Communications Manager – American Talent Initiative
Aspen Institute College Excellence Program

Position Location:  Washington, D.C.

The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, 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, and other initiatives, the program works to improve colleges’ capacity to achieve high levels of success for all students, and to eliminate disparities for low-income and minority students on U.S. campuses. 

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


One of CEP’s key strategies to advance talent development and social mobility is the American Talent Initiative, a program co-led by the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. ATI seeks to substantially expand access and opportunity for talented lower-income students at colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates. ATI supports and connects its 128 member schools in their efforts to set and achieve goals to recruit and support lower-income students and works to advance the issue of socioeconomic diversity in higher education more broadly in the field. Learn more at

The communications manager for ATI will lead the ongoing development and execution of ATI’s communications strategy. The strategy, developed in collaboration with member institutions, funders, and nonprofit partners, has two primary strands.

First, with the support of the communications manager, ATI engages in external communications—targeting audiences in policy, philanthropy, higher education institutions, and the general public—to build and sustain urgency for systems change in higher education, through the synthesis and dissemination of research, social media campaigns, the development and placement of commentaries by thought leaders, media pitches to showcase progress and promising practices, and other strategies.

Second, ATI provides communications guidance and tools to its member colleges and universities in order to highlight successes, elevate the voices of institutional leaders in support of socioeconomic diversity, and promote aligned and intentional messaging. The communications manager leads these efforts and engages with communications officers at member institutions individually and collectively to advance ATI’s goals.

The ideal communications manager candidate has a proven ability to take initiative, conceive and make the case for ideas, and drive processes forward even in ambiguous situations. 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, and engaging with high-profile executives.

Essential duties and responsibilities

  • Lead team in the process of identifying communications goals and conceptualize, implement, and assess strategies aimed at external and internal audiences; efficiently manage communications projects that involve CEP staff, external consultants, and large numbers of stakeholders at partner institutions, including colleges, communications firms, and funders
  • Increase ATI’s public visibility by identifying opportunities for and successfully pitching earned media and supporting development of thought leadership commentaries
  • Translate complex ideas into succinct, impactful communications for a wide range of written materials, such as press releases, fact sheets, and toolkits for member engagement
  • Engage with communications and other representatives from member colleges—through an advisory group, webinars, and other means—to improve communications tactics and provide support for them to promote their institutions’ progress toward ATI’s goals
  • Manage the engagement of communications firms and other external consultants

Required experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • 5+ years’ experience developing and executing communications strategy at a mission-driven nonprofit, higher education institution, political campaign, media organization, or other setting focused on strategically disseminating information to build engagement and achieve social impact
  • Proven ability to initiate and manage projects with numerous stakeholders, guided by a strong sense of strategic direction; the ability to plan and follow through with staff and partners in a consistent, organized, high-quality manner
  • Entrepreneurial acumen and drive; demonstrated ability to develop and advocate for ideas and identify opportunities to strengthen program plans to increase impact
  • Experience building and managing productive relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders, from junior staffers to high-profile executives
  • Editing skills and a demonstrated talent for clear, effective writing
  • Passion for the mission and objectives of the College Excellence Program and the values of the Aspen Institute

Preferred experience:

  • Professional knowledge of higher education
  • Demonstrated success building media relationships and placing feature stories and op-eds
  • Experience developing, executing, and evaluating social media strategy
  • Experience managing relationships with communications consultants and other vendors

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.

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