Megan Graieg

By Megan Graieg

Five questions with Kiley M. Adolph

The Business School is committed to educating and preparing the leaders of tomorrow. And what better way to celebrate that goal than by passing on that passion for learning? Vice President of Partnerships for Project Lead The Way and Oxford Saïd alum, Kiley Adolph, works tirelessly to bring interactive and transformative learning environments to schools across the US, encouraging students to be excited by STEM subjects.

We spoke to Kiley about her passion for education, how to encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects, and what advice she wished she had at the beginning of her career.

Why are you so passionate about bringing hands-on, real-world learning to the education system?

Education has the ability to empower; it enables transformation of both ourselves and the world. If our children are guided by knowledge and its application, they can see the complexity and beauty in the world. They can ask critical questions in pursuit of understanding what is before them. Through education, our children see the world today and aspire to utilize knowledge and skills to improve it. Hands-on, real-world learning, at any level of education, entrusts the amassed facts, along with the comprehensive knowledge, to be applied; thus, employing scholarship as valuable and relevant. Ultimately, this approach to education brings the world to learning and, in turn, learning to the world.

How can we encourage women in particular to pursue science and technology careers?

Irrespective of gender, we need to encourage, support, and empower our children to explore in subjects such as science and technology. Unfortunately, from a very young age, females, generally, begin to develop a deficit mindset when it comes to subjects such as math and science. This is where academic confidence starts to falter. From there, young girls’ ideas of science, and their success in it, narrows. It becomes more challenging for them to see opportunities and the scope of creativity in science. Science offers significant opportunities for discovery, creativity, and impact. Our children need to be shown that science does and will continue to impact the world in profound ways. Empowering our young children, particularly young girls, to discover, experiment, and create in the world, while asking questions of the world, will lead to greater interest, and potentially careers, in subjects such as science and technology.

Have there been any key personal or professional experiences that accelerated your career path?

One of the most significant experiences accelerating my drive and passion, both professionally and personally, was a profound moment of obligation. It was a moment where I was compelled to act, to do, and to be. I was in my early twenties when I embarked on a trip to Kenya and Tanzania. I had recently graduated with a degree in business and, like most twenty-somethings, I was finding my way.

While in Kenya, I was having a conversation with our guide about local schools. I was intrigued and wanted to get a glimpse into what the country’s education system entailed. We were in the middle of the far-off Mara. For some strange reason, my isolated location did not seem to hinder my westerly thought process. I had a picture in my mind of what the school would look like. We drove through desolate flat land for what felt like an eternity. Finally, we stopped and our guide informed us that we had arrived.

In front of me, in the isolated Mara, were about fifteen students who appeared to be about 5 or 6 years old sitting under a tree with this remarkable woman. The guide went on to tell me that these children walked here, some of them miles, to attend school with this woman. This tree, the sand, and this woman was their school. There were no desks, no books, no paper, no pencils, not even a roof over their heads. They had what I perceived as nothing. They were writing in the sand with their fingers. All they had was this woman. What I perceived as nothing, was possibly that child’s everything, their hope. It was a moment that moved me.

I remember that experience like it was yesterday. I call to mind standing there in awe, thanking those complete strangers for bringing forth a new-found sense of exaltation. From that moment on I made a vow. I had a moral obligation, a sense of duty; I was going to be like that woman, a conduit for hope…a teacher. From that experience, I found purpose, professionally. I committed my career to education. I am eternally grateful for that experience as it enabled me to affect change on a variety of levels in education and the nonprofit sector. That woman and those children, without uttering a word, inspired me to pursue a career focused on empowering others through education.

What is one piece of advice you wish you’d had when starting your career?

When starting our careers, we are so focused and determined. Given this, we are more apt to allow any sort of hardship to discourage us. It averts us from the beauty and lessons to be learned in those difficult moments. The key is being willing to see and open to receive the lessons the adversity so desperately wants to teach us. Knowing this now, when starting my professional journey, I wish I would have been advised to be open and willing to see the beauty in all experiences, particularly those which we feel do not serve us. Every experience is our teacher.

What was your most unexpected and useful takeaway from your time at Oxford Said?

There were so many useful takeaways from my time at Oxford Saïd. Enrolling at such an exceptional institution and engaging with remarkable women from around the world provided innumerous lessons. We enrol in programs at an extraordinary university, such as Oxford, assuming we will develop a grander comprehension of the world through scholarship. Unexpectedly, as a part of that learning, I developed a greater understanding of my service and leadership of self and others through the works of a pre-eminent dramatist. The most unanticipated takeaways came from examining Shakespeare in the context of leadership. We assessed our leadership realms and archetypes. During this time, contextualized by Shakespeare, we not only looked at our leadership gifts, but we also spent time identifying the shadows, those areas where too much or too little existed. I have always embraced the archetypes closest to my core: nurturer, explorer, and dreamer. From this experience, with the unforeseen teacher in Shakespeare, I felt more compelled to explore those shadows, a realm where I could spend additional time.  To this day, I explore the realms and archetypes, contemplating how I can best serve myself and others.


Kiley M. AdolphDr. Kiley Adolph is the Vice President of Partnerships for Project Lead The Way, an educational nonprofit focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California. Kiley’s teaching focuses on leadership and research. She has taught in the Organizational Change and Leadership Doctoral program along with the Master of Arts in Teaching program. She currently focuses her instruction at the doctoral level, teaching leaders in the Global Executive Doctor of Education program at Rossier.

Kiley earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Trine University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California, and a Global Executive Doctor of Education degree from University of Southern California. Kiley received an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University. She is an alumna of the Women Transforming Leadership Program at Said Business School, University of Oxford. Currently, Kiley is pursuing her private pilot certification.

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2 responses to “Five questions with Kiley M. Adolph”

  1. K. L. Hester says:

    Dr. Kiley Adolph is truly a remarkable woman. I agree with her that we must help our youth, especially our young girls, rewrite the narratives as it pertains to them excelling in SREM related subjects at an early age. I also believe that Kiley touched on a subject within this article rhat many may miss. Dr. Adolph found her Passion, by doing and being exactly what this article speaks of, “being open”! She stated that she was a business major embarking on a post graduate trip to Kenya and Tanzania, “finding her way” when she noticed something/someone, somewhere in a place possibly that she may have never imagined finding vision for “her purpose”. That, among many other remarkable things, is what I admire most about Dr. Adolph, my friend and former colleague, her ability to look beyond what rests upon the surface and her willingness to explore the deeper truths. She modeled this when we worked together several years ago, by the way she conducted her classroom and cared for her students. I am extremely proud of Kiley for displaying her strength and courage to pursue her vision for the rest of us to see. May the next scenes of her “Shakespearean experience” prove to be even more brilliant than the former. Thank you for living beyond your “shadows”!

  2. Pat hemlock says:

    Enjoyed reading this article. True learning takes place in the experiences a person encounters along the way with the guided instruction .

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