ATA 2016 Elections: Candidate Statements

ATA will hold its regularly scheduled elections at the upcoming 2016 ATA Annual Conference in San Francisco to elect three directors. There will also be a special election for secretary for a one-year term to complete Rudy Heller’s term.

Secretary (One-year term)
Jane Maier

photo_maier_electNearly three years ago, I was elected to the Board along with my colleagues Rudy Heller and Evelyn Yang Garland. Last year, Rudy was elected ATA secretary, but only a month later was regrettably stricken by a health issue that ultimately led to his resignation. I offered to take minutes at the January 2016 Board meeting, and in April was approved by the Board to serve as secretary until ATA’s Annual Conference, when, according to our bylaws, a director who fills a vacated position must be officially elected by the membership.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve worked in the translation industry for over 35 years, since graduating from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey with an MA in translation and interpreting (Spanish<>English). As an ATA-certified Spanish<>English and French>English translator, I work primarily in the areas of international development and healthcare.

ATA’s Certification Program has been my main area of focus for a long time. I’ve been a grader of Spanish>English certification exams for over 20 years. I serve on two Certification Program subcommittees (Candidate Preparation and Grader Training), two key areas to support potential exam-takers and ensure the success of the program.

In my 2013 candidate statement, I wrote that, if elected, I would work “to ensure the smoothest transition possible” to the critically needed computerized exam model, and would “address logistical aspects of the program to streamline the process and eliminate delays in receiving results.” With this in mind and in response to many members who requested more exam preparation opportunities, I did what I could to help make it happen. The computerized exam is now a reality due mainly to the heroic efforts of Certification Committee Chair David Stephenson, and the problem of delays in receiving exam results has largely been resolved.

I also helped update the general certification presentation on ATA’s website. My co-grader Holly Mikkelson and I offered the first-ever Spanish>English exam preparation workshop at last year’s conference in Miami, and will be providing a special three-hour training this year in San Francisco.

Communication with my fellow ATA members is another area of importance to me. You won’t find me too often on social media, as I prefer to communicate with people directly on a more personal basis. I offer whatever assistance I can when a member contacts me, and keep my ears open at conferences and other events to address member concerns. Serving as ATA secretary since January has given me yet another way to keep members informed, by faithfully recording Board meeting minutes and promptly preparing a summary of key issues.

I’m pleased to have been on the Board these past three years when so many tremendous changes have taken place (i.e., introduction of the first successful computerized exam model, and getting ATA’s finances back in the black).

I would be honored to receive your vote so that I can continue to act in a leadership role for ATA and contribute my many years of experience to serve you and our Association the best I can.

Director (Three-year term)
Maria Brau

photo_brau_electI’m currently the unit chief of the Language Testing and Assessment Unit at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I’m also a member of the Intelligence Community Testing and Assessment Expert Group, the ASTM F43 Executive Committee and Translation Standard Subcommittee, and the U.S. delegation to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

My focus has been translation skills assessment and the development of performance standards. I’ve presented papers on these topics at numerous government forums and academic conferences, such as the International Association of Applied Linguists, International Language Testing Association, and Association of Language Testers Europe.

Although I’ve attended ATA conferences and presented on translation assessment issues, I consider my best contribution to the Association so far to be the proposal to establish a Government Division, which was approved last November. I now serve as the division’s acting administrator. If elected to the Board of Directors, I intend to continue promoting government participation within ATA through both institutional and individual memberships.

I did not always concentrate on these issues. It was not until the early 1990s, when I joined the Language Services Program at the FBI, that I became formally involved in translation. Before that time, I had devoted myself to academic pursuits: BA in comparative literature, MA in Romance languages from Fordham, MA in U.S. government, and a PhD in political theory and international relations from Georgetown University. I then became a history professor at Howard University and authored two books on Puerto Rican history published by Doubleday.

