“I Found My Voice at Hollins”: Marie Gruver ’24 Charts Her Own Course as a Classicist and Historian

“I Found My Voice at Hollins”: Marie Gruver ’24 Charts Her Own Course as a Classicist and Historian

Academics, Research, Study Abroad, Testimonials

May 10, 2024

“I Found My Voice at Hollins”: Marie Gruver ’24 Charts Her Own Course as a Classicist and Historian Marie Gruver '24

“The prologues of history are my favorite things,” says Marie Gruver ’24, and the double major in classical studies and history has devoted much of her academic career to the past that “nobody talks about. I try to avoid the mainstream stuff that always gets all the attention in order to spotlight the forgotten parts of history.”

Gruver describes herself as an independent person by nature, so traveling solo on the road less taken in her studies and research is a challenge she has embraced with the support and encouragement over the years from her teachers, professors, and friends.

The daughter of two teachers, Gruver grew up with a love of learning. When she developed an interest in classical studies and world history in high school, she was not deterred by her school’s limited class offerings in those fields. “I talked with my teachers, and they set me up with different readings I could do on my own.”

Talking with Professor of Classical Studies Christina Salowey during her college search convinced Gruver that Hollins would be the best fit for her to pursue her interests. And indeed, since the spring semester of her first year on campus, Gruver says she has “gone all in” on the courses available. “I’ve pretty much taken every classical studies class that is available,” she says. When she declared history as her second major after meeting with Ruth Alden Doan Assistant Professor of History Christopher Florio (“I’ve always liked history and I’ve always liked material cultures”), she approached it with the same zeal. “I’ve taken so many classes that I actually have met the requirements for a minor in art history, but I can’t declare it since I’m already double majoring,” she says, laughing.

Gruver’s passion for her studies has taken her beyond the classroom. Drawn to Prehistoric and Bronze Age Greece, she did a January Short Term course in Athens, Greece, with Salowey and Associate Professor of Communication Studies Emeritus Christopher Richter. Then, she continued her studies there during the spring semester, spending a total of about six months abroad.

“For J-term I arrived in Greece before everyone else. I love traveling by myself and I visited the village of ancient Corinth on my own. Few people spoke English there, but I enjoyed getting thrown into the deep end, so to speak, and figuring stuff out. By doing that, I was able to soak up so much history.”

Gruver’s semester in Greece was coordinated through the College Year in Athens (CYA) program, whose goal is to help undergraduate students understand and appreciate other cultures and become global citizens. “I was able to see and touch things that I had only read about in textbooks,” she recalls. “My CYA program would go on a field trip to the Peloponnese region and Thessaloniki in Northern Greece and the professor leading our group would say, ‘I’m going to talk and then I want you to go explore the archaeological sites and monuments and have fun.’ You don’t get that sensory experience in textbooks of what people made and used and where they walked thousands of years ago.”

Gruver says CYA features “some of the best academics in the world as teachers. I took an archeological drawing class with the person for that. Then I took classes with the Greek epigrapher,” a scholar who studies and interprets ancient writing that has been carved onto stone. Recently she presented a paper she wrote for that class at the national conference of the Classical Association of the Middle, West, and South (CAMWS), an organization for undergraduate and graduate students as well as teachers who study classical antiquity. Gruver applauds Visiting Assistant Professor of Classical Studies Katelin McCullough, Salowey, and Professor of Classical Studies Fred Franko for their help in fine-tuning her paper for the conference and enhancing her presentation skills.

CAMWS was just the first in a series of academic conference presentations for Gruver this spring. On April 13, she delivered her senior thesis, “Permeable and Impermeable Boundaries: Inter-Deme Relationships and Borders of Ancient Attic Anagyrous from the Late Archaic Period,” at the 2024 Virginia Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society Regional Conference and won first prize in European history. Subsequently, she presented her thesis at Hollins’ Student Performance and Academic Research Conference (SPARC), an opportunity for all Hollins undergraduate students to showcase academic research or creative work for the larger campus community, and at the university’s annual Art History Symposium, where seniors present the results of research projects in a public venue.

Gruver chose to research and write one single thesis whose topic would encompass both classical studies and history. Achieving that balance was not an easy task. “I could have done just straight classical studies and focused on ancient texts and artifacts, but I had to have that social history component as well. I had to go back to the drawing board multiple times and work through six or seven different topic variations. Fortunately, Dr. Salowey and Dr. Florio were there to help me navigate all that and I found an approach that finally worked. It was a topic that I stumbled upon, but I ended up falling in love with it.”

In addition to her professors, Gruver relied upon her classmate and friend, art history major Eleanor Robb ’24, for feedback and advice. “She was so great in helping me when I had an idea and needed to ramble about it. She understood what I was trying to say and was there when I needed someone to proofread my thesis. She was a huge, huge help, and when I finally turned in my thesis, we actually popped bottles of champagne together.”

At the core of Gruver’s thesis is “understanding what happened right before the famous ancient Athenian city-state that we all know today,” she explains. “Again, I like the prologue.” In terms of presenting her thesis, she says that the best part was making it accessible to different audiences. “For example, at the Phi Alpha Theta conference, I had to tailor my presentation more to historians rather than classicists. For SPARC, I needed to convey my key points in an abbreviated version because I had only had ten minutes versus the 40 minutes I had at the Art History Symposium, where I could emphasize more of the art history perspective of my topic.”

Gruver was recently inducted into the Iota of Virginia Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Hollins. She is also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society; Eta Sigma Phi, the honorary society for classical studies; and Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. At Hollins’ 47th Honors Convocation in April, she received the ARETE Award in Classical Studies, which is given to the senior and/or junior student(s) who have completed outstanding work in the field of classics in the past year.

This fall, Gruver will embark on a one-year post-baccalaureate program in classical studies at the College of William and Mary that will enable her to fulfill the Latin requirement to enter a Ph.D. program in that field. “I’ve always enjoyed research, and being in the classroom is something that I love. The ability to share with others the things that I love is so important to me.”

Describing herself as “super quiet and super shy” growing up, Gruver believes that by coming to Hollins, “I really found my voice and I’ve not been afraid to use it, whether it’s in class discussions, serving as a Student Success Leader, or working as a Greek tutor. Hollins has been a place that has helped me flourish into the person I am today and the person I want to be.”