NCRA announces the winners of the 2017 CASE scholarships

Lisa Erickson

Lisa Erickson

The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) has selected Lisa Erickson, a student at Prince Institute in Elmhurst, Ill., as the first-place winner of the 2017 CASE Scholarship. Maggie DeRocher, of Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Ia., earned second place, and Meredith Seymour of Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. earned third place. The first-place winner will receive $1,500; second place, $1,000; and third place, $500.

“Words fail to adequately express just how blessed I am to have received this award,” says Erickson. “As a double-duty parent, so many odds are constantly stacked against me. What this means to me is a bright start to the future I dream for my family. Thank you to all who helped make this possible.”

“I’m so honored to be a recipient of the CASE scholarship,” DeRocher tells Up-to-Speed. “It’s great motivation to continue to constantly learn and grow in this great profession.”

Meredith Seymour, who has worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, says she is “humbled and thankful to be granted this scholarship, yet also honored to be given this opportunity to spread awareness on behalf of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

maggie derocher_cropped

Maggie DeRocher

As part of the application process, students submitted an original essay on the topic “Describe what the professions of court reporting and captioning are like today from your perspective. What do you think those professions will be like in the next ten years?”

All three winning essays focused on the growing demand for reporters and captioners as well as a positive outlook for the future. “I conclude that in ten years and beyond,” Erickson writes, “this remarkable field will continue to turn heads and strengthen the backbone of the community.” Erickson’s instructors rated her as “exceptional” and used words such as “stupendous,” “persistent,” and “committed” to describe her.

Meredith Seymour

Meredith Seymour

Another common theme among the essays was the effect that technology will play in the future of the court reporting and captioning professions. Seymour points out the shortcomings of digital audio recordings in courtroom settings: “Although once thought as a convenient and inexpensive route, [technology] has been continuing to prove how inadequate and untrustworthy it is a reporting device for the court system.”

DeRocher, on the other hand, sees social media as a way to share information within the community: “There is camaraderie, punctuation and grammar advice, suggestions how to handle different situations that arise in the profession, discussions of the newest technologies, and everything in between.”

Applicants were also required to be current students at an NCRA-approved court reporting program, hold student membership with NCRA, write between 140-180 wpm, and submit three recommendation forms, among other criteria.

Scholarship recipients will be formally announced at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. Visit the Student Resources page for more information about the CASE Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities.

Always go the extra mile — it’s never crowded up there

Runners wearing athletic apparal in a race down a narrow paved road with grass on either side

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff

Practicing, staying motivated, meeting target speeds. Networking, handing out résumés, taking skills tests. Court reporting students have a lot on their minds. And getting ready to graduate adds another whole dimension to school life. Students reflect on the challenges they are leaving behind and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

Attending a court reporting program can sometimes be a lonely road, but students find the camaraderie of their classmates to be a good source of motivation. “The most difficult thing about being in school,” explains Sara Simoni, a student at Bryan University in Tempe, Ariz., “is that the people in your circle don’t quite understand what you’re going through. Even though you may explain what it’s like time and time again, they will never quite understand.” Perhaps friends and family may not be able to relate, but nearly 40 percent of students answering a poll in April’s issue of Up-to-Speed reported that their court reporting classmates are “a great source of inspiration.”

Ask just about any court reporting student what his or her biggest hurdle in school is and the answer is usually speed plateaus. Most students also agree on the way to overcome that hurdle: Put in more practice time. Students differ on the details, however. “Maybe instead of writing at only 20 wpm above my goal speed for 5+ minutes, I do short bursts of 40 or 60 wpm over,” says Lauren Mancusi, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Simoni takes the opposite approach. “I would take a one-minute exercise and work it 20 wpm below my target speed … then bump it up in increments of 10 all the way up to 20 wpm above my target speed.’

Of course, there is more to staying motivated than just getting over speed plateaus. “The best tip for getting though school is to forget the bad days,” suggests Celeste Poppe, a recent graduate from Bryan University. “Cry for only an hour, and move on and keep going. It’s hard not to get swallowed up by the ‘I’m not getting it’ or ‘I’m stuck’ feelings, but you just have to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you and keep on stenoing.”

Simoni also says to focus on the positive. “The best tip for surviving school is to remember to reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishment. With all the tests you will fail during your court reporting school journey, you have to take time to celebrate even the smallest achievements.”

Focusing on the positive also means looking to the future. One of the best ways to get a jumpstart on a career is to start earning certifications, like the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) or the Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR), while still in school. The experience of regular testing, in addition to the wide range of resources available in the school environment, makes this the perfect time to take those tests. “I am currently a licensed California CSR and working as a freelance deposition reporter. I also obtained my RPR during the time I was waiting for my CA CSR results, having passed each leg on the first time starting with the 225 leg and ending with the Written Knowledge Test leg,” said Poppe. Simoni found her internship to be an invaluable experience in preparing for her certification. “I loved interning. I had friends who were officials at my local courthouse. They couldn’t wait for me to start my interning journey, and they placed me right in on a jury trial. It definitely uplifted my confidence as well. I remember passing one of my last 225 tests right after interning.” She is planning to begin her RPR testing as soon as possible.

