With Winner at the helm, the museum is building new spaces — but also a more engaging way to tell the story of scientific discovery.
CLEVELAND— “A boss is someone who boldly chooses her own direction. She gets things done, she often deviates from the conventional path and blazes her own path. She often works towards a higher goal outside of her own suaccess.– Maggie Sullivan, author of “Patron Ladies of CLE“
AT Cleveland Museum of Natural Historyit is a time of transformation, and President and CEO Sonia Winner is leading the charge.
“WWe’ve been around for 100 years, but we still have to reinvent ourselves,” she told 3News presenter Sara Shookman in a recent interview.What better place for children to understand nature and their role in the world than in a natural history museum where they are truly part of the story?
The museum inaugurated a $150 million centennial project last June that is due for completion in December 2024.
Here they are building new spaces – but also a more engaging way to tell the story of scientific discovery. According to Sonia, all coming in the middle of a pandemic, we all want to know more about science.
“Yes we can get kids to understand there’s more to dinosaurs and to love nature and science – for me, that will have been mission accomplished.”
But when asked what excites her most about renovation, Winner doesn’t hesitate.
“I want people to have fun, that’s the most important thing.”
The Bowling Green graduate and her Cleveland-born husband chose to raise their family here.
A lawyer by training, she has spent more than a decade in key leadership positions in academia – working in fundraising for Case Western Reserve University here in Cleveland and Columbia University in New York.
She returned to the museum in 2017 as Director of Advancement before being named President and CEO in 2018.
His roots here at the museum are more than professional.
“I I want everyone to love the museum as much as my son does,” she said. “My son learned to walk at the museum. And so as a young mom, I used to come here on snowy Saturday mornings because I would say, what do you want to do? And he was like, I want to go to the dinosaur museum.”
Sonia was born in the Philippines at Clark Air Force Base and moved often with her military family – his parents instilling a love for travel at a young age.
This love of exploring new places lives on – she soon heads to Prague with girlfriends.
“I would advise anyone in a position of responsibility to keep their girlfriends. It’s very important, very, very important,” she said with a smile. “You always have to be able to have someone you can call at three in the morning.”
Her leadership style is to offer hope, speak the truth, and surround herself with those who do what she cannot do.
She keeps a card on her desk that says, “TThe only work you start at the top is to dig a hole.”
“That’s my kind of motto for people who think, ‘I’m not qualified. I don’t have the experience.'” she said. “You know, there’s no one who’s a leader who just got there… I really believe that, uh, most places in life are meritocracies. So it’s really important to work hard and that work will be rewarded.”