Communications Manager

27 May, 2021


Communications Manager

Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU)
Washington, DC

The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) are seeking a Communications Manager for the Student Experience Project (SEP). The manager will execute communications strategies to increase adoption of practices that improve students’ experience and equity on college campuses. The successful candidate will be part of a team spanning six national organizations and will work with a broad range of university leaders and constituencies across the United States. This team is looking for a highly motivated and collaborative individual who has experience implementing communication campaigns and possesses exceptional oral and written communications skills, a strategic mindset and strong project management skills, and is a self-starter.   This full-time position is based in Washington, DC and is funded for 15 months, with the possibility of extension. 


Background on USU and APLU
USU is a president-led network of public, urban-based research universities working together on transformative models to support student success and equity, while engaging deeply with urban communities. USU is permanently partnered with APLU to oversee a joint Office of Urban Initiatives.


APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 244 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.2 billion in university-based research. For more information, consult


The Student Experience Project
The Student Experience Project (SEP) is a partnership effort of APLU/USU, with several leading research and policy organizations.  Through the SEP, a cohort of six APLU/USU member universities are working together and with researchers to explore the ways in which psychological factors (e.g. social belonging, growth mindset, purpose) influence college student success, persistence and degree completion. The cohort institutions are developing and testing strategies to build equitable learning environments using a continuous improvement framework and methods.  The design supports rapid learning and solution development, with an aim to scale new approaches, tools, and resources broadly in higher education.  


The project is now entering a phase of dissemination and scaling.  In collaboration with APLU public affairs, leaders of the SEP have outlined an initial communication plan.  This position would be charged with executing that plan, while contributing new ideas and strategies.  The individual would promote findings and products with target audiences (e.g. campus administrators or faculty, national and local media, education associations, funders, policymakers), and encourage broader uptake of SEP practices as a means to increase equity in college experience and outcomes.  This role will work jointly with the USU team and APLU’s Office of Public Affairs and will liaise with SEP partner organizations and participating universities on communication activities and deliverables.


Primary Responsibilities
The primary responsibilities of the Communications Manager are as follows:

Execution of Strategic Communications 

  • In coordination and with support from the APLU Office of Public Affairs, execute communications strategies as detailed in the 2021-22 communication plan.  Activities may include:  
    • developing outreach materials (e.g. summary of findings, easily digestible data charts); 
    • highlighting compelling stories of the impact of SEP on students, faculty, and campus culture; 
    • creating communication toolkits for participating universities;
    • conducting national and local media outreach to promote SEP work; 
    • coordinating quarterly activities that spotlight SEP issues, early findings and progress such as:  webinars, media roundtables; social media campaigns; 
  • Manage project schedules and deliverables internally and with SEP partner organizations. 
  • Develop processes for documenting campus perspectives on innovative practices and lessons learned
  • Work with key stakeholders to position SEP, and its partnering organizations, as a thought leader in social-psychological research and student experience supporting equity.
  • Collaborate with the USU Executive Director and APLU Public Affairs team to ensure cohesive messaging supporting our organizational mission to improve student success and equity.


Content Creation & Dissemination 

  • Write and edit communications content, such as website materials, project updates, reports, toolkits, and other forms of communication.  Communication materials should be tailored for specific audiences, as detailed above.  
  • Ensure all content published on behalf of the organization is high-quality and consistent with APLU and USU brand and messaging as well as that of SEP..
  • Create and manage editorial calendar for ongoing SEP communications efforts, and collaborate with SEP sites and partner organizations to develop appropriate content, including:
    • Monthly blog posts 
    • Quarterly newsletter for external stakeholders
    • Maintain SEP website, regularly posting new content and resources and working with partners to manage new features or redesigns
  • Develop detailed knowledge to respond to written inquiries and represent the SEP.


Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience in the effective execution of communication strategies with multilateral partnerships, ideally in the higher education or public policy sector.  
  • Superior communication, writing, editing skills.  Experience distilling complex topics into compelling and clear messages.   
  • High level of organization, with ability to carry out project management activities with accuracy and attention to detail. 
  • Specialized experience and content knowledge in communications, a plus – for example, managing social media campaigns, graphic layout and design, infographic design, professional printing/publishing.  
  • Commitment to closing equity gaps in higher education, and awareness of the historical, social, and structural barriers facing students from underserved and marginalized communities. 
  • Ability to identify and establish priorities, work independently, and exercise sound judgment.
  • Collegial and professional manner; excellent inter-personal skills. Ability to establish effective working relationships with employees at all levels of the organization.
  • Bachelor’s degree and 4-5 years of relevant professional experience. 
  • Willingness to travel domestically once or twice a year as public health circumstances allow. 


To Apply

Please send a cover letter, resume, and two brief writing samples to APLU’s Human Resources Department at with the subject line: SEP Communications Manager. Applications will be reviewed as they are received, with priority given to those submitted by June 10, 2021. APLU is committed to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment, and supports staff with a generous benefits package. 


APLU is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and is committed to recruiting, employing, training, compensating and promoting staff regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status. 

Job posted: 2021-05-27