up. I have been to Mexico repeatedly and lived in Mexico City for a summer in the 1980s. The Mexican people have always been very hospitable and I am touched by their kindness and generosity.
Q: How do you want students to remember you?
I have worked very hard to be an advocate for them and give them the best education possible.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It has been working with Latina/o students and first-generation college students.
Q: What do you think your students would be most surprised to know about you?
I completed my hunter’s safety course at age 12.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
I am a beginning weaver. I have a loom and I enjoy working on projects. I also enjoy reading [what faculty member doesn’t?!] and I like to travel.
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
When I was teaching the Dominican Music and Culture class, I was listening to a lot of merengue tipico and bachata. Sometimes, I listen to Christian music and other times it is “Spanish” music. It depends on which CD is in my car!
Q: If you could meet anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
I’d like to meet all of my great grandparents and ask why they moved to the places they did. Maybe their answer is simple, “there was a job,” but, I would like to know.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
It is getting my Ph.D. I never expected to do that and I don’t think anyone else expected it from me either. I’m proud to say I did it and now, it’s my responsibility to pave the way for others.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
I think it is important to be open to what life has to offer. I am a compulsive planner, but some of the best things that have happened to me were not planned!
One reply on “Dr. Kimberly Mahaffy”
Kim works so hard on behalf of students at MU! I am delighted that she was featured. She is a great asset to her department, that Latin@ Studies program and the university.