Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Katharine (Kate) Adams, Stanford GSB

Katharine (Kate) Adams

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Curious and enthusiastic Midwesterner who loves to travel, hike, and cheer on the IU Hoosiers.”

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Fun Fact About Yourself: Jennifer Lawrence babysat me and my sisters once! Before she became a famous actress, she lived near my family in Louisville. I don’t remember it at all, but my parents told me about it when she was nominated for her first Oscar.

Undergraduate School and Major: Indiana University, International Studies and French

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Bain & Company, Consultant

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I want to center my career around addressing climate change at scale. There is no better launchpad for this than Stanford’s MBA program. GSB, and Stanford more broadly, offers an incredible array of climate curriculum, from entrepreneurship-focused courses like Stanford Climate Ventures to more traditional energy and environmental science classes at the new Doerr School of Sustainability. Through on-campus organizations like the Business & Environment and Energy Clubs, students gain exposure to a wide variety of sustainability topics and career opportunities.

GSB’s leadership philosophy also really resonated with me. Its emphasis on empathetic and compassionate leadership is particularly relevant in the context of climate change, since effectively communicating the case for change and motivating stakeholders to alter deeply ingrained behaviors relies on a strong ability to understand others’ perspectives. My time so far at GSB has only reinforced just how exceptional Stanford is in these dimensions.

What has been the most important thing that you’ve learned at Stanford GSB so far? In our first week at GSB, we took a course called “Managing Groups and Teams” that emphasized the importance of dissent in group decision-making. Although it’s uncomfortable to challenge apparent consensus or advocate a minority viewpoint, we learned that it leads to better decisions and can actually boost morale by showing that you’re engaged and creating space for others to share their honest opinion. This theme has resurfaced throughout my GSB experience in different ways. In another course, Lead Labs, I saw how naming the ways a team isn’t functioning well creates a sense of relief. The weekly TALK tradition, in which students share highly personal stories with their GSB classmates, has shown me how vulnerability can build a strong sense of community and belonging. The power of saying the uncomfortable will be a core lesson I take away from Stanford.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Stanford GSB? I’ve really enjoyed my finance classes. Although I had done some financial modeling at work, I had never formally learned the theory underlying the methodology and had very narrow exposure to the field. Finance can be intimidating to the uninitiated, so it’s empowering to feel like I can now hold my own in conversations about a much wider range of financial topics. The finance class I’m taking this quarter is particularly cool. It aims to develop our fluency in financial language by unpacking key elements of corporate finance and then bringing in a phenomenal roster of investors and CFOs to explain how they’ve thought about these issues throughout their careers. These guests often go off script to point out problems they see in the market, implicitly challenging us to solve them. There’s kind of a magic to sitting in class and knowing that one of my peers very well might.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far? Give an example why this is true. So far, I’ve found that warmth and humility are pretty much universal in my class. My classmates are genuinely curious about each other, wanting to get to know one another as people and always checking in on each other. Although everyone is incredibly accomplished, they’ll never tell you unless you ask. I think these qualities are what makes the GSB’s community so special.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2021, I spent six months in Nairobi working at BioLite, a clean energy company that sells off-grid household solar and clean cookstoves. I helped determine the optimal structure of a carbon credit financing deal that lowered BioLite’s cookstove prices and consequently drove significant sales growth. This enabled thousands of customers in East Africa to access cleaner cooking, reducing their exposure to household air pollution and decreasing the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? If I’m being honest: tripling my average run distance. (And don’t get any ideas about my athleticism. I was starting from a base of 2 miles.)

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far?

Off Campus: Jumping out of a plane with a few of my classmates in New Zealand!

On Campus: Just about any event put on by the GSB’s Corporations and Society Initiative (CASI). Whether it’s challenging my assumptions about the best way to have impact in my career or teaching me about issues with the current regulatory regime for U.S. banks, CASI’s programming is always thought-provoking.

 What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2026? Don’t waste time thinking about what the admissions office might want to hear, just focus on sharing your authentic voice. They truly want to hear what matters most to you – that famous essay prompt isn’t a trick! And don’t stress yourself out by comparing yourself to other prospective applicants or current students. Stanford creates an extraordinarily diverse class where there’s room for every story.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.