Telling Stories: Spanish, English Honors Grad Gets Personal with Stanford University

By Becky St. Clair

As Midori Yoshimura, ’12, stood at the front of Stanford University’s most iconic entrance, watching the then-crown prince and princess of Spain step out of a black vehicle best described as “secure,” she focused on the same thing as many students in Spanish class: “Don’t use the (informal) form of verbs with this group.”

“After studying in Spain for my third year in college, I was very used to addressing almost everyone using the verb conjugation, since I spent most of my time with peers,” Yoshimura says, laughing. “In more formal situations”—such as talking with a more senior family member or VIPs—”you would use the verb conjugation for Usted (Ud.).”

Yoshimura, who graduated summa cum laude with majors in English and Spanish in the Honors Program at PUC, was working as an editorial assistant in Stanford’s Office of University Communications when the royal couple visited the campus. Although Yoshimura was relatively new to the job, her then-boss asked Yoshimura to join her in accompanying the Spanish press delegation traveling with the royal couple, on the off chance the journalists spoke mainly Spanish. (As it turned out, using the form with them was fine.)

Now, Yoshimura works as a digital media associate in Stanford’s Office of University Communications, where she and her colleagues manage the university’s official social media channels and, individually, various units across the campus. Yoshimura handles digital media for the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute.

“Regardless of the topic, sharing insightful research in a way audiences are most likely to connect with, and understand why it matters, is very fulfilling,” Yoshimura says.

In this role, Yoshimura leads strategic and ad campaigns, produces Facebook Live interviews with faculty and students, live tweets events, manages social media communities, and more. One project Yoshimura particularly enjoyed managing was Stanford’s #MeetOurFaculty campaign. In it, she combined her interviews with faculty members with creative photography to highlight the personal stories that inspired them—and the diverse paths that brought them to teach and conduct research at one of world’s top universities.

Yoshimura never imagined her own career path would bring her to Stanford.

“I didn’t even have Instagram in college,” she admits. “The only filters I really paid attention to were the ones on job search websites likes Indeed.com, Glassdoor, etc.—I was pretty worried about finding a job after college. So, I certainly never imagined in a couple of years I’d be sitting in a dim, packed auditorium and tweeting quotes from Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

But what Yoshimura has realized from her career experiences as an assistant editor, freelance writer, and more, is that stories—listening to, writing, and sharing them—have been the driving force.

“Stories, broadly defined, are what shape our perspectives, inspire new ambitions and hopes, and help us better understand one another. And, the stories we tell ourselves can determine our future,” Yoshimura says. “One of the things I love about working in communications is the chance to share stories about topics that affect our lives and those of others—to be better aware of our biases, how our brains work, how we’re taking care of our planet—and to do so in a way that makes these stories most likely to resonate with audiences. I may not be the main character in the plot, but that’s fine. I care more about turning people into an important story in the first place.”

PUC’s Honors Program was a chance for Yoshimura to examine—and rewrite—parts of her own story, including her beliefs and goals.

“The Honors Program was a highlight of my time at PUC,” she says. “The nature of the program is to help you learn how to think and question what you thought before. You learn to defend or criticize your own viewpoints, while discussing questions that have perplexed humanity for centuries.”

Yoshimura continues: “Discussing these topics in a place where it felt safe—where classmates were engaged and not out to disparage each other’s views, made me stronger in my faith, yet more willing to challenge it. My experience at PUC improved my ability to reason and to be constructively critical of myself and my worldview, without demolishing everything I held true or leading me to stubbornly cling to what I simply wanted to believe.”

Aside from the philosophical, there was also the practical: “I learned how to skim,” says Yoshimura with a laugh. “The assigned reading was a heavy lift.”

If you ask Yoshimura what the PUC chapter of her life story looked like, she’d say it was a choose-your-own-adventure, undertaken with the motto: “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I’m going to try a bunch of things to figure it out.” The good news, she added, is in five years you can fit in a lot.

What she most recommends to students now is, unsurprisingly, studying a year abroad.

“Time spent in another culture, learning how to live vividly outside your comfort zone, is an empowering experience,” says Yoshimura. “The capacity you develop to adapt to and creatively resolve unfamiliar situations is invaluable. You can add so many new stories to this chapter of your life—and enjoy new opportunities to hear those of others.” And, Yoshimura added, conjugating the formal and informal varieties of verbs gets easier with practice.

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