The candidates for the Board of Directors are listed below. Click on each name to read the candidate’s statement and brief biography.
The terms of current Chair Armando Ezquerra Hasbun, Secretary Teresa Salazar, Treasurer Claudia Rubio Samulowitz and Director Aimee Benavides will expire on June 6, 2020. All four candidates will be seeking reelection.
The Nominations Committee is proud to announce the candidates running to fill the open director positions on the Board.
This year, we have numerous qualified candidates running for the Board of Directors. Learn more about them and read about their experience working in professional associations in their statements and bios.
In order to know more about the candidates and be able to make an informed decision, just as in previous years, you are invited to send your questions to the candidates Please send the questions to ASK THE CANDIDATE to learn more about them.
Our Board of Directors is responsible for setting policy and supervising the Association’s affairs, as well as laying out the path for NAJIT to follow today and in the future while it represents our interests.
To this end, the Nominations Committee has sought to provide a slate of candidates who are active and experienced volunteers, and represent the interests, needs and profiles of NAJIT’s membership. We are pleased and humbled that so many members have been willing to step up to the challenge this year, offering their time and experience to our Association.
Please remember that voting does NOT take place at the Annual Meeting. For many years now, NAJIT Board elections are handled electronically. Active and Life Members can vote online using the link they will receive via email or by mailing in a ballot. This year, the deadline for voting is June 5th, 2020. After this, the votes will be tallied, and the results announced during the virtual Annual Meeting on June 6th, 2020. Completed details can be found at the bottom of this page.
This is your opportunity to shape the future of NAJIT, so make sure your voice is heard.
Your vote and participation matter!
To the Membership of NAJIT:
The Board approved and appointed the current Elections Committee on May 21. We are five of your colleagues and fellow members: Garrett Bradford of Maryland, Ketta Foraker of Texas, Karola Rangel of New Jersey, Sandro Tomasi of New York and Steve Mines, Chair, of Texas. Our mandate under the NAJIT bylaws is to carry out the election and to count the votes and report on the results to the Membership at the Annual meeting. We set for ourselves the task of inquiring if we could fulfill our fiduciary duties to carry out the election up to the time scheduled on June 6 for a virtual Annual Business Meeting, with confidence that the process protected the confidentiality of each voter’s choices and the integrity of the collection and reporting of votes.
As per the NAJIT bylaws, the voting method is determined by the Board of Directors. Members have the choice of voting in 2020 by mail ballot or through a third-party election platform/software called Election Runner.
Our Elections Committee reviewed with our association administrator the steps taken prior to our appointment and after the announcement of candidates on April 22, to fill the voter roster and have the emails automatically sent out for each voter to receive an individualized key to use in voting online. Once the votes are cast, and prior to the close of the election, votes are not visible to anyone, there is no way of monitoring the tallies for any candidate, and no active voter can vote more than once without a record being made of each name, email address and code used to cast a duplicate vote. Our Elections Committee has gained access to Election Runner, reviewed the system and followed up with a representative of the third-party election platform/software on issues that we needed to consult, including inputting new voter information, generating anonymous ballots and security features.
The Elections Committee is satisfied that the election process is reliable and showed no evidence of any tampering. Election Runner uses a traceable unique key for each voter to cast her or his vote electronically, and allows for an anonymized report of raw ballots received and tallied that can only be reviewed at the close of the election. The Elections Committee further has confidence in the following:
The anonymized report of raw ballots at the close of the election is an additional safeguard that the Elections Committee requested from the provider of the software so as to fulfill our fiduciary duty to count the votes, without revealing the identity of the voter.
Any mail-in ballots received by the cutoff date of June 1 will be included and documented in the counting of the votes by the Elections Committee and reported to the Membership at the Annual Business Meeting. Any member who cast their ballot by mail, should send an email to the Elections Committee at email@example.com to confirm having done so. This way the Elections Committee can account for all mail-in ballots. We look forward to reporting the results on June 6, and believe we will be able to do so with full confidence that the counting of votes and issuing of ballots for voting by members in this election has been carried out with the needed safeguards and care for the election process to be independent of any interference or manipulation of the ballots issued or results reported.
If you have not voted already, please check the candidates’ statements and their Q&As below. The only way to cast your vote as of today is by clicking on the link in the email sent via Election Runner. Just in case, you will receive a reminder email to vote very soon through Election Runner.
The Elections Committee
Here is your opportunity to pose questions to the candidates. Click the question mark on the right to email your question. Your question will be received by headquarters and forwarded to ALL candidates, giving everyone an opportunity to respond. Responses will be posted below once received.
NAJIT Board elections will be handled exclusively via electronic and mail proxies in 2020. There will be no voting at the Annual Meeting. This is your only option to vote for the Board of Directors.
By participating in the electronic voting process you are providing your proxy instructions to the Secretary of NAJIT to be executed on the day before the annual Meeting, June 6, 2020. If you prefer, you can send a ballot by mail. You must provide your member (account) number on the ballot. Please note, once you select the mail ballot option you will not be able to vote electronically. Mail in ballots must be received by June 1, 2020.
NAJIT will be accepting electronic ballot proxies until June 5, 2020. You must be an Active or Life member of NAJIT to vote. NAJIT will keep a record of who has voted and who has not. You may only vote once. If you encounter any difficulty in voting, please contact the NAJIT Elections Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aimee Benavides: My vision for the NAJIT Board of Directors is to work together with common goals and ideals. The Board needs to understand the policies and procedures to interact appropriately. NAJIT is a professional organization that is here for the benefit of members and for the profession at large. The Board has to ask itself before making any decision, how this decision will impact members in a positive way and how it will affect the profession as a whole. The association can only exist as long as it is on financially stable ground, so the Board has to be strategic in planning which activities will provide the best results with the least amount of financial investment. Volunteers should also be aware of the strategic planning and goals of the board so as to complement and not compete with those efforts. The projects that the Board should focus on include position papers, publishing statements regarding current practices, letters to language access groups, as well as providing educational opportunities through webinars, regional workshops and the Annual Conference.
Helen Eby: The NAJIT Board should be reflective of the composition of the membership, which will help it be responsive to member needs and interests. Today we have tools at our disposal to make that more feasible than ever before.
Members need direct access to Board and the Committee meetings, agendas and minutes for better participation. This would build engagement and support the association. NAJIT could check with other associations that function in a transparent way and learn from their practices.
When issues that affect a broad spectrum of members need to be decided, members can be consulted through a variety of methods such as open meetings, frequent use of surveys, public minutes and agendas, and discussion of policy concerns through the member email discussion group.
The focus of the NAJIT board, therefore, should be up to date and data-driven, responsive to current interests and needs of members.
Christina Green: I advocate for a more diverse board, more indicative and representative of our current membership.
I would also like to see more openness with the membership in terms of participation and input in the board meetings with more transparency and greater communication as well, for I am certain this would increase participation from members in the association’s initiatives.
Roxane King: I would like to see a solid and supportive board that is versatile and at the same time is able to envision a future together in the spirit of moving our profession forward and making NAJIT even stronger as a whole. Board members are the representatives of the many voices, our members, and our profession within the organization, and it is paramount that said board members always keep that vision in mind in their every move they make, as a whole within the organization. It is a huge responsibility to hold and comply with and a board member is obliged to follow through with that responsibility.
I am going to make a bold and controversial statement that I hope every one of our members takes to heart, post COVID19, everything is going to change.
The profession still needs to be held high on a pedestal by the strong arms of its members and board to advocate for its members more than ever before. Our profession has taken a huge turn, stemming from COVID 19 and we need to work harder than ever, together to lift our profession and embrace technology to advance our careers.
Our world will never be the same and we are not alone. Every CEO representing every company in every industry is embracing this new reality and whether we like it or not we must embrace technology to enhance and evolve our careers. We either disrupt our profession or be disrupted and be made obsolete. Worldwide, professional services are digitizing their offerings which has resulted in greater productivity, efficiency and higher rates, fees and personal profitability. We have all tried to circumvent this eventuality but it is our reality now and it represents our opportunity to shape the profession of the future.
The board has an obligation to develop a plan that will protect your futures. I will fight to help us find, allow and teach us all to learn how to manage these new technologies, platforms, new trainings, education and markets that will increase our opportunities, our productivity and drive our professional value and personal income.
We need to be the pioneers that shape our profession and not allow big corporations displace us with services that do not represent the value that we offer our clients. This is a necessary transition for the survival of our profession and the members need a board that is looking ahead to our future and the protection of our families.
Let’s lead the disruption, let’s not be the disrupted.
Giovana Lester: With the experiences acquired as a co-founder and former president of a state organization and vice-chair of a national organization, I can state, unequivocally, that transparency—in all aspects of running the organization—is critical for its healthy operation. Equally important is the need to extend the association’s committees a certain level of autonomy for them to operate properly in support of the association’s initiatives.
Further to that, I would work towards making sure all Board’s actions comply with our Bylaws and that Board members’ responsibilities, fiduciary and administrative, are met to avoid any matters of personal liability. I would strive to ensure that these precepts are always respected and followed, always with transparency as a goal.
Previous Boards have created and established programs, such as the SSTI foundation, the NAJIT Scholars, and services which will be continued and streamlined where needed, always with a focus on making NAJIT’s growth steady and close to the letter of our bylaws.
That is easily achieved with a Board in which members share a vision where NAJIT’s best interests and transparency govern our actions.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Janis Palma: Excellent question. Thank you for asking it.
I envision a Board of Directors that is in constant communication with the NAJIT members, be it through the occasional survey, virtual town hall meetings, open board meetings in which members have an opportunity to be heard, emails that allow members to get individualized responses from their elected board members, or any other means whereby Board members may be kept informed of the issues that are important to NAJIT members, as well as remain accessible and accountable to those who elected them.
I envision a Board of Directors that is proactive and brings NAJIT members new programs and projects that benefit the profession by enhancing performance standards and expertise levels which inevitably lead to heightened respect among stakeholders and compensation levels commensurate with such expertise.
My vision for the NAJIT Board of Directors is a group of fully committed, creative, and selfless colleagues willing to give up a large chunk of their time and energy for the next two years to make sure NAJIT continues to flourish as the premier professional association for judiciary interpreters and translators nationwide.
Teresa Salazar: I see the NAJIT Board of Directors as a highly functional and active body made up of individuals who are passionately committed and dedicated to the fields of interpreting and translation, and who can channel that passion into their work for the Association. The Board members must also understand that the responsibility they bear as directors is equal in importance to the responsibility borne in any professional employment, and that they are being entrusted to share equally in carrying out work and projects for the well-being and advancement of NAJIT, in a timely fashion.
The ability to work collaboratively is essential to every member of the Board. Everyone brings different talents and ideas to the table with the understanding that every single director has a role to play in bringing these ideas to fruition. It is not enough to present a project or idea for other directors to carry out the work and development. Every director has to be willing to roll up his or her sleeves, talk the talk and walk the walk. Being present in every meaning of the word is a requirement for every single director.
As a body, the NAJIT Board of Directors should take note of the needs and desires of the membership and seek to bring about changes as warranted in a rational and well thought out manner, always seeking to strengthen and promote the professional image and influence of the organization with dignity. For this to happen, the Board would need to find the most effective way to further open communication with members and allow them to be more informed about the decisions and activities the Board is undertaking or considering to undertake.
We have been functioning with the same bylaws and policies for many, many years. My vision is that the Board of Directors would undertake a full review of how these bylaws and policies are working for NAJIT in the 21st century, and not be afraid to bring about reform and changes where needed, even if it calls for a restructuring of future boards and putting into effect disciplinary measures applicable to board members themselves who may fail to fulfill their obligations. To this I would add the need to review our committee structure and to strengthen the line of communication between the Board and the various volunteer committees that serve the organization so well and bring about so many innovations. This type of review should be repeated periodically on a regular basis or as events warrant.
Lastly, I would say that my vision of the NAJIT Board of Directors would consist of a Board made up of self-less individuals who, much as we do when we work in court, leave their egos at the door when acting as Directors. No one on the Board of Directors should seek the position for personal glory or be concerned with getting individual credit for anything. The work carried out by the Board of Directors should be carried out as one unified entity and any glory and credit due should be for the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.
Hilda Shymanik: I know that NAJIT’s board of directors must be a cohesive group with different takes and ideas, able to work together to implement changes to face the new reality in our profession that the pandemic has brought forth. These are changes relating to advances in technology that were not as compelling pre-pandemic as they currently are. We need to revitalize our profession and create a structure to work in the future normal – a framework that includes fees that reflect this new reality, the skill-building to utilize the new technology and platforms, the investment in better technology, computers, Zoom, Kudos or other VRI tools, headphones and the new level of difficulty these technologies will represent.
To work on any given issue the board needs people who will actively participate. We need ideas but also people to implement them. I am one of those candidates able to “translate” phenomenal ideas into actual work. That is what this board needs!
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: My vision for the Board of Directors is what I wish I had seen during my tenure; one of mutual respect among the members and very clear and well-defined lines between its members, the committees, and management. Not having that is an invitation to chaos.
I would also say that having better communication between the membership and the Board is crucial. It seems to me that too many of us pay our dues and don’t ever think about contacting the Board and get involved in what they are doing, on behalf of the membership. By the same token, I believe the Board should be more transparent and have an “open door” policy when it comes to keeping the members informed of everything that is going on, and for this, my preference would be to the Board meetings to the members would be the answer. Board meeting minutes are posted on the website and anyone can read them, but minutes, by design, reflect a very succinct version of the event. If meetings were open to the members, everyone would be able to “attend” and not only listen to everything that is said, but also who said it, and the tone of voice in which Directors address fellow Board members. People would be able to see if we, as your elected officials are representing you as you expect us to or not. A board with clear roles defined, respectful of all, open to receiving and responding to the concern of members would be an ideal Board of Directors.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: It would be one that shares the common goal of strengthening the association by fulfilling its first fiduciary duty which is to look out for the interests of NAJIT above others. It would take on the task of making needed structural reforms, to correct faulty and outdated practices that resulted in the recurrent crises that have plagued the association. It would carry out its duties or learn how to discharge them without needing to be micromanaged by the association’s management company. And if this could be achieved in an atmosphere where issues are pondered and decided on their merits, with an attitude of collaboration, openness and reciprocal respect, then in my view, that would be the ideal board.
Janis Palma: When I got my federal certification in 1981 interpreters were barely a step above the janitors in many parts of the country in terms of respect and recognition of the special skills required of professional interpreters and translators within the legal field. In 1983 I was invited to join the State of Texas Bar Association’s Committee on Court Interpreting, my first advocacy experience on behalf of interpreters in the State of Texas. It was a slow and painful effort to get state legislation approved to regulate interpreters’ qualifications in state courts, but with the help of staunchly dedicated colleagues like Cristina Helmerichs the law was finally approved and interpreters in Texas now have a state licensing mechanism.
