From the President
Living on an island in the Pacific Northwest, the nautical theme to these columns comes naturally. And this last one, which I’m writing on a ferry, is no different. When I reflect on my presidency at the helm, I think that it’s safe to say that ATA, the “mothership” as I describe it, is in good shape.
The obvious change has been to the Association’s financial bearings. By bringing the books into the black, we’re now able to lay the foundation for future programs and growth. Structural changes to both ATA’s Annual Conference and The ATA Chronicle played a large part in our recovery, and the Board is mindful to balance the need for financial solvency with the financial pressures of the membership.
Public relations is another area that’s running at full steam. The PR Committee’s Writers Group has been published in over 40 different trade publications to educate not just the general public but the business public—our ultimate customers—about who translators and interpreters are and what we do. We reached out in person to consumers through presentations at trade associations like the Society for Technical Communication, International Association of Business Communicators, American Chemical Society, and others. Through it all, we fielded calls from major media outlets such as NBC and Telemundo and reached the general public directly in their living rooms through our appearances on CNBC and PBS’ Nightly Business Report.
One of the key consumers of translation and interpreting services are government clients. Over the past two years ATA has taken solid steps to strengthen its position with the government through the establishment of a Government Relations Committee that monitors and responds to actions by local, state, and federal authorities. We also created a Government Division to bring government linguists at all levels onboard at ATA. We advocated on behalf of military and immigration interpreters both through the media, such as The New York Times, and to legislators directly. Government outreach reached a high point with Advocacy Day at this year’s Annual Conference, when some 50 ATA members met with legislators on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns.
Interpreters and interpreting often play a key role in government services, and this sector of the industry and the Association is growing rapidly. ATA has responded by forging closer ties with interpreter groups, such as the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and the National Interpreting Associations Coalition, which includes health care, legal, and sign language interpreting groups. ATA also attempted to ensure greater parity between translators and interpreters within ATA by getting interpreter credentials displayed on ATA’s website. Expanding our umbrella to include all the players within the language industry makes us stronger when communicating with the government and the public.
Communication is at the heart of our industry and our Association. Over the past two years we’ve worked hard to improve communication with the general membership. We created ATAtalk, a listserv to discuss ATA policies and activities, published targeted Chronicle articles to explain issues and decisions that the Association faces, as well as expanded communication channels through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and a new YouTube channel and the ATA Podcast. The “Halfway Report” podcast in July was downloaded 602 times!
In addition to the recently revamped Chronicle, another of ATA’s key communication channels is its website. When I first ran for election for the Board in 2008, I made improving ATA’s website a central part of my platform. Now it seems like the ship has come full circle, no pun intended, as the Board recently decided to create a new committee to explore further improvements and changes to the website. So, this seems like an appropriate time to disembark from the ship.
My time as ATA president has been a wonderful journey of discovery. I’m grateful for the dedicated energy of the Board members as we navigated a myriad of issues over the past two years, as well as the steady energy of the Headquarters staff who kept the ATA mothership moving forward. I want to extend particular thanks to incoming ATA President Corinne McKay, who was a great first mate during this journey. Her balance of enthusiasm and objectivity will serve the Association well as she takes over the helm. Finally, I want to thank all of you for allowing me to steer this dear ship for a while. Bon voyage!