Those last few months of school are also the best time to search for a job. Students suggest getting out of the classroom and into the courtroom. “I am currently job hunting!” Simoni announces. “I am handing out résumés, and I am sitting in court with my friends who are officials. I’m working on my professional wardrobe and trying to gather all the necessary things to help me succeed as a new reporter. I know networking is huge in our industry, and I can’t help but be overly excited to hand out my new business cards!” Mancusi and Poppe also recommend attending state association conventions and seminars as a way to network with working reporters who can connect them with jobs.

For some students, the last piece of the puzzle is graduating from court reporting school. Every student takes a different path through the wickets of dictation, speed tests, internships, and graduation requirements. Often, the trickiest thing about graduating may actually be the timing. “To me,” admits Mancusi, “the hardest part of being in school is trying to explain to others why I don’t know my exact graduation date.” When Up-to-Speed polled readers about how important it is for them to graduate from court reporting school quickly, about 34 percent replied that they had people depending on them to graduate as soon as possible. But an almost equal number responded that they had “set a goal to graduate by a certain date, but things may change.” The remaining students were split almost evenly between a determination to graduate by a certain date “no matter what” and the more laid-back approach of “I’m in no rush. It will come when it comes.” Lauren Mancusi is firmly in the “no matter what” camp: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

How to make a smooth transition from student to reporter

new professionalBy Jacqueline Timmons

I have trained many new reporters over the years, so I have had a firsthand view of the transition from student to working reporter. I gained much insight as I was training and mentoring these new reporters, and this is my advice on what students should know as they prepare to start their careers in reporting.

Tip No. 1 Ensure that your equipment is properly maintained so it is not too loud or making noise when you are writing in the courtroom. If you buy new equipment and software right after graduation, make sure you know your machine and software before going to your first assignment. You don’t want the bad experience of walking into a room filled with attorneys and not knowing how to set up your equipment. There is a natural tendency to panic when all eyes are on you. Practice setting up your equipment before your first assignment.

Tip No. 2: If your software program has audio, do not rely solely on it for your transcript. It is a great tool as a backup, but remember, you may have to read back a question or an answer. If the audio fails, it might be that the microphone was not turned on or was not plugged in correctly or there was background noise that distorted the recording. With or without the audio, you will have to produce the transcript.

Tip No. 3: Make sure you know the appropriate oaths for swearing in witnesses and translators. Practice saying the oaths before you go to your first deposition. Make a note card with the oaths on it to keep in your briefcase so you can review them before the deposition starts. Once you get used to reciting them, they will become second nature. In fact, you may have to make sure you don’t say the oath so fast that the witness misunderstands the words. Occasionally, an attorney may state something for the record first and then ask you to swear in the witness. If an attorney starts questioning and forgets to have the witness sworn, interrupt and ask if he or she would like to have the witness sworn in.

Tip No. 4: You will find that not all witnesses speak in complete sentences, which makes it difficult to punctuate. If a witness pauses in his or her answer, it may not necessarily mean that a comma belongs in that space. The witness may just be thinking about how to phrase the answer or may be ready to change his or her thought altogether, in which case you need to place a dash.

Tip No. 5: Probably the most difficult barrier to overcome is learning to interrupt. But remember, if you cannot hear the witness, mostly likely the lawyers are having the same problem. They will invariably ask you to read testimony back. If you are having difficulty hearing, ask the witness to repeat an answer or to speak more loudly or more clearly.

Tip No. 6: If possible, when reading back on the job, read the question or answer to yourself first before you read it aloud. This may save you from stumbling over a new word, a steno outline, or a mistranslate.

Tip No. 7: Another early lesson to learn is that your working experience will not be like dictation in class; it will not be five minutes at a particular speed. It will vary all throughout the day, depending on who is speaking. The lawyer may be slow and the witness fast, or vice versa.

Tip No 8: You may also be writing for two-hour stints without a break, so you may get tired at first. Writing an all-day deposition or all-day trial certainly can wear you out, especially when you first start reporting. Don’t get discouraged. Once you get used to sustained writing, it becomes much easier.

Tip No. 9: Because you don’t know what the day holds, be sure to eat a full breakfast. You never know if you will get a lunch break, and if you do, it may be a short one. Hopefully, you’ll be asked if you would like to break or you will have the opportunity to ask for a break, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the need for a faster deposition means starting at 9 a.m. and going straight through to 2 p.m. with no lunch break. I have had that happen, and I find in those cases, I was very happy I ate breakfast. If you are not a breakfast person, keep a snack bar or something you can eat at a break.

