Why I Want You to Learn About People Who Stutter

Posted Nov 03, 2020

Otterbein junior Jacob Russell’s experience of living with a stutter inspired his fellow students to organize and promote a viewing of the documentary “My Beautiful Stutter.” Read his story below and support the public relations class by attending the free virtual screening of the documentary from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5, followed by a Q&A with speech professionals. For viewing information, visit www.otterbein.edu/inst/events/ 

Jacob Russell
Jacob Russell (left) with Houston Astros centerfielder and “My Beautiful Stutter” Executive Producer George Springer

By Jacob Russell ’22 
Majors: Public RelationsJournalism and Media Communication, and Health Communication 

It is always ironic when I write about my stutter because I focused on practicing my writing in middle school so I could express myself despite my speech impediment. Many who stutter argue their condition takes away so much from their life, but I can thank my stutter for my passion for the written word that has led me to bylines like this. 

I once attended a stuttering workshop where my speech therapist asked the room of a dozen high school students who stutter if they would accept a “miracle cure” for their speech disorder if one came out the next day. I was the only one to decline the hypothetical since my stutter has gifted me my work ethic and empathy for others. 

In my college application essays, I wrote that I am determined not to let my stutter prevent me from studying communication. I chose Otterbein to study communication because I wanted a small school that would support me in my exploration of many majors in the Department of Communication. 

I enjoyed my introductory classes in public relations and media, and by my sophomore year, I became a member of the paid student media staff. My favorite student media work is announcing Otterbein athletics events like soccer and basketball.  

Let Me Speak Poster

I continued learning through experience as a public relations major in my third semester. Our class project was to promote a concert on campus using all the public relations tactics we had learned in the course. If we were successful in promoting the concert and convincing people to show up, we would earn a good grade. I wrote a press release that resulted in a real NBC4 news segment. I cannot wait to use that experience in my career. 

When I learned of “My Beautiful Stutter,” a documentary about children who stutter, at an event with its executive producer George Springer, a Houston Astros outfielder who stutters, I wanted to bring it to Otterbein to share its message of compassion, tolerance, patience and kindness. 

Since I knew successful promotion would increase the film’s reach on campus, I approached Senior Instructor Dan Steinberg with the idea of a class project. He enthusiastically accepted the project for his class. The students in the class are now doing what we did in my class for the concert: promoting the film using public relations tactics. The class is also working with the National Stuttering Association.  

I am excited to see the event and how it will impact our community. Watching “My Beautiful Stutter” will be emotional for me because I expect to see parallels to my childhood in the lives of the children who stutter in the film. I am excited for people to see what I have gone through beyond my disfluent speech, but I also want them to know that those with other conditions have the same struggles. 

I know the “My Beautiful Stutter” project would not have been possible without my department’s practice of experiential learning and my close relationship to my faculty — both of which are common at Otterbein. After writing those college application essays about my stutter, I chose the right university for me. 

If you want to support our experiential learning project, you can attend the free virtual screening of the documentary on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 7-9 p.m., via Zoom (Meeting ID: 536 279 6204), followed by a Q&A with speech professionals. It is an INST- and-FYS-approved event.  

Watch the Otterbein student made trailer for “My Beautiful Stutter” below and on YouTube.