In high school, Jeniffer Harper-Taylor paled in comparison to her older brothers. “They were superpopular athletes and I was more academic and kind of faded into the background.” But in her current role as president of the Siemens Foundation, lead executive of the country’s premier research competition for high school students, she is determined to make nerdy the new cool. “Students are shocked to learn that everything they do — including playing video games — involves science, technology, engineering and math to some degree. It’s not just working in a lab anymore,” explains Harper-Taylor, who has a liberal arts degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., with specializing in journalism.
She worked as a journalist for a TV station in Rochester, N.Y., and as a benefits manager for the May Co. in Rochester before joining the Siemens Foundation in March 2000 as a program manager. She was named president in March 2010. “I feel a lot of ownership toward the success of the Siemens Foundation. I have a wonderfully supportive board of directors that empowers me to make an impact in STEM educational outreach for educators and students. It’s a big part of what I do to make a difference. Every day, we’re making an impact on educators and students’ lives and investing in future generations. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Harper-Taylor says. She envisions expanding the foundation’s reach globally through partnerships with like-minded organizations, noting, “I’m all about synergy and less about reinventing the wheel.”
The Atlanta native is also all about moving and grooving to the “Just Dance” video games for Wii, from the game series published by Ubisoft. “It is too fun for words!” she laughs. “It’s a good way for me to de-stress and I can do it with my husband in the comfort of our home.”