Life in the ‘Vortex’

A one-on-one Q&A with UT Law staff member, Jeff Groah

By Luis Ruuska. Originally published in Tennessee Law, fall 2014.

For Jeff Groah (Lib. Arts, ’84), a circulation supervisor and classroom technology coordinator, UT and the Knoxville area have been home for much of the past three decades.

Before planting roots in Knoxville, Groah attended Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, where he graduated with an associate’s degree in engineering technology. He then graduated in 1984 with a bachelor’s in geology. Ten years later, he landed at UT Law and hasn’t left since. 

Q: Throughout your time here, how have you seen UT and Knoxville change?

Groah: There’s been all sorts of changes in the technology we use daily to do our jobs and to stay in touch with one another. Our networked world has changed so much of how we do things. But in many ways, things haven’t changed all that much.  When I was a student, we waited in long lines to register; now we wait online.

What has excited you most about the technological advancements that have been made in the past twenty years?

Getting our classrooms up to speed as far as being able to provide different tools for students to use when they’re doing presentations and recording different events. Those are all things that I’ve been involved with.

What do you hope to see from technology in the future?

Someday it’s all going to be easier [laughs], but not likely in my lifetime.

What have you liked most about Knoxville that has kept you here?

Knoxville’s proximity to the mountains and the good climate. For many years I worked both on campus and also as a river guide. Twelve months a year you can get out and play in the mountains and take advantage of what’s around us. I ride my bicycle through town every evening on my way home and there’s always people roaming around Market Square … It’s become a more pleasant place to live over the years. I’ve actually come and gone several times, and I keep getting pulled back here. I’ve heard Knoxville referred to as the “Vortex” because it’s one of those places that you kind of get tugged back to somehow.

So you were a river guide. How did you first get into rafting and canoeing?

Growing up, my folks loved the outdoors. When I was a student at UT, there was a club called the Canoeing and Hiking Club, and they would do weekly trips—sometimes they’d do four or five a week—and I got involved.

Other than rafting and canoeing, what are some of your other interests? 

Cycling… I’ve been doing that since 2000 or 2001. I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2000 and came back from that wanting to transition from being someone who walked everywhere to someone who got around a little bit faster, but not necessarily by driving.

What’s the best part about your career at UT Law?

The community here, working with all the different people and the different people that come through our doors … not just the people that are here every day, but some of the folks that we invite to speak here. Working with adjunct professors, working with full-time professors, working with students… it’s fun to stay involved with all of that.

How do you see life ten years down the road?

From one day to the next, you never know what’s going to change … but I hope I’ll still be riding a bicycle.