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Assistant Director, Policy

Washington DC


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.

The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program (Aspen Education) improves public education by inspiring, informing, and influencing education leaders across policy and practice, with an emphasis on achieving equity for students of color and students from low-income families. Aspen Education supports leaders at all levels, from networks of urban superintendents and their teams, to state chiefs and their cabinets, to elected officials and their staffers.

Aspen Education is focused on:

  1. Advancing a richer vision of student success that integrates the social, emotional, and academic dimensions of learning as essential to advancing equity;
  2. Transforming education systems so that they can sponsor and model exemplary learning and continuous improvement practices;
  3. Developing education leaders to achieve transformation in learning, equity, and efficacy;
  4. Understanding and addressing poverty in America by fostering connections across education and: housing, health and nutrition, transportation, and criminal justice policy and addressing the impact of race and racism on opportunity in America.

And does this work by:

  1. Hosting thought-provoking convenings of diverse leaders from the district, state, national and federal levels that create powerful learning experiences that support and make explicit connections across policy and practice;
  2. Developing resources and tools for national, state, and local policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropy leaders to disseminate lessons and promising practices in a nonpartisan, non-ideological way;
  3. Cultivating and fostering partnerships to inform and challenge our thinking, surface and spread promising practices and recommendations, and share and apply our resources and tools.

The Assistant Director will have overall responsibility for the policy agenda of the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program, including strategy development, direct support to policymakers, and launching programming and new content to foster educational success and economic and social mobility in America.  The Assistant Director will design, plan, and execute exemplary learning experiences for policy leaders, with a focus on how various federal and state policies and programs can improve economic and social mobility and education outcomes. This work will complement and leverage the program's deep work on education improvement. The Assistant Director for Policy will report to the Managing Director.

Essential responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Develop and lead a strategic agenda for how Aspen Education will frame economic and social policy issues, convene key leaders, and make connections across and between education and economic/social policy.

  • Collaborate with other members of Aspen Education to develop a strategy and project plan, goals, and timelines for expanding the program’s work to strengthen education-specific work and expand into related economic and social policy issues.
  • Conceptualize, research, and create resources (policy briefs, frameworks, learning memos, case studies, discussion guides, op-eds etc.) for state policymakers (governors offices and their cabinet-level executives, state legislators, etc.) associations and nonprofits; foundation leaders; and senior Congressional staff related to education policy and the broader the economic and social mobility agenda.
  • Serve as project lead on the Aspen Congressional Staff Networks on education and Mobility from Poverty, including liaising with senior Congressional staff and field leaders; identifying topics, locations, and leaders to advance bipartisan relationships and learning; distilling learning from network events in confidential memos and public statements; supervising consultants, facilitating convenings, and managing timelines/deliverables against established budgets.
  • Plan and facilitate a variety of convenings (virtual and in-person roundtables, retreats, multi-day workshops, panels and public events, etc.) to create space for policy leaders to learn about, and then act on economic, social, and education policy challenges.

Development and maintenance of Aspen Education’s external profile

  • Collaborate with Aspen team to create a deeper understanding on our team and in the field regarding connections between education and mobility from poverty
  • Build and maintain relationships with Congressional staffers, policy experts, advocates, and researchers to inform the Aspen Congressional staff networks on Education and Mobility from Poverty
  • Represent the Aspen Education Program externally, including through public speaking and media engagements.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with current and prospective funders

Support internal health of Aspen’s Education & Society team

  • Manage Policy Team:
    • Program Associate
    • Program Coordinator
  • Close and ongoing collaboration with the Assistant Director, Practice and overall Practice team to ensure alignment and ability to recognize program opportunities and coherence
  • Ensure adherence to all ethics rules, including working with Aspen administrative and legal staff
  • In coordination with Aspen team, manage budgets and grants-management timelines; draft grant proposals and reports, and contracts relevant to policy work

About You:

  • Ten or more years working in policy (e.g., former elected official, state or federal government staff)
  • Bachelor’s degree required, higher education preferred
  • Expertise in policy, and commitment to increasing education success and mobility from poverty and improving life outcomes especially for people of color and people from low-income backgrounds
  • A robust network and deep understanding of Congress and/or state policy leaders
  • Excellent project management skills, including but not limited to organization and facilitation of meetings, managing multiple timelines and leading teams to the successful completion of multi-layered projects
  • Design and execution of exemplary adult learning experiences, including content development, research, and resource evaluation, and high-quality facilitation
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, including but not limited to distilling salient points into summaries and drafting professional correspondence
  • Committed to and experience advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across all functions, engagements, and relationships
  • Ability and willingness to travel up to 20% of the time. Occasional night and weekend work required, usually as part of the planning or execution of site visits

Posted July 24, 2020


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$500,000/yr