That same year, 1983, I joined a national association that was advocating on behalf of court interpreters’ working conditions and pay. It was called the Court Interpreters and Translators Association (CITA), which later became NAJIT. CITA at the time was a grassroots organization that put together small round-table gatherings with judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to engage them in a dialogue about the qualifications of professional interpreters and what they should and should not expect from us. The results were always positive, with better relations between interpreters and all stakeholders, better communication, and therefore better working conditions.
Between 1986 and 1996 I wrote extensively to provide entry-level interpreters with reference materials to build skills and improve their overall work experience at a time when there were zero to few written materials readily accessible for those just getting started. Among those were a Glossary of Federal Court Terminology, a Primer for Judiciary Interpreters and an Introduction to Judiciary Interpreting. For attorneys, I wrote a Handbook for the Legal Profession: how to work with interpreters. All were donated to and made available through CITA/NAJIT.
In 1991, a legal services organization brought a class action lawsuit against the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) for failing to provide full and competent interpretation for non-English speakers at immigration court proceedings [El Rescate Legal Serv. v. EOIR, 941 F.2d 950, 952 (9th Cir. 1991)]. Shortly thereafter the Office of the Chief Judge recruited a group of federally certified interpreters from all over the U.S. to recommend performance standards for immigration interpreters and then train them to meet those standards. I was one of those chosen for that work group. Unfortunately, all that hard work has been undermined by the shift in EOIR practices since 2012 to contract interpreters through private companies that have lowered professional standards in order to increase their bottom line. Yes, sometimes it is one step forward and three steps back.
Since the mid-80s I have been very intensely engaged in the training and education of judiciary interpreters and translators because I believe wholeheartedly that the only way for us to achieve the status, recognition and remuneration we deserve is by developing the skills and building up the knowledge of a true expert. This requires more than passing a basic competency exam. It requires a lifelong commitment to learning.
The advocacy we need has to be aimed inwards as well as outwards. Any advocacy effort on behalf of professional interpreters and translators will fail if each one of us individually is not devoted to excellence on a personal level.
This is the reason why I have dedicated most of my professional life to learning and sharing my knowledge with fellow interpreters and translators through conferences, courses and workshops, in addition to my publications. Most of this I have done on a volunteer basis. I honestly believe this is the best advocacy I can engage in on behalf of my fellow interpreters and translators.
People used to ask me, “aren’t you afraid that you’re creating your own competition?” And I’ve always replied, “No, these are not my competition. These are my peers. The better they are, the better we all are.”
Helen Eby: That is a great question! I have been involved in advocacy for some time. Here is a list, with links, to some highlights.
2013: Helping Oregon court interpreters launch an effort to raise the rate for court interpreting from $32.50 to $40/hour, the first raise since 1995. This started when I asked my local legislator questions, which he forwarded to the courts. We later were able to build a team once the Governor had added a raise to the budget to cover this. Court interpreters get raises on a regular basis at this point.
This was the impetus for founding the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters, and I was the founding President.
August 2013: First time individual providers were approved as trainers for medical interpreting in Oregon. Getting my training approved opened the door for others to get approval as well.
2014, Healthcare interpreters went to the legislature to submit testimony regarding the law on healthcare interpreting. I organized this event. Healthcare interpreters had never been present at the Capitol before. Court interpreters were present to support them.
November 2014. Participated in writing response to Department of Homeland Security Language Access Plan, based on ASTM standards. Milena Calderari-Waldron and I worked together on this with the Chair of the ATA Translation Certification Committee to respond to the federal DHS language access plan. This document is now an official part of their language access plan.
April 2015: Went to Washington DC and took a brochure to our legislators promoting the professionalism of interpreters in collaboration with Esther Navarro-Hall, from NAJIT. This was the first time that Oregon interpreters had gone to the halls of Congress to meet their legislators. We submitted a document that represented our specific needs.
November 2015. Submitted a presentation on ethics and standards of interpreting to the Workers Compensation Board that led to interpreters receiving better compensation. The WCB told me this was the first time a certified interpreter spoke to them. Now interpreters are part of the conversation and get regular raises. Spoken and sign language interpreters receive the same pay per rule.
March 2016. Collaborated with a team to define the interpreting and translation profession so contracting officers could have a clear understanding of our professionalism. This was undertaken as a collaboration between OSTI, NAJIT and other associations. The draft version of the descriptions in this document was helpful to show the Oregon Workers Compensation Board that we are professionals. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TI-Descriptions.pdf
May 2017. Was cochair of the NAJIT Advocacy Committee that designed the NAJIT Advocacy Priorities as part of a survey of NAJIT members and went to Capitol Hill with members. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NAJIT-Advocacy-Priorities.pdf
2019. Oregon now has qualification guidelines for translators based on competency. The drafters used some of the reference materials I provided to write their guidelines. https://www.gauchatranslations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Translation-credentials-accepted-by-Oregon.pdf
Today: I am a member of the Oregon Council on Healthcare Interpreting and an interpreter trainer. In May 2013 there were only 41 Qualified or Certified interpreters on the Oregon Healthcare Authority roster. https://ostiweb.org/situation-of-medical-interpreters-in-oregon/. Today, on April 28, 2020 there are 700 interpreters on the roster. Some of the current trainers have been my students. As of May 2020, I will be the Vice Chair of the Oregon Council of Healthcare Interpreters. https://www.oregon.gov/OHA/OEI/Pages/HCI-Council.aspx
Christina Green: As a language professional, I have always advocated for better systems to vet and prepare language professionals in our courts. I have consistently opposed the idea of creating interpreters based on their bilingual abilities alone, while lacking the basics of what it means to be a true professional interpreter or translator.
That is why, in the early 2000s, and joined by a group of legal interpreters in Wisconsin, I fought for certification and continuous education for our court interpreters. With the support of some extraordinary judges and attorneys, we were able to establish the certification process through our Courts and we were the first ones to take and pass the state test in 2004.
As a Board Member first and then as the President of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters, I have always advocated for continuous education for our members. We have been offering webinars once a month at a nominal price, and even free while the quarantine lasts. We also provided assistance to our professional groups in Illinois so they too could have a certification for their legal interpreters working within the court system.
As a Board Member of the American Translators Association, I was the Chair of the Outreach Committee, in which, again accompanied by an extraordinary group of professionals, we developed guidelines to assist translation and interpreting students to get into our profession after graduation and to get certified.
I consider a duty and to a certain degree a responsibility, to be involved and to make sure our profession gets the respect and the recognition it deserves.
As the responsible party for language services at the largest school district in Wisconsin, I have created training for bilingual staff and encouraged the, to take any training available and then become certified, before seeking work as interpreters.
Last, I have been part of the Advisory Council for the School of Arts and Sciences at Cardinal Stritch University, where I assisted in the creation of an Medical Interpreting Degree.
Aimee Benavides: I have advocated for interpreters on many occasions. When I worked as an employee I was proactive in encouraging good working conditions through the use of equipment and team interpreting. In more recent years, I have advocated for interpreters both directly and indirectly. I began a Facebook group (T.I.P. Connect) to share educational opportunities and to share resources with the idea of keeping all of those things in one centralized location, so although it is social media the focus is less social and more educational. When I served as Chair of the Board, I paid close attention to news across the country that dealt with interpreting issues. When I saw a news piece about the Chief of Police in Houston using community volunteers to interpret for police officers, I drafted and with board approval, we sent a letter to the Chief of Police to encourage him to use professional interpreters rather than untrained volunteers. I also promote seeing our professions – both interpreting and translating – as true skilled professions and as such also advocated on behalf of interpreters and translators who were being negatively affected by AB5 in California. I was only one of a very large number of interpreters (both union and no-union members) and translators who requested the exemption and currently the Chairman of the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Commission has proposed an exemption for translators and interpreters (SB900) which has yet to be voted on. I cannot take credit for this proposed exemption, but I can say that I did work to inform people of the issues and encouraged them to take action and investigate for themselves. If elected to the Board, I am committed to looking out for the entirety of the profession and being proactive in addressing issues that degrade the level of service provided in legal matters and upholding professional best practices. I would love to advocate for NAJIT to be the sole association in charge of continuing education for court interpreters throughout the United States. I see that each State has their own criteria and some have absolutely no continuing education requirements for interpreters. I am of the opinion that as true professionals, we should have continuing education requirements and those trainings should meet guidelines that interpreters decide are both necessary and useful.
Teresa Salazar: In one way or another, I have always advocated for professional practices and working conditions, sometimes at my own expense.
I think that one of the most valuable contributions we can all make is to mentor the coming generations of interpreters. I did this as a freelancer with the US Department of State, when working with new inexperienced contractors who needed to learn the ropes, and formalized my efforts when I became head of interpreting services/staff interpreters for my court. I never thought of it so much as mentoring, but rather as helping new interpreters to hone their skills and become knowledgeable about the best professional practices so that they, in turn, would be able to advocate for reasonable professional working conditions and articulate the well-founded bases for these essential conditions. It gives me great satisfaction to see that these interpreters who I guided are now respected professionals in their own right and making their own contributions to the profession.
Since early on in my career as staff with the court, I have insisted that no one other than interpreters should decide how services should be delivered. As a newcomer to the federal system I contributed to the content and worked on an educational video about federal court interpreters being developed by the AO. The video was basically complete when I was informed that one of the statements in the summary of the video would be a statement according the judge the responsibility of deciding when a second interpreter was needed. I totally disagreed knowing judges to be outstanding professional legal experts with a dearth of knowledge about interpreting in most cases. The AO would not budge and neither would I, so I ended up resigning and requesting that my name be removed from everything related to the video. The AO complied and my name was never credited on the video. When the video was released, I discovered that the wording had been modified so that it no longer conferred the judge with total undisputed authority to decide when a team of interpreters should be used. It seems that my outspokenness was not totally in vain. It was a start, and for now I was satisfied.
Teaming is a practice I have actively advocated since the mid-nineties. I accepted my position at the court with the understanding that neither I nor any other interpreter would ever work alone in any proceeding that lasted more than one hour. During the early years, with the invaluable help of contract interpreters, we experimented with the best teaming practices in the courtroom, and presented our findings (with Gladys Segal) at a NAJIT Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX, in the late 90s, I have continued to experiment and develop teaming practices in tempo with the use of modern technology. Although still not practiced everywhere as it should be, teaming is now a well-known practice recommended in the Federal Court Interpreter Orientation Manual, and I am heading the team which will soon present the new NAJIT position paper on teaming.
As part of my advocacy efforts, I also coauthored the NAJIT position paper entitled Onsite Simultaneous Interpretation of a Sound File is Not Recommended which is referenced on page 28, of the Federal Court Interpreter Orientation Manual. It has been extremely gratifying to have colleagues tell me that the paper has served them well in making their arguments against this practice in court. Not too long ago, I led the effort that resulted in the publication of the most recent NAJIT position paper entitled General Guidelines and Requirements for Transcription/Translation in a Legal Setting for Users and Practitioners.
As a member of the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) I was one of the authors of the ILR Skill Level Descriptors for Interpretation Performance, which are primarily intended to serve as guidelines for use in government settings. The Descriptors establish that an individual is not considered an interpreter unless they are at least at a Level 3 (Professional Performance). I was also one of the authors of ILR Skill Level Descriptions for Audio Translation Performance which involves the rendering of live or recorded speech in the source language to a written text in the target language. Again, an individual is not a professional unless they are at least at a Level 3 (Professional Performance).
I have actively advocated for formal professional industry standards for interpreting through my work with ASTM International. I worked on the original Standard for Language Interpreting in the late 90s, as well as the stronger and updated Standard Practice for Language Interpreting published in the 2000s. This latest standard practice defines the minimum professional standards for quality services in language interpreting and is directed at stakeholders with varying levels of expertise in interpreting. I am now chairing the subcommittee that will be reviewing and updating this standard practice in approximately two years.
With this, I think that I have provided a good sampling of my work to continuously improve and professionalize the field of interpreting for all practitioners.
Giovana Lester: Advocating for my profession is one of my favorite activities. It has been a long track to get here, and this is the short version by professional association.
NAJIT: contributor of The NAJIT Observer (2011-2016); Observer’s Editor (2016-present). Our posts have been republished by ATA, NAJIT, professional associations in other countries, universities in the UK. Through Twitter, we are connected and are retweeted by law schools, US State Bars, Young Lawyer Associations. The Social Media Committee, which I now co-chair with Francesca Samuel, is working closely with SSTI, Bench & Bar Committee, developed the NAJIT Academy which is run by the Training and Education Committee.
American Translators Association: President of the Florida Chapters FLATA and ATIF (which I co-founded in 2009 and served as president twice). During my terms in both, we had events almost every month with local, national and international speakers; strengthened the associations’ relationship with Florida International University and Miami-Dade College. Assistant Administrator and Administrator of the Interpreters Division. The two programs I am most proud of are the ATA/American Red Cross Partnership, which created a nationwide interpreter network and whose volunteers manned the Falls Church, VA call center during Hurricane Katrina, and the booklet Interpreting Getting it Right, which was later produced by Chris Durban and is one of the recommended materials in the DOJ resources list. And I have been an ATA Mentor for many years.
National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters: Director and Vice-Chair (2009-2015). During my term at the National Board, I created its monthly newsletter which featured articles by doctors and other hospital personnel and CMI’s, increasing awareness about our profession. Spoke on behalf of the National Board in events for the ATA Spanish Division together with Dr. Izabel Souza (IMIA) and Natalya Mitareva (CCHI), at Finding the Parallels a conference for medical and court interpreters, which I co-created with Agustin de la Mora.
Associação Brasileira de Tradutores e Intérpretes (Abrates): I am a member of the Executive Committee in the Brazilian ATA counterpart (July 2018-July 2020). I am the liaison with the International Federation of Translators, I have represented the Association in international events, assisted in the organization of its 10th International Conference, developed a distance learning program to increase its revenue, bringing national and international speakers bi-monthly. I am also an Abrates Mentor.
Miami-Dade College: After being a member the Translation and Interpretation Advisory Committee for two years, I was elected its Chair and work closely with the Dean, Dr. Oberhiri, and the Faculty of their T&I Certificate Program. The Advisory Committee’s efforts helped in a redesign of the 2-year program into an 18-month program, expansion of the curriculum increasing its focus on technology and enrollment almost doubled.
Hilda Shymanik: Thank you for this question!
In the summer of 2005, I worked for a company I loved. The owner was impressed with me from day one and I was hired on the spot as the company’s accounting manager. It was the late summer of 2004 and by Christmas I didn’t qualify for a bonus, but I received one. In less than a year I was given two raises.
