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Program Manager, Frontier Set - College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute
Washington, DC 20037
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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.

Aspen supports more than 60 diverse programs, bringing a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives all aimed at doing the most good for the greatest number of people. These leaders are framing problems in creative ways and developing innovative and actionable steps to make demonstrable change. They are leading on every issue with a tool kit stocked for solution-buildingalways valuing reason, hope, drive, creativity, freedom, integrity, and humanity.

As the higher education program within the Institute, the College Excellence Program (CEP) aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student learning, completion, and employment after collegeespecially for students of color and low-income students.

Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the American Talent Initiative, 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 students and students of color. All 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. Learn more about our work at https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/

Basic Function:

Working closely with internal colleagues and external partners, the program manager will be responsible for the management and execution of projects focused on advancing the replication of promising practices for improving student success and equity in community colleges. This role requires exceptional project and relationship management skills, an understanding of effective strategies for communicating with diverse audiences, and the ability to work collaboratively with external stakeholders to bring about high-quality outcomes. This position specifically also requires a skilled listener and translator capable of identifying the needs of institutional leaders and practitioners in order to develop high-quality, impactful research and support.

This position will focus primarily on deriving actionable insights from multiple forms of quantitative and qualitative data in order to produce content (tools, practice guides, instructional content, etc.) and develop support services to help institutional leaders and practitioners plan, prioritize, and implement key student success and equity reforms. The manager will initially be focused primarily on leading Aspen's role as the intermediary partner for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Frontier Setan initiative bringing together 29 postsecondary institutions and two state systems as a learning community focused on implementing transformational change to increase student success and eliminate gaps by race/ethnicity and income. In its capacity as an intermediary support partner, CEP supports the 12 community colleges in the Frontier Set with pass-through grants; identifies and brokers technical assistance services in partnership with other intermediaries; and carries out a robust learning agenda aimed at understanding institutional transformation. The program manager will play a lead role in each of these components, while over time contributing to and independently leading related research and programming across CEP's portfolio.

The ideal candidate has both an analytic orientation and experience in research, is a skilled listener, and has experience building strong relationships with a variety of stakeholders. They will be creative and eager to learn on the job, bring a collaborative spirit to the work, and have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage projects on a tight timeline with an extremely high level of attention to detail, quality, and professionalism.
  • Manage the development and implementation of a research site visit schedule, in collaboration with other Frontier Set support partners, including outreach to institutions, agenda development, liaising with college contacts, attending focus groups and interviews, and collecting and synthesizing field notes.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with partners and other stakeholders in the field with a focus on collaboration, engagement, outcomes, and quality of content and delivery.
  • Maintain frequent communication and strong relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders
  • Own and execute project plans for Frontier Set research and support delivery
  • Craft and disseminate relevant practice guides, conference presentations, blog posts, and other forms of knowledge-sharing
  • Independently and proactively research and maintain a record of emerging best practices in the field of higher education to inform the development of convenings and workshops that support the reform efforts of a network of high-performing community college.
  • Other duties as needed

Desired Knowledge, Education, and Experience:

  • Bachelor's degree; graduate degree in higher education, MPP/MPA, or similar field preferred.
  • 5+ years of professional experience and knowledge of/experience working in higher education.
  • Experience in research, broadly defined, with proven ability to identify and articulate strategic research questions, organize qualitative and quantitative information to facilitate efficient analysis, and conduct inquiry to yield actionable insights for practitioner audiences.
  • Outstanding organizational skills, with emphasis on time-management, attention to detail and the ability to plan, organize and carry out multiple activities with sometimes competing deadlines.
  • Excellent project management skills, including a demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects with tight deadlines
  • Strong writing ability (a written performance task will be required as part of the application process).
  • Excellent communication skills and a customer-service orientation.
  • Comfort with working under pressure and tight deadlines in a fast-paced environment with high expectations for quality work.
  • Ability to work both autonomously and as part of a close-knit team.
  • Willingness to carry out administrative and logistical tasks that support program priorities.
  • Comfort with ambiguity and enthusiasm for problem-solving and finding creative approaches to achieve project goals.
  • Expert user of Microsoft Office Suite, including strong Excel skills.
  • Strong interest and professional experience in higher education, organizational change, and community college student success, and a commitment to advancing equity in postsecondary education.
  • Some travel (25%) required under normal circumstances (i.e., post-COVID). Aspen staff are not expected to travel if doing so poses a health risk.

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.

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.

Posted: 2020-09-28 Expires: 2020-10-30

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Program Manager, Frontier Set - College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute
Washington, DC 20037

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