At the FBI, I was tasked with translating audio files in Spanish into written text in English and documents in both directions. Because I was trained to rate speaking proficiency, I was also asked to rate translation exams. At that time, there were no translation assessment guidelines from the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), the group that issues skill level descriptions (SLDs) for language assessments in the U.S. government.

Throughout the 1990s I was part of the Intelligence Community Committee, which discussed the need for translation standards and formed part of the committee that approved the federal court interpreter certification exam. However, it was not until the end of the decade that the ILR established a Translation and Interpretation Committee, of which I was named co-chair. (I now serve as the committee’s chair.) I then formed a subcommittee to develop SLDs for translation performance, which were approved in 2005, followed by SLDs for interpreting (2007), audio translation (2011), and intercultural communication (2012).

Based on the SLDs, I developed ILR-based translation tests in 30 languages. Additionally, I designed an English-to-English paraphrase test aimed at assessing a candidate’s ability to find suitable equivalents when no translation test exists in a given language. I would suggest that this test type might prove useful for ATA, perhaps as an introductory exercise before certification.

In conclusion, as a director I will stand ready to participate in any project assignments, particularly those related to translation assessments and certification.

Director (Three-year term)
Evelyn Yang Garland

photo_garland_electThree years ago, when I ran for the Board for the first time, my priorities were: 1) increasing our profession’s visibility and influence, and 2) cultivating professionalism among the next generation of translators and interpreters. Once elected, I wasted no time. In my first year, I led the creation of a Public Relations Roadmap, which was adopted by the Board and implemented over the following years. In my second year, however, my priorities changed unexpectedly to finance, as I discovered that unstable finances threatened our goals as an association of professionals.

Our treasurer’s analysis showed that none of our four major programs (i.e., Annual Conference, certification, The ATA Chronicle, and professional development) were generating a cash surplus. Additionally, the financial outcome of our Annual Conferences sometimes varied significantly from our budgetary projection. Such financial risks strained ATA’s ability to pay for programs such as public relations, which many members called for.

Any program, be it public relations or outreach to translators and interpreters, requires stable funding to thrive and continue. I firmly believe that two things will help stabilize ATA’s finances: 1) understanding the financial implication of each program, and 2) basing each major decision upon good financial information.

Since joining ATA’s Finance and Audit Committee in early 2015, I led a small group to develop a mathematical model that projects the cost of the upcoming Annual Conference in San Francisco. The first version of the model was completed this April and will be given a trial run later this year.

If re-elected, I will see through the testing and refining of the conference cost projection model. I will also lead a team to develop a second mathematical model that can help us understand the cost of future conferences in addition to the upcoming conference. This will allow the Board to be better informed when selecting the city and hotel for the conference five years into the future. More broadly, I look forward to contributing my analytical skills, developed through rigorous training in science, to support the Board in decision-making.

In short, I’m committed to building a solid financial foundation for the organization on which every member can play out his or her full potential in serving our profession.

Director (Three-year term)
Christina Green

photo_green_electLast year, I was selected by ATA’s Board to serve as a director. This year, I’m pledging my continued efforts to serve this great organization for a full elected term.

When I ran last year, my goals were to increase active membership, improve our branding, and create sustainable tools for training and certification. These goals are still as critical today as they were last year.

Since becoming a director, I’ve worked with the new Membership Committee, given presentations about ATA and regional chapters at conferences for interpreters, trained administrators and teachers in school districts on the importance of using qualified language professionals, and advocated for stronger branding by ATA.

Most importantly, I’ve met many members, listened to their ideas, and shared their enthusiasm and concerns.

I understand the comprehensive challenges we face as professionals in this industry. I also understand that as an organization, ATA must meet, or exceed, the needs of our constituents. We are not a symbolic entity. We must advocate for those things that matter to us individually and as a group. We have tremendous growth opportunities, but also face significant challenges through globalization, technology, and politics. By educating and reinforcing our individual and collective skills and expertise to the private sector and government entities, our success follows. ATA is an incredibly unifying force for all of us.

