ATA 2020 Election: Candidate Statements

ATA will hold its regularly scheduled election during the upcoming virtual 2020 ATA Annual Conference to elect three directors for a three-year term. In addition, members will vote on two proposed amendments to ATA’s Bylaws. The Annual Meeting of Voting Members will be held October 22, 2020.

Director | Three-Year Term
Robin Bonthrone, CT
I’m honored to be nominated for a position on ATA’s Board of Directors. My first direct experience with ATA was in 1997, when I attended the 38th Annual Conference in San Francisco. I subsequently gave my first ATA conference presentation in St. Louis in 1999. Since then, I’ve presented 11 regular sessions and 10 preconference/Advanced Skills and Training Day seminars, as well as several sessions at ATA’s Financial Translation Conferences in 2001 and 2005. I’m also an ATA-certified German>English translator.

I’ve been training translators for most of my 31-year career as a professional German>English financial translator, not only for ATA, but also at workshops, seminars, and conferences in many European countries—mainly in Germany, where I lived for over 30 years. I trained in-house translators at the specialized translation boutique in Germany I co-owned for 20 years and taught financial translation to students in the legal translation MA program at City University, London.

This brings me to the strategy I believe must be anchored at the heart of ATA’s mission in the years to come: education, education, education.

COVID-19 has changed everything—not just our lives and our profession but also ATA. Compounding the other challenges we’re facing, including AB 5, neural machine translation, and remote interpreting technologies, the pandemic has exposed the urgent need to refocus ATA as an agile, responsive, and intelligent learning organization that challenges its members to actively embrace continuing (and continuous) professional development (PD) and supports them across all stages of their journey.

As a member of ATA’s Professional Development (PD) Committee, I drafted a PD roadmap containing several very ambitious proposals. I hope it will serve as a basis for discussion for significantly reshaping our PD activities and positioning ATA as the go-to leader in specialized/subject area training in particular. ATA’s stated position is that specialization is key to future professional success, and we now have an opportunity and a duty to help our members acquire the specialized knowledge they need to safeguard a sustainable future and remain competitive and financially secure.

In 2019, I urged ATA to step up its public opposition to AB 5 in California, and my ATA activities this year have focused on encouraging members to apply for federal funding programs, in particular the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In addition to keeping members informed on the Business Practices listserv, I authored a guide to PPP and other federal assistance programs for ATA members and presented a webinar on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act/PPP for the New York Circle of Translators, an ATA chapter. This is tangible evidence of my efforts to provide valuable support to ATA members.

I also proudly serve as a member of ATA’s Finance and Audit Committee and Business Practices Education Committee and represent ATA as co-chair of the International Federation of Translators’ International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards Committee, in which capacity I authored the “ISO 17100 FAQs for Freelance Translators.”

I’m asking for your vote so I can focus firmly on the future of ATA in a rapidly changing world. Working with fellow Board members in the interests of all ATA translators and interpreters, I will be a strong, principled advocate for embedding PD at the heart of ATA.

Director | Three-Year Term
Veronika Demichelis, CT
I’m honored to be nominated to run for ATA’s Board of Directors.
Since 2016, ATA has been my home and my community that helps me grow and inspires me. All the events that have unfolded this year have shown us that now is not the time to stand still and that we need to be creative and proactive to shape our future and the future of our profession. It would be my honor to help do that for ATA.

My Background

I’m an ATA-certified English>Russian translator based in Houston, Texas. I have an MA in linguistics and intercultural communication, an MBA in human resources management, and a certificate in translation and interpreting. I’m an adjunct professor in the Translation and Interpretation program at Houston Community College, where I teach localization and audiovisual translation and serve on the program’s advisory board.

Before starting my freelance career, I worked in the oil and gas industry for 18 years in such areas as human resources, communications, ethics and integrity, risk management, and social responsibility. This experience shaped my specialization, skills, work ethic, and values.

My Volunteer Experience

I enjoy giving back to the translation and interpreting community. I served as the professional development director for the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association (HITA) from February 2018 until June 2020, and I continue to serve HITA by creating a mentoring program for its members. I helped ATA’s Slavic Languages Division start its own podcast, which I co-hosted until November 2019. As a volunteer on ATA’s Membership Committee, I help ensure that membership in ATA is valuable and highly regarded. As chair of the Professional Development Committee, I focus on offering ATA members a variety of relevant, high-quality professional development opportunities that strengthen their skills and professional future.

