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»To me, the encounters with all the passionate people around the world working to improve the lives of others have been the biggest gift of all.«

Dr. Nathalie von Siemens

Dr. Nathalie von Siemens: Thank you for 7 ½ years with Siemens Stiftung

On 31 March 2020, Dr. Nathalie von Siemens stepped down from her position as Managing Director and Board Spokesperson of Siemens Stiftung. Her successor is Dr. Nina Smidt. This site features reflections from our Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, staff, and partners on Nathalie von Siemens’s time with the foundation from January 2013 to March 2020 and offers words of welcome to our new Managing Director, Nina Smidt.

In every classroom in every corner of the Earth, children have the potential to solve the world’s problems – of this, Nathalie von Siemens has no doubt.
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In 2013, Nathalie von Siemens (left) began her role as Managing Director and Board Spokesperson at Siemens Stiftung, succeeding Ulrike Wahl (right).
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Joining Georg Bernwieser (left) and Rolf Huber (right) on the Board of Directors, she focused on the foundation’s Education and Culture working areas with a regional emphasis on Latin America and Europe.
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She believed that foundations could build bridges – from one sector to another, but also to the edges of society.
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In the Culture working area, von Siemens focused on projects that addressed the issue of social cohesion. Pictured here: CHANGING PLACES 2016 in Santiago de Chile.
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Cross-border initiatives were designed as opportunities for artists to present communities with new perspectives and encourage constructive societal dialog.
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Nathalie von Siemens actively supported the pan-African music network Music In Africa from its very beginnings. It has now grown to become the continent’s largest cultural platform.
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By working with Goethe-Institut, Siemens Stiftung became an important partner in Germany’s cultural foreign policy. Pictured here: A MoU with the Music In Africa Foundation.
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Education was particularly important to von Siemens. In the digital age, STEM education should go beyond simply transferring knowledge and must provide a benefit for society.
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One important development was combining STEM subjects with value formation and creative methods, such as Design Thinking.
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With its education program Experimento, Siemens Stiftung has reached 1,295,000 schoolchildren in 12 countries. The results of a three-year evaluation of the program were an attest to von Siemens's efforts.
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Working with Barbara Filtzinger, head of the Education working area, von Siemens found strong partners capable of spreading the impact of the Experimento program. Pictured here: Signing a cooperation agreement with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
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Nathalie von Siemens was actively engaged in the work of networking organizations. Among other roles, she served as spokesperson of Nationales MINT Forum (National STEM Forum, Germany) alongside Thomas Sattelberger (and later, Ekkehard Winter).
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With the “STEM and Values” symposium, she brought together education experts to address this issue for the first time. The symposium reflected her belief that there was more to STEM education than the transfer of knowledge.
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She worked with UNESCO on specific measures to include girls in STEM education, focusing on a central question: What is the social value of STEM in a society?
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Her involvement with Forum Education Digitalisation focused on collaborating with other German foundations to bring about a cultural shift toward digitalization in the education sector.
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The International Dialogue on STEM (IDoS) was designed to establish international synergies on important issues in the education sector, such as “education for sustainable development.”
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With the STEAM Territories initiative in various countries and a new regional office in Chile, Nathalie von Siemens hopes for stronger STEM education in Latin America.
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Siemens Stiftung has worked with the Office for Climate Education (OCE) since 2018 to increase the volume on calls for climate protection.
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From April 2020, Nina Smidt (second from left) takes over from Nathalie von Siemens on the Siemens Stiftung Board of Directors alongside Klaus Grünfelder (left) and Rolf Huber (right). Thank you, Nathalie, and a warm welcome to Nina!
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“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.”

Dear Nathalie, this quote from Oscar Wilde encourages us to move through the world with open eyes, thinking ahead and anticipating encounters that seem impossible. It is a plea for imagination, creativity, and reflection. In seven-and-a-half years working together at Siemens Stiftung, we accomplished many things that once seemed impossible: Your constant drive, inspiring vision, and firm belief in our work were essential in making sustainable societal development a reality.

