Nonprofits, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Q&A: Keli Christopher

February 9, 2016
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Keli Christopher
Keli Christopher. Photo by Johnny Quirin

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Keli Christopher, Ph.D. started her career as a civil engineer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Her passion for STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — education led her to start her business, Mind Boggle, which provides STEM summer camps and afterschool activities to students throughout Kent County.

More recently, she founded a nonprofit, STEM Greenhouse, to prepare minority students and girls for STEM careers.

Biggest career break?

I don’t believe I’ve had a big career break yet, but I’m reminded of a story told by Napoleon Hill. During the gold rush, there was a miner who gave up his dream after a significant investment of time and money. He found out later that he had quit only three feet away from the gold vein. I know that if I don’t give up, I’ll reach my goals.

Proudest moment?

I was recently asked by Dartmouth College to speak to students as part of its Black Legacy Month Celebration. I was quite surprised and humbled that I was considered. I suppose that when I look back over some of the choices in my life, I have typically chosen challenging paths that required significant dedication and sacrifice. It is a blessing to be able to encourage the next generation to follow their passions and inspire them to overcome obstacles.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

When I was going through a particularly stressful time during graduate school, my aunt reminded me that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. So whenever I am at a place where I am fearful or uncertain, I remember that and move forward.

How did you make your first dollar?

Probably babysitting

Most-treasured possession?

I truly can’t think of one possession that I have that I can’t live without. I’m known for being a bit of a minimalist when it comes to “things.” I suppose I value people and experiences more than possessions.

Dream job?

My idea of a dream job has changed over time. Right now, I’m raising my children, and I love the flexibility that owning my own business brings. Since my business, Mind Boggle, is a kid-centered STEM programming business, my kids, Austin and Avery, ages 10 and 6, get to participate in the business with me. Eventually, I’d like to be able to lead my nonprofit, STEM Greenhouse, full time as the executive director. Having an opportunity to improve math and science education for minorities and girls has been a passion of mine for a very long time.

If I were president for a day, I would . . . ?

Work on equitable funding of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and building capacity for STEM research at these institutions. I doubt I would have strived to obtain a Ph.D. in engineering, had I not had the privilege of attending an HBCU.

Last book you’ve read?

“China Dolls” by Lisa See. I’m a fan of hers, and I’ve read most of her books. Chinese culture is very interesting to me.

Last thing you Googled?

Fruit experiments for kids

Your worst habit?

Leaving cabinet doors open. I have no idea why I do that.

To unwind, I like to . . . ?

I love going shopping at Target without my children. I get a cup of coffee and just wander around the aisles.

Dream vacation?

I’d love to see Disneyland Paris with my family.

Favorite food?

Nectarines

Person you most admire?

Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama. Both women are exceptional in their own ways. 

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