The NAJIT Renaissance

Yes, I heard someone use that word during the NAJIT conference this past May 14 & 15 in San Antonio, Texas: Renaissance. And it was so fitting! The energy in the air was electrifying. The conference attendants were excited about the conference topics, and very happy to see friends and colleagues from every corner of the nation and then some. The pre-conference workshops on Friday, May 13, just like the conference program, had record-breaking registration numbers. Needless to say, there were also great parties, one hosted by the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (TAJIT), one by the “federales”—the lively group of federally-certified interpreters who don’t need much of an excuse to get together and have a good time—plus the miscellaneous forays to a local salsa club by just about anyone who still had the energy to go dancing after a full day of conference presentations.

Sessions on vocabulary and terminology, video remote interpreting, memory, interpreting and legal translation techniques, just to name a few, reflected the high level of sophistication our profession has reached. Conference attendees included judiciary, medical, and community interpreters, legal translators, and interpreting/translation students. The atmosphere was always one of congeniality, including the management staff who always kept a smile on their faces no matter how many people gathered in front of the registration table at once to ask for one thing or another. Kudos to Rob and Susan Cruz, and their assistant during the conference, Frankie, for their excellent planning and execution! And I must add that it was great to have Freek Lankhof, from InTrans Book Service, come out of his retirement to delight us once more with his spot-on selection of book titles.

The keynote speaker during the annual meeting and luncheon, Michael Mulé, from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, gave a powerful presentation with a unique perspective on the critical role interpreters play in providing access to justice for every limited- and non-English speaker. The session on immigration interpreter trends was equally forceful on the issue of access to justice, with the peculiar twist of an exchange between the panelists and the audience that turned out to be very enlightening for the attorney on the panel, Juan González, who practices immigration law in South Texas. These and many other sessions brought to the forefront a clear call to action for every NAJIT member: all language services stakeholders need to be continuously educated, and it is up to each one of us to do it. In fact, NAJIT already has materials available on its website that any member can download and use.

Several ideas were bounced around on this topic during a very lively and productive Town Hall meeting Sunday morning. One was to create local chapters, and holding regional conference. Both of these would boost our national association’s capacity to provide more direct and concrete assistance to members in their local advocacy and educational initiatives. Another idea was to work in coordination with state organizations to reach more language service users in a cohesive educational initiative. Having state bar associations award Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits to attorneys who attend these sessions could certainly be a strong incentive for them to attend, helping us reach that highly-elusive audience.

Also during the Sunday morning Town Hall meeting, fellow NAJIT member Agustín de la Mora challenged all of us to bring in at least two new members to NAJIT by next year’s conference. And I can add: let’s bring at least one new NAJIT member to next year’s conference. All in all, this seems to be a great time to take NAJIT to the next level, building on the experience and enthusiasm of our current Board and every one of our members. Growing our numbers is key, however, because the higher the numbers in our membership rolls the greater our association’s “clout” to reach and influence decision- and policy-makers.

In response to a concern raised by another long-time NAJIT member, Daniel Sherr, about those professionals who always ask “why should I join NAJIT? What’s in it for me?” I like to respond by borrowing John F. Kennedy’s words, with a twist: it’s not what NAJIT can do for you, it’s what YOU can do for NAJIT! And the one thing you can do right now is join your professional association, join NAJIT, and help our collective voice grow stronger and reach farther. Be part of this NAJIT Renaissance!

20 Comments
  • Claudia Villalba
    Posted at 09:38h, 27 May Reply

    Great job conveying the energy and enthusiasm felt at our conference in San Antonio. Let’s maintain the same level of passion and dedication to make DC just as memorable or more! Let’s keep the momentum of this te-birth of our Association Thank you, Janis.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 10:40h, 27 May Reply

      Thanks, Claudia. This promises to be a very exciting year for NAJIT!