My Goals

I believe that volunteering is not just about good intentions, passion about our profession, and great ideas. It’s also about being willing to put in time and effort, engaging in dialogue and understanding other people’s opinions, and working hard to strengthen our association and bring value to our members.

More importantly, I know that being a Board member is not about what I think is right, but what you as members want ATA to represent—both for you, for our profession, and for the outside world.

If elected, I will continue to live up to these values and beliefs and work tirelessly to strengthen ATA. To this effect, I would focus on:

  • Making ATA a trusted source of excellent professional development opportunities that help members improve their skills and grow their businesses.
  • Offering our members the services and resources they need.
  • Advocating on behalf of members, with their best interests at heart, and increasing awareness of translation, interpreting, and localization.
  • Helping integrate ethics and social responsibility into the processes and best practices of our profession.

I would be honored to get your vote, represent you on the Board, and use my expertise and skills for the benefit of ATA.

Director | Three-Year Term
Antonio Guerra
During the past three years, I’ve been privileged to serve as an ATA director. None of us on the Board could have anticipated the demands of governance in these unprecedented times during the pandemic. However, we tackled this enormous challenge as a team. We’ve remained focused on our mission and priorities while responding to the constantly changing parameters of the crisis.

In the midst of this disruption, never has unity, clarity, collaboration, and deliberate visionary resolve been more important for the survival of our great association. The Board and ATA Headquarters consist of a brilliant, thoughtful, and committed group that continues to work tirelessly to make certain we weather this storm successfully, much stronger, and with a well-grounded path to ensure ATA’s prospects. We’ve all been deeply impacted professionally, socially, economically, and personally, both physically and mentally. As such, ATA’s role as the voice of interpreters and translators is now more important than ever.

COVID-19 has affected all ATA Board activity and committee work, from initial response time, to short-term planning, and ultimately long-term financial, structural, and organizational forecasts. The following are essential to ATA’s future:

Adaptation/Flexibility: We must accommodate the “new normal.” For example, the Board voted unanimously to hold ATA61 virtually and conduct Board meetings online.

Vision: This means facing the pandemic head-on and strategically anticipating the outlook for the industry, calculating members’ needs, and meeting the shifting professional development requirements in the depths and eventual wake of the pandemic.

Economic Solvency: The substantial financial losses for ATA as a result of the modified Annual Conference platform requires judicious and sound financial stewardship, which the Board has carefully calculated and will implement.

Advocacy: Members look to ATA to represent their interests and concerns to the general public. ATA’s Public Relations (PR) Committee, on which I serve, continues to actively promote our profession.

Information: Because this pandemic is as unpredictable as it is potentially lethal, ATA is the reliable source for accurate, relevant, and current updates that inform ATA members.

Membership: Economic hardships for some may result in a drop in our numbers. However, the value and benefit of being invested in ATA’s community is a lifeboat in perilous times.

With 20 years of experience in the industry, and as a former director of interpreting services as well as a practicing interpreter, I’ve made significant contributions to ATA’s Board. Besides serving as an ATA director, I’m proud of the results of my work on various committees, bringing fresh ideas and new initiatives as chair of the Chapters Committee and my involvement on the Mentoring and Membership Committees and PR Committee’s Speakers Bureau. Previous volunteer efforts have included two terms as assistant administrator of the Medical Division, as well as serving on the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee, and Professional Development Committee.

I’m told by colleagues that I’m an open communicator, an innovative thinker, and a diplomatic consensus-builder. I’ve based my standards and Board actions on the core values of ATA’s mission statement and a true passion for this profession. I ask for your vote and appreciate your consideration.

Director | Three-Year Term
Manako Ihaya, CT
One of the first things I did after immigrating to America in 1995 was finding out about the American Translators Association, requesting information (by mail, back when that was still the norm) and wondering if I had a future as a translator in my new country. I was a mother of three with a fourth on the way and totally dependent on my then-husband, having left my job in Japan as an English-language journalist. I couldn’t even afford the ATA membership fee then, but the fact that there was a huge professional association of would-be colleagues who specialized in translating their respective languages was encouraging and comforting. It took some time to build up enough experience and confidence, but in 1999 I became a member and an ATA-certified Japanese>English translator. Now, more than 20 years later, I am humbled and honored to be nominated to run for ATA’s Board of Directors.

