Communications Manager – College Excellence Program
The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also maintains offices in New York City and has 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 Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ capacity to achieve high levels of success for all students, and to eliminate disparities in postsecondary access and achievement for low-income and minority students. All of our projects are designed to improve higher education in four areas: strengthening learning; increasing completion rates, improving post-completion outcomes in community college transfer and the labor market; and increasing equity in educational outcomes for historically marginalized and underserved student populations. CEP is based in the Aspen Institute’s Washington, DC, headquarters.

Position Description:

The College Excellence Program is seeking a communications professional with experience in higher education or a related field to help elevate the program’s work across initiatives. The Communications Manager will work with CEP’s partners, including college and university leaders, collaborator organizations, and funders to synthesize insights from research, highlight promising practices, and build and sustain urgency around improving postsecondary opportunity and attainment. In addition to providing program-wide strategic communications support, the individual in this position will have a collaborative management role in developing and executing the external relations and communications strategies for several key CEP initiatives, including:

• The American Talent Initiative: An alliance co-led by the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R, the American Talent Initiative seeks to substantially expand access and opportunity for talented, lower-income students at colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates. Member institutions are enhancing their own efforts to recruit and support lower-income students, learn from each other, and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity.

• The Siemens Technical Scholars program: The Siemens Technical Scholars Program is designed to raise the profile of technical jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by celebrating exceptional community college programs that prepare young adults for such jobs and the students enrolled in those programs. Through the STS program, Aspen CEP awards scholarships to current students and recent graduates – Siemens Technical Scholars – and identifies exemplary programs from top community colleges nationally that deliver exceptional training for technical STEM jobs to hold up as a standard for young adults’ preparation and success in these industries.

In these initiatives and others, the Communications Manager will be responsible for developing and executing communications strategies, including via web and social media as well as communications to target audiences in policy, practice, research, institutional leadership, philanthropy, and the general public. S/he will also serve as an internal resource for communications strategy and work to build the program’s capacity for disciplined, aligned, and intentional external messaging and knowledge dissemination.

The ideal candidate will possess some content expertise in postsecondary education or related fields, and have a proven ability to take initiative, leverage external expertise and partnerships, cultivate strong relationships, and provide strategic analysis across program areas. We are seeking a multi-talented, action-oriented staff member who thinks critically and analytically and can translate complex ideas into succinct, impactful, substantive

communications for a wide range of audiences and purposes. Candidates must also possess strong interpersonal skills with an ability to engage with high-profile national postsecondary and philanthropic executives.

This position reports to the executive director and will work closely with the deputy director and other program managers. S/he will join a high-performing, mission-driven team and should share CEP’s commitment to our core objective of advancing postsecondary access and success.


• Conceptualize, implement, and assess communications goals and strategies across two major initiatives while supporting overall program external communications and knowledge dissemination

• Develop and disseminate high-quality written materials such as press releases and press kit documents, fact sheets, member/stakeholder engagement media, and related correspondence to advance program objectives

• Build and cultivate relationships with external thought partners and field leaders, as well as external communications consultants and partners

• Identify opportunities for and support development of thought leadership pieces in social and print media

• Manage development of high-impact videos showcasing exceptional middle-skill STEM jobs and student profiles

• Manage and/or support the planning and execution of events

• Coordinate with Aspen Institute communications team and external communications consultants to leverage the Institute’s platforms and other major media channels

• Actively participate in CEP program design and strategic planning across initiatives

• Contribute to effective engagement and stewardship of current and potential funders

• Contribute to team-wide learning and knowledge management, including drawing on and contributing to other Aspen Institute programs and resources

• Supervise staff and consultants on projects related to communications

• Identify opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of the program


• College degree and 5+ years communications or related experience

• Evidence of consistent advancement based on effectiveness in building and executing effective communications strategy, preferably in a non-profit, mission-driven setting; or experience in a political campaign or other setting focused on strategically disseminating information to build engagement and achieve social impact, and/or advanced degree in a related field (journalism, public policy, public relations, or communications)

• Knowledge of higher education or related fields (K-12 education, workforce development, etc.) preferred

• Exceptional writing skills with a focus on detail and accuracy

• Knowledge of innovative strategies and tools for media relations

• Social media and web savvy and experience working with wide range of social media tools

• Entrepreneurial acumen and drive, ability to see and respond to opportunities to strengthen and/or course correct program plan to increase impact

• Ability to work autonomously as well as collaboratively within a small team

• Awareness, knowledge, sensitivity and ability to build relationships with people of all backgrounds and communications skills, including high-profile institutional and philanthropic executive leaders

• Strong organizational skills; the ability to plan and follow through with staff and a variety of constituencies in consistent, high-quality manner

• Good interpersonal skills, including a sense of humor, humility, flexibility, and a desire to learn

• Passion for the mission and objectives of the College Excellence Program and the values of the Aspen Institute

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