Tip No. 10: When I started reporting, I acquired reference books, which were tremendously helpful. That was before computers and the internet. Make Google, or whatever search engine you use, your friend. When editing, use it. If you are not sure of something, look it up. For example, I was editing a job and it sounded like the witness said he had an Audi 88. Not being familiar with that car, I Googled it just to be sure. It turned out it was an Audi A8. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow reporters during a break if you need a spelling or clarification, or if you are unsure of a term. We are always willing to help each other.

I hope I have provided some helpful tips to guide you in the transition from student to reporter. And here is just one more: Don’t get discouraged if your first reporting assignment doesn’t leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. I have been reporting for over 35 years, and I still love it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had some difficult assignments that have left me wanting to cry. But those unfavorable experiences didn’t ruin it for the other assignments — ones that have left me feeling that I chose a very rewarding career.

Jacqueline Timmons, FAPR, RDR, is a freelance reporter in Darien, Ill. She can be reached at jmtcsr@cs.com.

Making a few adjustments

A smiling young adult woman, dressed cassually, sits on a floral couch with a golden retriever at her side.

Kayde Rieken with her seeing-eye dog, Fawn

Long nights of practice and endless speed tests are familiar challenges for court reporting students. But Kayde Rieken, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., has experienced one that is unique. She was the first student to take the RPR Written Knowledge Test (WKT) in Braille. With her new career, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of other people who are disabled.

  1. What made you decide to go into court reporting?

I have always been an avid reader, and I enjoy expanding my vocabulary. I am also fascinated by technology and the impact it can have on the lives of disabled people such as myself. When I found out that court reporting was a profession that combined these two interests, I was sure I had found where I belonged.

  1. Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

I was about three-quarters through a bachelor’s degree in Spanish translation when I discovered that it just didn’t feel right for me anymore. Court reporting was one of the things I listed as an interest when I was debating career choices in high school, so I decided to do more research on it. It was a very hard and frightening decision, but I chose not to finish the degree I had begun and start my court reporting education. I have, of course, not regretted it for a moment.

  1. Have you had any special accommodations for classes or testing throughout your court reporting program?

I have not needed many accommodations. Court reporting students are often told during the first few weeks of theory not to watch their hands as they write. I use an ordinary Windows laptop with a text-to-speech screen reader that converts print into synthetic speech. Another essential component of my setup is an electronic Braille display that works in conjunction with my screen reader to convert print into Braille output. My steno machine has a basic screen-reading program on it, although I only use this when changing settings on the machine itself.

There were a few things in my CAT software class I was not able to do, such as use the autobrief feature because I am not able to see suggestions pop up on the screen as I write. However, my instructor provided me with alternative assignments that we agreed would be beneficial for me to do during that week.

  1. What kinds of challenges, if any, have you faced during your court reporting program?

My challenges were mainly what everyone else faces — being stuck at a speed for a long time or that stroke that you can never seem to stop hesitating on. I never felt that my blindness itself presented a challenge in court reporting, as I gain most of my knowledge of the environment through listening anyway. In past college experiences, I sometimes had problems with professors not believing in my abilities; but all of my teachers at the College of Court Reporting have held me to the same high standards to which they hold all their other students.

  1. Describe your experience taking the WKT.

I was initially a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure what accommodations could be made. I was worried that the only thing NCRA would be able to provide was someone to read the questions to me. If you stop and imagine only listening to some of those complicated punctuation questions without a “visual” medium in front of you, I think you can see that would not work. However, the people in charge of testing at NCRA could, and did, provide me with a Braille copy of the WKT. I cannot express how grateful I was for this. Then, with that accommodation taken care of, I had a somewhat typical test-taking process. I read the questions in Braille and had a recorder there to mark down my answers in print for me. I went over the questions twice to make sure everything was marked correctly.

  1. Which tests do you plan to take next?

I plan to take the jury charge portion of my RPR next, as I have passed my two online tests and my jury mentor evaluation.

  1. What types of challenges do you anticipate in your career ahead?

I am the kind of person who tries to meet challenges as they come. I can anticipate that the marking of exhibits could be something I may need assistance with, but I don’t see that as being much of a problem. I am glad to know, however, that I have several mentors, blind and sighted, within this profession to answer any questions I may have.

  1. Do you have any advice for people who are blind or visually impaired who are considering a career in court reporting?

As I mentioned earlier, I think Braille is a very important component to this profession for a blind person; so make sure your Braille skills are solid. Also — and this applies to any student — it is important to do your research and find places where you can network and foster mentoring relationships. I had the opportunity to go to the NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago last year, and it was one of the most overwhelming and exciting experiences of my life; so don’t be afraid to embrace experiences that might be a little scary for you. They are nearly always worth it.

A free pen? How about Las Vegas swag?

A smiling woman sits in front of a pile of black backpacksStudents attending the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., are in for a treat. Firm owners have come together to donate some exciting swag. Doreen Sutton, FAPR, RPR, Chair of NCRA’s Student Committee, has been hard at work collecting donations. Sutton tells Up-to-Speed, “There are all sorts of fun goodies in the bag that I hope the students will have fun with.” (You might even find a pen in there!)

