Scholarships: A Pathway to Professionalism

by Jessica Goodrich Watts, Scholarship Chair

The first interpreter’s workshop I ever attended was in Asheville, North Carolina and the only reason I was able to attend was due to a scholarship that then Region 3 (we were not the Sunny Southeast quite yet) graciously provided. From there, I attended my first national conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2010 also on a scholarship. Without attending these two workshops, I may never have fallen in love with interpretation.

Scholarships allow us to bring new interpreters into the NAI fold that we otherwise may have been unable to reach. Without the active support of NAI members, the scholarships would disappear. This support comes in many forms. Some of it is slow and steady. Other activity is compressed and intense. Sometimes support means letting go of something unused. Or it could mean keep an eye out for something unique. Occasionally, it may mean digging deeper in your pocket than you otherwise would. Other times, it is simply a bluff. Let’s look at all the various ways you can support scholarships.

The funds for scholarships are generated through the silent and live auctions held at workshops and conferences.

(1) The items at auction are donated to the auction by NAI members.

I’ve donated lots of little, odd, and perhaps not “explicitly for the interpretive job” items. The gift shop at my site will have sales, so I’ll pick up deeply discounted beach related earrings, trinkets, decorations or apparel. What could you bring the auction? Do you have leftover mission-related materials? A stack of bumper stickers about protecting night skies or not using plastic bags might be just what someone else has been seeking. Does your city/county/state produce some type of local alcohol? Local products are usually big hit. This is a slow and steady type of contribution; keep your eyes open and donate!

(2) There are members that volunteer to organize the auctions.

Make no mistake, this can be a BIG job! All of these neat donations come flowing in as members arrive at the conference site. These all have to be organized. What is going to the silent auction and what is going to live auction? Is there just one silent auction or multiple? The effort here is intense, but isolated to only a few days. This is a great opportunity to volunteer at a conference, and your time is being invested in getting interpreters to these gatherings that otherwise might not be able to make it without financial assistance.

Auction items 2016


(3) During the auction, bid… and bid… and bid.

You never know what is going to show up at the auctions. Signed copies of paintings and books, homemade flags and quilts, treasure chests, rubber chickens, and moonshine are just a few of the things I have personally bid on. I took home some nice Tennessee wine and Kentucky bourbon-barreled stouts some years back. Since I could not purchase these products in my home state, I was willing to pay quite a pretty penny for these items, even on a frontline interpreter’s budget! Another way to bid is creating alliances. During a bidding war, I have pledged $20 to one of the bidders to keep the bidding going. I highly encourage it; the entertainment alone is usually worth my $20.

(4) During the auction, bluff!

For all of you who think, “Just getting to the conference is expensive enough! I can’t imagine spending money at the auctions.” Here is where you come in, which is also the advice I give to the college students at the national conference: Make sure no item goes for less than $20. Bid the item up to at least that point, even if it is something you have no interest in taking home. On the off chance that no one bids and you get stuck with it, you can make one $20 purchase. And if you really have no use for the item, bring it back next year!

(5) Serve on the Awards and Scholarships Committee.

Now that we have made all of this money from your donations and your deep pockets, the money must be distributed. The commitment for the Awards and Scholarships Committee is minimal, taking perhaps only 2 hours of your time during the summer and up to 10 hours of your time in the winter. Your duties as a member of the Committee would include being available by email to receive attachments, evaluating scholarship applications and award nominations using a provided rubric, then emailing your rubric back to me by the deadline. To volunteer for the job, contact me at With the National Conference coming up, I am looking for new committee members because…

The Sunny Southeast Region is offering one $700 scholarship to the National Conference from November 27 – December 1, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The 2018 scholarship application can be downloaded here (.DOCX).

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