Three things you’ll leave behind in our hearts and minds

  • Break free of the confines of the self-referential eternal guarantee

We could just sit back and relax: a foundation has a regulatory and financial guarantee of its perpetual existence. But that does not guarantee any kind of relevance. It was always important to you to question this belief at our foundation; to find new ways of proactively engaging in the issues of our time and shaping their impact on the future. That led to your insistence, from the very beginning, on detailed planning and measurement of the impact of our work. It is precisely this clarity and transparency that allowed us to engage with others about our actions, giving us the chance to grow beyond our self-referential confines and increase the strength and reach of our impact.

  • The triad of knowledge, skills, and the right attitude

We often heard you use the phrases “new era” and “paradigm shift” in reference to the permanent changes digitalization and globalization are bringing to our societies. Are we ready for these changes? It has always been your belief that critical judgement, conscientious action, and sustainable impact are predicated upon factual knowledge intersecting with skills – such as comprehension, recollection, analysis, or utilization – and combined with a clear attitude shaped by values and creativity. Expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to include value formation is just one example of your advocacy for creating awareness of the ethical dimension of our actions.

  • Nothing happens without the right partner

Kleist’s “Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking” calls on us to seek out others for help in understanding what it is we want to know. You embodied this principle by continuously seeking dialog with others – for whom you were also a great inspiration on many subjects. But it wasn’t only the dialog with us – your colleagues – that you valued. You also sought contact with representatives from the worlds of business, academia, culture, politics, and civil society – across borders and across sectors. These exchanges created new ideas and strategic alliances for a harmonious and mutually-beneficial coexistence, showing just how well your beloved Aristotelian ethical principle of a “good life” perfectly aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dearest Nathalie, thank you for our time together! You are a part of all our projects and have always helped us fulfill our own potential. You once posed the question of what you would do if you had a magic wand. The answer? All the things our foundation does. We did indeed create magic together, with the courage to explore the unknown. Thank you for your motivation, humor, and sincerity! We will miss you and wish you all the best from the bottom of our hearts.

The Board of Directors and the Siemens Stiftung team

»Ms. von Siemens prepared the soil in which ideas can thrive – transparently and permanently.«​

Berthold Huber, Board of Trustees Chairperson

The laudation, delivered at Nathalie von Siemens’s farewell celebration by the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Berthold Huber, is available for download.

Prof. Dr. Kristina Reiss (middle), Dean of TUM School of Education
© Siemens Stiftung

»To me, Nathalie von Siemens is the ideal STEM ambassador. In the national and international context, I was always impressed how she used her wonderful, philosophically-influenced perspective to bring STEM subjects to the forefront of society and address the full relevance of the ethical questions that came along with them. She shaped the theoretical aspects of “STEM and Values” while always keeping in mind how these would be put into practice.«

 

»In the autonomy and individuality of culture, Nathalie von Siemens sees a great chance for societal development – aesthetically, socially, and politically. Rather than creating distant visions, her enthusiasm and pragmatic approach led to lively learning communities with cross-border artistic and economic perspectives. She is an enabler who dispels clichés, enlivens processes, and enhances networks. Working with her is inspiring and exciting.«

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of Goethe-Institut
© Goethe-Institut, Photographer: Andreas Wrobbel
Siemens Stiftung Vorstand
Rolf Huber (right), Member of the Board of Directors at Siemens Stiftung
© Siemens AG

»Thank you, Nathalie, for the time we spent together on the Board of Directors. With your clever ideas, clear analysis, and good humor, you enriched the work of our foundation. Together, we created new approaches and projects that advance sustainable societal development. In these, our focus was always on the people. Our most important tools: innovative technologies and entrepreneurial courage.«

»Eight years ago, we embarked on a joint project by introducing the Experimento program in rural schools in the south of the country. With the foundation’s strong will to incorporate art and culture and a spirit of co-construction and mutual respect, it was possible to make a significant contribution to integral formation in citizenship. Nathalie von Siemens is undoubtedly a curious and empathetic spirit, which drives initiatives and builds bridges. We are certain that this seal will remain in the foundation and in our future work.«

