Educational pursuit benefits families in need

klein (Download Image) Julie Klein, a 30-year employee at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, received her bachelor’s degree in leadership and organizational studies from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga with the help of the Laboratory’s Education Assistance Program. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

Editor's Note: During the HOME Campaign, Public Affairs will run a series of articles about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees who volunteer for various nonprofit agencies.


From finding solutions to complex IT problems at work to pursuing a degree while working full time and helping a charitable organization identify needs for community services, Julie Klein always has found a way to turn challenges into opportunities.

With more than 30 years of experience under her belt at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Klein’s career trajectory went from IT support roles to a dual role in management as associate program leader for portals/content/search/web and deputy program leader for Workforce Enablement for the LivIT program (matrixed from Computation). Throughout her career, she has worked on a variety of large-scale IT projects at the institutional level, developing solutions to help the Laboratory and employees accomplish their missions.

Even with Klein’s success at work, there was one thing she felt she needed to do -- get a college degree. "It has long been a personal goal to get my bachelor’s degree but I never made the time to make it happen," said Klein. "As I approached 50 it became even more important: You might say it was a bucket list item." 

After deciding the time was right, Klein applied for, and was approved for, the Laboratory’s educational assistance program. In September 2013, she began her journey in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in leadership and organizational studies (BALOS) from Saint Mary’s College located in Moraga.

Klein’s final project for the program, a capstone project with her BALOS cohort, was the lofty task of "partnering with a nonprofit community organization, plan and implement a community-based research project that will help the community partner meet its needs and better serve the community."



The project, selected by St. Mary’s College and Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB), was to help Catholic Charities "identify the needs of the poor and marginalized in East Contra Costa County as well as existing service providers with whom they could partner to bridge social service gaps." The main mission of CCEB is to help families in need rise above poverty and live self-sufficient lives. They provide a range of services that move youth and families from crisis to stability to prosperity.

Klein and her cohort of 21 students, organized into 11 teams with 18 different leaders over several project phases, performed more than 2,900 service hours to complete the project. Klein, who logged more than 300 hours of community service within nine weeks, gained a sense of pride and accomplishment from the experience. 

"It was a great project and very relevant to my work at LLNL," said Klein. "A big part of my job is project management. Leading the capstone project taught me more about leading diverse project teams and it enhanced my project implementation skills," Klein said. "I also learned more about leading projects where there was no express authority over the project team members; they were my peers, not my direct reports."

The experience, while rewarding, was not immune to challenges. "Organizing a cohort of 21 students with a variety of work/life schedules, skills and cultural backgrounds to deliver a project of that size was a big challenge from a project management perspective," Klein said.  "The short time frame and large scope of the project were the biggest challenges."

The results of Klein’s project provided CCEB with insight into the services that are needed and the differences in needs in the Antioch and Brentwood communities. They also introduced CCEB to a vast network of service providers and citizens in the Antioch and Brentwood communities.

"Through the capstone project I gained experience working and leading a diverse project team," said Klein. "It started out as a capstone project for a grade, however, in the middle of the project it really became evident that it was about getting something done for the good of the communities. I realized the project had the ability to affect the lives of so many people who needed help in East Contra Costa County.  

Klein finished her program in August, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree.

"Among other things, the BALOS program helped me become more self-aware, to affect change in myself, to embrace differences, to read and think more critically and to understand leadership at all levels," said Klein. "All of those skills are necessary in my role here at LLNL. I am a much better leader because of the program."

Klein is decompressing after completing the BALOS program, getting reacquainted with family and sleeping on a regular schedule. "I intend to continue volunteering in the community and get back to photography," said Klein. "I also am considering returning for an MBA, but have not made that decision yet."

Going back to school while working full time can be difficult. Klein’s advice for those interested in following in her footsteps is to "surround yourself with supportive people and talk to others who have been through it. Embrace the fact that you are going to give up some of the activities you enjoy and know that it is temporary. Believe you can do it and then go for it."

If you would like to volunteer or donate to CCEB, visit the website.