I have also come to realize that we can do much more to help those who suffer the most from a lack of equal access to language services. Individually, and collectively, our support can be invaluable to those in need. It’s sad to reflect that many of us have very little voice in society, and really no voice at all when it isn’t in English.

As a freelancer and owner of a small company, I’ve worked as a translator and interpreter, adviser, and expert witness. I’ve donated my services to various human rights/refugee/minority organizations and advocated passionately for those in need.

Since becoming president of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI), ATA’s Midwest chapter, in 2012, I’ve spearheaded the creation of a new website, implemented a webinar series, and increased donations, membership, and revenue. I also coordinated MATI’s efforts at ATA’s 55th Annual Conference in Chicago. These experiences have also provided me with an invaluable skillset with which to serve you as a director.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in modern languages, with a minor in linguistics and a specialization in translation and interpreting, from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. I speak Spanish, French, and Italian, and have conversational skills in Portuguese.

Translation is my life’s work. I’ve served as an interpreter and translator for over 30 years, working with (and for) government agencies, public and private sector entities, and nonprofit organizations. I’ve personally sought, and vigorously advocated for, our increased standing as language professionals.

I look forward to continuing this journey. It would be an honor to continue to serve as a director for this great organization.

Director (Three-year term)
Cristina Helmerichs D.

photo_helmerichs_electI would like to thank the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee for recommending me as a candidate to the Board of Directors. It’s an honor to be considered for this position.

Even as a child in Venezuela, I dreamed of becoming a United Nations interpreter, but when I moved to the U.S. my studies took me into political science and economics. Life kindly brought me back to a new version of my initial dream, and for the past 30 years I’ve been a happy freelance interpreter and translator.

My life experiences and participation in professional organizations have convinced me that one of the best ways to continue to strengthen and professionalize our field is through our associations. In keeping with that belief, I’ve served ATA as a member of the Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC) as both chair and as a general member. While chair of IPAC, ATA approved the identification and recognition of certain interpreting credentials in the Association’s online directory search fields. I’ve also served on ATA’s Standards Committee and am presently a member of the Interpreters Division’s Leadership Council.

From 2009 to 2012, I served on ATA’s Board, where I participated in ATA’s adoption of the existing Code of Ethics and Professional Practice as well as ATA’s first formal Mission Statement. It was during that term that Naomi Sutcliffe de Moraes and I first presented the idea of identifying interpreters’ credentials in the Association’s directory. Today, that is almost a reality. Also, both the Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics and Professional Practice are now available to guide the Association, its members, and the Board in all their activities.

In a previous life, it was my privilege to represent both ATA and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators during the European Union’s Grotius Aequalitas Project, promoting the development of standards, best practices, and a code of ethics for legal interpreters.

If elected, I will use everything I’ve learned during my 30 years of professional experience and volunteer service to work on behalf of ATA and all translators and interpreters. I will add my efforts and experience with ASTM International (an international standards organization) to continue to work toward developing and strengthening standards for translation and interpreting practice. I will focus on not only protecting the individual practitioner’s interests, but further strengthening the professionalization and viability of our translation and interpreting work.

I will endeavor to listen to the membership’s concerns and to collaborate with the rest of our Board to craft appropriate responses to those concerns. I will work to ensure that ATA Headquarters, divisions, and committees continue to offer our members valuable services and support, as well as to represent the concerns and interests of our profession effectively at all levels.

I hope you will allow me to represent your voice—that of the working interpreter and translator—on the ATA Board.

Director (Three-year term)
Karen Tkaczyk

photo_tkaczyk_electMany of us feel like ATA is our home, our tribe, and the place where we come together and meet like-minded people. I hope that as a Board member, my efforts will increase the number of members who feel that way.

My concerns are not so much WHAT we do—I agree with the laudable goals set and achieved by the Board recently—but HOW we do it. Across my numerous volunteer roles, I have observed process issues that could, and should, be improved.

