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Research Associate/Senior Research Associate College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute

Job Description

Research Associate/Senior Research Associate College Excellence Program

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 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 access and outcomes for historically marginalized and underserved student populations. CEP is based in the Aspen Institute’s Washington, DC, headquarters.

Basic Function:

As a core component of how CEP aims to advance college reform, CEP conducts research on student success strategies and institutional capacities aligned to advancing our mission. Our research focuses on providing actionable insights into what college presidents, other senior leaders, and their teams can do to reform both internal operations and external partnerships with employers and other educational institutions to advance student success and equity. Aspen utilizes its research products – including reports, assessment tools, case studies and inquiry guides – to both inform the field broadly and to deliver content in multiple professional development sessions including presidential fellowships and convenings, state partnerships, and college-team training sessions.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

Qualitative and Quantitative Research:

  • Conducts background research for literature reviews

  • Designs qualitative research interview guides, conducts research interviews with higher education executives and practitioners, and records interview findings into organized notes

  • Uses Microsoft Excel or other data tools like Tableau to conduct basic data analyses using sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the American Community Survey—works with the director and other teammates to determine the right questions to ask

  • Synthesizes qualitative and quantitative information into summaries and/or literature reviews

  • Translates findings of data analyses and qualitative research into compelling narratives and action-oriented products for higher education executives, such as slide decks, short case studies, frameworks, and infographics

  • Contributes to short (e.g., blog posts, case studies) and long-form research products (e.g., The Transfer Playbook, The Workforce Playbook)

Project Management:

  • Lead the project management of the research process (e.g., setting project timelines; scheduling virtual research interviews, in-person site visits to campuses, project check-ins with collaborators and research team; managing deadlines)

  • Manage the editorial, design, and publication processes for written products

Competencies and Experience:

You’ve spent (and enjoyed!) time on teams that produce slide decks, memos, and other internal and external deliverables that ultimately land in the hands of top-level executives or explain expert research to general audiences. You love working with others to connect dots and puzzling over the best way to simplify complex ideas and string together a compelling narrative that leads decision-makers to action.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree preferred (or 4 years of work experience in qualitative and quantitative research)

  • More than 1 year of relevant experience (including experiences during school) for associates, more than 3-4 years of relevant experience for senior associates. We will determine your seniority based on your experience level in both research and project management.

  • Excellent written and oral communications skills; ability to write and edit research deliverables suitable for executive-level audiences or consumption by the general public

  • Strong project management skills, and ability to set and meet deadlines across multiple multi-part projects

  • Ability to navigate data sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the American Community Survey

  • Ability to perform beginner-to-intermediate-level analyses in Microsoft Excel (e.g., weighted averages, parse large datasets by different variables)

  • You are excited by the idea of harnessing the complexities of collaboration and truly believe that collaboration produces a better product than you could have achieved on your own

  • Reputation for internalizing feedback to take your work to the next level

  • Animated by CEP’s mission to improve higher education outcomes for historically marginalized communities through institutional excellence


  • Ability to perform basic SQL functions

  • Experience working with higher education executives (presidents, provosts, boards of trustees)

Travel: This role will require 10-15% travel

What it’s like to work with CEP

More information about our hiring practices: https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/how-we-hire/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • A cover letter. Please describe what motivates you, your connection to our mission, and why you are interested in working with CEP. Applications without a cover letter will not be considered

  • Resume/CV.

  • 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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