Careers at the Aspen Institute
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Aspen Institute employees come from a wide range of backgrounds and possess a unique blend of education, skill, and policy experience. We recognize that our people are our vital resource and we value their knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment. At the Aspen Institute we offer competitive salaries and a wide variety of benefits to our employees and their families.

If you would enjoy working in a dynamic environment and are looking for an opportunity to become part of a stellar team of professionals, we invite you to apply online today.

Policy Director

Department: EDUCATION
Location: Washington, DC

About Us:

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

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.

The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program 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 multiple levels, from elected officials and their staffers, to state chiefs and their cabinets, to networks of urban superintendents and their teams.

About the Role:

The Policy Director will have overall responsibility for the policy agenda of the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program, including strategy development, direct support to policy makers, and launching programming and new content to foster education success and authentic opportunity for social and economic mobility in America. The Director of Policy designs and leads exemplary adult learning and leadership development for policymakers, experts, advocates, scholars, and grantmakers; authors and commissions thought leadership, policy framing, and recommendations; and serves as an ambassador and spokesperson for the Education & Society Program specifically and the Aspen Institute broadly Ė all in service of enabling public education to play its role in helping young people develop a healthy sense of self and prepare for active civic engagement and success in the world of work, and increasing social and economic mobility in American society.

Working closely with the Executive Director and the broader Education & Society team, the Director of Policy will cultivate relationships with policymakers in federal and state leadership roles and partner organizations; stay current with developments in relevant research, politics, and policy making; and design programming that informs, inspires and influences education policy in states and nationally. The Director of Policy will steward ongoing work, including supervising a longstanding professional-development network for senior Congressional education staff, and will envision, plan, and execute new work to advance the programís mission, which is centered on advancing a rich vision of student and school success and equity for students of color and students from low-income families.

The successful candidate will bring a demonstrated commitment to improving public school outcomes for students who have historically been underserved and marginalized, and a belief that policy and leadership development are crucial to improving student outcomes. Succeeding in this role requires an appreciation for learning and dialogue across lines of difference and a personal orientation toward deep, empathetic listening for understanding. In addition, the Director of Policy will bring experience growing and stewarding healthy team culture and valuing diversity, equity, inclusion; developing and operationalizing strategy; and cultivating and sustaining external relationships.

The Policy Director will report to the Executive Director.

Essential responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Develop and lead a strategic agenda for Aspen Institute Education & Society Program to inform, inspire, and influence education policy, with an emphasis on helping the field define and enact a rich vision of student success, advance equity with a focus on racial and economic justice, and situate schools as engines of upward mobility.  

  • Collaborate with other members of Aspen Institute Education & Society Program to develop a strategy and project plans, goals, and timelines for expanding the programís influence and impact in the field.
    • Determine policy opportunities and barriers that are most important to address in advancing a rich vision of student success and a robust conception of equity and establish programming that engages policymakers and policy influencers in crafting policy that more effectively addresses these issues.
    • Identify issues on the horizon that need more attention to advance the programís goals.  
  • Manage/lead the Senior Education Congressional Staff Network, 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 address education policy challenges. This includes recruiting participants who reflect diversity across multiple vectors (race-ethnicity and gender, politics, geography, etc.), selecting readings and designing learning and reflection activities that bring forward sensitive and important issues for discussion and deliberation, and facilitating for participantsí personal growth, commitment to equity, and transformative leadership. One especially important convening the Director of Policy will lead and co-facilitate is an annual, 5-6 day policy-focused workshop in Aspen, Colorado, to draw energy and leadership to an especially important and vexing issue that needs new ideas, approaches and resources.
  • Conceptualize, research, and create policy briefs, frameworks, learning memos, case studies, discussion guides, presentations, op-eds, etc. for state policymakers (state education commissioners; governors offices and their cabinet-level executives, state legislators, etc.); associations and nonprofits; foundation leaders; and senior Congressional staff related to education policy and public educationís role in increasing social and economic mobility.

Contribute to Aspen Institute Education & Society Programís external profile

  • Collaborate with Aspen Institute Education & Society team to create a deeper understanding - on our team and in the field - regarding the core purposes of public education, how policy shapes the work of schools in positive and negative ways, and increase knowledge and sophistication in the field regarding the ways in which education influences social and economic mobility and the policy implications.
  • Build and maintain relationships with Congressional staffers, state commissioners and other policymakers, policy experts, advocates, and researchers to identify opportunities to positively impact the field, inform program design, and cultivate partnerships that inform our work and expand our impact.
  • Serve as the programís primary spokesperson on education policy issues, including representing the Aspen Education Program through public speaking, participating in partner organizationsí convenings, responding to media inquiries, and publishing reports and opinion commentaries.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with current and prospective funders.

Support healthy team culture on Aspen Institute Education & Society Program team

  • Manage Policy Team, including Program Associate, Program Coordinator (directly supervised by the Program Associate), and senior consultants, including for the senior Congressional staff network.
    • Affirm the identities of each teammate and model mutual respect, orientation to teamwork, and equitable distribution of work.
    • Establish goals for professional development and routines for supervision.
    • Coach employees and consultants in building content knowledge, facilitation skills, and experiencing joy in the work.
  • Close and ongoing collaboration with other directors and team overall 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:

  • 10-15 years of experience leading and/or influencing state or national education policy, advocacy and/or philanthropy gained in relevant K12 or policy organization.
  • A robust network of national and state policymakers and influencers and a deep understanding of Congress and state policymaking, and applied knowledge of how policy is designed, enacted, and implemented.
  • Skilled at and equally comfortable collaborating with and pushing policymakers, system leaders, influencers, advocates and community organizers, and educators to interrogate assumptions and develop more effective strategies, with an emphasis on ideas and policies that dismantle systemic racism and improve equity in public education.
  • Significant expertise in K12 education policy trends, especially in areas that are implicated in our programís rich vision for student success (i.e., educationís role in developing sense of self, preparing for civic engagement, and preparing for the world of work), along with an understanding and curiosity about the broader ecosystem in which school systems operate, including partnerships, programs, services and funding that support children and families experiencing poverty.
  • Highly collaborative colleague with demonstrated interest and ability to be a thought partner; willing to engage productively and confidently in ongoing discussions about ideas, issues, strategies and tactics with the Executive Director, Directors of Practice and People & Strategy, and other teammates; ability to manage up and down.
  • Visionary, strategic and creative thinker with excellent judgment who also ďgets stuff doneĒ and leads by doing as well as by influencing.
  • Culturally aware individual with a commitment to equity and healthy team culture and proven ability to implement best organizational practices for creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture.
  • Believes deeply in the power of learning and the mission of public education and that there exist opportunities to dramatically improve public education outcomes, especially for students of color and students from low-income families.
  • Believes just as deeply in forging bipartisan/nonpartisan agreements across lines of political difference and multiple identities.
  • Orientation toward learning and respect for research evidence and the wisdom of experience.
  • 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
  • Bachelorís degree required; either graduate education or commensurate experience expected.  
  • 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 convenings.

Aspen Education is committed to ensuring the diversity of our team. While not a minimum or mandatory qualification, we strongly encourage candidates of color, those who identify as Native American, women, people of low-income backgrounds, those who are differently-abled, and those with first-hand experience with economic/social challenges and inequity to apply for this role.

The Institute has implemented a mandatory COVID vaccination policy for all employees who will work at one of our physical locations, attend any of our in-person events or travel on behalf of the Institute. Staff unable to be vaccinated may request an exemption under certain circumstances.

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.

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