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Merrilea Mayo, Ph.D.

The Seeker

Merrilea Mayo, Ph.D.

Founder of Mayo Enterprises, LLC
Chief Information and Research Officer, Innovate+Educate

The Seeker


Dr. Mayo is the founder of Mayo Enterprises, LLC, a consultancy in the areas of innovation, workforce, technology, and the future of learning. Her current focus is on workforce skills: how they differ from academic skills, and what this difference implies for employer hiring practices and academic instruction. In her Innovate+Educate role, she also devises on-the-ground implementation of these models in New Mexico and beyond. Dr. Mayo has strong interests in game-based learning, which she indulged in as a Director at the Kauffman Foundation, and in a wide range of science policy issues, which informed her stint as the Director of GUIRR at the National Academies.

Dr. Mayo has had a founding role in two nonprofits: ASTRA (an advocacy organization for the physical sciences) and the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (an organization devoted to improving the ability of companies and universities to conduct joint research). Dr. Mayo is a materials scientist and engineer by training, having received her doctorate in that field from Stanford University in 1988, publishing approximately 80 technical articles, and serving as the Materials Research Society’s president in 2003.

Q&A With Merrilea Mayo

What is the landscape of employer hiring practices today?

We live in a world where many hiring decisions are based on misinformation, where we use personal networking as a proxy for empirical data. Hiring should be as simple, straightforward, and efficient as “Googling” something. Creating a more meritocratic approach to hiring will better connect employers to individuals who have the right skills.

How does the way we educate factor into this?

We have always focused on education as the endgame, but education should be a means to an end. The endgame is a job and a life.

What excites you about working with the ACT Foundation?

I think we have an opportunity as the Aces Research Network to produce a real breakthrough product because of the diverse backgrounds among the group. Close collaboration among dissimilar people either blows up spectacularly or creates something of incredible value. I’m hoping for the latter.

What are some fundamental values of the research you hope to conduct?

We need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. What I mean is that whatever we are developing needs to be developed from the mindset that it is also for “us,” not just for “them.” If a product, program, or policy does not work for us, we have no audacity to say it will work for someone else. I think that it is extremely important to leave this elitism out of our research.

How do you hope to make this research different?

We need to make sure stakeholders can understand, use, and interact with our research. This means pushing our products and ideas into the market so they are more widely available, and establishing metrics that tell us if what we invented is really being valued and used.

What does success look like?

Success is creating a world where if you have the skills, you get the job.

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