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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UNCP student’s essay to appear in ‘Real Writing’ textbook

Courtney Stoker had just won a regional accounting competition when she learned that an essay she wrote had been selected for inclusion in a popular textbook on writing.

Courtney StokerStoker’s essay “The Great Debate: Essentialism vs. Dominance” was selected as a model of exemplary college writing for the 6th edition of the textbook “Real Writing: Paragraphs and Essays for College, Work, and Everyday Life with Readings” by Susan Anker and published by Bedford/St. Martin’s.

“The Great Debate” was first featured in the 2011 edition of UNCP’s magazine ReVisions: Best Student Essays. In her essay, Stoker analyzed the “language of gender,” citing a wide variety of references to make her case.

The essay went through many revisions and is based on quality research, said Dr. Teagan Decker, who assigned the essay in her honors composition class. Dr. Decker is also director of the University Writing Center and current editor of ReVisions.

“She really thought the topic through, and I like that she analyzed both sides of the issue,” said Dr. Decker. “Courtney is a really intelligent and motivated person who put a lot of work into this essay. It’s great to see an accounting major who is good in another area.

“I’m pretty sure what happened is the textbook’s editors read ReVisions online,” Dr. Decker said. “There were a lot of strong submissions for the 2011 edition.

“I was really excited about the selection,” she said. “It is a validation of the quality of our magazine and our students’ writing.”

Stoker sat down for an interview a week before her trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship of the Association of Government Accountants’ (ASG) Case Study Challenge. She pondered the relationship between accounting and writing.

“When I was good with numbers in high school, my teachers said I should major in business or science,” she said. “I did have one English teacher who begged me to be an English major.

“I have a gift for talking, but numbers are what I really like – it’s the rules and guidelines,” Stoker said. “And there’s the money.”

Stoker’s presentation to the ASG judges will show off her diverse skills. She promised an entertaining show.

“I’d like it to be interesting, if that’s possible in government accounting,” Stoker laughed.

Her essay generated interest, too. “On the essay, I just really got into the topic,” she said. “I’m a bit of a feminist.”

Two excerpts from “The Great Debate” demonstrate why it was selected. After drawing readers in with a baited “hook” in first paragraph, her thesis statement gets to the point: “While a pretty solid consensus exists among scholars and the general public that differences in communication purposes and styles exist, the conflict lies in why these differences are present.”

After a thorough discussion of the issue, she concluded: “Honestly, we may never be able to confidently and empirically show the root of differences between men and women; the human experience may simply be too complex and multi-dimensional to pinpoint the cause. However, it is important to continue to look for answers in determining how and why men and women are different so that future generations can communicate more effectively.”

So, what are the characteristics of an accountant who is also an outstanding writer? And what advice does Stoker have for her fellow student writers?

“I don’t like texting or email,” she said. “I call them, so they can hear the tone of my voice. I’d rather talk in person because I like to use my hands when I talk.”

On writing, Stoker advised, “Just jump in and start. Get something down [on paper] even if you change it. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.”

“Then, revise, revise, revise,” she said.

UNCP has been a good fit for Stoker in several ways. “UNCP was not my first choice, but coming here was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “The faculty is outstanding in all departments. I got (congratulatory) emails from professors I didn’t know.”

Scholarships and membership in the Esther Maynor Honors College are on Stoker’s resume along with leadership positions in campus organizations. She is president of the Accounting Students Association, treasurer and community service coordinator of the Honors Council and a member of Alpha Chi honor society and the Society for Human Resource Management.  

Perhaps the most important contribution UNCP made in Stoker’s life took place long before she stepped on campus. “If it weren’t for UNCP, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “My parents [Mickey and Minnie Stoker of the class of 1982] met here.”

While Stoker is quick to praise UNCP’s influence in her life, it’s clear she has kept up her side of the balance sheet. In addition to her other qualities, her remarkable aptitude in both language and math sets her apart. And although written by someone who favors accounting ledgers to manuscripts, Stoker’s essay shows her ability to articulate an issue that continues to confound communication among men and women. Not bad for a numbers person.

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