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.

Program Manager, College Excellence Program

Department: CEP
Location: 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 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, 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 in four areas: ensuring high-quality learning, increasing completion rates, improving post-completion success in transfer or the workforce, and achieving equity in outcomes across all domains. Learn more about our work at

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 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 expert panels, discussion groups, and lectures that occur throughout the year.

About the Role:

This program manager will lead project management across a set of initiatives focused on identifying best practices that advance excellence and equity at community colleges. CEP’s program managers engage with and solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders including institutional leaders, partner organizations, internal colleagues, and funders to develop high-quality programming, research, and tools that are responsive to the greatest needs in the field.

The program manager will fill this important role for two projects, in collaboration with a project manager focused on research and analysis:

Advancing Rural Community College Success: CEP recently launched a two-year project to investigate strategies that lead to strong and continuously improving student outcomes at rural and rural-serving community colleges. Over the course of this initiative, this program manager will develop and lead processes that support research into practices at effective community colleges and advance the work, including engaging an advisory board of rural college and community leaders and planning and implementing workshops for rural college leaders in partnership with the advisory board, to take action on the findings and recommendations that result from the research. This project offers the opportunity to contribute to shaping and defining a new area of research and community college reform for CEP. 

Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence: The $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition for America’s community colleges—as President Obama called it, “basically the Oscars for great community colleges.” The Aspen Prize honors institutions with outstanding achievement in four areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and low-income students. This program manager will support the process by which experts select top colleges at various stages, organize site visits to finalist colleges, and plan in-person or virtual events to honor the Aspen Prize winners.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

CEP seeks a proven project manager skilled in balancing competing priorities and timelines to deliver high-quality results across multiple projects. Ideal candidates are curious, eager to learn and solve problems, and driven by making an impact. They have experience mobilizing teams around shared goals, a track record of collaborating with a complex range of stakeholders, and a commitment to equity in education. They can align organizational activity and resources to a high-level strategy and lead a project team to deliver high-quality outcomes on time and within budget, while keeping an eye on the big picture.

CEP's program managers grow professionally through collaboration with senior staff and exposure to thought leaders in higher education, as well as through the many opportunities the position offers for deep learning about strategies for increasing postsecondary access, equity, and success.

Specifically, the program manager will:

  • Manage projects on a tight timeline with a high level of attention to detail, quality, and professionalism.
  • Manage internal and public events—in person and virtual—with college leaders and other partners that will inform a research agenda, advance evaluation processes, disseminate best practices, and honor exemplars.
  • Serve as a critical backbone coordinator for partner organizations and other stakeholders with a focus on collaboration, engagement, outcomes, quality of content and delivery, and partnership health and effectiveness.
  • Support applied research and qualitative analysis to generate critical insights about effective strategies for improving student success and increasing equity and socioeconomic diversity in higher education.
  • Support the development of clear, actionable content and tools, and lead the development of impactful events and meetings, to facilitate dissemination of insights to a range of audiences, including college leaders and practitioners and national higher education reform organizations.
  • Maintain close control of project budgets, including tracking and reporting on grant expenditures.
  • Facilitate effective input from colleagues and senior staff, delegate tasks across team members, mentor junior program staff, and contribute to program-wide team-building and collaborative efforts.

Knowledge, Education, and Experience:

  • Excellent project management skills, including a demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects with tight and competing deadlines
  • Experience organizing meetings and events engaging a variety stakeholders
  • A problem-solving orientation and high quality standards
  • A proven collaborative demeanor: patience, great listening skills, resourcefulness, and attention to detail
  • Ability to work productively with both internal teams and larger extended teams that include contractors and third-party partners, and ability to build relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, including high-profile institutional and philanthropic leaders.
  • Professional experience in education or closely related fields preferred; commitment to educational equity a must
  • Graduate degree strongly preferred, or bachelor’s degree and equivalent experience of at least five years in a related field with a track record of accomplishment and growth.

What it’s like to work with CEP:


  1. Systems change: We are working to change the field of higher education by conducting research; translating the research into curriculum, reports, and other products; and delivering this content in multiple ways to a variety of audiences.
  2. Entrepreneurial approach: We pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial so that our work can reflect the changing nature of the field, and we can nimbly respond to trends and funding opportunities. People who are comfortable with ambiguity and are excited by seeing progress in the field typically do well at CEP.
  3. Team culture: Our team is top-notch, and we treat people well. Our team members are dedicated to seeing meaningful change in higher education, and are smart, collaborative, and do what it takes to get the job done. We are committed to the growth and development of our team members, and we deeply value diversity in our team to enrich our work and enable us to develop creative, inclusive strategies aligned to the needs of the diverse colleges and leaders we support.


To learn more about how we hire at CEP the generous health, retirement, and other benefits offered by the Aspen Institute, please visit our website.


All applicants must submit the following to be considered for the position:


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.


  1. 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 be able to comply with the regular attendance policy of the Aspen Institute.

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