  • Heidi Cazes
    Posted at 09:38h, 27 May Reply

    In this post you are summarizing perfectly the amazing conference we just attended!!
    Each year, NAJIT conferences have gotten better and better. The presentations, the attendees, the discussions, the networking, the information (and the fun)
    We are truly living through this new Renaissance. And considering all the human potential we have, NAJIT seems to be the best option our profession has to work in maintaining and improving its standards.
    We learned that a lot of communication and advocacy needs to take place. We can take advantage of the great reputation and respect NAJIT already has, and ride on its wings to continue promoting and informing all stakeholders about different aspects of the profession.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 10:42h, 27 May Reply

      Thanks, Heidi. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 10:00h, 27 May Reply

    Marking my calendar, one year in advance! I followed as I could through Twitter, but that only whets one’s appetite… Nothing like the real thing, babe!

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 10:43h, 27 May Reply

      Yes! Let’s all mark our calendars: May 19-21, 2017. I look forward to seeing you in D.C.!

  • Helen Duffy
    Posted at 10:25h, 27 May Reply

    Thank you, Janis, for this summary of what sounds like an energizing conference! I especially like the ideas that came up at the Town Hall meeting Sunday morning.

    I am interested in trying to create a local chapter, and eventually perhaps we could help organize a regional conference. I’m not sure how to start, though. Are there many other members in Rhode Island?

    To whom should I direct these questions?

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 10:47h, 27 May Reply

      What great news, Helen! I suggest you start by contacting Rob Cruz, NAJIT’s administrator, at execdirector@najit.org or admin@najit.org. He can tell you what needs to be done. I look forward to hearing again from Rhode Island very soon!

  • Gladys Matthews
    Posted at 11:13h, 27 May Reply

    Hi Janis,

    Great summary! I agree with you that energy during the conference was electrifying. Rob and Susan Cruz were terrific, you are so right! My impression about the Town Hall meeting is that members took ownership of the association and that is the best one can wish for.
    Thanks for taking the time to write about the conference. It was real pleasure seeing you again.
    Cheers.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 13:36h, 31 May Reply

      Gladys, you hit the nail on the head: “members took ownership of the association.” And it was so wonderful to see it happen!!!

  • Francesca Samuel
    Posted at 16:29h, 27 May Reply

    Thanks so much, Janis! As you know, I was unable to attend this year but your article really made me feel like I was there. Kudos!!

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 13:37h, 31 May Reply

      Good, Francesca. I really hope you can make it next year. See you in DC!

  • Georganne Wekker
    Posted at 13:02h, 28 May Reply

    Only want to echo what has already been said. This was an excellent conference, top notch presentations, the Town Hall meeting was probably the best ever and Rob and Susan were superb! We missed Esther terribly, but health is first and she will continue to lead us, best wishes to all.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 13:38h, 31 May Reply

      Yes, indeed. We did miss Esther very much. Thanks, Georganne!

  • Claudia Rubio Samulowitz
    Posted at 14:55h, 29 May Reply

    Dear Janis,

    You certainly captured the essence of our San Antonio conference and I hope that we can implement some of the ideas our members brought up during the Town Hall meeting. Having Regional conferences and offering CEU’s to attorneys sounds like a great way to reach and educate the Bench and the Bar.

    Last, but certainly not least, I loved the way in which you finished your post, challenging us to see what we can do during the next 12 months, for our beloved NAJIT.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 13:40h, 31 May Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Claudia. This should be a very good year for NAJIT. I am really looking forward to it.

  • Armida Hernandez
    Posted at 01:54h, 01 June Reply

    I was initially on the fence about attending this year’s conference, but I am so very glad I did attend! Everything about it was superb – especially the high-calibre of the presenters and the session topics. Plus fellow attendees really stepped up to the plate in contributing to fruitful dialogue and exchange of ideas. The energy throughout the conference weekend was nothing short of electrifying. Count me in for next year!

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 16:14h, 02 June Reply

      Yeyyy, Armida! I admit I am a bit biased (in favor of NAJIT, of course), but your words are confirming what I saw and heard and felt during this year’s conference. See you in DC next year! And don’t forget to bring a colleague!

  • Tauseef Alam
    Posted at 13:49h, 02 June Reply

    Hi Janis,

    I was not a part of that conference but after reading your post and feedback in the comment section, I would love to join any upcoming Najit conference. Where could I find the schedule?

    Regards
    Tauseef Alam

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 16:17h, 02 June Reply

      Wonderful! Stay tuned on NAJIT’s webpage: http://www.najit.org

      Make sure to look me up and say hello at the conference in DC next year!

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