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Can working reporters impact student retention?

Can working reporters impact student retention?As court reporting schools face leaner budgets and tighter financial aid policies, instructors and administrators are faced with the age-old question: “How can we improve student retention and completion rates in court reporting programs?” Can working reporters have an impact? A recent event in St. Louis would suggest a resounding “Yes, they can!”

The Student Affairs Committee of the Missouri Court Reporters Association is a proactive group of court reporters and four students. Under the leadership of Deborah McLaughlin, RPR, this group meets in January each year to plan the coming year for students at St. Louis Community College. Over the past several years, events have included student seminars at the Missouri state convention; a student essay contest/scholarship award to the state convention; invitations to join MCRA Trivia Nights; and annual field trips to courthouses, freelance firms, and other venues of interest (St. Louis Justice Center, aka prison). In addition, members of the Student Affairs Committee provide a mentoring program to speed students, visit high school career fairs, and meet with students informally for support, often over a cup of coffee.

In 2012, the committee planned a “Meet & Greet” for students. This was a social event geared toward networking and informal discussions. Students were sent an Evite from committee member Karen Russo, RPR, CRR, for the Meet & Greet (which was held at her husband’s restaurant, Spazio’s). Door prizes added to the fun of the evening; they were collected by committee member Robin Cox, RMR. A “Good Reporter/Bad Reporter” skit entertained everyone. Featured actors were Debbie Kriegshauser, RMR, CRR, CLVS; Susan Moran, RMR; Dawn McTeer, RPR, Missouri Court Reporter Association state president; Tanya Stepp, RPR; and Rebecca Brewer, RPR, CRR.

Another highlight of the evening was the opportunity to casually visit with working reporters who represented every career path, as follows: Official reporters: Rhonda Laurentius, RPR, Robin Cox. Federal official reporters: Debbie Kriegshauser, Susan Moran. Workers’ compensation: Peggy Lange. Freelance reporting: Debbie McLaughlin; Rebecca Brewer; Faith Olliges, RDR, CRR; Mary Gaal, CMRS; Kathy Turner; Linda DeBisschop; and Vicky Pohlman, RPR, CMRS. Captioning: Patti White, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP. CART: Elaine Kistner.

More than 60 individuals attended the Meet & Greet. Below is a sampling of student comments:

The highlight of the evening for me was to be able to discuss the profession with a CART provider. Elaine Kistner and I spoke for quite some time about her position as a CART provider for the Special School District. She was very open with me and answered every question I had. She was also full of encouragement. Because of the conversation I had with Elaine, I left the Meet & Greet motivated, enthusiastic, and reminded of why I chose to learn this skill.


Besides the obvious, but very important, chance to network and investigate the different types of reporting, a more important opportunity for me at this fairly early stage is the knowledge that there is an active group of individuals very committed to my success in this field. The “Meet & Greet” was a wonderful invitation to us students to be part of this group. It stated very strongly, “We’re here for you.” It’s nice to know that there is support and community on the other side of all these speed tests.


Thank you for making the time to come to our IRT meeting. Your company is highly regarded … and even though I am only in IR3, I will progress slowly, but surely.


The event was tremendously beneficial, helpful, and encouraging to meet so many who have succeeded in the business of captioning and judicial reporting. … As our studies intensify, we welcome your support and expertise.


It was wonderful to speak with working reporters. It seems like such a caring and supportive group of professionals. As a student, that is very comforting and inspirational.


Thank you so much for the experience at Spazio’s. It was wonderfully uplifting.


The Missouri Court Reporters hosting this event were simply wonderful. They introduced themselves and shared accomplishments and experiences. They were warm and funny as entertainment included a hilarious skit with a message. The love and respect for their profession and a genuine support of court reporting students were apparent. As we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, the reporters freely shared their knowledge. They talked with students in small groups or one on one and answered an infinite number of questions. Their support and encouragement was very much appreciated and will serve to provide incentive, so that we can look forward and stretch ourselves even further to reach the goal of someday joining their ranks. This was a night not to be missed!


 The court reporting and captioning program at St. Louis Community College is available at night and online. One online student traveled four hours — one way — to attend the event and connect with reporters and classmates.

Being with fellow students was a lot of fun. It was especially great for me, an online student entering IR3, to meet some of the Meramec instructors and fellow students working at various speed levels who shared their school experience and favorite practices.

Online student

As we all know, learning the skills to become a court reporter can be a long journey, and not everyone makes it. Most students indicate that while family members and friends try to be supportive of their efforts in the program, many of them just don’t “get it.” Students can benefit greatly by interacting with working reporters. Students relish the opportunity to visit with someone who “gets it” — someone who understands how the program works as well as the highs and lows of building speed and passing tests. This connection can motivate students to persevere and to continue on in their studies.

Can working reporters impact student retention? “Yes, you can!”