Location: Flexible; Washington, DC or Oakland, CA preferred
Reports To: President
FLSA Status: Full-time/Exempt


The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) is a national non-profit based in Washington D.C. and Oakland, California. We are a trusted source of research, design, and advocacy for student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. We conduct and disseminate research, build diverse coalitions, develop policy solutions and advocate for their adoption nationally, in California, and in Michigan.

Our programmatic work spans college access, affordability, and success, particularly for historically marginalized students. Our program work aims to strengthen student financial aid, increase federal support for public higher education, simplify the student loan repayment system, and expand evidence-based comprehensive college support strategies that improve student success. We also seek to ensure colleges are held appropriately accountable for student outcomes, and that students have the information they need to make informed decisions about where to go to college and how to pay for it.

We nurture close relationships with policymakers, providing specific recommendations that help them navigate legal, budgetary, and political hurdles. We build momentum for new policies by building diverse coalitions of advocates and constituents and by driving media coverage. We pride ourselves on the impact of our work and are known for our reliable research, carefully designed policy recommendations, and partnerships with policymakers, community organizations, and advocates.

Job purpose

The Associate Vice President/Senior Director of Strategic Communications and External Affairs advances TICAS’s mission by increasing the reach and impact of our work: enhancing our overall reputation for excellence and expertise; strengthening relationships with policymakers, key audiences and partners; raising the visibility of TICAS’s leaders and experts; and shaping our public image.

This position oversees TICAS’s external relationships and communications efforts, working closely with the executive, research, and policy teams to deploy a cohesive, proactive, and influential communications and outreach strategy. The position will propose, execute, and manage efforts to promote the organization’s expertise and provide analysis on the impact of communications activities. This position reports directly to the President/CEO, and manages the communications team, consultants, and vendors.

As a member of TICAS’ Management Team, the Director will also contribute to the overall culture of the organization, help deepen the organization’s partnerships and alliances, seek alignment across new and existing program areas, and support fundraising efforts.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Strengthen and deepen connections to key audiences, including policymakers, collaborators, public organizations and partners, and develop and lead efforts to expand TICAS’s reach to new strategic audiences.
  • Develop and execute annual public relations/media relations strategy and communications plan that raises the profile of the organization and its research.
  • Advance TICAS’s programmatic and policy priorities by positioning the organization as a leading voice in higher education and promoting TICAS among external stakeholders, select reporters and editorial boards, and thought leaders.
  • Serve as the senior strategic advisor and lead on public affairs initiatives to the President.
  • Manage strategic press relations and field/triage incoming press inquiries, including working with the President/CEO and program staff to develop talking points for interviews.
  • Oversee and review content creation for TICAS’s communications platforms.
  • Oversee development and execution of communications and marketing plans for individual programs and research projects in conjunction with the President/CEO, Vice President, and key policy staff.
  • Amplify and protect TICAS’s brand, including visual look and feel, tone, and style.
  • Work closely with senior staff to establish and meet benchmarks for quality and success across platforms and programs.
  • Enhance strategic collaboration among communications, research, and policy teams.
  • Oversee maintenance and updates to the website.
  • Manage communications vendors, including for graphic design and data visualization.
  • Oversee the publication and dissemination of TICAS products.
  • Manage, coach, and mentor communications staff
  • Regularly assess effectiveness and impact of communications strategies and tactics and recommend adjustments as necessary to maximize reach.
  • Manage the budget for the department and communications projects.
  • Travel 10% of the time.
  • Skills and qualifications
  • Minimum of six years of experience in strategic communications/external affairs roles, including at least two years of staff management experience.
  • Knowledge of the higher education sector and familiarity with public policy and advocacy.
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication and organizational skills.
  • Strong management skills and dedication to supporting staff.
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Ability to exercise good and sound judgment.
  • Excellent at working in a team and independently.
  • Can balance both short- and longer-term priorities.
  • Exceptional attention to detail and commitment to continuous improvement.

Compensation: $115,000-$140,000

Benefits: TICAS offers a selection of health plans, dental/vision insurance, a 401k plan with employer match, 15 paid holidays plus summer hours, and a generous vacation/leave policy.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

TICAS is committed to sustaining a diverse community with a work environment that is welcoming, respectful, and encouraging to all. TICAS fosters a culture of inclusion that celebrates and cultivates diversity along multiple dimensions, including race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, national origin, socioeconomic status, religion, culture, and experience.

TICAS strongly encourages applicants from diverse and historically underrepresented backgrounds to apply.

Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Application process

Candidates should submit a brief cover letter (no more than one page) and resume to careers@ticas.org. In your cover letter (no more than one page), please include:

  • Why you are passionate about TICAS’ mission
  • How you believe you are the right fit for this position

Please include two professional references.