Faculty member connects students with community

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    Located on the second floor of Jarvis Hall, Melissa Gruver’s office is decorated with fliers for all sorts of TCU student organizations like Meals on Wheels. That’s probably a good thing, since Gruver is the community engagement coordinator for TCU’s Center for Community Involvement & Service-Learning.

    A Clarksville, Tenn. native, Gruver received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Christian studies at Union University and her master’s in education in student affairs administration from Baylor University in 2008.

    She came to TCU in 2009 as an AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) representative and a community involvement coordinator.  

    In her current position, she said she advises student service organizations—Meals on Wheels Student Association, Student YMCA and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few—and partners with faculty and community members to empower students to create positive social change in the Tarrant County area.

    During our 30-minute lunch conversation, Gruver chatted about her career and how the music she listens to impacts her lifestyle and job.

    “I feel like we should live in a democratic society where everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s ideas are taken into consideration,” she said. “For me, being a music lover and being connected to music is so similar in that way. Music in our society is oftentimes how we label folks, but I really enjoy listening to music that re-values things that society might marginalize, or music that re-values people and seeks for change and is about something. I get really energized by that, whether it’s hip-hop, indie, old school folk or old school country.”

    Although the 1960s had ended long before she was born, Gruver said the music from that era still speaks to her as a community engagement coordinator.  

    “I think that Bob Dylan is the greatest living songwriter of our time,” she said. “I really appreciate people like Dylan Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, stuff like that, because I feel like they used their music to connect themselves to a movement. I get really energized by that. And Dylan is still doing stuff like that today.”

    In addition to artists that advocate for social change, Gruver said she has fond memories  of a few well-known pop and country artists, such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. 

    “Dolly is my favorite singer/songwriter,” she said. “When I was a kid, I would record her radio variety show on my boombox and would listen to it all week until the next one came on, and then I would record over it.” 

    She also professed her love of The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Janis Joplin.

    “When I was in college I decided to buy the complete Janis Joplin box set and memorize it,” she said. “I just admired her strength and her power as a woman.”

    Whether it advocates for change, empowers her as a woman or even helps her remember the past, Gruver’s diverse music taste translates well to her role at the university and in the surrounding community.