Stammerers Through University Campaign (STUC)
Claire Norman, 24, is a graduate and founder of the UK-based Stammerers Through University Campaign. Here, she shares her story with us.
I'm Claire Norman and I’m a 24-year-old graduate from 2014. I have had a stammer since the age of 5, which has affected many aspects of my life; from socialising, to participation at school and general telephone use. By the time it came to entering university, I was increasingly concerned about the challenges I would face. I read French Studies BA (Hons) at the University of Warwick and felt that this was a brave decision for a stammerer, because of the placement year abroad and the French oral segments of the course.
It was at the start of the second term of my final year, in January 2014, that I noticed a lack of support for stammerers. I found a lack of resources available for stammerers who are students - whereas children, teenagers and adults who stammer could more easily find advice. I decided, therefore, to fill this gap by creating a support campaign that would help university students who stammer, which I believe I would have found invaluable had it been in existence during my university studies.
The idea came to me towards the end of my first semester during my final year at University. Whilst studying for my finals, the stresses of preparing for my oral examination became too dominating to handle and I started to reflect upon the (lack of) support offered to me during my 4-year course. I decided that something had to be done regarding the support offered to stammerers; not just during their final year, but as soon as they start.
I thought of the initiative and later the name; the acronym ‘STUC’ (Stammerers Through University Campaign), pronounced ‘stuck’ – emphasises the feeling of being trapped by having a speech impediment. After the Christmas holidays I presented my idea to a panel at Warwick University, who then notified me the following week that I had been successful in gaining a small grant to get the initiative up and running. It was here that STUC was born!
I was very lucky to have practical support also, from some Trustees of the British Stammering Association (BSA). Since then I have been flattered by the number of emails and messages from university students who seek my support and ask me to persuade their university to become a partner, as well as BSA members offering their praise.
STUC aims to create meaningful change in university settings for anyone who stammers, whether students or staff. We also hope to debunk stammering myths and raise awareness of stammering more generally.
Stammerers - whether students or staff - can attend a focus group and seminar in a non-judgemental, supportive environment. These will be attended by a combination of University stammerers, lecturers, researchers and anyone with an interest in stammering. In this way, a range of personnel will be available to discuss the issues and offer responses from different perspectives. By doing this, the idea of bring together university students, staff and personnel who stammer will create a group of individuals who can, as a collective, discuss and examine issues and possible resolutions.
I work closely with the university to organise a focus group, during which we identify areas of concern. These are collated and revised, then used to determine what should be discussed at a seminar to be held at the university a few months later. Examples of issues raised in the first focus group at the University of Warwick included:
§ What can be done to help stammerers during their introduction (e.g. the first fortnight of their first year)
§ Ways in which awareness of stammering within the university environment can be raised
§ How the Students' Union of the university in question can become involved
§ How certain aspects of university life could be altered in order to ease the impact, e.g. assessment.
§ How current university students and/or alumni have overcome/are overcoming this obstacle.
The seminars are a welcoming, non-judgemental, supportive environment attended by anyone with an interest in stammering – this is a wide-ranging group including stammerers themselves (staff, students, stakeholders, etc), lecturers, counsellors and researchers. The hope is that by bringing together university students, staff and people who stammer, we will create a group of individuals who can, as a collective, discuss and examine issues and possible resolutions.
STUC currently has 9 partners (Newcastle University; Imperial College, London; University of Kent; Leeds Trinity University; City University, London; University of York; King’s College London; University of St. Andrews and University College London (with University College London Union). For more information, contact Claire below: