By Acting President Alta L. Price
Dear Fellow NYCT Members,
Our organization is at a critical juncture. Within the next three months, we will either elect the next president or opt instead to close our local chapter.
As you’ll have read in recent e-mail announcements, 2016 was a banner year for the Circle. We held eight monthly meetings, two networking events, and two full-day professional development workshops. Three of our 2016 board members and all three special-projects managers are already hard at work preparing activities for the coming year.
As I write this, however, no one has stepped forward to run for president, and our nominating committee has been unable to locate a prospective candidate for the 2017–2018 term.
Both Valeriya and I are grateful to have served our two-year terms as president and vice president, respectively. Empowered by the trust granted us by the Circle’s board and general membership, we had the honor of building on past accomplishments, expanding membership to include new communities, and setting a solid trajectory for the Circle’s future. Our ongoing professional commitments prevent us from running for reelection, and we both feel the health of our organization stands to benefit from new leadership.
During my term as VP, aside from assisting Valeriya with her duties, I had the pleasure of working with program directors Kate Deimling and her successor, Ana Lis Salotti, to run our first two annual literary translation conferences, bringing in speakers and panelists from the fields of book and journal publishing, editing, translation, and reviewing. We also organized the inaugural open-mic night at Cornelia Street Café, and provided support to former President Leonard Morin and other past board members as they ran two annual outreach conferences at John Jay and Hunter colleges. The National Language Service Corps invited me to speak on behalf of the Circle at their local chapter meeting, helping spread the word about our outstanding association. While members working in Indo-European languages remain very active, we’ve seen an increase in members working in African languages, and a massive boost in the number of members working in Asian languages, which is exciting. Working with the entire board, we established financial guidelines and protocol for protecting the Circle’s accounts and ensuring transparency for the sake of all members. We have also begun liaising with other venues and organizations to broaden professional opportunities for our members, as well as reach new populations in need of our services.
I couldn’t have done any of this on my own. My successor will have the full support of program director Ana Lis Salotti, treasurer Andre Kononenko, secretary Lisa Rodriguez, newsletter editor Margarite Heintz-Montez, webmaster Gigi Branch, and administrator Louise Jennewine. Each of our events and initiatives is a team effort.
After much reflection, I agreed to serve as acting president through April 30, 2017, simply because I do not wish for our local chapter to go dormant or close down entirely. Because prior commitments preclude me from serving another full term, I hope to devote this time to identifying, training, and supporting our next prospective president(s). Normally, the new president would have been elected in December and started the term this month—but we all know that very few things in the world feel “normal” right now.
How much service experience did I have previously, you ask? Scant. I had volunteered as an ESL instructor, and was a member of several professional organizations in both language services and the arts, but had never held a leadership position. I didn’t even have ATA certification, nor was I a voting ATA member. When I decided to run for the NYCT board, I had recently joined the board of directors at an arts publication, but still hadn’t learned the ropes there. Becoming an active voting member of the ATA so that I could run was an easy process. I certainly didn’t assume my candidacy would result in victory, so was both exhilarated and slightly scared at the prospect of becoming the Circle’s VP.
And now, a confession: for several years I was a lapsed member. After a friend and fellow linguist introduced me to the Circle in 2004, I joined for the first time in 2005. I liked that the Circle didn’t require ATA membership, and at $50 per year it was a bargain compared to its parent association, which cost over twice that amount. I set up my directory profile, attended a few meetings, met some fellow members, skimmed the print copies of the Gotham Translator that periodically arrived in my PO box, and didn’t do much else. Over the next couple of years, my impression—due in great part to my own lack of interest and involvement—was that the Circle didn’t have much going on. And so, although the NYCT had been instrumental in helping me launch my own business, I didn’t bother to renew.
Fast-forward to FY2010–2011: I’d finished my master’s degree, was still an independent language service provider, and decided it was time to expand my reach. I decided to join the ATA because I liked what I’d seen of their magazine, and that’s when the NYCT returned to my radar. The ATA’s rates had gone up, but the Circle’s hadn’t, so I renewed my membership for the first time in over five years, and was pleasantly surprised. Over the next few years I saw that the new board was more active, and as the Circle adjusted to the times with a new website, more detailed directory, and better networking opportunities, each year it seemed more vibrant.
In 2012 A client of mine requested a translator recommendation for a language pair I didn’t cover, and I used the Circle directory to get back in touch with a member I remembered having a good conversation with at one of the meetings. I had a look at her work, touched base regarding her availability, and passed her info along. She got the gig, my client was pleased with the project, and she’s since gone on to publish the very first English translation ever of a novel from one of the former French colonies in Africa—garnering critical acclaim as well. That’s just one anecdote out of many. All this is to say that my fellow NYCT members continue to inspire and impress me with their significant contributions to our field.
Now, five years down the road, the Circle still hasn’t increased its membership fees. Organizing meetings, lining up speakers, and running workshops on a shoestring budget while still providing modest honoraria for visiting presenters is a stimulating challenge. Having been on the board, I got a behind-the-scenes view of what a bargain the NYCT is. Speaking with many of you, my fellow members, at each of our events helped give me ideas for what the Circle could do better, and ultimately underscored the vitality of what it offers.
As I look back on my stint as VP, I can also say I feel as though I’ve gained as much (if not more) from you—our experienced, talented members—than you have from me. Although it would be a real shame, I’ve made my peace with the idea that our chapter could close. It surprises me to think that one of the most populous, most international, and most diverse cities in the United States of America—not to mention the country’s publishing capital—wouldn’t have a local ATA chapter, but a lot of surprising things are taking place. During this time of major change, local engagement is more important that ever. While volunteer board work does take time and energy, the rewards are immense.
As I prepare to step down, I encourage each of you to consider what the Circle means to you and your career. If you feel that the NYCT hasn’t lived up to your hopes, consider becoming an active part in realizing those possibilities—after all, the board and organization exist for you, its members. If you feel it could or already has helped you in your important work, consider giving back to our community. Rest assured that your volunteer work for the Circle will pay off in the form of a stronger network, heightened visibility, and increased impact on our profession in all its facets.
To read more about the responsibilities of the NYCT President, go to http://nyctranslators.org/nyct-bylaws/. Advise the board of your interest or submit nominations to the NYCT Administrator by writing to email@example.com.
I send each of you my heartfelt thanks for being an NYCT member, and for your active commitment to the future of our association. Instead of letting this key part of our local translation and interpretation ecosystem be extinguished, let’s work together to ensure it continues to distinguish our vital work in bringing together this increasingly divided world.
Alta L. Price
Your outgoing VP and Acting President