Visitors to Stephen F. Austin State University's swine center won't find Dr. John Mehaffey behind the desk of a typical professorial office space. More likely than not, they will have to pass through multiple doors following the intermingled sounds of student voices and contented pig grunts to locate him.
Although Mehaffey, associate professor of agriculture in SFA's Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, didn't initially plan to pursue a career in academia, it seems, as the adage goes, he has taken to it like a pig to mud.
"My favorite part of teaching is the students," Mehaffey said. "You get to see a lot of different perspectives on life, and each student has something to offer to our program, to me as an individual and to my family."
Mehaffey joined SFA in 2012 following a career in research and development in the meat industry. He believes this experience in the private sector provides him with valuable insight to share with students.
Students in Mehaffey's classes obtain direct and extensive experience in swine, goat and sheep production - from reproduction and health to sales.
"I almost see my classroom as an experiment," he said. "The swine center is a constantly evolving process."
Mehaffey explained that because there is not a large market for commercial swine in Texas, the center focuses its efforts on providing quality livestock for 4-H and FFA students to show across the state.
In addition to managing the sheep, goat and swine centers, Mehaffey serves as the faculty advisor for the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and the SFA Livestock Judging Team.
Mehaffey's dedication to students, as well as the hands-on nature of his classes, earned him a 2019 Teaching Excellence Award. The award, given out annually to one faculty member in each of SFA's six colleges and a seventh Faculty Senate awardee, is based on knowledge of subject matter, quality of lectures and assignments, and enthusiasm for teaching.
The award also recognizes faculty members' commitment to continuous improvement, contribution to the quality of teaching at SFA by assisting and encouraging other faculty members, and interest in and availability to students.