Hume Tutor Spotlight

Spring Quarter 2021

Person smiling for camera

Mya Vinnett, Undergraduate Oral Communication Tutor

Year? Junior

Program? Communications and Psychology

On why she joined Hume:

I got an email my freshman year saying oral communication tutor applications are open and I said, “Oral communication tutoring? I used to do that in high school and for free! So doing it for a job? Wow!” So as soon as I got the email, I emailed my PWR teacher and I was like, “Hey girl,” (because we had that rapport) and she said,“Hey, Mya!” and I was like, “Dr. Newby, will you write a letter of recommendation so I can become an oral communications tutor?” and she said, “Of course.” I love what Hume does. I love that it's the place on campus where an emphasis on communication style is really important, and that's something that's really important to me as a communications major. I used to be a speech coach back in high school, so this is my dream job. I love it so much.

On her tutoring style:

I figure out where people are coming from and where they want to go and formulate a path in my mind of how we're going to get there. I like to collaborate with them on, you know, “All right, at the end of our 45 minutes, how are we going to get you as far as possible, and what can I tell you to help you get further along after this appointment is over?”

Her experiences tutoring virtually:

Tutoring in-person is definitely my favorite because I love people. I’m a people person. I love the complexity of watching an in-person presentation and I just think there's a lot more to work with when people are working on their body movement, their posture, in addition to their tone, their slide design. With Zoom, you can only see the top half of someone, so that both limits people to what they can do to intrigue their audience and keep attention, but it also opens more possibilities for people who may have trouble standing still. You don't really have to worry about how to control that when you're just sitting in a chair anyway and you're on Zoom. I like that Zoom allows me… What do I like about Zoom actually? You know what, I'll say this: I would prefer in-person, but Zoom doesn't really limit the significance of oral communication at all because trying to captivate your audience’s attention in-person is just as important as it is trying to captivate their attention online. I just think Zoom provides more affordances and more obstacles but, you know, I love this so much that every obstacle is just a different opportunity to learn how to overcome that obstacle.

On how she sees her Hume experiences informing her life and writing:

Hume has definitely been my favorite part of being a Stanford student. It's like: Hume and LSP [Leland Scholars Program]; add those two together and you get everything I love about Stanford.Looking more broadly into my life, Hume will be one of those things I look back on 20 years from now, and think “Wow I loved this when I was in college.” It'll be the place I come to visit during Alumni Weekend. I have some great memories at Hume.

I think, for the time being, it has provided me an outlet and an opportunity to do what I love, which is to help people become better communicators, to help people become better storytellers. I'm not going to say I wouldn't be able to find some way to do it if Hume didn't exist but it'd be really hard. It'd be like helping friends here and there with their projects, but Hume allows me a place where I can sit for multiple three-hour shifts at a time and have people come to me and allow me to have the privilege of helping them become better communicators and better storytellers. I love it so much. One of the most rewarding things for me at the school is when I get an email from somebody whose class I worked with or somebody I had an appointment with and they're like, “Thank you so much, I really remember what you said about this!” I had a professor, who I worked with last quarter, tell me that in his one-on-ones with students, a lot of them said that some of their favorite moments in the whole course were the days I would come and work with the different groups. It’s moments like that that remind me that this is what I live for and I love it.

On her favorite Hume memory:

I remember it was my first quarter being an OCT and I didn't really understand how the waves of people coming in work. No one really comes in at the beginning of the quarter, as you just haven't been assigned presentations yet, and so it was like my third week being an OCT and nobody booked an appointment with me. I was so sad and I asked Janet, “Why aren’t people scheduling an appointment?” and she was like, “It'll come in time.” Then the next week, all my slots were booked because people had started getting assignments! I just remember feeling so good, and I left the Hume Center and I called my mom and I was like, “Mom!” and she was like “What?” and I was like, “Girl, I just left from my shift at work and I had all these people come in! It was no big deal... but it was very exciting." The first time I actually had someone come into Hume for an appointment, I was ecstatic. Like, you couldn't tell me anything, especially because a lot of people don't come in the first few weeks so when you finally do get your first tutee it's like, “Wow I've made it."

Why she thinks Hume is for everyone:

Hume is absolutely for everyone, because everyone needs to know how to communicate and at Hume, you have just an awesome team of people who help you do that. At every phase in our life, communication is so important and you have to figure out how to communicate to build relationships with your friends, with your professors, with your employers. If you want a good grade on whatever you're working on, you need to know how to communicate your ideas. Even if that's just math, I know a lot of math classes won't give you the credit if you just write the answer “5”. You need to be able to explain your reasoning, as to how you got to “5”. And in math you're doing that with numbers but at Hume we're teaching you how to do that with words. So if at the end of your presentation you're trying to draw these conclusions, Hume is really the place that can help you figure out how to get from the beginning to the end of your presentation. You can be absolutely brilliant-I’ve met some of the most brilliant people in the world, I truly believe, on this campus-but the essence of your brilliance is lost on people if you don't know how to communicate your ideas. Communicating is so much more than just talking. A lot of people might think, “Oh Hume is like talking and writing, I've been writing since preschool and talking since before then,” but it's so much more than that. You always want to get better at everything you do and with something that you do so frequently as talking and writing, that's something you especially should get better at over time because the stakes are only going to get higher and higher. You went from writing just for fun to writing the essay that got you into Stanford university, and you might go from writing that essay to writing the job application that's going to land you a job that changes your life, and if you don't know how to do that, those opportunities will pass you by, no matter how brilliant you are.

Anything else to add?

I love my job at Hume. I love communication. I'd love to do a version of this probably for the rest of my life, you know, helping people tell stories and telling stories to people. I have a YouTube channel where I interview people about their experiences and kind of help them tell their stories. I used to work as a speech coach for an underprivileged high school, so I would go in after my high school finished and go to this other high school and help kids work on their speaking skills, because at a high school like this a lot of them didn't go to college, they went straight into the real world and got jobs. I helped them work on their speaking skills so they could perform well at interviews and essentially get jobs, you know, to support themselves just because that's the path their life was on. So this is something I've been doing for years and I hope to be able to do this or a version of it for years to come. Yeah, I ❤ Hume!