An afternoon at the Hume Center

Feb. 21, 2019, 1:00 a.m.

I’m writing from the comfort of the Hume Center lounge, a warmly lit room furnished with cushioned chairs and wooden bookshelves. The coffee-tinged air buzzes with productivity – it’s a bubble safe from the chilly breezes and busy hustle of Stanford’s hallowed hallways. Shaded windows, bright paintings and flyers line half the room, and the other half contains built-in whiteboards perfect for brainstorming ideas and mapping essays.

Walking into Hume brings a sense of calm that’s hard to find elsewhere during a hectic day of classes. Located opposite Green Library at Building 250 in Main Quad, the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking is just the place to take a breather, get some work done or chat with a tutor about writing or speaking projects.

As a drop-in tutor, I spend a lot of time here. I’ve grown to appreciate all that Hume has to offer, from the tutoring services to the free tea and coffee to the wellness events and learning workshops. I love seeing familiar faces and fellow tutors working with students in the lounge. It’s a great space to gather in productive solidarity.

“We welcome anybody,” says Janet Kim, Tutor Manager. “[You] don’t have to come for class or a tutoring session. [It’s] a place to wind down, gather your thoughts, work or take a break.”

The lounge is both a free space and a tutoring hub: at any given time, you can find clusters of people waiting for appointments, tapping away at laptops or reading a book while tutor-tutee pairs work together, chatting about thesis statements or the right way to use a semicolon (my favorite type of punctuation).

Six days a week, undergraduate peer writing tutors are stationed here too, ready to meet with anyone to talk about any type of writing. There are even tutors available at satellite locations like university libraries and community centers.

Drop-in tutoring is its own fulfilling routine. When a student enters the room, I look up with a smile and say, “Hi! Are you looking for a drop-in tutor?”

And so the exchange begins. They sign in, sit beside me, explain their assignment and we get to work. I’ve worked with students on personal statements, PWR assignments, physics dissertations and so much more.

If you walk upstairs, past the colorful artwork that adorn the hallways, you’ll find the oral communication tutors, or OCTs. They’re tucked away in rooms equipped with smart TVs and lecterns so students can practice their oral presentations.

“[Appointments are] pretty varied,” says Alexandra Crew ’20, who works as an OCT. Crew has helped students at every stage of the process: from brainstorming ideas to fine-tuning an almost-complete presentation, bringing it to the next level.

I remember booking my first session with an OCT back in sophomore year. I almost cancelled because my presentation wasn’t complete and I wasn’t ready to share it with anyone, let alone a tutor. But the idea that you need a finished draft to meet with a tutor is a myth.

“People can get intimidated thinking that their presentation is not good enough,” Crew says. “But [tutors] are here to help people improve their [work]. Everyone is welcoming, super friendly and not judgmental.”

You can also find writing tutors in the rooms upstairs, working with students or waiting for their next appointments, which can last up to an hour. Both writing and oral communication tutoring appointments can be booked online through a wide range of available tutors.

Another room serves as the office of Zandra Jordan, Hume’s director, who says, “Through one-to-one tutoring, workshops, special events and outreach, the Hume Center promotes a lively culture of writing and speaking at Stanford.”

Hume’s special programs include a weekly honors thesis boot camp where students dedicate time to their theses with tutor support. At Thursday English Afternoons, multilingual learners connect with tutors and improve their English communication skills.

In the past, the Hume Center has featured comedy workshops, read-ins honoring Nobel Laureates like Toni Morrison, magazine releases and more.

A couple weeks ago, they hosted an intimate conversation with acclaimed journalist Krista Tippett, host and founder of the “On Being” podcast. And before that, there was a writing wellness event, part of a wellness initiative through iThrive that includes upcoming workshops on writing, healing and spirituality.

Up next is a Family Weekend open mic night on Feb. 22, which Hume is hosting in collaboration with the Spoken Word Collective. Then, on March 5 there will be another wellness event featuring tea, scones and personal affirmations.

Whether you’re meeting with a tutor or looking for a spot to rest between classes, the Hume Center is the perfect place; it’s not too loud nor too quiet, the chairs are comfortable and there’s tea in the kitchen.

So take a peek into Building 250 today. Walk around or venture into the lounge. You’ll find friendly faces ready to welcome you and you just might discover a new favorite spot on campus.


Visit the Hume Center website at or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Contact Astrid Casimire at acasimir ‘at’

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