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Senior Communications Manager, College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute
Washington, DC 20037
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The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Since its founding in 1949, the Institute has been driving change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most critical challenges facing communities in the United States and around the world. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

The College Excellence Program (CEP) aims to identify and replicate practices and policies that significantly improve college student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, the American Talent Initiative, and other national projects, CEP works to improve colleges' capacity to achieve high levels of success for all students, and to eliminate disparities in postsecondary attainment and social mobility for students from low-income backgrounds and historically marginalized and underserved groups. Learn more about our work at highered.aspeninstitute.org.

The College Excellence Program staff is a diverse team of driven and energetic professionals who share a commitment to increasing equitable access to and success in higher education. We are motivated by the power of education to change lives, and we work hard to have measurable impact while also pushing ourselves to learn constantly, collaborate, innovate, and take joy from our work. The Aspen Institute's D.C. headquarters provides a vibrant setting in which to pursue these goals, and we benefit from a rich array of expert panels, discussion groups, and lectures throughout the year.


The College Excellence Program advances practices that significantly improve student learning, completion, and outcomes after college, especially for the growing population of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds on American campuses. We identify what works through qualitative and quantitative research, then influence practice through several means, among them intensive leadership development programs, editorial products (including research publications and practice tools), and high-profile awards.

Our ability to drive action in the field depends on our communications efforts. We are looking for a senior communications manager to take CEP to the next level by developing and executing strategic communications initiatives across our programs. In collaboration with CEP staff and partners, including college leaders, nonprofit organizations, and funders, the senior communications manager will lead a variety of efforts to amplify our work, highlight best practices, and engage in public dialogueall with the goal of building and sustaining urgency for systems change in higher education.

Projects the senior communications manager advances include the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, a $1 million award granted biennially to the best community colleges, and the Aspen Presidential Fellowship, an intensive, cohort-based executive leadership program and robust alumni network for new and aspiring community college presidents. The manager also supports CEP's robust body of work to improve equitable outcomes in workforce development and in transfer from community colleges to four-year schools, and other emerging projects.

The senior communications manager will be an incisive thought partner, able to identify big ideas in the work; lead program teams in identifying goals, audiences, and messages (which often vary even within projects); and develop creative strategies that go beyond standard dissemination tactics. They will lead social media strategy, media placement, publication launches, event promotion, amplification for our network of community college leaders, and creative strategies we haven't yet considered.

The ideal candidate has a proven ability to take initiative, conceive and make the case for ideas, and drive processes forward even in ambiguous situations. They can synthesize complex ideas and are an excellent writer and an effective project manager. They learn quickly, think critically and analytically, and adapt when priorities change. They have experience cultivating and managing a large number of internal and external relationships, building consensus among multiple stakeholders.

Essential duties and responsibilities

  • Lead program teams in identifying communications goals and conceptualize, implement, and assess strategies aimed at external and internal audiences; efficiently manage communications projects that involve CEP staff and partners, including colleges, other nonprofit organizations, communications firms, and funders
  • Conceive and execute digital strategy, including social media, newsletter, and website, to increase the audience for our ideas and adoption of our frameworks
  • Build relationships with media; identify opportunities for and successfully pitch earned media and thought leadership commentaries
  • Translate complex ideas into succinct, impactful materials, among them press releases, fact sheets, and toolkits for partner engagement
  • Manage contracts and relationships with communications firms and other external consultants

Required experience:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • 7+ years' experience developing and executing communications strategy at a mission-driven nonprofit, communications firm, higher education institution, media organization, or other setting focused on strategically disseminating information to build engagement and achieve social impact; evidence of high-quality product development in support of strategy and goals
  • Understanding of the structures and challenges in higher education preferred
  • Proven ability to build and manage productive relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders, from junior staffers to high-profile leaders, and develop the communications capacity of an internal team
  • Experience effectively managing multiple concurrent projects
  • Entrepreneurial acumen; demonstrated ability to develop and advocate for ideas and identify opportunities to increase impact
  • Experience developing, executing, and evaluating digital strategy
  • Demonstrated success building media relationships and winning media placement, with knowledge of the education media landscape preferred
  • A talent for clear, compelling writing
  • Passion for the mission and objectives of the College Excellence Program and the values of the Aspen Institute

What it's like to work with CEP:

  1. Systems change: We are working to change the field of higher education by conducting research; translating the research into curriculum, reports, and other products; and delivering this content in multiple ways to a variety of audiences.

  2. Entrepreneurial approach: We pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial so that our work can reflect the changing nature of the field, and we can nimbly respond to trends and funding opportunities. People who are comfortable with ambiguity and are excited by seeing progress in the field typically do well at CEP.

  3. Team culture: Our team is top-notch, and we treat people well. Our team members are dedicated to seeing meaningful change in higher education, and are smart, collaborative, and do what it takes to get the job done. We are committed to the growth and development of our team members, and we deeply value diversity in our team to enrich our work and enable us to develop creative, inclusive strategies aligned to the needs of the diverse colleges and leaders we support.

To learn more about how we hire at CEP and the generous health, retirement, and other benefits offered by the Aspen Institute, please visit our website.

To apply:

All interested applicants must submit the following:

  1. A cover letter. CEP prefers cover letters that describe what motivates you and how you understand and relate to our mission, rather than a narrative version of your resume. Applications without a cover letter will not be considered.
  2. Resume/CV

The Aspen Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer and complies with all District and federal laws. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or protected veteran or disabled status and will not be discriminated against.

Candidate must have the ability to work under pressure and handle stress. Candidate must also have the ability to meet the regular attendance policy of the Aspen Institute.


Posted: 2021-06-04 Expires: 2021-07-06

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Senior Communications Manager, College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute
Washington, DC 20037

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