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Student Spotlight: Contributing to something bigger

With a degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, Alex Dunn was making the rounds of food service positions: Cook, server, bartender, host, food runner, busser, barista, manager. But she was still searching for something more. “I want a career where I feel like I am contributing to something bigger than just a corporation, and I feel it here,” she says of court reporting. 

UTS | How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter? Did you have another career before you started school?

AD | Like a lot of people, starting in 2020/2021 my life got completely thrown into chaos. From that chaos I started to reevaluate some aspects of my life and to try to align them more with my values. The first thing I needed was a career change. I actually discovered court reporting from watching a YouTube video about it! It seemed really interesting so I looked into it more and when I found an intro to stenography course I signed up, loved it, and applied to school as soon as it ended! The more research I did into court reporting the better it seemed to fit what I was looking for — and some things I didn’t know I was looking for.

I have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Nevada Las Vegas as well as a degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America. Before going to school, I held nearly every job a person can have in a restaurant: Cook, server, bartender, host, food runner, busser, barista, manager. My last position before school was as director of operations for a group of wine bars in New York City. I still have a deep love for food, but as a career it ran its course for me. 

UTS | What do you love about stenography?

AD | I love the fast-paced nature of taking down the record. I also love that court reporters are an integral part of the criminal justice system. Each job you take is a new challenge, and there are so many things you can do as a court reporter. I want a career where I feel like I am contributing to something bigger than just a corporation, and I feel it here. 

UTS | How was your first NCRA Conference? Tell us about it! Do you plan to go to the Conference in Louisville next year?

AD | My first Conference was absolutely amazing! I am going to school online and several of my classmates came to the Conference as well, so I was able to meet up in person for the first time with some of the people I have been on this journey with. The feeling of community I got from every professional reporter I met just showed me I am really going down the correct path. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. Learning about different areas of court reporting as well as small everyday details about working reporters and sharing stories with people all weekend was great. I left that weekend feeling invigorated, encouraged, and so excited about this future career I have chosen. I will absolutely be going to Louisville next year!

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

AD | have gotten so much advice from so many different people, and I think it has all helped me. Every teacher and reporter I have met has given me some piece of advice that helped them get through school, and I am trying to take it all in. The one thing that keeps me going when I hit a plateau is knowing every professional did it before me and made it through. Mostly just focusing on small everyday improvements in speed has kept me sane. 

UTS | What are your plans for when you finish school? What is your dream job?

AD | I started school hoping to be an official. My plan right now is to work freelance for a few years after school to gain some experience and then look at applying to courts. My dream goal for now is to get a job as an official at the Las Vegas federal courthouse. Who knows though. I may find that I love freelance so much I want to stick with it. CART has also intrigued me recently as well. There are just so many possibilities with this profession!

UTS | Do you have a favorite legal movie or TV show?

AD | “Law & Order”! I watched it in the early 2000s and I just loved the setup. I appreciated that it wasn’t just a cop show or just a lawyer show; it combined them both to show the bigger picture. (I don’t recall ever seeing a court reporter however).

UTS | Do you think court reporters have been misrepresented on screen? How so?

AD | Absolutely. I recently watched “Oppenheimer,” and during the scene with the court reporter I laughed out loud at how incorrect it was. I think more than being misrepresented, court reporters are just not represented at all the majority of the time. When they are shown it’s clearly something they didn’t spend much time looking into. 

UTS | What do you think we can do to get the word out about the importance of this profession?

AD | I think informing the public about how crucial it is to protect the official records and how court reporters do that is the best thing we can do. Court reporters go unseen and unheard by design. Seeing court reporters speak up and reach out each in their own local areas, to local news outlets, is a good place to start. Most people don’t realize all the functions a court reporter performs. Educating people on that is important.

UTS | What do you do when you aren’t studying. What are your hobbies?

AD | I love rock climbing, though I haven’t been going as much since I started school. Anything involving the outdoors and the sun brings me joy: Hiking, exploring, road trips. I love discovering a ghost town to explore.  For my birthday last month I did a five-mile hike out to a waterfall and ate lunch there; it was a wonderful afternoon.

UTS | Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?

AD | When I started school, I was worried that being an online student I would feel detached in some way, but I was lucky enough to be in class with a great group of people that is so supportive and encouraging. We started a group chat for our class that then transferred into a Discord server and this community of people has really been great. We are all in this together, giving advice, venting, joking around with each other and supporting one another. As a whole I think the court reporting community is a very supportive community. I am so thankful that I have this group of classmates I am along on the ride for, and so excited to see where we all go in the future. 

Alex Dunn lives in Granite Bay, Calif., and attends Mark Kislingbury’s Academy of Court Reporting.