Attending a national convention is often the highlight of a student’s educational career. It provides not only an invaluable learning experience, but also an unparalleled opportunity for networking. “When I was a student,” recalls Sutton, “just the privilege of speaking to a reporter or going to lunch was memorable.” And being able to leave the conference with a souvenir, something tangible, is priceless.

Various-sized boxes on a table, each filled with a different small item such as coozies, lanyards, and chocolatesThe Student Committee has firm owners to thank for those souvenirs. The committee sent out emails requesting donations, and the response was swift and generous. “The swag items are a wonderful combination and filled up our amazing bags, also donated,” says Sutton. “The bags themselves are awesome and will be great for future uses.” Students lucky enough to attend the conference will head home with fond memories, a few more contacts, and some special souvenirs!

NCRA and the Student Committee would like to thank the following donors for their contributions to this year’s student swag bags:

  • AWR & Associates
  • Canyon State Reporting
  • Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • CRC Salomon
  • Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Doreen Sutton, FAPR, RPR
  • Doris O. Wong & Associates
  • LNS Court Reporting
  • Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR
  • Orange Legal
  • Paradigm Reporting
  • Phipps Reporting
  • Pittman Stenography
  • Planet Depos
  • Schmitt Reporting
  • Sousa Court Reporters
  • The Varallo Group
  • Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS
  • Toby Feldman
  • U.S. Legal Support

Court reporting students attend FDCC Deposition Boot Camp for real-life experience training

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn June 13, MacCormac College students Alyssa Rufus, Rachel Wolfe, Robyn Falasz, and Shannon Dovgin attended the Deposition Boot Camp hosted by the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel. The Boot Camp consisted of several mock depositions so court reporting students and law students could gain hands-on experience.

Read more.

2017 NCRA Convention & Expo student track sessions

Steno Speed Dating

Here is your chance to have a face-to-face conversation with a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner in a round of Steno Speed Dating. You’ll have 15 minutes with each representative to ask the questions you’ve always wondered about. Ever wondered how a speed champ writes like the wind? How does a reporter get a witness to stop interrupting? Do captioners really wear their pajamas to work? How on earth do you prep to provide CART for a Computer Science 225: Pseudorandomness class?

This will be the perfect time to find out what keeps these professionals motivated and passionate, and what it takes to compete at high-speed levels while still maintaining their daily jobs as a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner .

Presenters: Dee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR; Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC; Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR; Cheryl Haab, RPR; Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Stanley Sakai, CRC; Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Doug Zweizig. RDR, CRR

 

Business of Being a Reporter

School may have prepared you to take down testimony, but what does it really look like when you’re on that deposition or court case? How do you conduct yourself around attorneys, witnesses, or even the judge? What do you do when things get crazy, and you’re about to lose the record? What does it mean to mark an exhibit? What’s it look like when you’re hooked up for a realtime job? If you consider yourself a visual learner, then this is the session for you! Our professional reporters will demonstrate real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show you the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job — play-by-play commentary included!

Presenters: Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessie Waack, RDR, CRR

 

How to Compete with Some of the Best

Join the Fabulous Fraziers and realtime champ Ron Cook to talk about how they prepare for the Speed and Realtime Contests and how this preparation can benefit your progress in school. Come get encouragement and learn some fun tips to help push you through your school journey.

Presenters: Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR

 

Online Skills Testing — See It for Yourself!

By now you’ve heard that NCRA skills tests have been moved online. But, what exactly does that mean and how does it affect you, if at all? No doubt, you have lots of questions, so let’s try to answer them. In this seminar, Marybeth Everhart will review the entire online testing process, from registration to completion — soup to nuts, you might say.

What equipment will you need? Where can you test? Who is ProctorU and how are they involved? For answers to these questions and more, you’ll want to attend this seminar!

Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI

 

Read the speaker bios here.

2017 NCRA Convention & Expo student track speaker bios

The following reporters and captioners will be speaking as part of the student track at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. The event will run Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Read the sessions descriptions here.

BoenauDee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Dee Boenau is a realtime captioner and a convention reporter. She entered the profession in 1992 as a freelance deposition reporter and then entered the fields of realtime captioning in 1995 and convention reporting in 2000. Since 2001, she has won the Realtime Contest twice, placed 2nd six times, and 3rd three times. In addition, Boenau placed 2nd in the Intersteno Speech Capturing Competition in Paris in 2011 and 2nd in the NCRA Speed Contest in 2013.

 

Bryce 2014Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR

Jo Ann Bryce has been a reporter for 42 years. She is a Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, California Certified Shorthand Reporter, and Federal Certified Realtime Reporter. She is currently an official reporter for the Northern District of California federal court in San Francisco. Bryce is a five-time National Realtime Champion, and at the 2014 NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, she won both the National Speed and Realtime Contests. In total, she has five gold medals.

