Alumni Turned Faculty

by James Barrows

Alumni Max Hulburt, George Simon, and Nicolas McAfee comment and discuss their return to JPCatholic from students to faculty and staff; what they’ve learned, their contributions to the university’s growth, and where they plan to be in the future.

Max Hulburt received his undergrad at JPCatholic, and two years later he graduated with his MFA in Animation and VFX from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He applied at several places after graduation, and was eventually contacted by Dr. Connolly. Max said, “They were beefing up the Animation department and were interested in hiring me as a professor there because I had just gotten my graduate degree.” Dr Connolly added, “He was able to bring external perspective and that’s what I liked about Max.”

Prof. Hulburt accepted the job and started in 2015. Currently, he is the Chair of Animation and Gaming. He said, “It wasn’t my intent to become a professor, though when I started teaching I really started to enjoy it….” With the gaming and animation in its younger stages, Prof. Hulburt contributed to, and eventually became Head of, the rebuilding and reiterating of the program. “Certainly, this has been a really exciting experience for me, to build something not exactly from scratch but pretty close to scratch- create something that I think is working really well.”

When asked about returning to his alma mater, Professor Hulburt said, “In terms of alumni coming back to work, I think it’s important to remember that the school that I went to is extremely different from the school you see today…I think, at this point, students are equipped to really go out into the work place and to succeed. And I would encourage students not to look at JPCatholic as their first place to go after graduation.”

George Simon, Professor of Film, was initially contacted by Professor Dunn while he was doing media work in Chicago. Dunn was searching for new faculty and a production manager. A year later from that initial phone call, Prof. Simon was hired. “It was more of a decision of whether or not I’d be able to [come to San Diego and work].”

Prof. Simon spent much of his undergraduate degree teaching his fellow peers different subjects and tasks. Thus, the transition to teaching at JPCatholic was not difficult. He said, “I’ve always really loved doing that [teaching].” Simon finds he learns much from teaching. “Coming here and teaching, you learn so much. Filmmaking is a life-long process… [it’s] creatively edifying for me to be and to teach.” He added, “Make a living, do something meaningful, and through doing that I find that I grow.”

As a young filmmaker and professor, Simon believes he brings a different perspective, contributing to the continued reiteration of how the school can better prepare students to be filmmakers. He said, “a reason you see a lot of alumni [coming back], they believe in what the university is here for…and being a student here previously, that perspective really helps.”

Nicolas McAfee began teaching directly after finishing his M.A. in Biblical Theology from JPCatholic in Fall 2017. The university was interested in hiring him the summer before his graduation from the M.A. program. He said, “That [summer] was at a time when Dr Barber had just announced his departure and Dr Harmon had just been made Chair. One way or another, Barber’s heavy course load meant that there was going to be a need, in terms of teaching.”

The ability to teach allowed Professor McAfee to gain  experience and learn from his mentors, and students. He said, “My job targeting probably would have been at a Catholic high school level. So being able to stay at JPCatholic, in the community, was a boon to me, not only in terms of talking to Kincaid, Peterson, Harmon, while they’re here, but also, I learned a lot from students, and the conversations that students have in unpacking things.”

Next quarter, Professor McAfee will exit JPCatholic and begin to prepare for his studies at University of Dallas for his PhD in Political Philosophy. “My term was a year. I started in the summer and the spring will be my last quarter [according to the contract]. I just accepted the offer of University of Dallas yesterday, so I’ll be starting their political philosophy of PhD program in the Fall.” Dr. Connolly added, of McAfee, “it was very clear to us that he wanted to go to graduate school to get a PhD…we hired him for 12 months to teach while he was exploring different grad school options.”

When asked about a possible return to JPCatholic, McAfee said, “JPCatholic doesn’t really have a politics program. Who knows. I’m always open to that possibility. Who knows if I find myself stuck in the quote unquote JPCatholic bubble again.”