Prof. Dr. Ignacio Sánchez Díaz, Rector of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
© Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Nyokabi Njuguna, Executive Director of Impacting Youth Trust
© Siemens Stiftung / Haus der kleinen Forscher, Photographer: René Arnold

»Dr. Nathalie von Siemens has been a true friend and mentor to the Experimento Kenya team in ways that words cannot express. She and the members of Siemens Stiftung have always supported our work in STEM education in the global South – particularly in Africa – and I am convinced that she will be a blessing to the world in her next adventure the same as she has been to us during her tenure. Thank you, Nathalie, for listening to us and extending so many opportunities our way, but most of all for your service to the African people.«

»Nathalie von Siemens has motivated numerous people and institutions to work collaboratively to ensure that all children have the opportunity to express their creativity and enhance their talents while developing scientific knowledge and skills. At the inquiry-based science education program we have had the privilege of accessing very high-quality educational resources developed by Siemens Stiftung and to work together globally to bring Nathalie’s hopeful vision to hundreds of schools in Chile. The present challenges of our society require her profoundly humanized perspective of science education.«

Prof. Rosa Devés Alessandri, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Universidad de Chile
© Universidad de Chile
Edington Hatitye (left), Director of the Music In Africa Foundation
© Siemens Stiftung, Photographer: Konrad Fersterer

»I feel privileged to have worked with Nathalie von Siemens and Siemens Stiftung over the past seven years. Throughout this period, I have come to admire her focused leadership and passion for culture and the arts, especially her relentless interest and support for the work we are doing together in Africa with Siemens Stiftung. Although we were often thousands of miles away from each other, Nathalie’s positive energy was always felt here. We remain forever inspired!«

»I’ll always remember Nathalie von Siemens for the work we did on ‘our’ forums: the Forum Education Digitalisation and especially the Nationales MINT Forum (National STEM Forum, Germany). As spokespersons, we quickly found our stride as a mixed doubles team and worked harmoniously together. The humanities scholar and the scientist – this is where STEM really became STEAM. Not only do we share this future vision of STEM, but we’ve made a lot of noise in advocating for it! I’ll miss my fellow campaigner.«

Dr. Ekkehard Winter, Executive Director of Deutsche Telekom Stiftung
© Nationales MINT Forum, Photographer: Andreas Süß
Michael Fritz, Executive Manager of Haus der kleinen Forscher
© Siemens Stiftung / Haus der kleinen Forscher, Photographer: René Arnold

»I value Nathalie von Siemens for her philosophically-minded way of thinking outside the box. For her, STEM education went far beyond acquiring knowledge. It was and remains our common vision that STEM forms the core of value-oriented education for sustainable development. Her enthusiasm for the IDoS Conference broadened horizons and advanced the international dialog among STEM organizations. Thank you so much!«

»Nathalie is an extraordinary woman with great passion and love for the education of children and young people, contributing to the transformation of schools in many parts of the world through STEM education. Through all of her actions in Mexico – such as the conferences on International Dialogue on STEM, the STEM Territory strategy, creating momentum for STEM forums, school visits, and developing and transferring education programs such as Experimento – she planted a seed that has led educational leaders, companies, civil society representatives to make a commitment and embrace STEM education.«

Claudia Robles, Director of INNOVEC Mexico
© Siemens Stiftung / Haus der kleinen Forscher, Photographer: René Arnold

Dr. Nathalie von Siemens’s position on the Board of Directors will be taken up by Dr. Nina Smidt from 31 March 31, 2020. Nina Smidt, who most recently served as Director of International Planning and Development at ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius and President of the American Friends of Bucerius, comes to Siemens Stiftung with 17 years of professional experience in nonprofit and foundation management, education and academia, and policy and public affairs. Together with Rolf Huber and CFO Klaus Grünfelder, she’ll work toward shaping the future of Siemens Stiftung.

We have had the opportunity to meet Nina in her first meetings at Siemens Stiftung and are already looking forward to her new ideas as we work together on the next chapter in the story of our foundation!

Nathalie von Siemens und Nina Smidt

»Nathalie’s journey has been full of success. It is my task to join everyone working with Siemens Stiftung on continuing this journey and forging new paths.«

Dr. Nina Smidt

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