 

Linda S. Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC

Linda S. Christensen is a graduate of Stenotype Institute of South Dakota. She lived 15 years in the beautiful state of Washington, enjoying life as both a freelancer and official. In 1998, she moved to the desert of Arizona and continued freelancing until 2007, when she transitioned into a varied career including CART, sports reporting, legal reporting, and transcribing. As a sports reporter, Christensen travels the world roughly 25 weeks a year covering professional tennis and golf events. She enjoys mentoring students and speaking at state seminars on the many different jobs within the fabulous skill of stenography. When Christensen is not tapping on her Luminex, you can find her in a botanical garden somewhere in the world or babying her own citrus trees and flowers in her Central Phoenix home and garden.

 

everhartMarybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI

Marybeth Everhart has been reporting since 1980 and writing realtime since 1992. She has been a freelance reporter in the Baltimore-Washington area; an official reporter in Brisbane, Australia; provided CART services to such organizations as Self Help for Hard of Hearing People and the Neurofibromatosis Foundation; captioned for Gallaudet University; managed a large, multi-office freelance firm; taught court reporting at all levels; and trained on numerous CAT systems over the years. She has been a certified advanced trainer for Eclipse since 1994 and has presented hundreds of seminars and trainings on dozens of Eclipse-related topics.

Everhart is now the national marketing manager for Realtime Coach and works closely with reporting schools, firms, and court systems to increase speed and improve accuracy for students and working reporters. She has served as a member of the NCRA Future Group, the NCRA Reporter Education Commission, the Council on Approved Student Education, and the Maryland Court Reporters Association Education Committee. Everhart currently serves as a contributing editor to the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting) and the Eclipse Users Group Newscache.

 

Frazier family

Left to right: Clay Frazier, Ron Cook, Tami Frazier, and Chase Frazier

Frazier Family: Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Tami Frazier, proud mom of Clay and Chase Frazier, has been a court reporter in California Superior Court for 36 years. Her love for the profession helped convince Clay and Chase to become court reporters as well.

Clay has been a deposition reporter for eight years, and Chase has been a CART captioner for two years. All three love competing with each other in speed and realtime contests, which is where they met Ron Cook.

Ron Cook has been a deposition reporter for — well, if you ask Tami, since the steno dinosaurs roamed. (He occasionally gets her back by calling her “Mom.”) Cook owns his own deposition agency in Seattle, Washington. Cook won the 2016 NCRA Realtime Contest Q&A leg and was one error away from being crowned the 2016 NCRA Realtime Champion.

 

RichGermosenRich Germosen, RMR, CRR

Rich Germosen is a Certified Realtime Reporter with more than 24 years of experience covering high-end realtime assignments nationwide, especially in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. He holds the NCRA Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. Germosen has consistently qualified in the NCRA National Speed and Realtime Competitions from 2012 through 2016. In 2016, Germosen also received a 3rd place medal in the Deposition Reporters Association Realtime Contest in the 190 wpm Q&A.

 

Haab2 (2)Cheryl Haab, RPR

Cheryl Haab is a freelance court reporter in Westminster, California. Originally from Canada, she migrated south in the year 2000 in search of a warmer climate and is now happy to call Orange County her home. Haab has served on the Board of Directors of the Deposition Reporters Association (DRA) since 2012, first as secretary-treasurer, followed by several terms as district director, vice president, and now president-elect.

Haab has served as chairperson of DRA’s Student Committee, and she currently serves in a consulting capacity on DRA’s legislative and financial committees, as well as being editor-in-chief of the association’s quarterly publication, the Deposition Reporter. She has also represented the DRA on the national level at several events across the country, including noteworthy leadership, legislative, and strategic planning conferences in Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. She has had her writings published in the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting) and recently appeared in the award-winning court reporting documentary For the Record. Haab most recently served as co-chair of NCRA’s New Professional Committee. In August of 2015, Haab was the recipient of Bryan University’s first Alumni Award for Outstanding Career Achievement.

 

Hensley PicMike Hensley, RPR

Mike Hensley is a new reporter with one year of experience in handling deposition, arbitration, and court settings for live and teleconference communication methods. He has experience working with both boutique-style firms and international firms. He is currently serving on the NCRA New Professionals Committee.

 

Charisse Kitt_squareCharisse Kitt, RMR, CRI

Charisse Kitt has been a court reporter for 24 years. She has worked in the New York Supreme Court, the Eastern District of New York Federal Court, and Fulton County Superior Court (Atlanta, Georgia). Kitt is a Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Reporting Instructor, Certified Shorthand Reporter, and Federal Certified Realtime Reporter. Kitt currently serves as a board member for the New York State Court Reporters Association.

 

Stanley Sakai, CRC

Stanley Sakai is a 28 year-old Certified Realtime Captioner and Certified Shorthand Reporter from Seattle, Washington. He began teaching himself stenography as a faster way to take notes while obtaining his degree in linguistics from the University of Washington. In 2013, he relocated to New York City where he now lives and works as a freelance and CART captioner, offering realtime services in English and Spanish. Sakai is also a hobbyist programmer and uses his coding skills to contribute to projects like Aloft, a caption-streaming app he began in 2015, and Plover, an open-source steno translation engine. Sakai maintains an active Web presence, producing YouTube content and publishing blog posts about various steno-related topics.

