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Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Affairs

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The American Council on Education (ACE) is a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. ACE is working toward a vision of a vibrant democratic society that relies on postsecondary education to expand knowledge, equity, and social progress. ACE demonstrates its core values of inclusion, excellence, innovation, collaboration, and impact in the work we do and how we serve our members. Our work is driven by three strategic priorities: (1) Affirm and Strengthen Public Trust in Postsecondary Education, (2) Champion Equity, Access, and Completion, and (3) Enrich the Capacity of Institutions and Leaders to Innovate and Adapt.

The Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Affairs reports to President Ted Mitchell and is a member of the President’s Cabinet. The Senior Vice President oversees a substantial professional staff in the Government Relations division, directing comprehensive efforts to engage federal policymakers on a broad range of issues including student aid, regulation, scientific research, tax policy, civil rights, and immigration. This role is responsible for convening and providing strong leadership for the Washington Higher Education Secretariat in its efforts to identify and respond to public policy challenges and opportunities that could affect colleges and universities and their students. The Senior Vice President also identifies and executes an affirmative policy agenda and designs the appropriate advocacy strategies to accomplish key objectives.

Essential Job Duties or Tasks:

Public Policy:

  • Serve as public facing go-to leader for the higher education community and Washington Higher Education Secretariat on federal policy matters, directing comprehensive and proactive efforts. This also includes significant press appearances and interviews.
  • Represent ACE specifically and higher education more generally in public forums, including congressional hearings, executive branch meetings and professional gatherings. Describe and summarize policy issues and advocacy accomplishments to the public through speeches (regularly speaking at higher education meetings and conferences across the country including ACE’s Annual Meeting), podcasts (including regular appearances on ACE’s dotEDU podcast), webinars, and media articles.
  • Develop affirmative policy agenda, design advocacy strategies, and oversee implementation for ACE as appropriate. Collaborate extensively with ACE’s Education Futures division on programming and research to support ACE Objectives/Key Results and policy agenda.
  • Together with public affairs, draft op-eds and statements on major policy issues. Work closely with public affairs on messaging for media interviews representing ACE and the higher education community.
  • Anticipate needs for and obtain data, research evidence, and legal opinions necessary to shape public policy discussions and to most effectively advocate for the interests of colleges and students.
  • Partner with ACE’s Vice President and General Counsel on legal issues facing the higher education community – including supporting amicus efforts, issue briefs, and other public-facing publications.
  • Convene appropriate organizations to develop a thorough and common understanding of the issue, implications, and appropriate advocacy options.
  • Establish and maintain extensive comments with a large and diverse number of higher education organizations. Provide advice and guidance as requested to help individual organizations with specific problems or advocacy opportunities.
  • Establish and maintain a broad network of campus contacts at all types of postsecondary institutions to help inform the development and implementation of advocacy plans.
  • Create and maintain high-level bipartisan contacts throughout DC in the legislative and executive branches, especially with those individuals and organizations who are particularly focused on federal postsecondary education policy.


  • Lead a team of highly accomplished professional and support staff.
  • Manage budget for all ACE government relations activities.
  • As part of senior leadership team at ACE, work with other SVPs and the President to implement organization-wide Objectives and Key Results, set agenda for future organization-wide efforts.
  • Organize and oversee ad hoc advocacy efforts that involve funding from multiple associations.

Education/Experience/Specialized Knowledge and Competencies

  • A Terminal Degree or Master’s Degree in Higher Education or Public Administration, Law, or in another related field preferred. Experience may substitute for advanced degree.
  • Minimum of 10 years high level professional and leadership experience, preferably in roles of increasing responsibility and/or visibility at an executive level.
  • A significant record of successful independent management and administrative experience.
  • Must have or gain the trust of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat and ensure that higher education speaks with “one voice” wherever and whenever possible. Must have the ability to translate key messages into accessible talking points/presentations.
  • An individual of high ethical standards who can effectively work with a diverse constituency, possess exceptional interpersonal skills necessary to manage a complex policy space.
  • Extremely strong written and oral communication and advocacy skills.

Working Conditions/Physical Effort:

Office environment; hybrid schedule. Regular travel required.


All ACE employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their start date. The American Council on Education will provide reasonable accommodations as required by law for individuals unable to be vaccinated due to a medical condition or religious belief.

The American Council on Education is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, disability, matriculation, familial status, genetic information, source of income, place of residence or business, status as a victim of an intra-family offense, credit information, protected veteran status, status as a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.

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