As Luck Would Have It: Silvana’s Higher Education Calling

Text by Kassandra Bucher

When swissnex San Francisco’s new Junior Project Manager, Silvana Rohner, went on a run on last New Year’s Eve in Switzerland she found a 100 Swiss franc bill on the street. The next day, she found a 20 Swiss franc bill. She immediately knew that this was going to be her lucky year.

She was right. In August 2014, after successfully graduating from the University of Zurich (UZH), Silvana got the job at swissnex San Francisco. Her one-year project here aims to increase the visibility of UZH (her alma mater) in the Bay Area as well as rev up its alumni network and help pave the way for new university partnerships.

If she isn’t out and about at university fairs representing UZH to potential students or meeting with West Coast alumnae to profile, she’s helping swissnex offer its broader services to Swiss higher education—things like providing Swiss visitors from the educational sector with relevant contacts and information, and supporting them to ensure that they meet the right people during their time in North America.

She also organizes events with swissnex San Francisco that help Swiss universities and schools gain visibility. That Silvana’s work for swissnex overlaps so completely with her tasks on behalf of the UZH is a symbiotic situation for everyone.

Cultural creations

The Mexican-born Swiss citizen, with long brown curls and porcelain skin, graduated in English literature and linguistics from UZH (in the Swiss-German speaking part of the country). No wonder she speaks English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

A cheerful soul with a contagious good mood, Silvana visits her Mexican family and friends every other year and still has a strong bond to Mexican culture despite moving to Switzerland at the age of six.

In San Francisco, she is not only discovering her job but also the city itself. On most days, you can find her soaking up all that it has to offer, from scrutinizing paintings at the de Young Museum, to frequenting gallery openings, to attending every Mexican cultural activities in town.

“What I love about San Francisco is that I can find Mexican food on every street corner in the Mission District,” Silvana rhapsodizes about the It-neighborhood where she lives. “It’s also really interesting that the Mexican culture, which I know so well because I grew up with it, constantly reinvents itself here.”

Diving deep

It was while she was studying for her finals last year back in Switzerland that Silvana rediscovered her love for academics, particularly her topics of focus—English literature, linguistics, and film.

Throwing herself wholeheartedly into these, she realized how passionate she is when she delves deeply into subjects. Perfect, considering that’s what the position with swissnex and UZH entails.

“Building something from the scratch really fascinates me,” says Silvana with a smile. “I like to create the skeleton and put the flesh on it.”

This focus is also mirrored in her passion for cooking. “When I cook I lose track of time completely,” she says. “Time flies but the world for me stands still – I stand in the kitchen, experiment with difficult recipes and create.”

If her luck holds out, Silvana will continue connecting her passions for knowledge, language, culture, and academia long into the future—that’s priceless.