The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Speakers Who Shine Get Polished at the Santa Clara Toastmasters SCUMBAT Club

At the Nov. 3 Santa Clara Toastmasters SCUMBAT Club meeting held at Santa Clara University (SCU), members gave a variety of speeches. Other members reported on the number of filler words and grammatical flubs they heard and evaluators offered additional feedback for improving the delivery of the speeches. The club nurtures other skills too. For example, SCU MBA graduate Jorge Perez Castedo joined SCUMBAT in 2012. Having served as the club’s Vice President of Education, Vice President of Membership, Treasurer, and currently President, Castedo credited these roles for helping him cultivate leadership abilities.

“We were founded in 2002; we just had our 15th anniversary,” said Lisa Stapleton, an SCU MBA graduate who started coming to the club in 2007, making her the most veteran member. “This club is called SCUMBAT because we are the SCU MBA Toastmasters but you don’t have to be an SCU MBA student to join. Being here keeps me sharp and on my toes as a leader and speaker. This is a great place to network. I found a job from hearing about it from another Toastmasters member here. We have a lot of SCU alumni, some students and people in the community, for example, people who work in the tech industry nearby.”

One such tech industry member would be Lana Chou, who grew up in Santa Clara and went on to earn a BA in Psychology at SCU. Chou described her experience in SCUMBAT as a “transformational experience.”

“Being here has helped me improve my presentation skills both professionally and personally in a very comfortable, supportive and fun environment that has a sense of comradery,” Chou said. “In the beginning when I first joined the group, I didn’t believe I could present confidently. But going to these meetings, delivering my own presentations and listening to evaluations members give other members has really helped me refine my presentation skills.”

Karen Cornwell, a Santa Clara resident and an SCU MBA graduate, wished she had known about Toastmasters when she was in college. She cited SCUMBAT’s diverse community and mentors as assets of the club.

“I spent more than 30 years in tech and I joined SCUMBAT two years ago,” Cornwell said. “Since joining SCUMBAT, I founded two different tech companies. At my businesses, to generate business, I have to speak.”

Attending the Nov. 3 club meeting for the first time as an observer was Mitu Bhugra, a PhD researcher in Bioengineering at SCU. Bhugra planned to attend a few more meetings before deciding whether to join the club.

“Most people aren’t aware how they speak with filler words such as ‘ahs’ and ‘ums’ but coming here, people are told when they say these things,” Bhugra said.

The Santa Clara Toastmasters SCUMBAT Club usually meets on Fridays at 6 p.m. at SCU’s Lucas Hall in Room 208. For more information, contact  or visit or


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