I grew up uniquely bilingual, moving around in Japan and the United States before graduating from Tokyo’s Sophia University with a BA in English literature. I learned to make friends everywhere I went to school, a trait that became invaluable for networking later in life. While I started out mainly as a translator, now that my children are grown, I have been working primarily as an interpreter, traveling wherever my assignments take me. I also act as an agency when I have large projects requiring multiple interpreters. In addition to ATA, I became a member of the Japan Association of Translators, serving on its board of directors from 2006 to 2010 and as president for two years.

While a member of ATA, I made use of my experience as a staff editor and writer at The Japan Times Weekly to serve as the editor of the JLD Times, the newsletter of the Japanese Language Division, when it was still in print form. I have also been involved in the Certification Program, serving as a grader of the Japanese>English exam since 2008 and as language chair since 2019. I am also a member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters.

If elected, I want to help make sure ATA remains the reassuring presence it was for me when I first contemplated becoming a translator in America. These days, that will mean more than just being a welcoming body for newcomers. With pressing issues affecting our livelihood such as the California AB 5 law that redefines and threatens independent contractors and the pandemic that has turned our world upside down, we will need ATA more than ever to advocate for our profession, offer guidance, and provide a venue where we can all work together. With your support, I hope very much to have an active role in this effort by serving as an ATA director.

Director | Three-Year Term
Elena Langdon, CT
It’s an honor to run again for ATA’s Board of Directors after serving on it for the past three years. When I first ran, I campaigned on three main issues: interpreting, policy, and training. I think I’ve been able to make a difference in those areas (see below).

The Guidelines for Board Members state that the main duty of the Board is to “define the Association’s policies” through “collective decisions,” and during my first term this has rung very true. Discussions at our quarterly Board meetings are lively, respectful, and often full of diverging opinions. We are able to take action on even the most controversial issues and listen to each other’s perspectives. My term has not been without surprises nor external pressure, and yet we have accomplished much in the name of our members. For this I’m proud and encouraged to serve again.

Here are some examples of what I’ve accomplished while on the Board.

Interpreting: I strengthened the voice of interpreters with my input at Board meetings and with direct actions. As the webinar chair on the Professional Development Committee, I procured five presenters who spoke directly to interpreters—roughly 40% of the webinars presented during my short stint. Beforehand, the bulk of webinars focused on translators—there were two webinars for interpreters in 2017, one in 2013, and nothing else in between. I wrote the first draft of a position paper about remote interpreting and published five articles about interpreting for our Public Relations Writers Group. I helped revise the new ATA client-facing guidelines on hiring interpreting services. I was interviewed by three media outlets about the effect of the pandemic on interpreters and the people they serve. Director Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner and I co-hosted an episode of The ATA Podcast for interpreters.

Policies and Procedures: The Board has been very active recently in terms of change and revision. I was particularly involved with opening certification to nonmembers, revising policies on elections and conflict of interest, issuing a statement on racism, and helping reduce the cost of webinars.

Training: I helped organize a legal seminar in 2019 and started a roadmap for the future of the Professional Development Committee. I recruited new committee members and co-organized a seminar for conference interpreters that was canceled because of the pandemic. I spoke at multiple professional events and networked with educators across the country.

As a child, I moved from the U.S. to Brazil and grew up between the two countries. Code switching and bicultural negotiation were constants for me. In my mid-twenties, I started translating for a living. Only when I became actively involved with professional associations, and especially with ATA 16 years ago, did I see myself as a translator and soon after as an interpreter. Along with certification and a master’s degree in the field, membership in this organization has kept me alive and kicking, continually opening up new paths and connections.

It would be an honor to continue to represent ATA members on its Board of Directors. Thank you for your consideration.

Director | Three-Year Term
Lorena Ortiz Schneider, CT, CI
I was born in Ecuador and raised in Mexico, Spain, England, France, and California. I earned an MA in translation and conference interpreting from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in 1992.

I’m an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator (since 1996), an ATA credentialed interpreter, and a California state-certified administrative hearing interpreter. I’ve worked for the U.S. Department of State as a liaison and seminar interpreter, as a conference interpreter for private industry, and as a community interpreter in mental health and workers’ compensation settings, at Social Security hearings, and for the California Employment Development Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’m also a licensed interpreter trainer and have helped over 120 curious bilinguals learn about our profession.

