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Director, Communications (Hybrid DC-area)

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute

Marketing & Communications
Washington, DC, USA
Posted on Saturday, August 12, 2023

The Aspen Institute

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, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

To achieve our mission of a more free, just, and equitable society, we commit to working proactively to advance the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion across our myriad endeavors such as the recruitment, compensation, training, and advancement of staff. The best people-serving institutions make this commitment, and we seek to be a leader in the ways that we do so and learn from others. Visit our website to learn more about our commitment and recent actions taken toward building and nurturing a diverse and inclusive environment.

Program Description:

Aspen Institute’s 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, a portfolio of projects to improve transfer outcomes, and other highly visible national projects, the College Excellence Program 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. Our work focuses on improving higher education institutions in six areas: ensuring high-quality learning, increasing completion rates, improving community college transfer and baccalaureate attainment, increasing post-college employment and earnings outcomes, ensuring strong access to college credentials of value, and achieving equity in outcomes across all domains. We advance those outcomes by quantitatively identifying and publicly elevating those colleges achieving excellent and equitable outcomes, conducting research on how those outcomes were accomplished, publishing reports and practical tools to support college leaders and practitioners interested in replicating effective practices, and conducting professional development programs for presidents, senior teams, board of trustees, and others. Learn more about our work at https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/

The College Excellence Program staff is a diverse team of talented professionals who share a commitment to increasing student 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 and innovate, and take joy from our work. The Aspen Institute's DC headquarters provides a vibrant setting in which to pursue these goals, and we benefit from a rich array of programs and staff within the broader institute.

Basic Function:

The College Excellence Program’s ability to drive action in the field depends on our communications efforts. We seek a director of communications to play a vital role in leading strategic communications initiatives across our programs. In collaboration with CEP program leaders, staff, and partners – including college presidents, nonprofit organizations, and funders – the director of communications will develop and implement communications strategies to achieve program goals and advance CEP-wide messages with the goal of building and sustaining urgency for systems change in higher education. The director is a member of the CEP senior leadership team.

The Director of Communications will collaborate with CEP directors to lead program teams in identifying goals, audiences, and messages for our initiatives, which can be explored here: highered.aspeninstitute.org/projects/. This person will work closely with the Executive Director and other members of the senior team to develop and execute communications strategies, including nuanced relational and advocacy strategies. They will lead social media strategy and overall digital strategy (with the support of a communications associate), media relations and placement (with the support of an external firm, as needed), and the celebration and amplification of our network of Higher Ed leaders.

This is a hands-on role; the director will also execute against these strategies, produce content in collaboration with program teams and external vendors, and ensure the quality of various products developed and disseminated by CEP.

The ideal candidate has a proven ability to take initiative, conceive and make the case for ideas, and drive processes forward in rapidly changing and at times ambiguous situations. They can synthesize complex ideas and manage projects effectively. They learn quickly, think critically and analytically, and adapt when priorities change. They have experience cultivating and managing many internal and external relationships.

In accordance with our Reimagining Work policy, the Director of Communications should be willing to be in-person with colleagues a minimum of 40% of the time while having the flexibility to work remotely for the balance. In-person consists of meaningful connections with colleagues in an office, traveling to a different office or location to meet fellow staff members, at an Aspen event, at a meeting outside the office or other opportunities to meet in person with teammates and colleagues.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Work closely with Executive Director and other senior team members to advance CEP’s core messages through media, conference presentations, and other venues.
  • Develop/maintain the CEP website, branding material, fundraising and marketing materials, infographics, and editing and publication of case studies and major reports.
  • Partner with program directors and teams to identify communications goals and conceptualize, implement, and assess the effectiveness of 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.
  • Play a lead role in communications, and event planning and execution, for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and other highly visible projects and events.
  • Lead digital strategy, including via social media, newsletters, and website content.
  • Build relationships with media, and identify opportunities for and successfully pitch stories and thought leadership commentaries.
  • Translate complex ideas into succinct, impactful materials, including press releases, fact sheets, and toolkits.
  • Lead communications team (Senior Writer/Editor, Senior Comms Manager, and Digital Media/Events Associate), aligning efforts across the organization.
  • Lead project management strategy for written content across the organization and, at times, serve as a project manager for specific products.
  • Manage contracts and relationships with communications firms and other external consultants.
  • With the Senior Writer/Editor, steward a brand voice and own quality standards for published content.

Knowledge, Education, and Experience

  • Bachelor's degree required
  • 10+ years’ experience developing and executing communications 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, with a preference for those with higher education experience
  • Excellent writer and editor with a strong ability to ensure high quality written products, publications, and presentation material
  • Experience working with researchers and data is preferred
  • Proven ability to build and sustain productive relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders and effectively manage 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 in building media relationships and earning media placement
  • Passion for the mission and objectives of the College Excellence Program and the values of the Aspen Institute

To apply:

All interested applicants must submit the following:

  1. A one-page 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.
  3. Two writing samples of any length that you created without help or editing from others.

The Aspen Institute offers a generous benefits package including health, dental, vision, and prescription benefits, retirement benefits, and paid leave.

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.