Message from the Chair

By Gladys Matthews, Ph.D.

Dear colleagues and friends,

I am writing to you as the new Chair of NAJIT´s Board of Directors to outline my vision for the association and tell you about several actions your Board of Directors is taking to make NAJIT even stronger moving forward.

First, though, I want to thank my Board colleagues, Hilda Shymanik and Ernest Niño-Murcia, for this vote of confidence. As some of you know, this is not a position I sought, but I’m nonetheless excited to take it on and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities it offers. Frankly, the chance to work with Hilda and Ernest – two people I have come to know and admire – is the best part of the job!

I also want to offer my very sincere gratitude to Rafael and Esther for their service on the Board. Rafael and Esther are respected advocates for our profession and valued colleagues. They have served NAJIT well and we will miss their expertise on the Board. I truly hope they will remain engaged in NAJIT.

Ernest and Hilda are experienced, working interpreters who are as committed as I am to strengthening our profession and improving language access in the justice system. We are already working to identify two new board members who share our belief in NAJIT and its mission, and we know we have many excellent candidates from among our members. We acknowledge the challenges before us, but we are excited by the opportunities and honored to serve on NAJIT’s board.

I know many of you are concerned about NAJIT’s current situation, our plans for the future, and how the Board will respond to the questions that have been asked on the NAJIT Facebook group and Listserv. I believe this message will provide some answers.

My Vision for NAJIT

In my view, today’s NAJIT is stronger than ever, which presents us with new opportunities to expand our reach and increase our impact. Our financial situation is strong, our membership is growing, and this year we held the largest and most successful annual meeting in our history. With CMAC (Rob and Susan Cruz), we have an effective professional management company in place to attend to administrative matters. Through Facebook and the Listserv, we have opened new channels of communication with and among NAJIT’s members, many of whom are active contributors to the work of our committees.

But these successes should not keep us from recognizing the challenges we face. First and foremost, the profession we all believe in so passionately has never been more relevant or necessary – but too often it remains poorly understood and under-appreciated. The availability of quality interpreting and translation services does not meet the need or demand, leaving many without full access to justice. NAJIT can and must be a strong voice for our profession and for all those we serve. I believe NAJIT must advocate for quality language services in the courts and beyond, including policy advocacy where we think it is necessary. Of course, there is no single, easy solution to this challenge – the only way we can make a difference is by organizing and maintaining consistent efforts to advance our profession. This is the work of our committees, and their work has never been more important or necessary.

Likewise, NAJIT’s growth requires us to update and professionalize our internal processes and policies. Specifically, NAJIT must hold itself to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. The NAJIT Board has already decided to take several concrete actions in this regard, which I will describe in the next section of this letter.

Transparency and Accountability

As we mentioned in our message to the members this weekend, the Board spent several weeks after the Annual Meeting and during the summer discussing the steps we need to take to update NAJIT’s internal processes and controls. Much of this discussion was on the need for greater transparency about Board actions and NAJIT’s finances.

In addition to this step, the Board has approved the following actions:

1. As we mentioned, effective immediately board materials, including minutes, committee reports, and financial statements, have been made available to all members on the members-only section of the NAJIT website.

2. The Board will reinstate the past practice of inviting Committee chairs to board meetings to report and get feedback on the work of their committees. We are committed to finding effective ways for members to participate in board meetings and are working to identify a technology platform that permits us to do so. Any actions taken in executive session will be reported in the minutes.

3. Based on our review of their performance over the past two years, the Board has approved a new two-year contract with CMAC for management services. The contract continues to include a provision for a formal evaluation of their performance before any future contract renewals. The Board is committed to assuring that the evaluation process will include a process for obtaining feedback from NAJIT members.

These are the immediate steps which the Board has already approved and will act on in the next few days. But this is not all that needs to be done. Over the next weeks and months, there are a number of equally important steps that NAJIT’s Board – and membership – need to take:

1. It is essential that we get NAJIT’s committees fully staffed and operational. To that end, we will be posting out updated descriptions of the committees and sending a call for volunteers. On behalf of the Board, I encourage all members to serve on a committee that addresses their interests and concerns.

2. Pursuant to the Bylaws and after advise from NAJIT’s outside independent counsel, the Board will act immediately to fill the two vacant board positions and promptly inform the membership. Longer term, we will work with the Nominations Committee to assure an open process is in place for recruiting board candidates before the next annual meeting. We are committed to assuring that there are multiple candidates for all open board positions.

3. While the re-launch of the Listserv has been a great success, thanks mostly to the efforts of our two volunteer moderators Bethany Korp and Christina Courtright, we need to develop a plan to modernize the platform and make it easier for all members to participate as they choose.

4. We have also considered various options to extend the reach and effectiveness of NAJIT, including creating international chapters and alliances and affiliations with other U.S. and international organizations. We have also discussed webinars and other professional development activities. All these ideas require time and money to move forward, but this year we will need to move the ideas beyond the discussion stage and implement the ones that make sense.

As you can see, we have a lot of work to do. Your Board cannot do this work alone – we need the active engagement and commitment of all NAJIT members to fully realize the promise of our organization.

As your Chair, I am asking for your support – not of me personally, but of NAJIT as a vitally important organization. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of the Board members at any time with your questions, concerns, suggestions, or ideas.

Thanks very much,

Chair, NAJIT

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