I served two terms as assistant administrator of ATA’s Interpreters Division and I’m currently a member of ATA’s Advocacy Committee. I also served on the board of the California Workers’ Compensation Interpreters Association effecting legislative changes that provided for improved working conditions and remuneration for California interpreters. I’m the founder and lead advocate of the Coalition of Practicing Interpreters and Translators of California, an organization that helped earn an exemption from AB 5, a California law that misclassified all translators and interpreters as employees unless proven otherwise.

While serving on the board of a Waldorf School (dedicated to nurturing the whole person through an experiential, age appropriate, and academically rigorous approach to education), I began practicing a collaborative, empathic approach to reaching consensus. I’ve brought this approach to all my other relationships in life because it’s essential for agreement on the simplest to the most divisive issues we encounter.

While I continue to interpret and translate daily, I’ve run a successful small business for 20 years. I’ve benefited from seeing things from the perspective of both a practitioner and business owner. This informs my belief that we are part of a symbiotic relationship—we need one another to thrive. This has never been more salient than it is now, when our professional independence is threatened by government regulation and venture capital-funded companies that know little about our industry.

I maintain deep relationships with colleagues in almost every association representing both translators and interpreters. As such, I’ve been able to form alliances amongst stakeholders with competing interests to achieve common goals, tap experts in specific fields, and share the knowledge I’ve acquired along the way for the benefit of all. I will bring this community-building ability to benefit ATA’s Board. I plan to bring ATA members closer together, working in concert toward the same objectives. Some of these objectives are to continue to raise the profile of what we do as professionals, promote respect among one another regardless of the chosen field of practice, increase awareness with the public and government around the work we do, and advocate for the importance of choosing professional language services.

I’m honored to have been nominated to run for a seat on ATA’s Board of Directors and hope you will vote for me in October to represent you.

Director | Three-Year Term
Robert Sette, CT
I’m pleased to accept the nomination of my colleagues as a candidate for ATA director. I’m ATA-certified from Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian into English and also work from Catalan into English. Recognizing the importance of our credential early on, I earned my Spanish and French certifications in 1989 at the start of my 30+ year career as a professional translator. I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado since 2013, and currently serve as secretary of the Colorado Translators Association, an ATA chapter.

As an ATA volunteer, I previously served on the Board of Directors and have been a frequent presenter at ATA conferences and at events hosted by the European Language Industry Association. I’ve served as a member and chair of ATA’s Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, a grader for the Spanish>English certification exam, and a mentor.

I’m a firm believer in client education. Providing tools to educate direct clients and end users of our work about best practices for contracting translators is an important part of ATA’s role. Our profession faces many challenges, including federal and state “worker reclassification” legislation, unskilled practitioners, and downward pressure on rates. To successfully address these and other challenges, ATA must focus on educating clients on the benefits and value of working with professional certified translators and interpreters.

Increasing respect for our profession is an important goal. I heartily support concrete, tangible actions that ATA leadership and members can undertake to pursue that objective. While ATA’s recent efforts in this regard have focused exclusively on decoupling the certified translator (CT) credential from membership—a step that I believe is ill-advised and could have disastrous consequences for ATA’s future—much broader work needs to be done in the form of targeted client education. Lobbying on behalf of our members’ concerns is important for ATA, as is promoting professional translation with specific organizations representing potential buyers of translation and interpreting services.

As we emerge into the post-COVID world, ATA’s educational and networking opportunities are evolving to align with our “new normal” environment. Online and virtual events will likely have to be expanded to supplement future in-person conferences and seminars. ATA is uniquely positioned to provide such offerings, and we can draw on our extensive experience with remote work in the translation and interpreting professions.

Lastly, as an ATA Board member, I will be reachable and communicative. I will dedicate the time necessary to respond to members who contact me. I will also work to ensure that information on leadership activity is clear and readily available to the membership, and I will advocate for Board meetings to be remotely accessible.

If you have any questions regarding my candidacy, please feel free to reach out to me via email or text at your convenience. I’m eager to hear about the issues important to you, my professional interpreter and translator colleagues.

In closing, I ask for your vote and look forward to the opportunity to serve ATA and its members.


Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws to be Presented to the Membership for Voting in October 2020

In addition to electing Board directors, voting members will also vote on two proposed Bylaws amendments. The proposed changes appear below. Please note that material proposed to be deleted is struck through; material proposed to be added is underlined. ATA’s Bylaws may be altered, amended, or repealed by a two-thirds vote of the voting members.

Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws: Rights and Privileges

Proposed Amendment to Article III, Section 3 – Rights and Privileges

  1. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, use all of its membership facilities, and receive all of its regular publications free or at special membership rates. They also have the right to take certification examinations, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association. They also have the privilege of free or reduced rates for use of the Association’s membership resources, including professional development events, certification examinations, and all of its regular publications.


  1. Institutional and Corporate members have all the rights and privileges of Active members except the right to vote, to hold Association office, to serve on the Board of Directors or standing committees, and or the privilege to take certification examinations. The rights and privileges shall be exercised through a person appointed by the organization holding the membership. This appointment does not confer individual membership on the designated person.

Amended clause of the Bylaws without markup:

  1. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association. They also have the privilege of free or reduced rates for use of the Association’s membership resources, including professional development events, certification examinations, and all of its regular publications.


  1. Institutional and Corporate members have all the rights and privileges of Active members except the right to vote, to hold Association office, to serve on the Board of Directors or standing committees, or the privilege to take certification examinations. The rights and privileges shall be exercised through a person appointed by the organization holding the membership. This appointment does not confer individual membership on the designated person.

The ATA Board of Directors recommends approval.

The ATA Bylaws state that the Association shall support “programs of accreditation and certification for translators and interpreters who meet specific standards of competence.” Best practices among certifying associations allow nonmembers to take certification examinations.

Allowing nonmembers to acquire certifications enhances the recognition of such certifications and eliminates potential perceptions that a certifying association may be controlling the supply of certified individuals. Allowing nonmembers to take the ATA certification exam would also raise awareness of ATA certification in the translation industry, recognize the competence of professional translators regardless of their membership status, generally increase the credibility of the translation profession, and enhance the credibility of the ATA certification examination.

The Board of Directors therefore considers it in the best interest of the Association to open the ATA certification exam to nonmembers of ATA. The wording of the current Bylaws allows differing interpretations regarding the right to take the ATA certification exam and the Board of Directors’ authority to set policy in that regard. Clarity with respect to both issues is desirable and necessary to avoid disputes and to obtain the benefits described above.

This amendment eliminates ambiguity about the right to take the certification exam, clarifying that a reduced rate for the certification exam is a privilege of membership and that the exam may be offered to nonmembers.

Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws: Multiple Candidates for Elective Office

Proposed Amendment to Article VII, Section 2 d. 2):

2) The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee shall propose multiple candidates for each elective position of the Association, including at least two (2) candidates for the position of President-elect when that position is up for election. The names of the candidates proposed, whose written acceptances must have been obtained by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, shall be presented to the Board of Directors for publication to the members.

Amended clause of the Bylaws without markup:

2) The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee shall propose multiple candidates for each elective position of the Association, including at least two (2) candidates for the position of President-elect when that position is up for election. The names of the candidates proposed, whose written acceptances must have been obtained by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, shall be presented to the Board of Directors for publication to the members.

An uncontested slate is not in the best interests of member participation and involvement. Historically, ATA Nominating Committees regularly offered members a choice of candidates for both officer and director positions. An effective nomination process produces a balanced slate of candidates that is not only representative of the membership but also presents a plurality of candidates for critically important leadership positions. The Association is strengthened when members make meaningful choices in their votes for leadership positions. This proposed Bylaws amendment would remove reliance on the “nomination by petition” process (Article VII, Section 2 d. 4) of the ATA Bylaws) to ensure that choice. While the Elections Policy may be revised from time to time, or even from one Board meeting to the next, it is appropriate for its fundamental aspects, namely the assurance that members will have a choice when voting for officers, to be guaranteed in the Bylaws.

 The Board of Directors chose not to take a position on the above amendment, but the Board notes that, if approved, this amendment will require that at least two candidates be proposed for each officer and director position up for election each year. This means at least six candidates for three open director positions and two candidates each for secretary, treasurer, and president-elect when those positions are on the ballot. 

Be an Informed Voter
Take time to learn what these changes will mean to the operation and governance of the association before you vote. Check out the additional information below for each proposed amendment.





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