Nico Luchsinger, Executive Director
Nico has been working with Asia Society Switzerland since its inception in 2016 – as Head of Programming, Co-Executive Director, and since April 2021 as sole Executive Director. A medieval historian by training (really), he previously worked for Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, founded the global entrepreneurial community Sandbox, and ran business development for Swiss startup Mila. When not working, he enjoys bouldering, baking bread, or exploring Zurich’s playgrounds with his kids.
- Favorite book on Asia: Still Wish Lanterns by Alec Ash, on young Chinese. Well-written. Doesn’t create a larger narrative, instead focuses on people. Bonus –can be read in an afternoon.
- Favorite Asian food-related Youtube channel: Chinese Cooking Demystified. I get hungry just from watching that.
- Favorite Asia podcast: There are too many. Email me for a list of favorites.
Serena Jung, Program and Communications Director
Before joining Asia Society Switzerland in 2018 as Program Manager, Serena was an editor and producer for the two magazines, Schweizer Monat and Literarischer Monat (RIP). There, she was in charge of visual development of all products; conducted interviews with authors, artists, and politicians; reviewed books (fiction), wrote reportages, and lead special issues on the South Caucasus – returning to Georgia still ranks high on one of her many to-do-lists. Serena studied language and literature, philosophy and history in both Zurich and Berlin, and, very shortly, Korean at Yonsei University in Seoul.
- Favorite Korean dish: Bibimbap with all the care that goes into chopping, cooking and assorting of every single vegetable, just to mix it all up once the egg has fulfilled the finishing touches.
- Favorite Asian book (as of the last year-ish): Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary. Recommended by a NY colleague in one of our reading lists, we read the short novel as part of our Book Salon and I simply adored it.
- Thing I miss most from Asia: Family.
Madelaine Wiebalck, Executive Programs Manager
Madelaine joined the team at Asia Society Switzerland in May 2021 as Executive Programs Manager. Before that, she headed a Master’s program in European and Chinese Business Management at the University of Zurich, and did two internships in Qingdao and Taipei. She studied Sinology in Zurich, Würzburg, Beijing, and Taipei. When she is not at work, she can be found hiking in the Swiss alps, drinking tea with her fellow tea-lovers, and traveling the world with a backpack.
- Favourite Asian movie: Spirited Away by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Every time I watch this film I spot a new detail that I never noticed before. Also, I really like the film music by Joe Hisaishi.
- Favourite Chinese character: Really hard to say, as there are over 50'000 of them and they are all amazing, but I'll go with 茶 (chá), meaning tea (surprise surprise!). It is made up of three parts: leaf, person, and tree, which I find quite befitting!
- Favourite place to drink tea in Asia: Maokong, a quaint village located at the top of a mountain just outside of Taipei. The tea leaves grow on the mountain, and you can enjoy fabulous views while savouring the hot, fragrant tea in a tiny, hand-painted porcelain cup.
Rebecca Farner, Outreach and Communications Manager
Rebecca joined the team at Asia Society Switzerland as an intern in 2019. In March 2022, she returned as Outreach & Communications Manager. Originally studying religion and philosophy with a focus on Tibet and ethics at the University of Bern, she worked for different organizations in the field of human rights. When not working, she can be found in the mountains, swimming in the Aare in her hometown Bern, or in the kitchen, cooking for a bunch of people.
- Favorite Asian book: Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Not the conventional way of using words, forming sentences and writing a story.
- Favorite Asian dish: Nepalese Dal Bhat. Always cooked exactly the way my Ama la (Tibetan for mother) taught me.
- Favorite Asian podcast: NüVoices. A podcast about China that gives primarily a voice to women. Covering topics from cybersecurity to tea.
Remko Tanis, Programs and Editorial Manager
Remko joined Asia Society Switzerland in April 2022. Before that, he worked as an independent journalist and editor. He also spent nine years living in China and Singapore, covering East and Southeast Asia as a foreign correspondent for the Netherlands Press Association, Elsevier Magazine, RTL Z, and other media in the Netherlands and Belgium. In his free time, he can be found running, going to concerts, and training, as in sitting on trains between Zurich and Rotterdam. Remko studied History and Journalism at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
- Best concert while in Asia: Carsick Cars at D-22 in Beijing, way back in 2008. Their hit song 'Zhong Nan Hai' is definitely about the cigarette brand and absolutely not referring to the Party leadership compound next to the Forbidden City.
- Favorite Asian book: Brothers by Yu Hua. A brilliant, extensive story about two stepbrothers living through both the Cultural Revolution and the 'To get rich is glorious' eras of modern China in very different ways.
- Most impressive Asian infrastructure: The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the Kowloon-Guangzhou high speed rail link. Using both in 2019, seeing Mainland signage and security officers throughout the Hong Kong terminals: surefire symbols of things to come.
Manuela Coldesina, Operations Manager
Manuela joined the team in June 2022. She has a background in Japanese Studies and East Asian Art History and holds a Master’s degree in History, Arts and Culture of Asia from Leiden University with a specialization in Critical Heritage. After graduating and returning to Switzerland she pursued a dual career in culture and finance: working as a museum researcher and curator, as well as a compliance officer in the international trust business. When not working to support Asia Society’s Asia competence mission or travelling, she can be found in the kitchen, her balcony "garden”, or anywhere there’s a cat to annoy.
- Favourite Asian art: 20th century picture postcards – small visual time capsules full of wonders! – and Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints of any genre or era.
- Most memorable places to visit (in Japan): the Sakurajima volcanic island in the bay off Kagoshima, and the town of Kitsuki in Ōita Prefecture (best reached by car).
- Favourite books: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, and The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
Émilie Luthringer, Project Manager
Émilie joined the Asia Society Switerland's team in October 2023. She holds a Master’s degree in Asian studies from the University of Geneva, with a speciality in Korea Studies. Previously, she has worked as an Editorial Assistant at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) in Paris and is also Next Gen collaborator of the think tank KEY (Korea, Europe, and You). When she is not working, she can be found taking walks into nature, in tea salons with her friends, or watching Korean dramas.
- Favorite Asian movie: Ode to My Father, a classic of Korean cinema and heartbreaking tale of Korea’s history through the second half of the 20th century.
- Favorite Asian book: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982. A testimony to the female condition in Korea and feminist masterpiece published in 2016 and adapted into a movie in 2019.
- Favorite Asian delicacy: Japanese mochi and Korean tteok. I love their softness and chewiness, in addition to the fact that they fill your stomach even with a small portion!
Simona Grano, inaugural TOY Senior Fellow
Simona Grano is an Associate Professor and Director of the Taiwan Studies Project at the University of Zurich. In September 2023, she joined Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis as TOY Senior Fellow on Taiwan. As a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for China Analysis she focuses on Taiwan issues and the January 2024 elections.
Simona has held research positions and taught China Studies and Taiwan Studies at Ca' Foscari University of Venice in Italy, at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and at National Cheng'chi University in Taiwan. She is a research fellow of the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT), in Tübingen, Germany, and a research associate of SOAS, London. Simona is the author of Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders, published in 2015 by Routledge. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Civil Society, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, China Information, Asiatische Studien, Taiwan in Comparative Perspective, Orizzonte Cina. Her latest edited volume, China-US Competition: Impact on Small and Middle Powers' Strategic Choices, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2022.
Simona completed her Ph.D. in Chinese Studies at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy in 2008. Picture: © André Hengst