 

Schuck Pic_squareJennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Jennifer Schuck graduated from MacCormac College, Elmhurst, Illinois, in August 1993. She did judicial reporting until 2003. That fall, Schuck had the opportunity to receive training to become a captioner. In December, she left her freelance reporting position full time to start her transition into captioning. Currently, Schuck primarily provides on-site CART in the educational and corporate setting as well as travels for CART jobs. She provides remote CART and does some broadcast captioning as well. She has served as chairperson of the NCRA CART Community of Interest Committee, co-chair of the CART Ethics Taskforce, a member of the NCRA Realtime Certification Committee, and chair of the Arizona Court Reporters Association’s CART committee.

Some of her achievements include the Arizona Court Reporter Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2012, the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Chapter Professional Award in 2011, and 4th place overall in the NCRA Realtime Competition. However, her highest achievement was placing 3rd in the realtime competition at the Intersteno Congress in Paris in 2011 and Budapest in 2015. Schuck was inducted as a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago.

 

Sonntag2_squareMelanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag has lived and breathed reporting since she discovered the profession as a junior in high school. It’s the only career she’s ever had, and in her more than 35 years of reporting, she has worked as an official, freelancer, firm owner, and occasional CART captioner. She’s a Registered Diplomate Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, Certified Realtime Captioner, and Fellow of NCRA’s Academy of Professional Reporters. She’s served on many committees and boards, including as president of the Wyoming, Colorado, and National Court Reporters Associations. She’s a perennial contestant in state and national speed and realtime contests, having placed as high as 2nd in NCRA’s Speed Contest on two occasions and won the Colorado and Illinois contests numerous times. She’s given seminars to students, reporters, vendors, and the public since 1993. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for MacCormac College, the nation’s oldest reporting program. In 2015, Humphrey-Sonntag transitioned to Planet Depos, an international reporting firm, and she’s now a full-time realtime reporter in their Chicagoland branch, where she loves interacting with attorneys in the field and reporting varied and interesting cases.

 

StricklandJoe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC

Joe Strickland has been a reporter since 1990. He was a closed captioner for KVIA in El Paso, Texas, and a freelance reporter in the Washington, D.C. area. In 1993, he joined the U.S. House of Representatives as an official reporter. During his 22 years with the House, he served as an official reporter to house committees, an official reporter of debates, deputy chief reporter, and 10 years as chief reporter, supervising a 43-member staff. He has reported the State of the Union addresses of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Strickland retired from federal service in 2015 and is again a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C.

 

Waack Pic_squareJessie Waack, RDR, CRR

Jessie Waack has been a freelance reporter for 20 years. After graduating from Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisconsin, she worked for 17 years in Milwaukee as a staff reporter. From there, she moved to San Francisco, California, for two years. After that, she moved to New York City where she has continued working as a freelance reporter and building her own clients. Waack has attained her Registered Diplomate Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, and Realtime System Administrator certifications. Waack also holds the California Certificate in Realtime Reporting, and the New Jersey Certified Court Reporter, New York Realtime Court Reporter, and New York Association Certified Reporter certifications.

 

ZweizigDoug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

A 1989 graduate of Central Pennsylvania Business School (now Central Pennsylvania College), Doug Zweizig earned his associate’s degree and moved from a small town to Philadelphia where he began work as a freelance court reporter. Initially covering car accidents and workers’ compensation matters, he later began covering medical malpractice, public hearings, etc. A limited amount of CART work was interspersed in those years, something he found most rewarding.

In 2001, Zweizig began as an official court reporter in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. He covered a wide range of work: drug cases, assaults, and especially homicide trials. On the civil side, he covered medical malpractice, mass tort pharmaceutical cases, construction, and discrimination. After many rewarding years there, he accepted a position in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, where he’s currently working. There he handles criminal matters, including large drug conspiracies, racketeering, bank fraud, and occasionally a murder trial. On the civil side, he covers patent cases, maritime, discrimination, etc. Zweizig has several medals in speed and realtime contests, winning the National Realtime Contest in 2006 and 2015.

Things to learn, people to meet: Navigating the NCRA Convention & Expo as a student

Three smiling female students at the NCRA Convention & ExpoCourt reporting students agree: Meeting new people and learning new things are the best reasons to attend a conference like the NCRA Convention & Expo. Students who have attended one of the past Conventions share their advice for making the most out of the experience, just in time for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Aug. 10-13, at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Network, network, network

Without a doubt, networking is one of the top reasons to attend a convention, and the Convention atmosphere itself helps. “Conventions are just a lot of fun. Reporters have a great time when they’re all together,” says Sarah Hamilton, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

The NCRA Convention & Expo is the largest gathering of court reporters and captioners in the country, so students have a good chance of meeting a wide range of working professionals, including people students may already be familiar with. “It’s great to put a face to a name,” said Hamilton.

