Karen L. Higgins
Karen Higgins earned a bachelor’s in mathematics in 1972 and a master’s in electrical engineering in 1973 from the University of Idaho. She continued her education at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California, where she received an M.B.A. and doctorate in Executive Management.
Higgins retired in 2005 after an exceptional 32-year career for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake and Point Mugu, California. China Lake, in California’s Mojave Desert, offers a wide variety of geographical features in close proximity... mountains, deserts, canyons, caves and forests. Point Mugu, west of Los Angeles on the Pacific coast, manages a huge sea range as well as facilities on San Nicolas Island. The un-encroached and unique air and land ranges at China Lake and sea ranges at Point Mugu provide unmatched geographic conditions in which to develop and test weapon systems and explore tactics for desert, mountain and ocean environments. Through over 60 years of unparalleled products, NAWCWD remains a world leader in RDT&E of complex weapon systems and subsystems, software integration, electronic warfare, energetic materials and battlespace simulation; it is especially known for inventing the chemiluminescent light stick and for designing the Sidewinder missile.
For over ten years, Higgins served in first, second and third line management for various technical departments, divisions and branches of the NAWCWD. She spent seven years as project manager for programs that include Sidewinder missile and an organization-wide communication system. She spent over eight years as a software designer and system engineer for complex real-time integrated weapons systems.
From 1997 to 2005, Higgins served in the U.S. Navy Senior Executive Service, including over seven years as executive director and director for research and engineering at NAWCWD. She oversaw NAWCWD’s $1 billion budget, $2.8 billion in facilities (more than 2,000 buildings), 1.1 million acre land range and 36,000 square mile sea range. Higgins was responsible for 5,000 civilian personnel. She was involved in strategic planning, reorganizations and downsizing, and did extensive external interface and mentoring.
Before retiring, Higgins spent two years in Washington, D.C. working with Pentagon officials to consolidate several Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force military bases. With her weapons expertise and ability to facilitate groups with diverse agendas, she was assigned to lead the Base Realignment and Closure Weapons & Armaments Technical Subgroup for OSD.
Since 2006, Higgins has been president of her own management consulting company, Élan Leadership Concepts. Her company assesses organizational functionality and leadership, and provides training courses such as “The Art & Science of Leadership” and “Morality and Leadership.
Higgins is currently an adjunct professor at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University where she teaches Project Management, Systems Thinking and Ethical Leadership to multi-national MBA, Executive MBA and doctoral students.
Higgins has recently published two books. To explore a curiosity about the financial crisis of 2008-2009, she wrote Financial Whirlpools (2013). Her second book, Economic Growth and Sustainability (2015), uses a systems perspective to investigate global trends and recommend actions to bring about a better world. She is working on a third book titled The Seven Colors of Leadership. This next book describes seven qualities (for the colors of the spectrum) that millennial generation leaders must develop to turn current trends around and to nurture human flourishing.
She is a member of the following societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi Research Society and the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society. She has received many awards, including the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award, the Presidential Rank Award, the OSD Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service and the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest civilian award. She was inducted into U of I’s Academy of Engineers in 2012.
She enjoys her grandchildren, practices yoga, writes, and loves ballroom dancing and the LA Clippers. Higgins remembers Gary Maki, her U of I professor who talked her into majoring in electrical engineering. She says that he completely changed her life.