Recent Grad Explored Dual Passions


Earlier this year, Paul J. Groff Jr. ’15, of Mechanicville, N.Y., found himself on stage, about to sing one of two solos in front of hundreds of people at the International Competition for Collegiate Acapella (ICCA) in Boston. Perhaps best known for its inclusion in the Pitch Perfect movies, the ICCA invited MCLA’s a capella group, the Allegrettos, to perform.

“It was surreal. I was like, ‘Wow. I, of all people, am about to sing at this competition?’” he recalled. “It was a feeling I cannot image feeling again.”

With the encouragement of those he knew in the audience, Groff looked to his friends for support while he sang and danced.

“I felt like a natural. I wasn’t really nervous anymore. I gave it my all,” he said. “It was probably one of the best things I did at MCLA – besides research conferences.”

Less than two weeks later, the sociology major was off to New York City, where he presented his research, “The New Sociology of Childhood in Journalism,” at the Eastern Sociological Society.

“It was all original research, outside of the classroom. I had to write it while keeping up with my classes,” Groff said. “I had professors from other institutions come up to my poster. They thought my topic was really compelling. It was a great experience.”

At MCLA, Groff’s experiences also included serving as an admissions ambassador and as secretary to the Education Club. In addition, he co-founded and served as the president of the Sociological Society club.

“I’d usually take six classes each semester, so the clubs really helped with my time management,” Groff said. “I’ve always been passionate about my academics and studying. Singing with the Allegrettos took me away from that for a bit so I could enjoy the other side of college.”

Groff decided to major in sociology after taking an introductory course during his sophomore year.

“I had no idea of what I wanted to do, but found I really had an interest in the topics presented. I’ve always had a strong interest in social movements and social policies, as well as different socio-cultural groups, how they face discrimination on a daily basis, and how we can bring about social change,” he said.

After earning his master’s degree, “I want to work with an underprivileged population – kids who lack the mentorship and resources that I was provided throughout my educational experience. The quality of education should be the same across-the-board for all children, because they’re our future.”

Looking back on his time at MCLA, the biggest influences on Groff were the opportunities to do undergraduate research, through which he realized he wanted to work with the specific population of disabled and minority children.

“When students don’t have the necessary resources – even at young grade levels – they tend to drop out of school. That’s what I’d like to change as an educator. Doing the research solidified exactly what I want to do with my life,” he explained.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better department to work with,” Groff added. “Every single one of my professors has been extremely supportive. They pushed me to do my best.”

He continued, “If I went to another institution, I don’t think I would have been as involved with research. It’s the small classes and the individualized attention I got from my professors that really got me involved with research. At a larger school, I might have been overlooked.”