When I was approached by two Spanish-speaking laborers to request I act as their “translator” with the owner to discuss their wages, which they believed where lower than their American counterparts, I agreed. I had never done that before in a formal setting, but I had no qualms to accept the favor asked. In the end the employees did not get their raise and were given reasons that I knew where unfounded. They wanted to take further action if the raise did not materialize. I offered to speak for them and talked to the owner on my own again, pointing out the disparities in the books and his reasoning to them. He did not budge. I spoke again with my countrymen; they were from Mexico. I supported them and we all decided that we would fight that injustice with a show of force. We were going to collectively quit. The company could not function from one day to the next without us all. I learned later that I alone quit the job to fight what I considered a grave injustice. That was one of the hardest lessons of my long career in accounting, in life really.
I was young and naïve but more importantly I did not have other resources. That was 15 years ago, and I have been advocating ever since for my profession, a different one now. I do not use weapons anymore; I now have tools. I do not do things alone anymore, not most of the time anyway. I became an interpreter in the winter of 2007-2008 and joined my first association in 2011. I joined NAJIT in 2014 and by 2016 I was a board member (treasurer and director) and led the conference committee, while being president of my local association in New York City, the New York Circle of Translators and while, at the same time I joined the advocacy committee.
During my time as a NAJIT Board Member we advocated for several different issues but two that come to mind are:
When in June of 2018 Houston’s Police Chief, Art Acevedo, started recruiting bilingual volunteer “translators”, the board issued a letter drafted by our then chair Aimee Benavides to advocate for proper training and basic guidelines. https://cw39.com/news/local/watch-live-hpd-launches-communicators-on-patrol-citizen-volunteer-program/
At the time I was one of the two NAJIT representatives to the National Interpreter Associations Coalition (NIAC) with Aimee Benavides and through that umbrella group, whose members are NAJIT, AIIC, ATA, IMIA, Mano a Mano and NCIHC, we also worked together and sent a separate letter on the same Houston issue.
When in January of last year, the possibility of Congress subpoenaing President Trump’s interpreter, again with my NAJIT board member colleagues and NIAC we took a stand and wrote a letter as a board and a collective one as an umbrella group. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/subpoena-trump-putin-helsinki-interpreter/580267/
In the summer on 2018 I advocated for and procured ATA budget for an exam venue for the New York Circle of Translations. In the end we were able to find a free venue for that year’s summer exam, but the effort has transformed the way the test is administered in New York City.
In the early summer of 2018, I proposed Sandro Tomasi as the Advocacy Committee Chair and Robert Joe Lee as member and advocated for the issues that Sandro espouses of fair professional fees. I can’t take credit for any of the work that this great group of people has done with Barbara Hua Robinson, Patricia Michelsen-King and others, but I did have the vision of what these individuals could do for our profession and for that I am humbly proud.
In September of 2018, I was honored by Red T’s invitation to represent ATA and NAJIT at the opening ceremony of a photo documentary exhibition, “Interpreters on Mission: Contributing to Peace,” taking place at the NY United Nations Headquarters. I have been also invited by NYU and Hunter College to participate in panel discussions and to promote our profession.
I have done a great deal of advocating in grassroots efforts throughout my career to promote professional compensation and working conditions.
Over the years I have advocated for better professional training programs by recommending many colleagues, well known to NAJIT for their teaching skills, to both the New York and New Jersey judiciaries. I have advocated for better rates by recommending hundreds of colleagues for different jobs to work with solid, reliable companies. I have also encouraged colleagues and networked for years in a grassroots effort in my communities of New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. If you know me, there is every chance that over the last 13 years you have received a resource, an assignment, a contact or some other professional aid or information from me.
If elected to the board I will continue to work on what I expressed on the previous question is my vision of the board relating to advocacy. This board will need to work with the Advocacy, Training and Education, and Bench and Bar Committees to face the current issue of remote interpreting and all that it entails.
I thank you for this opportunity to speak to you in this manner and taking the time to get to know me better.
Roxane King: I began advocating more than ever before when I moved to Ohio from California. Business is carried out differently in many states as we all know and I was asked to be interviewed about the interpreting and translating profession. The interview ”The Ins and Outs of Hiring a Certified Judicial Interpreter for Deposition or Trial” was published by the CMBA, NAJIT Proteus and the ATA. Since then and to this day I continue spreading the word and I believe that things changed just a little bit.
I was on the Advocacy Committee in 2016-2017 and I had the honor to serve on NAJIT Advocacy Committee in Washington D.C. It was amazing to be all in there together with one same objective, to let our voices be heard.
Advocating for our beautiful profession runs through my veins, I just can’t keep quiet. I want to tell anyone who will listen to me, how important language interpreters and translators are for the LEP and for those who are not. It is a two way, road and we must flow together, hand in hand to make the world a better place. In honor of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela. When I advocate for the profession I try to personalize it so that the person listening to me can try to relate and so far Mandela has not let me down.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: Yes, I have. I was invited to spearhead the Indiana Court Interpreter Certification program. I interpreted for judges who traveled the state far and wide, conducting town hall meetings to ask LEP people who had been in contact with the judicial system one way or the other, what their experiences had been in order to design the certification program for Indiana. Once it was created, I was part of the first Advisory Board on Court Interpreting to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Although that was a wonderful experience, I have always enjoyed the grassroots approach even more. Taking every opportunity available to educate the users of our services about our profession has been a constant in my professional life, and more recently, as a former Chair and current member of the Bench and the Bar Committee, I have had the pleasure of working with a group of fantastic colleagues on different projects, some of which you may already know and others, which will be launched soon.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: While working in the industry side of the equation, as Director of Quality Assurance for a major LSP, luckily, I was able to bring hundreds of colleagues in Europe and the Americas into the practice of our profession and my advocacy extended beyond selecting and training them: from compensation to working conditions, to supporting their educational and career goals, to investing my time to see about their personal well-being, these efforts paid off then yielding great retention rates. Now it is really rewarding to hear them tell how big of a difference a small victory on their behalf back then, such as rearranging a schedule or setting up debriefing chats after emotionally charged assignments, meant in their lives. In my role as a university professor I again motivate, promote and guide future colleagues in the pursuit of their goals.
In my community, as part of groups, one initiative we pushed for was recognition for interpreters as officers of the courts so that we would be given a badge to ease and speed up entry into courthouses where there normally would be a line to drop off phones, another to check IDs and a third one to pass through security screening. We tried to have administrators see that time wasted trying to get in the building for independent contractors meant less hearings being serviced and more expenses for all involved, and we won! Another initiative still pending is to advocate for our profession before the state legislature. We met with and have gained the support of State Representative Brian Sims so that Interpretation and Translation are granted professional status in Pennsylvania so that perhaps in the future, we will have a certification-based professional license. There have been other initiatives promoted when I was the Administrator of the ATA Interpreters Division; during my brief tenure as Chair of the NAJIT Board of Directors, I have promoted forth joint initiatives of the Advocacy and Bench and Bar Committees, that as a result of COVID-19 that call for judges and administrators to use certified and qualified interpreters for remote delivery while showing them how to ascertain and record the claimed credentials and another to demand safety precautions for colleagues called to interpret in person in aggregate settings such as detention centers and jails during this pandemic.
I would be great to continue advocating: for better compensation that includes the costs of transportation and parking, and for a way to help colleagues with the resolution of payment disputes.
Aimee Benavides: I do not have concerns about my ability to serve on the board. I think this is an excellent question though because I have learned firsthand that serving on the board requires a tremendous time commitment. I would say that I probably spend 10-20 hours every week working on NAJIT Board items. Because the board members are located all across the country, the most efficient way to conduct business, and that is allowed by the bylaws, is through email. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my NAJIT email to see if there is anything urgent that needs my attention. The board all needs to provide input before anything can move forward, and I would hate for things to not move forward due to me not responding. I am generally one of the first board members to respond to any given issue. I do have a child with special needs, as many of you know, but that has not hindered my participation at any time while I have served on the board. The only time I have been unaccessible was when I took a trip to the mountains where there was no cellphone signal. I do know that Board members do need to sometimes step away from their board duties to take care of issues that arise in their lives, but that really should be the exception rather than the rule. Serving on the NAJIT board is just as important as any paying job and should be given the same level of priority. We are after all here to help move our profession forward and look out for members and see that they are benefiting from their membership.
Helen Eby: I would like the documents Board members have to sign upon admission to the Board, such as confidentiality and conflict of interest forms, to be publicly posted. All NAJIT policies should be publicly posted
Board meetings should at a pre established time so that Board members can work their schedules around them. For example, they could be the second Xday of the month at 7 am Pacific time for 90 minutes on PlatformX. This would provide a set schedule, platform, and predictability. Please note that the time and platform are given as a template.
I am involved in other Boards, but I am able to include NAJIT Board meetings in the mix of my responsibilities as long as the meetings have a set schedule and the Board has a clear method of communication such as its own group email and Slack system, and an online system to share association documents securely such as Dropbox. These systems help Board members work collaboratively between meetings and prepare materials that make meetings efficient.
Janis Palma: I have been on several non-profit boards and committees throughout my professional life, including NAJIT, so I know exactly what type of commitment is required and how much time I am able to give. The short answer is: once I commit, I have no limits. I will work however many hours are needed to do whatever has to get done. As far as I’m concerned, there is no clock: I will work day or night if I have to. I will go wherever I need to go, even use my own money if I have to, as long as we accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished. Once I am in a leadership position, there is nothing I will not do for the good of the association I am serving and its members. It doesn’t matter if it’s a board of directors or a committee. And I’m not saying this just to “toot my own horn”; this is who I am and anyone who’s ever worked with me, whether in NAJIT, SSTI, TAJIT, APTI, or any other group or committee, can tell you as much.
For me it’s just a matter of being organized and managing my time so I can do everything I need to do, but more than that, it’s also something I thoroughly enjoy. Volunteering for my professional association is my way of paying it forward. I have not only learned how to be a better interpreter and translator through the amazing colleagues that are part of NAJIT, I have also been slowly acquiring an extended family of beautiful, loving, like-minded people from all over the country, even outside of the country, through NAJIT, and if I take on a leadership position they all deserve that I give them a thousand percent if I’m elected to the Board of Directors.
The fact remains that everyone, whether or not we have met in person before, every single NAJIT member will be foremost in my mind every step of the way during my tenure on the Board if I’m elected. If and while I’m there, then that will be the time to act, to be of service, so I will not be counting the minutes or the hours that I spend on NAJIT business every week or every month, and—to be honest—the only factors in my life that could limit my ability to serve would be a severe illness that puts me or someone in my immediate family in the hospital, or death. But we all have to deal with life and death situations in our families, we all have elderly parents, or someone very close to us batting a life-threatening disease. None of us is immune to that and, yes, that is the one thing I know for sure will stop me in my tracks.
Barring any life-or-death situation in my family, I’m all yours
Giovana Lester: My main concern about joining any board is the cohesion of its members. There are certain inherent principles that help a board run smoothly and its members must have a united focus, even when their approaches are different. Transparency, fiduciary responsibility, the best interest of the Association are the most important operational principles in any board.
Currently, I dedicate about 5 hours a week to NAJIT. The only factor that might limit my ability to serve is my husband’s medical appointments, which can be easily rearranged.
Thank you- Gio
Teresa Salazar: There is no doubt that in a two-year span of time, life can throw you a couple of curveballs, but you must still carry on meeting your responsibilities. I believe that there is no justification for absenting yourself from the day-to-day work of the organization for extended periods of time and not performing your duties for anything but the direst of reasons.
I have approached my position as a current director on the NAJIT Board with the same attitude and commitment that I approach my full-time job with the court, and certainly expect to continue devoting a minimum of approximately 20 hours a week to my NAJIT responsibilities. I say approximately because I have never set myself a time limit, and am constantly checking my NAJIT emails starting first thing in the morning before work, and continuing to check it during breaks throughout the day. If there is a project requiring an extra investment of time, I simply get down to business and work on it until it is complete. The same applies to Board meetings which, during my time on the Board, have lasted anywhere from 1 to 3 ½ hours. During the past almost two years, I believe I have missed one Board meeting. My attitude is that I put in whatever time and work is required to bring things off successfully.
Like many others in my age group who have aging parents, I am responsible for the care of my 90-year old mother and there have been one or two medical situations to attend to in the recent past. Even in those instances, however, I have continued to attend to my NAJIT responsibilities (as I do with my work duties) during the down time of waiting for results, etc., doing so from medical waiting rooms if necessary. No matter what happens, responsibilities have to be met and I find that doing productive work during trying times is often a stabilizing factor.
In essence, if reelected to the Board of Directors, I know what I am in for and, with the advantage of hindsight and experience, would approach my role as director with even greater resolution to put in whatever work is necessary to regain the momentum lost during this past year and see NAJIT prosper and grow in professional stature.
Hilda Shymanik: Do you have any particular worries or concerns about potentially joining (or being reelected to) the board? This is a phenomenal question!! I am so happy someone asked it.
I have no specific concerns about being re-elected to the board. I have worked well with five different boards, 13 board members in total among the associations where I have been a board member, with approximately 25 committee members over my 57 combined months of service in the last five years.
I understand the nature of a democratic process where we all must abide by a majority of opinion and more specifically votes. The decisions reached by a majority stand as such. I understand, follow and abide all these protocols and rules. The board, regardless of the individual opinions or votes, must work as a cohesive and united group to represent an association in a professional manner. Egos need to be left aside when stepping into such a position. I know about all these expectations. I also know about the challenge in diverse points of view, but I know how to advocate for important points or issues and at the same time take a step back when more important or pressing issues are brought up.
Responding to email is crucial to get work done. Texts, messenger, Facebook are all good forms to communicate with fellow board members that there is a pending email that requires a response. I have been known to do this quite a bit. However, the official distribution lists must be used for all official communications. We must all abide by our bible: our bylaws. We as a board must know them well and have them always accessible. No one board member can make decisions or negotiate with anyone or represent anything that has not been approved by the board. We must at all times present a professional demeanor. I am good at that and I have demonstrated it over and over during my short and yet abundant participation. I am a good team player and I am fiercely loyal to our association.
How much time a month can you commit to meetings and serving the association?
40 or more. Whatever time the position requires! In the winter of 2017-2018 Susan Cruz from Headquarters and myself worked shoulder to shoulder during a three-day weekend logging close to 40 hours to edit conference presentations for the conference program with the generous collaboration of Karola Rangel, Jill Ananyi, and Elizabeth Figueroa, all last-minute volunteers. That’s just an example of my, and others I like to work with, fierce commitment to NAJIT. I am very responsive to emails. I usually get up as early as needed, sometimes as early as 2 am and I have found myself communicating on Conference Committee issues at the wee hours of the morning with Gladys Matthews, Aimee Benavides, and Susan because they work late into the night and I am an early riser. As long as everyone participates the schedule is irrelevant.
Are there any factors in your life which might limit your ability to serve?
There are no limits on my time or ability to serve. However, unexpected situations occur to all of us during the normal course of life. Only on rare occasions of illness have I been less responsive, specifically during a serious hospitalization of my granddaughter Leila during the fall of 2017. Had she not recovered as soon as she did, I would have done the right thing and stepped down from the board. It would not have been fair to the members or the board had it been otherwise. All in all, my dedication to NAJIT has been unquestionable.
Christina Green: I would be honored to be elected to serve on the Board. I am currently in other boards, as the President of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters, as Assistant Administrator of the Educators Division for the American Translators Association, as a member of the Leadership Council for the Interpreters Division of the American Translators Association, and as a member of the Advisory Council for the School or Arts and Sciences at Cardinal Stritch University. I feel a deep commitment to the betterment of our profession and actively participating in associations is a way to ensure change is effected.
Roxane King: Taking the responsibility to be a part of a board is a commitment in itself and I believe that one needs to know if the demands, needs and responsibilities can be met to fulfill the role. It is important to give one’s word and follow through with it. I have a busy life just like a lot of us do, but I am running for this board because I care and believe in the profession and I hold it close to my heart.
At the moment I am not surrounded by children and I do not have a heavy personal family schedule to run. I am at the time of my life where I can focus on myself and my profession more than ever before. As I promise in my bio to you, my intention is to work hard and relentlessly towards a better understanding of our profession in all the fields we are summoned to assist. Additionally I would like to work just as hard with the board to broaden and empower committees and bring greater transparency in the governance of NAJIT.
Life is constantly teaching us and I believe that we have to be ready to learn, grow and change, always for the better.
Claudia Rubio Samulowtiz: The only thing that would worry me is being reelected and falling again into a dysfunctional group. Being a board member requires a lot of your time and finding a good balance between your volunteer work, family, and professional obligations is not an easy task. We all know that biting more than you can chew can have disastrous results, if not in one of those areas, in the others. Ask yourself if your have a support system in place to pick up the slack at home, or in other areas of your life where you might not be able to focus 100% anymore because you are tending to your volunteer works at the board, and ask yourself if you count on other members of the Board to be part of that support system and if would be willing to be part of that system for your fellow Directors.
Of course, there will always be factors that affect your ability to serve, but the most important part of doing volunteer work is knowing that you are working hard to make a difference and that you are doing your best. That is why being part of a supportive group is important and one reason why I supported expanding our Board of Directors to 7 members; the workload would be easier to carry and perhaps kindness would be more prevalent when health or family or work-related issues pull members away.
So, I would say that the most important part of this commitment is going in with the goal of investing your time to collaborate in a civil and respectful manner. Not doing so results in wasted time and energy, which can, and does, affect people’s health and ultimately, the health of our association.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: I hope that the board that is formed after this election has a clear mandate by having a well defined majority. The board I currently preside over has been bitterly divided since before the previous Chair was removed and duly replaced seven months ago. Beyond personalities, there are two visions for the future of the association: one, held by the minority, spousing change, openness and transparency, empowering volunteers and delegating tasks to them, while the one of the majority seeks to protect the status quo, values secrecy, control and closed doors.This situation explains why board meetings are not open to the public and why members cannot contact directors directly without the mediation of the management company.
The frail majority we briefly held enabled the board to have an open bid for a new administrative services contract and the elimination of the title of Executive Director (found nowhere in the Bylaws) so as to resolve the matter of the conflict of interest inherent in having this position as part of the contract with his for-profit company.
Bylaws call for a minimum of three yearly meetings plus the General Business Meeting but it is necessary to have many more; however, if tasks and responsibilities are properly allocated, the time invested in the association should yield greater returns with a faster response time than we have seen, where crafting a simple response takes an unnecessary long, circuitous path. Having interlopers obstructing progress and the animosity and the poor manners of others have been obstacles but in spite of them, happily, much of substance has been accomplished.
Giovana Lester: Languages other than Spanish (LOTS) have been on the Board’s crosshairs. Proof of that is the fact that our educational materials and some promotional materials have been translated into other languages and our conference this year had LOTS as its main focus.
I believe in special interest groups—in language clusters or individual languages— and I think they would be a strong tool for NAJIT to use as it aims to demonstrate its commitment to its members in the LOTS (languages other than Spanish) category. A short cut to LOTS representation would be to ensure that there is at least one speaker of LOTS in each committee. The same concern with linguistic makeup should be taken toward the Board of Directors: Nominations Committees should focus on a wide language representation on the Board.
Three tools that can be easily used to give voice to speakers of LOTS immediately: The NAJIT Academy, Proteus, and The NAJIT Observer.
The NAJIT Academy would be the easiest one to activate for that purpose by encouraging members who speak LOTS to present and suggest speakers to the Training and Education Committee. Regarding Proteus and The NAJIT Observer, however, it would require the material submitted to be translated into English, so that all members could enjoy the articles. The logistics of it would have to be discussed: who is going to read and approve the original, who is going to translate the material, who will approve the translation, etc.
The channels are ready to be used, and others can be created. It all requires commitment on the part of the membership. Currently, The NAJIT Academy, Proteus, and The NAJIT Observer are struggling to come up with material to present to the membership.
Any association is as strong as its membership’s commitment to its growth. The tools are available to you. The Board is willing. This is YOUR moment to shine.
Helen Eby: NAJIT members work in 64 languages other than English according to the 2017 NAJIT Advocacy Priorities. NAJIT should do a survey of the working languages of our members based on the membership database every couple of years. This should inform the work of the Conference Committee and the NAJIT Academy. NAJIT members could form workgroups in different language groups, where members could work to meet the needs under the guidance of a larger committee.
As a Certified Spanish court interpreter and translator, I have worked with interpreters and translators who speak French and Russian as they planned courses and projects for their languages. I can work with other groups as well.
This article on the variety of the languages spoken in our world might help us think of the ways we can connect dots between language groups at NAJIT when the time comes.
Janis Palma: I have been thinking a lot about the role NAJIT is playing for all judiciary interpreters and legal translators in the country, more so now that I decided to run for the board of directors. It concerns me, in particular, how little we know about each other—I mean, our colleagues in language combinations other than our own. Sign language interpreters, for example, are like a separate universe from spoken language interpreters. We seem to accept these differences without really stopping to think if there is any basis for such an abyss in the way we approach our work while we are in similar settings—courts, police stations, depositions, for example. Then there’s the so-called languages of lesser diffusion. Interpreters in those languages also seem to inhabit a different world from the one where English-Spanish interpreters live, for example. Is there really a justification for this?
I think NAJIT has to create spaces where we can all start to get to know each other as professionals, learn about the idiosyncrasies our language combinations impose on the way we meet the profession’s performance standards, and learn about the cultural constructs that sometimes put us in precarious positions as we navigate our professional Code of Ethics. We need to understand where we already have a shared understanding and where we still need to build common ground as a profession before we can move on.
Working closely with sign language interpreters in recent months has given me a new perspective on this particular issue, and I suspect we have all been complicit in this impetus to homogenize our professional practice standards with what could perhaps be called a Hispano-centric perspective, which is quite ironic in a profession that is inherently multi-lingual and multi-cultural.
I believe that once NAJIT has provided judiciary interpreters and translators around the country with the forum—virtual or physical—to openly discuss where we stand and where we want to go, the association can then take that input to define the competency standards that will set the baseline for everyone in our professions, regardless of language combination. NAJIT can be the standard-bearer in the U.S. for judiciary interpreters’ and legal translators’ education, skills, and credentialing requirements based on what its members—the members of the profession—define as essential skills, education and credentials for all languages.
This phase can also include partnerships with individuals, groups and entities offering education, training, and credentials to make sure they all meet the standards voiced by our members as the minimum levels required for our professions. This is not an undertaking for one person, or “the chosen few”. This, as you can see, will require hands-on involvement from many NAJIT members.
It is a daunting task, but it is what I envision for NAJIT: a nationwide unified front working tirelessly on behalf of all its members to establish national performance standards for judiciary interpreters and legal translators in all languages. These standards will have been created by us, not by outsiders. But as we all join together to make NAJIT the authority on judiciary interpreting and legal translation in the U.S., these standards will also be acknowledged and respected by every stakeholder in every institution we serve.
There will be no more “us”—the English-Spanish interpreters and translators—and “them”—the interpreters and translators in languages other than Spanish. There will only be an “us”: every professional judiciary interpreter and legal translator in the U.S., regardless of language combination.
Teresa Salazar: My opinion is that interpreters of languages other than Spanish (LOTS) need to make their voices heard more effectively than has been the case up to now. It is generally assumed that if some edifying offering is beneficial to Spanish interpreters it is beneficial to LOTS interpreters, so long as we change the focus from Spanish to language-neutral. To some degree that is true, but I think we are mistaken in assuming that there is a common denominator between Spanish and LOTS interpreters, and even between the wide spectrum of LOTS interpreters themselves. The one common factor we all share is that we are all interpreters with a love for the profession and who want to make the best living we can doing what we enjoy.
First and foremost, we have to hear directly from the LOTs interpreters themselves as to what they need specifically to improve their skills and marketability. I would like to create a specific channel where interpreters of languages other than Spanish could address their ideas and concerns to the Board. The Board could then review communications as they came in and take direct action on them or, if more appropriate, bring them to the attention of the most suited committee to address the issue with Board support and participation, as needed and appropriate.
In my own experience offering orientation and guidance to LOTS interpreters I contract, I found a wide array of professional skill levels and experience. In offering professional development opportunities, we cannot take the approach that once size fits all. We must fine tune the resources we offer to LOTS interpreters to be carefully balanced between theory and skills building. Theory sows the ground for successful skills building and practice, but we must be cognizant of the fact that some languages more than others, have greater opportunity to develop their practical professional skills. We need to provide an avenue that makes it possible for those working in languages with less demand to continuously develop their practical skills through workshops and/or webinars offered throughout the year, and not just at the annual conference.
I would actively work to identify well-respected and successful interpreters of languages other than Spanish working in the different areas of interpreting who would be willing to make a contribution to the field by sharing their skills and experience with interpreters coming up the ranks In addition, I would seek out presenters from different companies and organizations working with LOTS to present on the opportunities that are available and how to make your skills more marketable to them.
My approach would be two-fold. First, I envision a series of webinars or workshops taught by these professionals, not only in the legal specialty, but also in other areas of interpreting such as medical, business, education, etc. Secondly, I am well aware that in some languages there is not enough demand in the courts, for example, to make a full-time living, and, consequently, interpreters of these languages need to be able to use their skills across domains. We need to make LOTS interpreters aware of the opportunities that do exist.
I know that there are even full-time opportunities available because I have personally participated in the training of groups of aspiring interpreters in languages such as Mandarin and Turkish for government agencies.
Carrying these projects to fruition can only happen with the willing and active participation of interpreters of languages other than Spanish. I strongly believe that the time is ripe for LOTS interpreters to have a stronger presence in the field, and that NAJIT can be a powerful advocate for them. I hope to be a part of that effort.
Aimee Benavides: This is an excellent question. While serving on the Board one of my concerns has been that NAJIT is seen by some as an association mainly for Spanish interpreters and translators. We are an association of judiciary interpreters and translators and really many of us work in various sectors that are not limited to the Judiciary. One of the projects I have been very involved with over the more than a year is an update of the directory interface to make it more userfriendly for folks who are looking to use the services of interpreters and translators and to better showcase our skills. The most important thing in working to benefit our LOTS colleagues is to ask them what they want and need.
One issue I heard is that directories that focus on large agencies or that allow a person to post every single language tend to dilute or mask the individual who really does specialize in a specific language. The goal behind the directory changes to the NAJIT website would be to give priority to individuals who have earned their credentials over a person or entity that boasts dozens and dozens of languages they personally don’t speak or work in.
Last fall, when I attended the OSTI conference in Portland, I made sure to attend a presentation specific to LOTS interpreters and translators. It was very eye-opening for me to hear that what is really needed are skills building, language-specific training in languages other than Spanish. Having language-neutral, or workshops only in English are just not enough. My goal would be to provide more skills-building opportunities for languages other than Spanish through the Annual Conference, the NAJIT Academy and to bring back more regional workshops.
Another issue that would help to better serve colleagues in languages other than Spanish would be to have a broader view of work opportunities. I’ve heard from LOTS colleagues that because they do not have the case volume to focus on one area, they often much expand the work they do and diversify even more. Some work that is criticized by Spanish interpreters such as post-editing of Machine Translation might be an important field of expertise and source of work for LOTS interpreters and translators. If elected to the board I promise to keep LOTS perspectives and needs in mind and include training and webinars in subjects that might otherwise be overlooked. NAJIT needs to look, feel, and be the right association to belong to for interpreters and translators of all languages.
Christina Green: When I attended our last conference in Tennessee last year, I realized that besides a couple of sessions for French speakers, there were no other language-specific sessions despite having seen several interpreters of languages different than Spanish.
I would promote having sessions at our annual conference as well as webinars for non-Spanish speakers, Strength comes in numbers, so I would advocate working with other professional associations and state courts to recruit participants/attendees, and most likely, potential members. We need to be appealing to other professionals. In Memphis, I saw few interpreters from Southeast Asia, who attended language neutral sessions, As a speaker of 2 languages different than Spanish, I understand well the difficulty in finding suitable sessions for speakers other than Spanish at any conference.
We must offer language-specific content to non-Spanish speakers if we want to attract new members. That is also why it is very important to have greater diversity within our Board.
Hilda Shymanik: In the fall of 2017 the Conference Committee under my leadership and with the full support of the board of directors and specially our then chair’s enthusiasm and help, the Conference Committee instituted a Languages Other Than Spanish (LOTS) track to encourage greater LOTS colleague participation and attendance. This was conceived after a long conversation with Sandro Tomasi who explained some of the intricacies of CEU approvals for the state of California, where the conference would take place the following year, and the language demographics in that state. When I spoke to then chair Gladys Matthews, who was a de-facto member of our Conference Committee, she embraced the idea wholeheartedly and we got board approval to include this track within the budgeted rooms and started to review LOTS presentation submissions and to identify potential presenters for the different languages.
Going forward, with the changes to our profession created by COVID-19, VRI has become quite prevalent in the way we do our work and it has impacted many other areas of our lives, as even non-techies such as myself are embracing new forms of technology. These changes will have an impact on the way judiciaries, hospitals, community centers, schools and other entities distribute their budgets and while it will help reallocate resources it could also affect all interpreters but more markedly LOTS interpreters’ fees, minimum requirements, and other aspects of their availability if VRI assignments become the norm rather than the exception.
We must remember this segment of a letter recently issued and endorsed by the NAJIT Board of Directors, written in collaboration by the Advocacy Committee and the Bench and Bar Committee, and I quote “As you may know, video remote interpreting (VRI) and telephone interpreting are last-resort methods to be used in limited circumstances.” The Board of Directors in collaboration with NIAC, the Advocacy Committee and Bench and Bar Committee should take a strong stand to preserve professional fees and, in this matter, become more relevant to all interpreters in general and LOTS interpreters in particular.
Roxane King: I have volunteered on the conference committee since 2017. Each year the conference committee has worked hard to focus on LOTS and to bring new, fresh ideas and workshops to the members. I would continue to encourage LOTS interpreters to participate at the annual conference by seeking out new inspiring sessions and speakers and to lobby to bring the resources, trainings and certifications available to LOTS interpreters on a par to those available to Spanish interpreters.
I believe that NAJIT needs to reach out to highly skilled interpreters, interpreter trainers and teachers globally and to create a paradigm of excellence in the profession across all language groups. I would also work to bring back NAJIT credentialing with all of the interpreter support that this entails. I have heard from many LOTS interpreters that they feel at a loss when they find an excellent resource, but then discover that it is only in Spanish.
I feel it is of extreme importance to nurture NAJIT’s committees. Board members need to take an active role and work closely with the committees to achieve success and to guide the committees to always be mindful of LOTS. The committees in turn work closely with the members and it is the Board’s job to always be available with encouragement and assistance when needed. As a board member, I would always be prepared to roll my sleeves up and be ready to work hard to help the committees achieve their goals when necessary. When committees feel they have the support of their board, more members including LOTS will be empowered to join, truly strive for and achieve excellence in and for the profession.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: I would first go to the experts. As a Spanish speaker, I can’t possibly know in detail the challenges our LOTS colleagues face. We have members who would be much better qualified than I or any of the other Spanish speaking members of the Board to lead that dialogue. As an Arabic speaker, our colleague Hebba Abulsaad, who is not running for reelection this year, might have great ideas for NAJIT to work on. We also have a fabulous Immigration Committee, let by Francesca Samuel, who would also be a wonderful source of ideas for new LOTS-related projects NAJIT could support, but for that to happen, the Board would need to be much more supportive of empowering the committees, encouraging them to be more creative and independent. There needs to be a healthier balance between the Board and the committees.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: I have been a big proponent of LOTS (Languages Other Than Spanish) which was the theme and cornerstone of the 2020 annual conference, cancelled due to the pandemic. There were to have been sessions in Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Russian in addition to the presentations in Spanish which accounts for over 70% of all interpreted encounters in judiciary settings.
NAJIT needs to do more and to do it better in order to attract colleagues working in language pairs other than Spanish. We have a Committee on Indigenous Languages which is not currently operative. Relaunching it may be a first step; we have a Director whose language is not Spanish currently chairing the Membership Committee for the first time; this and her initiatives should succeed in showing colleagues in LOTS that there is a welcoming space for them in the association. Maybe as the new post Coronavirus panorama shapes up, it will be useful to conceive of regional events dedicated to the language pairs prevalent in those areas. Having more position papers that deal with the specific nuances of certain languages would help attract those colleagues; having LOTS-specific training and presentations will help make NAJIT more relevant. The Certification Commission has been approved with the initial goal of bringing back the Translation (another neglected segment of the profession) certification; why not expand it to other languages other than Spanish?
Christina Green: Thank you for that question.
What I consider one of the most important tenets of any association is transparency. If elected, I would advocate for open board meetings to foster member participation and involvement. I have been working with other boards and we announce when and where our meeting will take place, so we can get any participation possible. This provides a sense of belonging for the members. We need to streamline and increase communication within the Board and with the members. One of the things we should pay special attention to are elections. Clarity is needed, given that NAJIT has an external consulting firm with much participation within our association, and most members know little or nothing about how that works and how it impacts NAJIT. This is a main concern that should be addressed in the interest of impartiality and fairness to us all.
Giovana Lester: I know my colleagues will address the other issues we, as a collective, see as to how NAJIT could improve. Therefore, I will focus on an area I can definitely have more influence on: NAJIT’s image.
NAJIT does not have a strong image outside its membership and the few institutions it works with. It needs to create a presence and remain top of mind in our field. That will result in increased membership, increased revenue, we can become the go-to entity for anything related to languages in the judicial field, such as training lawyers on how to work with interpreters, addressing the many issues our colleagues bring up related to how they are treated both —as individuals and as professionals—, become a true resource for all who need it.
I recall an instance when the agency choose me for a job because I was a member of NAJIT, and when I mentioned NAJIT to the lawyers I was to work with, they asked me questions about it. But when I mentioned we had a Code of Ethics we had to abide by, they laughed at me. That was about 15 years ago. We are still unknown.
I want a lot more for NAJIT.
Janis Palma: The one thing I believe NAJIT needs to revise and change urgently is the Association’s Bylaws. They need to be updated so they conform to new realities, such as virtual meetings like the one we are having this year. They should also contain provisions for contingencies when a board member cannot fulfill his or her obligations due to a temporary disability, disciplinary measures for dereliction of duty, offer more detailed descriptions of the standing committees’ functions, among other things.
Helen Eby: I am so glad you asked!
This is just one thing, but it has a ripple effect. I will give three potential ripples.
1. The Board needs to publish its meeting agenda ahead of time so members can send comments ahead of the meeting.
2. NAJIT board meetings need to be open to members, as is common in other associations. No closed Executive meetings without summary conclusion reports to the members.
3. All policy documents should be publicly posted immediately.
What effect would this have? It would avoid potential leadership problems, where members could be given incomplete answers about Board activities that might be misleading, which would result in divisiveness based on misunderstandings.
Transparency. It builds trust. It builds strong leadership. It is what NAJIT needs.
Teresa Salazar: At the risk of repeating myself, I will harken back to part of my response to Question 1.
It is of the utmost importance that the bylaws and policies of our organization be updated to conform with the new reality we are living in the 21st century. When they were created originally, I am sure no one considered the speed with which technology would advance nor contemplated that at some point the world would be living through a pandemic which would change so many of the rules and conditions we are accustomed to live by.
NAJIT bylaws and policies are the glue that hold the organization together and are at the core of the Board being able to function as a unified body. For these reasons, our bylaws and policies have to be clearly and easily understood by everyone and leave no room for misinterpretation, misconception or misapplication. As I stated previously, the next Board of Directors should not hesitate to undertake a full review of these documents and bring about reform where needed, such as the possible restructuring of future boards and incorporating actions or disciplinary measures applicable to board members themselves who may fail to fulfill their obligations in a responsible manner. Lastly, the review of bylaws and policies would include clearly reviewing and establishing the mission and function of the various volunteer committees that serve the organization so well and bring about so many innovations.
Aimee Benavides: Having served on the board for just over 2 years, first as an interim director and then as an elected board member, I think the one change NAJIT needs to make is to strengthen the communication policy. IRS rules require an association to have a document retention program. Distribution lists which are basically group email inboxes must be used for all NAJIT communications including all committee communication. These lines of communication are vital to record-keeping and to make sure that NAJIT projects are followed up on and members and committees receive appropriate responses. This is a policy that does exist already, but there should be a mechanism to require and enforce compliance.
Hilda Shymanik: I believe NAJIT needs a board that is accountable to the members it serves. For that purpose, NAJIT needs some mechanism to oversee policy and adherence to our bylaws. Corrective standards should exist in our bylaws to deal with situations where board members are not complying with their duties. Perhaps we could institute a symbolic swearing-in ceremony for new board members to emphasize the seriousness of their responsibility.
In addition, our Board Member Manual needs to be updated to provide continuity for new boards. The board should also create committee member manuals. The bylaws need to be updated and revised to include more member participation in the board’s decisions and to ensure board accountability through open quarterly member meetings. Furthermore, we need to clearly document committee functions, board member responsibilities, and governance directives.
Along with this a better and timely process needs to be implemented to allocate the management association contract. NAJIT needs to encourage our members to become familiar with our bylaws so they can hold their board accountable and suggest operational changes.
Roxane King: I think the most important change that NAJIT needs to make is to amend the By-Laws as soon as possible and to ensure that these By-Laws are followed by all board and committee members.
There should be built-in sanctions for failure to follow the By-Laws which can be called upon by any member.
The By-Laws should guarantee transparency. NAJIT’s members count on fairness and transparency.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: NAJIT is in dire need of structural changes. We have to make sure the Bylaws are clear (and enforced,) but most importantly, overhaul the internal policies. We must allow NAJIT to “grow up” as an association. Based on my experience, our association is the equivalent of a forty-year-old teenager, living with his parents and being claimed as a dependent on their tax returns. This is not completely fictional. We have a very efficient management company, without which, NAJIT could possibly not survive if the staff, (comprised of two people,) won the Powerball tomorrow and decided to live in a tropical paradise starting next week.
As any parent works to raise children to be self-sufficient, we, as members of the association must foster, demand and expect the empowerment of committees and training of our Board members to function more independently and actually run the association. If we continue doing what seems, looks, and feels comfortable, we will forever be depending on the staff to do everything, conditioning decisions to whatever works for management , which may or may not be what is best for NAJIT. If these structural changes happened, Board meetings would only be attended, conducted and run by Board members; the Secretary would actually take the minutes and the Treasurer would actually pay the association’s bills, just to name a couple of examples.
Armando Ezquerra Hasun: The NAJIT Board needs to change the ways in which it depends on its administrative support personnel to function. It needs to change the belief that the association cannot survive without it. This will be true as long as its Directors trade their autonomy for convenience; that is, minutes should be the responsibility of the Secretary and not be provided by its administrator. In the past, the management company may have had to step in where, given one of its cyclical crises, there was a power vacuum, but it is proof of their success that the association can now attract able volunteers. They can and should take on their roles as Directors and Officers who direct and lead instead of being directed. It’s a very cozy arrangement for some but one that hurts the viability of the association in the long run.
Any management company should provide a supporting role; Officers should have and effectively exercise a leading role. That is the only way to build up the next batch of leaders. The change should be gradual and steady yet it should be complete.
Helen Eby: Translation is embedded into the name of our association and our clients implicitly expect us to have this skill, but we often forget it in our busy agenda. However, 681 of our members indicate that they do translation, the T in NAJIT, in their online profiles. That is 2/3 of the membership.
This is reasonable. 4/5 of the job applications I have seen recently for full time court interpreters have included translation responsibilities. This applies to staff positions for medical and school interpreters as well.
We need to provide training and acknowledge this reality , focus on ASTM standards for translation, and find ways for our members to provide external validation for their skills in translation.
Now, during the COVID-19 crisis, we are discovering that as solopreneurs (independent providers), diversification is often key to success. Putting all our eggs in one basket, depending on one client, is not effective.
Validating our skills builds trust. In my experience, honing translation skills improves interpreting skills. In many parts of the world, people learn translation before they learn interpreting. We need to provide translation skill-building training at NAJIT. This will build our professional profile.
Janis Palma: I have always believed that knowledge is the key to every door in our profession: skills, remuneration, prestige, standing within the communities we serve, position within the hierarchy of the corporate/business structures where we work, recognition by peers and non-peers. This is why I was engaged in NAJIT’s educational efforts more than any of the other NAJIT initiatives for many years, and it truly is my passion.
Of course, education is a broad field and can include such activities as classroom and online teaching, publishing, conferences, and advocacy.
But for me, to be honest, there is nothing like standing in front of someone as you are sharing your knowledge with them, whether it is a practical skill or a theoretical concept, and to see that person’s face light up when they feel they just got over the hump from “I’m not there yet” to “I get it now”.
Aimee Benavides: This is a fantastic question. One of the reasons I have volunteered so much time and effort for NAJIT is because I genuinely care about the profession that has given me so much both in terms of personal satisfaction as well as professional opportunities. If I had to choose, I would say my top two are professional development and T&I within educational settings.
I think that professional development really involves going beyond skills building and preparing for certification exams. Obviously, we cannot practice our professions if we have not had the right preparation but being successful in our professions also requires other soft skills that are sometimes overlooked. I would like to promote more business-related information so that interpreters and translators really feel empowered to grow their respective businesses and reach out to clients to solve problems. Taking a proactive role rather than a reactive role is something we need to be taught and encourage our colleagues to do. To be professionals we need to chart our own course and not follow paths that are decided by others whether they be Court Administrative Offices, or LSPs, or even fellow interpreters and translators.
I am also passionate about reaching out to school districts and other educational institutions where interpreting is already taking place. Often time schools do not really know how to train their staff members who are acting as interpreters. I know from experience that employees in schools are often recruited to take on these duties with little to no training. I am also aware that many of us got our start or at least were exposed to interpreting or translation while working in schools. Reaching out to those who provide interpreting in educational settings really has two benefits. First, the level of service provided to LEP families will improve. Second, we will be able to reach out and find talent among people who want to make interpreting or translating their profession and we can guide them in finding appropriate degree programs, training, and courses that will help them join the ranks of professional interpreters and translators. As an aging profession, we do need to look out for the profession as a whole and encourage others to join these professions that are so exhilarating.
Teresa Salazar: There is an area of interpreting that I feel what you might call a passion for. In interpreting, my particular area of interest is working in the consecutive mode and all the cognitive functions that come into play. So much has been said about simultaneous and studies done to demonstrate that interpreters should never work alone in simultaneous, but what of consecutive? Fatigue may set in differently when an interpreter is interpreting consecutively, but it does set in and interpreters should never work alone for extended periods in this mode either. To date, I have not found that anyone has done an in-depth study of when and how fatigue sets in during consecutive interpreting, even though in a legal proceeding it is only the consecutively interpreted statements made on the stand that become part of the official record. Yet so many people, even interpreters, believe that an interpreter can work alone for hours on end if they are “just” interpreting consecutively. My interest in changing this mindset has been an important factor in my work studying and promoting the practice of teaming. While teaming in simultaneous is crucial in preventing interpreter fatigue and providing limited support to the active interpreter, it is crucial in the courtroom in providing a safety net that protects the accuracy of the message consecutively interpreted and going on the record, as well as preventing interpreter fatigue from setting in. In the legal setting, the quality of consecutive interpreting can very well have a life-altering effect on outcome, a fact that is too often not completely appreciated and results in bad staffing decisions.
My work in this area will continue and, it is my plan that, eventually, it will take the form of a formal objective and scientific study which I would hope to share with the interpreting community served by NAJIT.
Roxane King: The NAJIT Academy is an area of the association that I believe is very exciting for both new and seasoned interpreters and translators. I believe the Academy is fairly new and I look forward to its expansion, and being very successful. I would put an emphasis on a specific informational training on the intricacies of advocating for the profession and how to reach one’s potential at advocating using all of NAJIT’s position papers and the association’s breadth of knowledgeable colleagues and support.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: This might be the toughest question to answer. I have been in practice for over 30 years now, and I can sincerely say that I enjoy every mode of interpretation (although sight translation is not on the top of my list), as well as translation and TT, but there is a very special place in my heart for mentoring our younger colleagues. I believe that must be because I was very fortunate to have many well-known colleagues who took the time to mentor me, to open my eyes to new techniques, and to crucial information, dear colleagues who offered their knowledge and friendship to me when I was a young and inexperienced interpreter trying to learn the ropes of our beloved profession.
Hilda Shymanik: My passion is for the professionalization of interpreting; I would start by working towards CEU implementation to create a true unified certification process that would result in professional status, prestige, and recognition. In that sense our profession is in its infancy and the steps to standardization have started, however there is still work ahead of us. NAJIT should strive to have a representative of every state’s AOC and collaborate with decisions makers who can contribute to such efforts. I look forward to working with NAJIT’s different committees including Advocacy, Training and Education as well as SSTI to come up with a viable and long-term plan.
In this same venue, I love the running of the conference. That is the single most important annual event our association organizes where we have the greatest sources of knowledge in the form of our member presenters!! Coming up with ideas, plans and projects for the conference, trying to fulfill every linguist, translator, and interpreter’s needs, providing the most CEUs we are capable of getting approval for, working with presenters to make presentations conform to state’s requirements, pairing mentors with scholars, finding particular subjects of interest for conference articles, recruiting colleagues to entertain with a relaxing workout, instituting a regular conference reception for Friday night, reaching out to vendors to subsidize a closing party, are among those things that I find thrilling.
Christina Green: Outreach and education. In my work with other associations, I have been at the forefront of outreaching to our high school and college students about our profession. Educating our students is key, Preparing our college graduates to effectively navigate our profession is paramount. And when thinking of education and professional development, we must not forget about translation training. People often think that because we speak a language, we can write it and translate it. By strengthening our translation core, we will also reach out to more potential members and increase our numbers.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: I think that advancing along the arc of one’s professional career, there comes a time to look back to see that the second part of the arc completes a circle. It takes you back to where you started: full of enthusiasm, full of questions, and full of doubts.
And surely in need of a mentor. That is where my passion resides. I am passionate about helping younger colleagues in their transition from gifted amateur of language to consummate professional. Those of you that teach will recognize how much better you get at anything when you have to teach it. And the incredible pride that follows knowing that someone you once helped has reached higher highs, possibly because of you. And mentoring younger colleagues is not just good karma, whether as goodwill stored for the future or payback for the wonderful mentors that once believed in you, it is a necessity. The median age for NAJIT members is not coming down, and as colleagues retire and disengage, if we do not attract, nurture and mentor younger colleagues already in and those about to enter the profession, any talk about the future of the association runs the risk of being hypothetical.
Giovana Lester: Education has always been my passion, and it is reflected in the plans for The NAJIT Academy. NAJIT’s work in that area is reflected in its Position Papers and Proteus, the SSTI foundation, and NAJIT Scholars Program. I look forward to being more involved in those projects.
Helen Eby: Today our appointments have flipped. 80% of interpreting appointments were on site until COVID-19 happened. We do not know when we will be back to business as it used to be.
NAJIT could provide free workshops on how to set up a teleconference platform for individual providers. This way interpreters could provide services for attorney-client meetings, for example. By sharing the screen, interpreters can even sight translate the documents attorneys are working with, and interpreters can even use the chat to good advantage.
NAJIT is an association of interpreters and translators, and providing an orientation to the new modalities of service delivery as well as access to skills training for translation could be very timely for our members.
Janis Palma: Our profession is facing challenges on different “fronts”. First and foremost is the heightened demand for remote interpreting. Many interpreters, including our current board member Aimee Benavides and one of our former board members Ernest Niño-Murcia, have been quick to start training staff and freelance interpreters for free on the use of various remote interpreting platforms, mainly Zoom, which has been very helpful for those with no experience in remote interpreting. I believe that NAJIT needs to be this “nimble”, it needs to find a way to take actions quickly, to respond without delay to any unforeseen situation that requires an effective action.
Directly linked to this sudden deluge of remote interpreting work is the uncertainty many freelance interpreters are confronting regarding their customary fees. Some clients want to pay less, in other cases the interpreters are losing the income generated by travel time, which was factored into their fee schedule. NAJIT should be able to step in and provide some guiding principles as to why interpreters should not be charging less and, in fact, should probably be charging more while engaged in remote interpreting. This could have been a position paper published pretty much as soon as NAJIT members began to confront pay issues. But NAJIT needs some special mechanism so it can act expeditiously in emergency situations like this one, instead of having to wait weeks or months of consultation before a position paper can be published.
I am not sure how that could be accomplished because I have not given it much thought except to answer this Question #7, but I am sure there are ways. I see much larger organizations responding to national and international events much faster than NAJIT. If they can do it, I am sure we can do it. It’s a matter of giving it some serious thought, researching the available options, and deciding: this is what we are going to do, and this is how we are going to do it from now on.
Aimee Benavides: I truly believe that the current Pandemic has changed the face of our profession in ways that will have long lasting effects. I feel very strongly that remote interpreting is not going to go away as quickly as it entered our lives. With current projections showing that COVID-19 will still be active and precautions will need to be in place for the next 18-24 months or longer, many courts and attorneys are trying to find their acceptable “new normal”.
In the past court interpreters have fought vigorously against implementing any type of VRI or RSI methods as a replacement for in-person services. Now that our own health and safety have made us look at these methods from a different vantage point, I think we can agree that interpreters need to have their voices heard in HOW remote systems are implemented. This is one area where we cannot afford to sit back and wait for others to solve the problems. We as an association and as individuals need to understand the options available and find ways to engage administrators and decision makers so that our interests and Language Access interests are taken into account.
The private sector also has to be addressed. Providing interpreting services in legal settings that are now remote, does not and cannot negate the need for certified and highly qualified professionals. Our colleagues who live in areas where the cost of living is higher may fear that clients look to “import” remote services from lower cost areas either within the USA or even outside of the country. Our Associations must make a stand that certification cannot be overlooked, and professional fees must be paid regardless of the method of transmission. None of our colleagues should be paid by the minute – ever!
I am of the opinion that NAJIT, its Board, and Committees will need to work harder than ever and cooperate more than ever before to approach these changes on all fronts.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: Yes, and I think that NAJIT is up to the challenge. In light of COVID-19, some of our best colleagues are already offering training sessions to bring us up to speed on VRI and I am sure that the NAJIT Academy (Gio Lester’s brainchild) will continue offering training opportunities to all of us to adapt and thrive under the new reality this pandemic may mean into the future One more thing we could do (maybe in the future) is offering a virtual annual Conference. Sadly, the majority of the Board didn’t consider it a good idea for 2020. I believe that if we had gone with it, we could have offered all the sessions already vetted over a whole week, instead of just one weekend, giving all the attendees and even international audiences the opportunity to attend more sessions. Each person would have spent less money, but attendance would have most likely increased significantly; with more revenues and less expenses, NAJIT would have benefited financially for sure. A virtual conference would have opened the conference to people all over the world, putting NAJIT on the world’s map as a pioneer! Oh, well, maybe in 2023.
Christina Green: The current times have shown how vulnerable we are as human beings, but at the same time, how resilient we are. As professionals, our job has never been more important. And we need to be prepared for it. As an association, we should make sure to embrace the changes imposed by the current times, and promote ways for our members to stay engaged and continue working. Through training, greater access to webinars, more remote activities and greater outreach, I believe NAJIT can help our members navigate through these trying times. Our industry is changing, and we should be leading the path, so our external customers understand and appreciate better what we as professionals offer, and all the alternatives that we are bringing to make their communication possible.
Giovana Lester: Yes, I see opportunities for NAJIT to support its members. NAJIT could post messages of support on social media, annual dues deadline could be extended to accommodate members’ financial difficulties, we could also hold live sessions on our Facebook page or through Zoom. Our members’ mental health also needs attention. Contact, even if through a computer screen, is positive. We could also have a writing campaign to encourage members to send cards to each other.
The NAJIT Observer ran a series of posts on the pandemic providing our members with some support: The Couch – A few Resources to Help with the Quarantine, More About Staying at Home, Practical Tips for Dealing with the Coronavirus, Self-Love in the Time of Corona.
Hilda Shymanik: NAJIT needs to work to support its members as we adapt to the changes that we are facing. As a primarily court staff interpreter in the last few years, technology has taken a backseat in my professional development other than data programs for conference terminology, however I see the need to start promoting the use of all the technology that our colleagues have been promoting for years.
We all have had the opportunity to participate in different free webinars offered by several NAJIT members such as Ernest Nino, Aimee Benavides, Virginia Valencia, Helen Eby, Gio Lester and many others. I believe that NAJIT can recruit these very same people and many more among us to offer free or discounted trainings for members to better prepare ourselves for the new realities we will face as professionals.
We need to revitalize our profession and create a structure to work in the future normal – a framework that includes fees that reflect this new reality, the skill-building to utilize the new technology and platforms, the investment in better technology, computers, Zoom, Kudos or other VRI/RSI tools, headphones and the new level of difficulty these technologies will represent.
For many of us who have worked on site for many years it will be important to create structure and organization in our work environments. To quote a person I know “I don’t know if I am working where I live or living where I work.” It will be important to be able to delineate our family and personal spaces and activities for our own mental health. I believe these trainings that I have mentioned could also cover this aspect of our new home-work environments as well as how to deal with technology, and also practical business issues such as how to calculate fees, the does and don’ts for establishing fees, minimums, scheduling and promoting individual services.
Roxane King: We need to embrace this new reality and technology to enhance and evolve our careers. Worldwide, professional services are digitizing their offerings and has resulted in greater productivity, efficiency and higher rates, fees and personal profitability. This all comes down to training on how to use technology to expand our reach, differentiate our offering, help drive and enhance productivity and our personal efficiency.
I think NAJIT needs to identify new virtual delivery opportunities for our members and offer the training and workshops as a tool for all members to create and strengthen their personalized virtual services. At this stage of the pandemic NAJIT should have position papers in the making and extensive daily guidance and updates for their members to look to a future that will protect their profession and career.
Teresa Salazar: I think recent challenges have made it clear that one of the primary roles NAJIT has to play in the lives of our members is to provide them with both the motivation and the means to develop the repertoire of skills that will allow them to face the new demands of the field competently.
When I speak about building a repertoire of skills I am referring not only to providing webinars on the new technology coming into play for interpreters and translators, but also really emphasizing honing and developing the professional skills of the practitioner through our own offerings, as well as the practicums, workshops, and webinars of other organizations that seek to enrich professional practice. Even those of us who have IT offices to call upon when technical difficulties develop sometimes find that the only solution at that very moment is to resort to using our tried and true consecutive skills to get the job done. Sometimes no matter how much you plan and arrange, the technology that supports simultaneous interpreting fails, but the job still needs to get done.
I see NAJIT being a major source of professional information and education for the practitioner. NAJIT needs to be involved with the different aspects of the profession including putting out well-researched publications to educate everyone involved in our work so that we can all have the same goal of providing the most accurate and professional services possible. I want Proteus to become a well-respected publication that advances interpreting and translation as professions on a par with law, medicine, engineering, etc,.by publishing articles that are germane to best professional practices and that are not just anecdotal and of human interest.
In summary, I would like to contribute to making NAJIT an effective clearinghouse of all the latest and greatest information and practices of interpreting and translation. The way we are having to adjust the way we work in the face of the pandemic makes it clear that there is a place for the all-encompassing organization that NAJIT needs to become.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: The BC/AC (before and after Coronavirus) landscape has already forced our profession to make do and adapt to the reality of teleinterpreting. The profusion of training opportunities and webinars to get folks familiarized with interpreting platforms shows how quickly we have come together, organically, to respond to this challenge to the old order. After learning the technological curve, after creating and the protocols and best practices adapted to the new reality, after the tips and tricks for being “on view” while retaining mental health, there will come the perennial issue that has vexed us for so long: how to claim and obtain adequate compensation.
I believe that NAJIT can help with all of these. If only just as a meeting place for folks to share their experiences, for colleagues to train and enlighten others, for people to offer strategies and approaches to negotiating the next compensation paradigm that will be with us AC, NAJIT can be that nexus where the shape of our professional future begins to take form.
Claudia Rubio Samulowitz: In my experience as a member of the Board, transparency can mean different things to different people. As I mentioned in answer number one, I believe that Board meetings should be open to everyone, that every contract NAJIT signs should be available to the members, after all, the Board of Directors is supposed to be representing the association and its members’ best interests, and those can be subject to interpretation. I have been a member of different Boards and each one is different, but in every case, I have noticed that when members are more involved with the Board’s way to conduct business and making sure that they are true representatives of the people who elected them, things run more smoothly and better for every interested party.
Christina Green: This is a great question. I understand the term transparency as clarity and honesty. That must come from the top down. This can be achieved with clear and timely communication with the membership about our processes, announcing the board meetings, and allowing and encouraging participation by all members. The most important aspect is to avoid any appearance of impropriety and ensuring that all voices and concerns are heard. That should be our priority as an association.
Janis Palma: What a great question! This is one term that has been bandied around so much, not just now, not just about NAJIT, but about so many issues that affect us all as professionals, as citizens, as human beings on this planet. Of course, the first image that comes to mind is something that you can “see through”, like glass. It also makes me think of qualities like honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, scrupulousness, incorruptibility. So when people ask for transparency, I believe what they are saying is “we don’t want you hiding behind a wall”—whatever that “wall” may be—so no one can see what’s behind it. If you cannot hide behind a metaphorical wall, then you are forced to be authentic and truthful, you have to be above-board in everything you do.
Transparency also applies to motives. Why do people do what they do? It goes back to the honesty factor. Like when the CEO of some multinational corporation donates money for a new school or a new hospital in a developing country and gets a lot of media attention: is he or she doing it out of a true sense of social responsibility, or altruism, or is it another way of building up brand recognition? Being transparent also means being upfront and sincere about everything we say or do.
Concerning NAJIT specifically, I believe that what members are referring to when they mention transparency is pretty much the same thing. They want their fellow interpreters and translators, those they elected to handle the association’s business affairs and represent them when a single voice is needed on behalf of the collective, to be very open about their activities and decision-making processes. I believe NAJIT members have expressed a clear desire to have a board of directors with no metaphorical walls between them and the members.
I realize that, technically, there has to be a “space” that defines the various organizational structures: board of directors, committees, officers (if different from the directors), administrator(s), and the like. That space, however, must be carefully demarcated by these glass “walls” so every NAJIT member can see what is happening in front and behind such demarcations.
There is no need in a membership association, and frankly no justification, for any official business to be handled in secrecy. I, for one, never liked the “executive session” concept applied to NAJIT board meetings about 20 or some years ago. I am also a bit old-fashioned about what board meeting minutes should include. I believe minutes should be informative documents that anyone who reads them can understand from their contents what was discussed during those meeting, not just meaningless bullet points that in the end tell you nothing.
As a membership association, I would like to see all NAJIT members be fully informed about everything that affects them individually and everything that impacts the association in any way. I also believe that as a membership association formed by professionals, transparency has to be expected from everyone, not just the “chosen few”. All of us as NAJIT members should keep honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, scrupulousness, and incorruptibility as our guiding principles in everything we do concerning our association.
We have a saying in Spanish, “el que no la debe, no la teme”: loosely translated, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. To me, that is transparency’s bottom line.
Helen Eby: What is transparency?
NAJIT is an association where members contribute dues, vote, and may want to know how the affairs of the organization are being conducted.
Ballotpedia has a 10-point transparency checklist. The following would apply to NAJIT.
1. The website should include the current budget, and that comparison should be compared to actuals and to the previous year’s reality.
2. Open meetings. The website should include notices about public meetings of its governing board and minutes of past meetings. Agendas for future meetings should be available. A way to join the meetings should be posted.
3. Elected officials. List their names, contact information including email addresses, and their voting record.
4. Administrative staff. List their names and contact information, including email addresses. This is currently the case.
5. Audits. It should include audits of the financial reports, audits of the performance of the association, etc.
6. Contracts. Contracts of a value over $10,000 should be posted.
7. Information about lobbying should be disclosed.
8. A link to the latest tax filings for the association should be on the website.
Some items on the 10-point checklist do not apply to NAJIT, but these do. A transparent association builds trust with its members.
Teresa Salazar: It does seem like the term “transparency” is on the verge of being overused, so it is a good idea to have people define what they mean by it.
For me, providing NAJIT’S membership with transparency means providing the members with the opportunity to be fully informed of the decisions and actions being taken on behalf of the Association and the reasoning behind them. Minutes from board meetings only provide a bare-bone account of what the Board has agreed to do, but there is no account of any discussion that took place which led to a specific action or decision. The result is that members simply are informed that something will be happening or carried out without much context and, understandably, this could produce a degree of unease among some members when they are left to accept things blindly.
The Board of Directors is elected to steer the Association towards professional growth and handle its running, but the membership should also be engaged as much or as little as they would like in NAJIT’s course of action. In my opinion, this can only be accomplished to the degree necessary if board meetings are open to member attendance. Members who opted to attend board meetings would not only be privy to discussions of the topics and issues on the agenda, but they would have the opportunity to hold their elected directors accountable and personally observe how the latter perform their duties and interact with each other. Members would have a clear idea of the work each director performs, and there would be little chance of members being misled as they would have witnessed first-hand what went on during meetings and false information could not be propagated. Members also need to be informed of decisions that are made outside the monthly board meetings through email for expediency. New practices would have to be adopted so that minutes from board meetings would reflect all actions taken during the prior month through electronic means.
In closing, my definition of transparency is allowing members to be as fully informed as they would like to be regarding NAJIT business so that they can participate in the organization more effectively and have the facts they need to draw their own informed independent conclusions.
Giovana Lester: Transparency is the condition of being “exposed,” in the case of an association, it makes its directors accountable to members. Transparency will keep directors on their toes, so they do not act in a manner that is contrary to the association’s governing documents.
Demanding transparency has nothing to do with lack of confidence. On the contrary, it reinforces the belief of members that they have elected officers who are so deserving of their confidence, who act completely in the open, who embrace their fiduciary responsibilities. That means having open board meetings, sharing minutes, keeping members apprised of developments on the Board, asking for and responding to membership input.
You can have a better insight into my position by reading this article:
Roxane King: The term “transparency” has been used a lot because as of now NAJIT does not give its members the option to fully participate and know exactly how the association is managed and by whom. As members we pay an annual fee that privy’s us to know exactly how things are carried out behind the scenes. For example, online participation or at least viewing of the Board meetings, meeting minutes, and decisions that are made by the Board. The Bylaws should be revealed publicly so that members can access them and the members have the right to question the Bylaws and the association if not followed properly.
The members have the right to know who the third-party managing company is that is managing our yearly fees and what monies are being allocated where, by this company. And ultimately the members should publicly be able to access the third-party contract, terms and conditions, so that if needed can be commented.
All of these examples define “transparency”. The members need to have direct access to the moving parts of the association, and question them if needed, so that they can feel that their money is worth the effort to be a part of a professional association.
Only that can be accomplished by being totally transparent.
Aimee Benavides: Transparency is important in any board and association. There are two categories of transparency. One is transparency in processes and procedures and the other is transparency in documentation. The Board has made strides over the last few years to upload documents including meeting minutes to the governance area of the website that only members can access. It is interesting though that even though documents are posted there, very few people take advantage of the access or visit that part of the member portal. I do believe we need to make the member portal more user friendly so that documents that are made available actually feel accessible.
When I served as Chair, I held two virtual townhalls to encourage members to contact the board directly and hear about projects that the board and committees were working on. I do believe that virtual townhalls should continue and become a regular event that members are made aware of and encouraged to attend.
I am also of the belief that board meetings should be open for members to attend. The incoming board should receive instruction from a professional parliamentarian so they understand how to conduct business in an organized way and what the ‘rule of engagement’ are for board meetings. The NAJIT board is made up of interpreters and translators, which means we understand protocols and procedures for interpreting, but not all of our colleagues understand what it means to be a board member. There is a difference between publicly venting your personal opinion and openly sharing decisions made by the board. The board as a whole moves forward in one direction based on consensus voting. The majority of the board move the board and the association. As a board member, it is wholely inappropriate to share personal opinions on board matters, in a public venue that differ from the decision of the board, as it causes division and is not at all transparent.
Hilda Shymanik: Over the years I have belonged to NAJIT and other professional associations, I have heard the term used in different contexts and meaning different things to different people. Based on my personal understanding, I conclude that transparency means clarity, openness, honesty, and consistency.
During the years I was a NAJIT board member (2016-2019), the board had several initiatives to improve transparency on behalf of NAJIT members, thus changing the status quo.
As things stand right now, members have access to the newly implemented Virtual Townhall Meeting recordings, NAJIT Financial and Annual Meeting documents, meeting minutes and HQ activity reports.
NAJIT’s bylaws are also available to members and non-members (potential members) alike. They can be found with a simple Google search, or they can be found by going directly to NAJIT’s webpage at https://najit.org/ under the heading ”About”.
Based on what I have heard from members, it seems like by consensus we all want the following:
1 Open board meetings with announcements and an opportunity for members to suggest meeting agenda items
2 Monthly financial statements available for review
3 Contracts and other financial commitments
4 Information on bank accounts including the reserve account
Those would be my recommendations.
Armando Ezquera Hasbun: I understand Transparency to be inextricably connected with good governance. People entrust representatives to carry out their will and this trust should be sustained by those representatives having an open approach to all that they do on behalf of the ones that put them there. Transparency is also connected with accountability while one is serving in a position that carries a certain responsibility.
Indeed lately, the term has been used when talking about NAJIT but as something that is missing and something to aspire to, not as something that should be there from the start. The minority I represent on the Board has twice introduced motions to open up meetings to members, to post NAJIT documents including contracts signed on behalf of the association. The majority that blocked these motions now mentions transparency as something aspirational, not as something that they have actually opposed.
Back at the first meeting of the Board I attended in 2018, I asked that the current management contract be put on the website along with the bylaws, and was told that “the members wouldn’t understand” but I think that is underestimating them. If members knew that around 80% of their annual dues goes to cover the contract maybe they would understand more and question a lot more, as so they should.
When there is nothing to hide, transparency is not just a wish, it is a simple reality.
Back in February in connection with the selection of a management contract, through NAJIT Social media, I shared with members the proposals received that I was to present to the board. I was pilloried for it by folks who now claim to embrace transparency and the majority of the Board voted to remove the information. More recently, upon the resignation of the prior Elections Committee, I put forth an open letter which had to be, predictably removed by a decision of the majority in the Board.
To try to improve transparency one would need first to resolve the corporate culture of secrecy and undue control. Why are Board meetings recorded but those recordings not made available? All past recordings and records should be available. Board meetings -save for Executive Session- should be public and open to members.
All purchases and contracts should be published in a dedicated section of the website which should be aptly titled “Transparency in Governance.”
Teresa Salazar: I believe I have already touched on my vision for the Association in my response to question 7. My vision is that NAJIT will live up to its name proudly and become the uniting force among interpreters and translators that it should be, setting standards of professional excellence and learning.
NAJIT would be a source of relevant, credible, and practical information for professionals looking to improve their professional qualifications by being active in research, useful publications, and webinars. People should automatically think of the NAJIT Directory as the go-to resource to find qualified interpreters.
As world changes affect the work world of interpreters and translators, NAJIT would be a dynamic proponent of the tools and skills practitioners need to meet evolving challenges. Additionally, we are aging professions in this country, and as an organization NAJIT would increase its outreach efforts to schools and universities to promote the enriching and satisfying professions of interpreter and translator. By the same token, a focused effort would be made to bring young professionals into the fold so that they can be guided on the path of professional ethical practices.
This is an ambitious vision and would require all future board members to be willing to invest a lot of time and effort consistently to the all that needs to be done to help NAJIT achieve these goals.
Janis Palma : NAJIT has to be, first and foremost, a home for all judiciary interpreters and legal translators in the U.S. NAJIT is always happy to welcome members from all over the world, but it is essentially our national association. NAJIT also welcomes corporate members, but it does not, nor should it ever cater to corporate interests above those of individual interpreters and translators.
It has taken the allegorical “blood, sweat and tears” to build NAJIT from the ground up, from a grassroots organization to the national powerhouse it is now. It did not happen overnight and it is up to each one of its members to take care of and protect this home of ours because we are not finished growing and our association is still a vulnerable target for those who want to see it fail.
As the national association, NAJIT is the public face and voice of judiciary interpreters and legal translators in the U.S. therefore my vision for NAJIT is for the association to have a seat at the table of every local, state and national policy-making body that has an impact on the profession, whether it’s credentialing, compensation, continuing education, hiring practices, whatever it is, because we are the professional organization that can provide the experts and the expertise on any of those subjects.
In my vision for NAJIT, the association is the official repository of every document having to do with our profession: laws, ordinances, executive orders, court decisions, in addition to our own historical documents, and these are made available to members and researchers alike to further the depth and breadth of knowledge about the judiciary interpreting and legal translating professions.
NAJIT needs to expand its “brand recognition” beyond the community of language services and legal services professionals. In my vision, NAJIT has a strong presence in a wide range of public service, non-profit, academic, and other potential language service stakeholders, bolstered through our participation in their conferences and the distribution of a printed version of Proteus, just to offer two examples.
Reinforcing NAJIT’s standing as the single professional association representing judiciary interpreters and legal translators in the United States and foremost authority on all matters pertaining to these professions necessarily bolsters the standing of every NAJIT member among the community of language services professionals. Therefore, my vision for NAJIT goes hand in hand with my vision for the members of the association: to be the best at what we do, which also means to be on the lookout at all times for ways to be better at what we do.
Helen Eby: Where does NAJIT fit in the context of the other professional associations?
NAJIT has some unique strengths:
1. It focuses on legal interpreting and translation.
2. It has a strong tradition in publishing papers that become references because they are written by subject matter experts, are well referenced, and are reviewed by a panel of subject matter experts.
3. It is an association of practicing professionals, run by practicing professionals.
NAJIT needs to partner with other associations for joint advocacy to support interpreters in areas that will benefit all interpreters. As a member of NIAC, NAJIT could take an active role because interpreters in the courts and in the medical field share a lot of the same challenges in today’s COVID-19 environment, for example. We both need protection when we go to work. We both want to see that the LEP community and the professionals we serve get the best possible service. Joint advocacy at the NIAC level, where NAJIT can partner with the IMIA and the NCIHC, would yield dividends.
This is just one example of partnership. NAJIT should also partner with sister professions, such as court reporter associations, for better representation.
Each professional association has a unique opportunity to reach a special group of stakeholders. NAJIT can reach the courts, the Bar, in a unique way, and needs to leverage these opportunities. Our members would benefit from that interaction. Our members will grow from the intellectual engagement of writing rigorous papers and presenting at conferences where their presentations are evaluated rigorously before being accepted.
NAJIT is an association of committed practicing professionals, where professionals run the association. We are in control of where it goes, from the volunteer work to the Board. What will we do? It is up to all the members and their participation in Board meetings, where they can ask questions, or even ask when the next Board meeting will be held.
Christina Green: As an association, I would want NAJIT to grow and be more inclusive for languages other than Spanish. I would like to see more training offered for those languages and I would also see a more active role pushing for court certification in languages other than Spanish at a State and Federal level. Greater inclusiveness is also needed for translators. Right now, the association seems to focus mostly on interpreters. Last, I’d like for the association to have a more active role when it comes to decision making at a national level through effective lobbying.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: NAJIT has to see itself as a professional association at the service of its members. Its strategic planning should be guided by what members want. Just as members need to listen to what is done on their behalf, the association also needs to listen to its members. Maybe they can contribute ideas that ought to be examined.
NAJIT should consolidate its position as the natural home for interpreters in the US. This could mean a transition to incorporating all segments of spoken language interpretation. This means a change so it can welcome colleagues in the medical front, community interpreters, educational folks, military and conference colleagues.
NAJIT should bring back and properly promote its certification, initially introducing its Legal Translation certification. It should use its referential power to help colleagues resolve difficulties they encounter in the course of their work. But above all, it should first foster a system that works well without the undue influence of its management company.
Giovana Lester: I see NAJIT as the go-to entity for anything related to legal translation, interpreting, education of those involved in this field as it relates to communications between law enforcement and interpreters.
We need more members and more member involvement. NAJTI – as any other association – is only as strong as its members are committed. We need your participation and volunteer commitment.
Janis Palma: The NAJIT Bylaws most certainly need to be carefully revised and updated periodically because they are the guiding principles by which the association conducts its business and all lawful affairs. As external realities change, NAJIT must make all necessary adjustments to keep up with those changes. At times, internal events also trigger the need to make changes to the rules that govern the manner in which the association’s business is conducted by those elected to carry out that function. After all, the association is not some abstract and ethereal entity that exists in an intangible dimension separate from us humans. NAJIT is a group of people and can only exist because of those people. Whatever NAJIT does is done by people. As such, thought inspired on lofty ideals, bylaws must be grounded on the realities of human limitations and, consequently, set boundaries such that the people in charge know they must remain accountable at all times pursuant to those bylaws.
However, I believe that to offer any specific changes at this time would be inopportune and somewhat ill-advised. The review of the bylaws should be in the hands of the committee created for that purpose, to be carefully pondered and discussed with the proper input of the NAJIT members and the Board, to be then presented in a final form for a vote from all members in good standing.
Helen Eby: NAJIT bylaws changes suggested by Helen Eby, originally submitted to the Bylaws committee on February 18, 2020. Submitted to NAJIT members on May 25, 2020 as a response to questions to the candidates.
Article 2 – purposes
Current text: judiciary interpreters
Suggested replacement text: interpreters
Rationale: I believe this was written back when NAJIT was mostly an organization that represented federal court interpreters. That is no longer the case.
Today, NAJIT members come from state and federal courts and interpret in all fields. Interpreters in languages other than Spanish need the support of knowing their work also concerns NAJIT when they work in other fields that intersect with the legal field, such as interpreting for AIDS patients, police investigations, interpreting in trafficking cases, working in immigration, working in IEP settings in schools, and in Independent Medical Evaluations (IMEs). All these are the kind of interpreting settings where NAJIT members are likely to be present.
Therefore, the label “judiciary” is very limiting. I respectfully request that it be removed from the purpose of the association, and possibly from the name.
Article 3 – Membership
Section 1 – categories, Active
Current text: engaged in the remunerated practice of judiciary interpreting and/or translation.
Suggested replacement text: engaged in the remunerated practice of interpreting and/or translation.
Rationale: See section 2 changes. Remove “judiciary” from all definitions in the Membership section.
Article 4 – Board
Section 6 – Meetings
Vote by proxy shall be permitted only on agenda items for which written proxy to another Board member has been given prior to the vote. Between meetings of the Board, the Board may adopt resolutions by mail, provided that no Board member opposes this procedure.
Suggested replacement text: Vote by proxy shall be permitted only on agenda items for which written proxy to another Board member has been given prior to the vote. Between meetings of the Board, the Board may adopt resolutions by blind electronic ballot methods such as Doodle polls, provided that no Board member opposes this procedure.
Rationale: Votes by mail can be manipulative.
Doodle polls, on the other hand, can be set up to be blind, to not see the votes of the other members, and have a deadline.
Cost to the association:
$60 for a Doodle account, which can be used not only for votes but to set meeting dates.
Article 4 – Board
Section 4 – Duties
Current text: to delegate the management of property and affairs to a professional management service for a reasonable fee
Suggested replacement text: to contract support services as needed based on NAJIT’s budget and reasonable market fees
Rationale: The current language limits the Board to working with a sole and states what type of provider NAJIT should hire. This should be left at the discretion of the Board, which should have greater control and flexibility.
Including a consideration of reasonable market fees is important so rates do not balloon out of proportion to market rates for the NAJIT needs, beyond what NAJIT can afford.
Article 4 – Board
Section 7 – Vacancies
Current text: Whenever a vacancy occurs on the Board of Directors by death, resignation or otherwise, the vacancy shall be filled without undue delay by the Board of Directors, and the appointee shall hold office until the next election.
Suggested replacement text: Whenever a vacancy occurs on the Board of Directors by death, resignation or otherwise, the vacancy shall be filled without undue delay by the Board of Directors, and the appointee shall complete the term of the member who was replaced.
Rationale: Terms at NAJIT are no longer than two years. Also, having everyone’s term expire at the next election can create a hypothetical institutional problem where four out of five Directors are replaced at once. This is not good for NAJIT. This change should be retroactive.
Article 5 – Committees
Section 2 – Standing committees
Current text: The following shall be standing committees of the Association: Advocacy, Bylaws and Governance, Conference, Membership, and Nominations.
Suggested replacement text: The following shall be standing committees of the Association: Advocacy, Bylaws and Governance, Conference, Ethics, Membership, and Nominations.
Rationale: Add a committee to the list: Ethics. NAJIT should have an ethics committee, since NAJIT has a code of ethics.
Section 2 – Resolutions
Rationale: Where is the online form for the resolutions, and where are the guidelines for members to know what is acceptable? The American Bar Association has excellent guidelines.
Article 12 – Complaints and emergencies
Current text: All complaints shall be submitted in writing to the Board of Directors, which shall act accordingly forthwith. In an emergency situation which may directly affect NAJIT members, a Review Board may be created comprised of the Board of Directors and three Active members to take emergency action in any such case.
Suggested replacement text: Overly vague. Please rewrite.
Rationale: This article is too vague to be practical. Submitting complaints regarding members’ compliance with the NAJIT code of ethics should be reasonable. Those should go to the ethics committee. See bylaws change requiring that the ethics committee be a standing committee.
Teresa Salazar: I mentioned this subject early on in this process. In my opinion, all the bylaws and policies need to be reviewed and brought into the 21st Century.
This has been made blatantly clear by the unprecedented events the organization has lived through this past year. Starting with the Board of Directors, I think there need to be clear guidelines as to the conduct and participation of each director, and actions to be taken should such guidelines not be followed. Obviously, everything dealing with the election process must be updated so that the advances in technology that have taken place in the past 20 years are reflected, and much less emphasis is placed on manually counting votes and paper ballots which have become things of the past in most cases. There should be more clarity and less ambiguity in all our policies and procedures, so that everyone is on the same page, ranging from the Board of Directors to each committee member and chair.
Additionally, the bylaws and policies as they exist really do not contemplate situations such as the pandemic we have been living through which has forced everyone to enter the virtual world and adapt procedures as the need arose. The possibility of something similar happening again is a reality and we have to have a more efficient and defined game plan to follow in such an event.
All of our bylaws and policies need to be updated so that they are pertinent and effective, conducive to the Association moving forward and doing the work it should be doing to benefit the membership.
Roxane King: The Bylaws https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NAJIT-Bylaws-2009.pdf have not been amended since May 16 of 2009.
I find it very difficult for the association to grow without updated Bylaws to follow and comply with so that the association is managed in a clear and transparent manner.
Christina Green: Bylaws are the foundation of any association and they should change periodically, based on taking into account our industry’s changes and our membership composition, but mostly, to keep up with the times. NAJIT bylaws were amended last time over 10 years ago. It is time to make some changes.
In light of the recent disagreements made public among board members, I also believe there should be more openness with the members. Board meetings should be made public and a greater participation from the members should be sought. A platform in which to air those grievances should exist, in a civil and cordial manner.
We should create an ethics committee as a standing committee, overseeing members complaints, but also charged with reviewing randomly the information posted by our members (re: certifications, etc.). This is particularly important, given that as an association, NAJIT has a code of ethics.
These are just two changes that I believe should be made. But there are others, which include forming new committees, outreach activities, and general language within the association’s description.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: The bylaws were last amended in 2009, that is 11 years ago. They are ancient in light of quick societal and technological changes since they were last revised and need a major revision and update once the association consults with its members to decide the shape they wish their association to take. There has been enough accumulated experience to tell which parts work and which do not. The issue of the launching of this election is a good example of bylaws saying one thing and the Board doing another. The position of the Executive Director has been eliminated yet it figures prominently in the general guidelines and policies which also need revision. All these changes need to be reflected in a set of bylaws that contemplate changes into the future. The Bylaws and Governance Committee, in spite of being a permanent committee, was not operational until after I was voted in as the new Chair of the Board of Directors. It should be engaged in setting the path for the revision and update of the bylaws, guidelines and policies so that they hopefully reflect a mature association that is autonomous, independent and transparent in all its actions.
Hilda Shymanik: While not every contingency can be included in NAJIT’s bylaws, in its current state the document is vague on many points and the process to change the bylaws themselves is cumbersome. Our board needs to implement a standardized process to review and update the bylaws on a regular basis, perhaps as often as every two or three years.
As the question indicates, our profession is changing rapidly, and we need our bylaws to reflect those changes. Developing and documenting this process should be a priority for the new board, working in coordination with the Bylaws Committee, within the first 120 days of its tenure for submission to members within the Bylaws guidelines, and thus be ready for approval by the next annual meeting, 2021.
Giovana Lester: The governing documents of any association must be organic. They have to adapt to the times: changes within the organizations and changes in the field it is active in. Its language has to be clear. Controversy ensued based on Article 5, Section I regarding ad hoc committees. That could have been avoided with less ambiguous language.
We also have a new Committee, Social Media, which is not mentioned in the Bylaws. Article 9, Section I which refers to Chapters should be reviewed with regards to membership/leadership participation in NAJIT.
These are a few of the items I would like to discuss with the Bylaws and Governance Committee, for example.
Teresa Salazar: First, it is a national organization that reaches interpreters and translators all over the United States, and even some in other countries. As such, NAJIT is in a position to unite these professionals and promote clear unequivocal standards as to how these professionals work and the quality of the product produced.
In terms of promoting professional standards, I believe my last two years on the Board show my commitment to improving the field by working on and producing tools that are useful for the user and the provider of interpreting and translation services. My committee work has resulted in NAJIT publishing a very thorough position paper on Transcription/Translation practices in 2019, and an equally far-reaching position paper on Team Interpreting in the Courtroom, which will be published the first week in June 2020. Prior to these two papers, I believe nothing had been published for about ten years. If reelected I would certainly continue to recruit talented and dedicated people to work with me on researching and providing definitive standards in those areas where clear guidance is needed. I also plan to do more work combining the development of new position papers with offering free webinars to our members to familiarize them with the publications as useful tools.
Janis Palma: I believe that NAJIT’s three greatest strengths are in its name:
1. It is for judiciary interpreters and translators:
All the work we do converges on those two disciplines so the efforts of our volunteers on the board and committees does not get diluted by trying to include interpreters and translators in other specialty fields. If elected, I would make sure NAJIT continues to focus all its projects, activities and undertakings with judiciary interpreters and translators in mind first and foremost. While I support and encourage collaborative work with interpreter and translators in every field, NAJIT’s priority must always be directed at those who work in the judiciary field.
2. It is a national organization:
The fact that NAJIT can represent judiciary interpreters and translators anywhere in the U.S. is one of the greatest added-values members receive and, frankly, one of the best intangible values of membership. At any given point in time, in any place where it may be needed nationwide, NAJIT can be the unified voice of the profession to state or defend a certain position that benefits all of us, provide an expert opinion, write an amicus curiae, etc. If elected, I would work hard to maintain and strengthen NAJIT’s national standing.
3. It is a professional association:
NAJIT is formed by a group of like-minded professionals who wish to join this membership association, pay the appropriate dues, establish certain rules for its governance, and then do things together that will help us be better at what we do, whether it’s through courses, conferences, publications, or other resources. In other words, we are looking for ways to improve performance quality standards for the profession. It is not a guild or a union, therefore our association’s concerns are not the labor-management issues that would normally fall within a union or guild’s sphere of interest. If elected, I would continue to encourage the pursuit of activities as an association that further enhance quality standards for judiciary interpreters and translators.
Roxane King: As an organization I believe that NAJIT has many enthusiastic professionals that strive to elevate the profession on a daily basis. It is important that NAJIT send out a word of recognition throughout the year to these people. Additionally, there are many new volunteers that donate their time to strengthen the profession and would benefit from further support from the association.
I also believe that NAJIT’s Position Papers are an essential tool for us as interpreters and translators to advocate for the profession and if elected I would elaborate more on expanding this means of communicating with those that require more knowledge on our profession.
1. NAJIT is an association of practicing professionals who follow a code of ethics. NAJIT has a code of ethics that binds the members of the association. To strengthen the association and the trust the public has in its members, I would set up an ethics committee and task it with doing random checks on member profiles to ensure that, at a minimum, the profiles accurately represent the qualifications of the members. This is one of the tenets of our Code.
2. NAJIT is a professional association that has a long history of publishing reliable material. I would update the publication guidelines to match the publication guidelines of other professional associations, and ensure that all NAJIT publications are following current professional association publication best practices. This would build trust in the association publications.
3. NAJIT has members ready to participate in the work of the association. We see that in the chorus of members ready to make comments and give opinions on any given issue. I would set up a volunteer committee to engage those who have creative ideas or have comments, and get them involved in the work NAJIT does.
Christina Green: NAJIT strength is its members. But outreach initiatives should be undertaken, and we should have more activities to represent the variety within our members. We should promote and welcome participation by our members in our standing committees, by establishing clearer expectations and duties.
I believe NAJIT would become stronger, if there is more openness in communication, I have stressed this point on almost all my answers. Members need to know what is happening with the organization and how business is conducted.
We should also be aware as to what communication tools we use to settle disputes, for petty grievances have a tendency to create a sour spot and that can easily distract our members from our real mission.
Last, to make this association stronger, we should hold our board to very high standards, as they represent our profession to our external customer.
We can all work together for a stronger representation and to effect changes within the industry. It would be an honor for me to serve within the Board or in a standing committee.
Giovana Lester: In my few years as a member of NAJIT, I have learned a lot and have made some good friends, met individuals I respect even if we have differing opinions. I believe its membership is NAJIT’s greatest strength and we need to make better use of it.
Greater membership engagement will strengthen NAJIT from within so it can reflect that to the outside world and fulfill item 9 of Article I of our Bylaws: 9. To actively represent the professional interests of judiciary interpreters and translators before legislative bodies, court administrators and business enterprises.
Right now, we have a very week image outside of our membership and like organizations.
If elected, I will assist in the development of a membership growth campaign, look into expanding the distribution of our publications, have the Membership committee look into the creations of Chapters, promote presentations by NAJIT members at Bar associations around the country, within the courthouses our members work at, look to members for more ideas and seek ways to implement them, within the terms of our Bylaws.
I also believe we need a Procedures Manual, if we don’t have one.
NAJIT Position Papers need to be better promoted. They should be published in publications at universities’ law schools.
The NAJIT Observer is a nice tool for bringing the membership together and we need to have more involvement from the Board and from the members.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun: One, NAJIT has, for the most part, been able to attract a talented, knowledgeable and well connected groups of volunteers to serve in its committees. These committees must be actually empowered beyond merely mentioning empowering them, to enable them to harness their energy and talents to benefit the association and its members. Having a board that trusts its volunteers enough to stop the pernicious practice of intervening in their communications is one step; another could be delegating certain tasks and responsibilities to them as way to give them experience and thus, help with the development of much needed skills for the next generation of leaders.
Two, the association has had a presence and or has been able to develop and retain valuable connections with many allied organizations such at NIAC, ATA, NCICH, RID, IACP, and many Administrative Offices of the Judiciary across the country. These links should be preserved, enhanced and used to address pressing issues that affect the practice of the profession and the industry, to raise the profile of NAJIT and to have its voice be given greater respect and larger audiences.
Three, the association has built a wonderful repository of useful materials and resources that benefit many members already. Bringing back the NAJIT certification for legal translators and eventually for judiciary interpreters may greatly enrich it. The access to White Papers may attract potential members fighting solitary battles to uphold professional standards and who can find in NAJIT’s position papers, well supported documentation to help them make their case.
The new post coronavirus reality show the need to have updated and current policy papers to guide all stakeholders as we negotiate the ins and outs of this new reality. Attracting paid experts (even non-NAJIT members) as consultants is one way to make this process more dynamic so that this strength flourishes to the benefit of NAJIT.