“I’ve met people who’ve really made me feel lucky, and that I’ve chosen the right field,” said Kristina Carmody, a student at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. Carmody mentioned a few examples of working reporters who have helped her with advice: “Steve Zinone, RPR, is the most humble, easiest person to talk to. He not only motivated me to continue the hard work, but he reminded of all the success we can really achieve if we continue to work for it. He is unbelievably positive and so nice.” She also mentioned Sue Terry, RPR, CRR. “She has advice and experience in every avenue, and she’s been so generous and sweet to me. She has told me how to keep pushing through doubts and given great pointers to practice.”

Networking can be intimidating, but court reporting students have found a few strategies to help. Larona Cooper, a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., suggests being proactive and introducing yourself to other court reporters. She also suggests “preparing a couple of questions in advance to ask other court reporters to assist you in your career choice” as an icebreaker.

Katelyn Van Slycke, a student at San Antonio College in San Antonio, Texas, says, “Find a working reporter and tag along with them. Have someone who will invite you to sit with them or go out on the town with them. It makes a big difference when you’re in a new city.”

Students and the NCRA Board of Directors mingle at Convention

Christine Willette, 2017-2018 NCRA President, mingles with students at a Board of Directors meet-and-greet at the NCRA Convention & Expo

A few of the scheduled events can help with networking. Shaunise Day, a student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., says, “Attend the Awards Luncheon and sit at a table where you don’t know anyone. You will walk away feeling proud and inspired.” Jessica Frizzell, a student at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., recommends going to the president’s suite to meet the NCRA Board of Directors, which is part of the student track.

Feeling shy? Frizzell suggests wearing the student ribbon on your name badge — it will do the work for you. “I was a bit shy and nervous at first and didn’t know who to talk to or how to approach them,” she says. “If you wear that student ribbon, people will come to you!”

However a student chooses to network, the point is to use these conversations to your advantage. “You need to truly listen to what someone is telling you even if you think you’re years away from ever encountering such a thing,” says Hamilton. “Really be open-minded about the advice you receive and know that working reporters sincerely want to help you because they are so passionate about this profession.”

The Convention can also provide a boost in inspiration. “I enjoy my schooling and enjoy this profession, but the people I met and spoke with at Convention reminded me of why I’m working so hard and lit a fire in me to practice even harder so I can get out there and be a part of the working world,” says Frizzell.

Of course, the true value of networking happens after the event. “Make an effort to stay in touch with friends you make during the Convention,” says Christine Ho, a student at Mark Kislingbury’s Academy of Court Reporting. Follow up with everyone you meet once you get home, and then contact them regularly with updates, questions, or a simple hello. After all, one of your new contacts may be a future employer.

Getting the most out of sessions

The NCRA Convention & Expo includes a student track with sessions and activities that are designed to motivate students, help them find a community, and learn new strategies of getting through school.

Michael Roberts, a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., attended a session entitled “Finishing your program: You can do this!” given by Eileen Beltz at the 2017 Convention in Chicago. “Hearing stories from others who have had the same struggles is encouraging because you find out you’re not the only one dealing with these conflicts,” he says.

Kensie Benoit and Clay Frazier present at the NCRA Convention & Expo

Kensie Benoit and Clay Frazier present at the NCRA Convention & Expo

Day cites the session “What I Didn’t Learn in Court Reporting School” from the 2015 Convention in San Francisco, given by Kensie Benoit and Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR, as particularly motivating. “I was on the verge of deciding to give up a few months prior, and it wasn’t until I sat in on this seminar and realized that I can and will finish school despite my many challenges with working full time and going to school full time,” she says. She also learned about the many steno Facebook groups during this session.

Sessions are also a good way to meet working reporters who you admire. Cooper found the “Punctuation for the Real World” seminar moderated by Margie Wakeman Wells, CRI, at the 2017 Convention in Chicago, to be particularly helpful. “I could have listened to her all day to glean wisdom from her years of experience,” she said. “She directed the students in her seminar to read and practice our steno outlines from business magazines such as Newsweek and Time in order to increase our vocabulary, knowledge of current events, and steno writing skills.”

Linda Perez, a student at Downey Adult School in Downey, Calif., points out that one of the reasons to attend Convention is “to learn up-to-date demands in the work field.” The student track includes a couple time slots in which students can attend any session they want, and many students who have attended before recommend sitting in on a few of the sessions that are geared toward working professionals.

Carmody sat in on a session on writing more efficiently. “It was nice to have new pointers and to be able to hear different perspectives and opinions from multiple professionals, students, and schools,” she said.

Mixing and mingling in the Expo Hall

Don’t forget that the Convention includes an Expo Hall with vendors representing a variety of products and services and NCRA staff members with information about different NCRA programs and resources. In addition, several social events are held in the Expo Hall, including the Opening Reception. Day suggests using the Expo Hall as a place to mingle — with so many people around, you’re bound to make a connection.

