California Western welcomes Kiyana Kiel as its new Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement. Kiel’s prior law school administration experience includes working as Director of Academic Success and Bar Programs at University of San Diego School of Law. Before that, she served as director of the McGeorge Education Pipeline Initiative, which coordinated academic enrichment activities, community service, and service-learning programs for K-12 and college students in the Sacramento region.
Kiel, a first-generation college student, earned her undergraduate degree in American Literature & Culture from UCLA and her law degree from UC Berkeley. In addition to working in legal education, she also has worked as an attorney, focusing on real estate, land use, and environmental transactions. Her passion for environmental law stems from her upbringing on her family farm in Compton, California, where she grew up riding horses, climbing avocado trees, and collecting eggs from the chicken coop. She and her husband have lived in San Diego since 2012, and they have a two-year-old daughter.
The Commentary interviewed Dean Kiel to ask about her professional background, her goals and ambitions in her new role, and her personal interests.
Q: What is your favorite part about working with law students?
My favorite part about working with law students is twofold: (1) witnessing the drive and resilience law students exhibit throughout their legal education and careers; and (2) demystifying class and exam preparation.
Q: Did your interest in legal education start before law school, during law school, or at some point thereafter?
My interest in legal education began when I participated in the UCLA Law Fellows program as an undergraduate (Go Bruins!), and solidified when I became a law student. While in law school, an official Academic Achievement program did not exist, so many students floundered until they stumbled upon their individual ingredients for success; I was one of those floundering students.
Legal education is entirely different from most undergraduate/graduate programs and, as a result, learning how to be successful in law school is a mystery until it is not. Due to my own law school experience, I chose to pursue a career in academic support to demystify how to effectively and efficiently prepare for and succeed on law school exams, on the bar exam, and in the profession.
Q: What is your biggest goal for your upcoming year as Assistant Dean?
My biggest goal is to ensure everyone on campus, particularly students, is aware of the many resources offered through our department, Academic Achievement (located in the Student Center, 350 Building, First Floor). In doing so, I hope to get to know as many of you as I can and get feedback on current resources as I look to the development of Academic Achievement at CWSL.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for students on how they can realize their potential in law school?
Do not go it alone; ask for guidance early and often! Seek out and take advantage of the myriad of learning resources offered through the Academic Achievement department and other CWSL departments. Hunker down and prepare for 3-4 years of hard work. Work with my office to ensure your hard work is done effectively and efficiently.
Q: What are your hobbies, and what are your favorite things to do with your family and your daughter?
My hobbies/favorite things to do with my family are swimming, reading, traveling, and dancing. Otherwise, everyone in my family enjoys trying to keep up with Baby K!
Q: How did your farm upbringing influence your passion for environmental law?
Simply put, I loved it! I grew up surrounded by family (human and animals), playing in the barn, climbing anything I could, and eating organic, backyard produce before I knew what organic meant. Each summer, we prepared periodic current event reports for our grandparents. While reading newspapers to select articles, usually the Los Angeles Times and local papers, I read numerous articles addressing land use, real estate, and environmental issues/laws that seemed unfair to my young mind. The articles made a lasting impression on me.
As a small, urban farm in Compton, California, our property had to deal with numerous laws/rules/restrictions, which in many cases limited our ability to expand or increase production. In other cases, the regulations allowed negative environmental impacts. At the worst, the rules allowed contamination in the ground and air near our property. Knowledge of these existing problems led to my passion for the intersections of land use, real estate, and environmental laws because farming and farm families are impacted by all three, especially on the advocacy side.