Associate Director, Knowledge Management and Research, College Excellence Program

College Excellence Program (Aspen Institute) - Washington, District of Columbia or Remote - Full time

The Aspen Institute

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.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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 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 five areas: ensuring high-quality learning, increasing completion rates, improving community college transfer and baccalaureate attainment, increasing post-college employment and earnings outcomes, 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 student 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.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

As a core component of how CEP aims to advance community college reform, CEP conducts research into student success strategies and institutional capacities aligned to mission. The Associate Director of Research is an important member of the CEP team, working with the senior team to define research priorities, providing direction on the focus, process, and format of research products, and leading and contributing to multiple research, writing, and production processes. Through the research portfolio, she/he/they will be responsible for ensuring that resources (staffing and budget) are aligned with the delivery of high-quality research products aligned with CEP’s priorities, which currently include the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the development of multiple case studies and other tools for use in fellowships and other professional development settings, and an inquiry into rural community college excellence. In addition, they will partner with members of the senior team in resourcing research projects, will lead the process of preparing grant and related reports for funders, and will work closely with the senior team to create and oversee internal processes to streamline the connections between CEP’s research and delivery in the field.

Qualifications and Competencies:

  • BA degree required; EdD, Ph.D., JD, MPP, or other related advanced degree preferred.
  • Substantial knowledge of higher education practice and/or leadership, with a strong interest in contributing to substantial change in the field aimed at advancing student success and equity.
  • 7+ years of work conducting research, translating research into practice, or other related experience.
  • Strong ability to collaborate with senior colleagues across the program to plan for research products and formats that meet programmatic needs.
  • Capacity and interest in developing and overseeing internal processes to support knowledge sharing and connections between research and delivery in the field.
  • Strong ability to derive insights and package them into effective and easy-to-access written products and tools -- from inception through execution, design, and production -- that reflect a sophisticated understanding of key audiences’ interests, goals, and incentives.
  • Excellent writing skills and the ability to support and guide the writing of others on the team towards clear, concise, and useful products and tools.
  • Skilled at ensuring high-quality qualitative and quantitative analysis across multiple projects and aligning methodologies to project goals.
  • Advanced ability to hire, manage, and develop high-performing staff.
  • Desire to be part of a knowledgeable and expert reform-oriented team that includes researchers, project managers, process administrators, curriculum designers, communications professionals, and former college presidents.
  • Commitment to continuous improvement, including the ability to incorporate feedback into products and improve quality of individual and team products over time.
  • Ability to manage multiple projects with significant complexity involving multiple inputs, stakeholders, and timelines.

What it’s like to work with CEP

More information about our hiring practices:

  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 targeted ways to multiple audiences, including college presidents and other institutional leaders.
  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 focused on mission, are comfortable with multiple means to achieving mission, and are excited by seeing progress in the field typically do well at CEP.
  3. Team culture: Our team is top-notch, and we work to 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.
  2. Resume/CV.
  3. A sample research report for which you were the lead or sole author. Please provide a cover note explaining your role in conducting the research and writing the report, as well as that of others with whom you worked.

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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Experience Level

Senior Level

College Excellence Program (Aspen Institute)

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. The College Excellence Program (CEP) aims to identify and replicate practices and policies that significantly improve college student outcomes.
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