If elected, my natural inclination would be to hone in on how the Board, other volunteers, and Headquarters work, separately and together. ATA has many good people doing good work in good faith, yet it has suffered from some costly apparent failures. Recurrence can be prevented, and long-term stability secured, if we take a deep and thorough look at how we do things. That would be a substantial project. Any procedural change should also aim to increase transparency and consistency.

I have a track record of service and participation from the time I established my freelance translation practice in 2005. People who have worked with me might say that I’m organized, remain calm in tense situations, am good at building consensus, and can work productively with all kinds of people. I don’t overcommit. I’m a pragmatic person. I’m motivated by the idea of developing manageable projects and achieving them by finding the right people to form teams.

I served on ATA’s Nominating and Leadership Development Committee from 2011-2015. That experience has given me a good understanding of what it takes to be an effective Board member.

I was vice-president and then president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association from 2007-2011. During that time, opportunities for progress and change abounded. Among other achievements, we grew the membership and became an ATA Affiliate.

I believe that divisions are the heart of ATA. I was one of three people who re-established the Science and Technology Division in 2010, and served as its administrator from that time until 2015. I have chaired the French Language Division’s Nominating Committee twice. I was chair of the Divisions Committee from 2011-2015, so I worked extensively with all divisions. One of my achievements during that time was to lead a project to revamp and restructure the existing Divisions Handbook, a guide for leaders on to how to get things done, and then update it annually.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to ATA as a director. Thank you for considering me.

Director (Three-year term)
Tess Whitty

photo_whitty_electI’m honored to be nominated for a position on ATA’s Board and happy to accept the challenge. During the past 13 years I’ve gone from a novice freelance translator to having a thriving freelance business, and have become heavily involved in the translation industry.

I know from personal experience that one of the paths to success is to get involved in professional associations. As a freelance translator, I joined ATA in 2004, attended my first conference in 2005, and have been passionate about the organization ever since. Here are some examples of my volunteer work within ATA:



  • Initiated and organized the English>Swedish certification exam and served as a language chair and grader from 2011-2014, and again from 2016.
  • President of the Utah Translators Association, a local affiliate group to ATA (2011-2012).
  • Chair of the Chapters Committee for ATA local chapters and affiliated groups (2012-2015).
  • Chair of the new Membership Committee since 2015.
  • Member of the Nordic Division Committee (2012-2015).

I have a master’s degree in international marketing and an MA in business communication and public relations. I’m passionate about sharing my marketing knowledge and experience as a freelance translator with other freelancers. Many freelance translators and interpreters have found my book, The Marketing Cookbook for Translators – For a Successful Career and Lifestyle, valuable, and it is required reading in several translation and interpreting programs around the world. I love sharing my own and other linguists’ marketing and business tips through my award-winning podcast “Marketing Tips for Translators,” now in its third year, with over 100 episodes.

These are some areas I would like to develop and focus on within ATA:

  1. Increase communication and collaboration between local chapters/groups and the Board and Headquarters, and ultimately increase active membership in ATA to get more freelance translators and interpreters involved. Collaboration and communication benefit members by increasing awareness of how ATA can help them in their careers, and ATA by providing information about local conditions and the needs of members.
  1. Improve continuing education as a membership benefit through the Annual Conference, local events, and webinars. One of the main benefits of ATA is access to specific and professional continuing education, and I would like ATA to provide more webinars and training events focused on translation and business skills.
  1. Actively communicate the value of professional translators and interpreters to the public and to linguists. This can be done through marketing and public relations campaigns by the Board, ATA Headquarters, and local chapters, but also by educating members about what it means to be a professional linguist and the value we provide to the public.
  1. Help make the certification exam accessible to as many professional linguists as possible by opening it up to non-members and providing easy access to computerized exams. Also, increase recognition of the Certified Translator (CT) credential in the international business community by promoting it and educating organizations about the credential and what it means.

I would be thrilled to contribute my passion, dedication, and experience as a member of the Board.

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