A man in a suit shows a steno machine to a reporter at the Expo Hall

Trying a new machine at the Expo Hall

The Expo Hall also provides students the opportunity to begin planning what they’ll need once they enter the working world. “Talk to all the vendors about their products even if buying expensive equipment is still far in the future for you,” recommends Hamilton. Day advises also trying out different writers.

Alternatively, students may find resources in the Expo Hall that can help them right away. Day says, “Make a list of books that you’ve always wanted, and purchase them at the Expo. Books are normally sold at a discounted Convention rate.”

Top ten tips for students attending the NCRA Convention & Expo

  1. Find a reporter who you can pair up with if you are by yourself.
  2. Load the NCRA app before attending to get an overview of the Convention.
  3. If you are in higher speeds, sit in on some of the regular (not student) seminars.
  4. Court reporters love students! So be prepared to mingle with reporters who come up to you.
  5. Attend Convention as a group with other students to maximize your experience.
  6. It can be very overwhelming at times, so make sure you slow down and try to relax.
  7. Be on time to all student seminars, and sit in front.
  8. Make student business cards.
  9. Every single day at the convention has something new. Try to get as much knowledge as possible with everything being offered.
  10. Talk to as many people as you can.

And the number one tip for court reporting students thinking of attending the NCRA Convention & Expo? Perez sums it up: “Do it. Go. It is an investment.”

Rub shoulders with the pros

Court reporting students and the NCRA president and CEO stand in front of the Take Note campaign sign

Photo by: Nicole Napodano. Used with permission.

The NCRA Convention & Expo provides students the best opportunity to learn from the pros and experience the court reporting and captioning professions through the eyes of experienced reporters and captioners.

The 2017 Convention is no exception. Students who attend will have the opportunity to hear seasoned professions present on topics including the business of being a reporter, how to compete at the national level, and the best tips for online testing. In addition, attendees can meet and mingle with NCRA members from all arenas of the profession during a special student reception, rub shoulders with members of the Board of Directors during another reception, and get up and personal with vendors during the Opening Reception held on the Expo floor. The 2017 Convention is Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

“You never know where this career will take you,” said Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC, retired chief reporter at the U.S. House of Representatives who will be presenting during the student track at this year’s event.

Strickland said he attended his first NCRA convention when he was still in court reporting school. “I knew no one. I’ll never forget attending the Awards Luncheon. I wandered in and had to sit with seven strangers. I was intimidated by the ballroom full of professionals who all seemed to know each other, but my concerns were allayed by my warm, friendly tablemates,” Strickland said.

“They immediately introduced themselves and asked me where I reported. When I told them I was a student, they all chimed in with enthusiastic, encouraging words. They made me feel like I was already a part of their team,” he added.

Strickland will be participating in a reporter speed-dating session where participants will rotate from table to table and spend 10 or 15 minutes with working reporters to discuss their varied careers. “I think it’s a terrific idea, and I’m looking forward to meeting the students who join us in Las Vegas,” he said.

Nicole Bulldis, RPR, said she attended two of NCRA’s Conventions & Expos while a student, taking away both energy and passion from the working reporters she met on-site. Bulldis graduated from Green River Community College, Auburn, Wash., last June.

“In school, all you see is you and your peers struggling. It was amazing to go to Convention and see people who had been reporting for 20 to 30 years be so passionate and motivating about this field. I still remember Nancy Varallo sharing her favorite quote in Nashville: Success does not happen by spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. That quote helped me finish school,” added Bulldis, who noted that she began her career as a paralegal before moving to court reporting. She currently works as an official court reporter for the Benton/Franklin County Superior Courts in Kennewick, Wash.

Doreen Sutton, RPR, a freelance reporter from Scottsdale, Ariz., and chair of NCRA’s Student Committee, encourages students to attend the Convention because of the opportunity it provides them to learn about current events and reporting software options, and to network with other students and professional reporters.

“I would like students to get to know working reporters, learn about the practice opportunities, and meet some wonderful reporters in each practice,” said Sutton. “I would like students to fall in love with attending Convention, like I did when I was just in my 60s speed, and resolve to try and attend convention each year. Plus, you never know when there will be special student surprises.”

Strickland agrees and encourages students to become familiar with the many options the field offers (including freelance, official, captioning, CART services, and legislative) because no one’s career path is identical to another’s.

“In my legislative career, I was honored to report State of the Union speeches by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. I reported the testimony of world leaders, CIA and FBI directors, movie star activists, and industry giants. I provided CART for a late-deafened judge as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee. In 2002, I reported a Special Joint Session held in New York to honor the victims of 9/11. It’s been quite a journey,” added Strickland, who retired after 22 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives and works now as a part-time freelancer and a full-time traveler.

Learn about the speakers on the student track.

Learn tips for navigating the NCRA Convention & Expo as a student.