Q&A with Susan Schweigert, Recipient of the UWM Graduate of the Last Decade Award
By Meghan McCallum, MATI Vice President
MATI member and former director Susan Schweigert received an MA in language, literature and translation from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 2011. Susan is a Spanish-English interpreter and translator based in Chicago specializing in law, international development and alternative energy.
Q: Last year, UWM named you the recipient of the Graduate of the Last Decade award. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little more about the award?
A: It is an award given every ten years by the UWM Alumni Association, in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in one’s field. My understanding is that you have to be nominated by someone at the university, and then they go through a thorough selection process, asking for letters of recommendation and calling references. I had no idea I had even been nominated when I received the phone call telling me I had been selected! It was a great honor. There was a lovely reception held at Discovery World in Milwaukee. The other honorees were also very impressive, and I was proud to be among them.
Q: How did the MA program at UWM prepare you for your career as an interpreter and translator?
A: The combination of theory and practice was very important. When working as a translator and interpreter day in and day out, you need to be able to make informed decisions and articulate those decisions in a convincing manner, but you also need to know how to invoice for jobs and pay your taxes.
Q: How did you get involved in your specializations? What kind of work are you most passionate about?
A: I specialize in the legal field, and that interest truly started at UWM when I took an Introduction to Interpreting course. We were exposed to court interpreting as part of the class, and I was hooked.
Q: What other special training and certification have you completed for your work? How have these impacted your career?
A: Since graduating UWM, I have become certified by the ATA to translate Spanish to English, and by the National Center for State Courts as a Spanish courtroom interpreter. I have also completed a certificate program at Loyola University in Paralegal Studies. Certifications are important elements in the efforts to continually standardize and professionalize the T&I industry, and are becoming increasingly important to clients. It has certainly helped me establish myself in my career to have both of these certifications.
Q: You’ve had some great travel experiences in your work as an interpreter. Can you tell us about your favorite travel assignment?
A: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but my recent trip to the Bahamas was particularly nice – especially since it helped me escape March in Chicago for a few days!
Q: You served on the MATI Board of Directors from 2012 to 2016. You played a key role in some exciting projects, such as MATI’s rebranding and website revamp and our webinar series. What did you enjoy most about this experience?
A: It was very exciting to step into the board of an organization like MATI and feel the support and freedom to realize my vision for what MATI could be. I think this is one of the real advantages to having a local ATA chapter that is as active as MATI. If you have an idea for developing and advancing our industry, and have the will and energy to put into making it happen, MATI can provide the perfect infrastructure to support you along the way. I truly encourage every one of you reading this to take me at my word, and use MATI to help make your visions a reality!
Q: What advice would you give recent graduates from translation/interpreting programs, or anyone who is new to the profession?
A: Professional organizations are indispensable. So are your colleagues. It is worth taking the time and energy to train and educate yourself in order to be a true professional in the field. Have fun .