Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Communications
Columbia University in the City of New York
Location: New York, New York
Salary: $160,000 - $170,000
Internal Number: 536203
University Life was created to develop and enhance the student experience at Columbia University. Working in collaboration with students, faculty, and staff, University Life focuses on enhancing the student experience by strengthening resources, policies, and conversations, and building community outside of the classroom. Our efforts all connect to core values for the Columbia community:
Inclusion and belonging
Health and well-being
University Life is a central division focused on enhancing the student experience across Columbia’s 17 schools and colleges. We serve as a student life hub for the University and are committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive campus culture where students can thrive in all dimensions of their lives. In University Life, we focus on connecting students to each other, to the broader University and surrounding community, and to opportunities beyond their schools.
We work to educate students about Columbia’s values and policies and share essential and timely information with students from the University. Through our programs, services, and partnerships, we support students’ educational enrichment during their time at Columbia.
The Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications (ED) will report to University Life’s Vice President, Student Affairs, and is responsible for leading communications, providing high-level administrative support to University Life’s divisional team and driving critical strategic initiatives for the division.
The ED will manage a team of three direct reports and one dotted line report, and own the communications and marketing strategy for the division, focusing on clear communications and outreach for the 30,000+ Columbia student body. The communications portfolio consists of a team responsible for the organization’s robust web presence, social media, messaging and marketing strategies. Collectively, these channels amplify a portfolio of ongoing events and initiatives across Columbia University and provide critical informational resources to students.
The ED will serve as the strategy lead for the University Life leadership team. They will have a bird’s eye view across the broader goals and priorities of the University Life division, and will partner with the leadership team to ensure that the day-to-day goals and objectives of the units align with the broader strategic vision of the organization.
The ED will lead efforts to prioritize, build and maintain an integrated team vision and team culture, serving as a cross-team liaison for the division on key leadership priorities. The ED will focus on key strategic initiatives for the division including but not limited to: the Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees, signature events to elevate critical conversations for the student community, central strategic planning, and as-needed strategy support and guidance to the four units within University Life.
Serving as a critical member of University Life’s leadership team, the ED will collaborate closely with a variety of stakeholders, including key partners across the University’s schools and centers where relevant, and with central partners including Public Affairs, the Offices of the Provost, President and other central administrative offices.
Key Strategic Initiatives for the Division:
As part of University Life’s leadership team, design, plan, and lead strategic planning efforts for the University Life division, with an eye toward clarifying organizational goals and advancing related initiatives, programs and campaigns.
Co-lead planning efforts for University Life signature events (e.g. Awakening Our Democracy events, keynote speaker sessions).
Management and oversight of a broad range of high, medium, and low-level projects, including strategic planning, implementation, coordination of and logistics for select initiatives on behalf of the Division.
Leads the coordination of executive-level meetings and committees, including Trustee meetings, building agendas and cultivating content for presentations. Develops related materials and deliverables.
Actively supports the Division's communications and relationship-building endeavors. The ED will keep communication open across all levels within the division and also across critical partners/stakeholders in service to the divisional priorities.
Represents, and accompanies the EVP and/or VP of Student Affairs in constituent and other meetings to communicate information, share and develop ideas, and ensure appropriate and timely responsive follow-up.
Provides high-level strategic and goal development support to the divisional leadership team which includes the Vice President of Student Affairs, Senior Associate Vice President of Student Life and Executive Director of Administration and Special Projects.
Build, implement and continually refine a strategic communications strategy for University Life, including evaluating current efforts against best practices to identify areas for growth and innovation.
Ensure accuracy, messaging, and quality of all University Life communications.
Create and lead promotion and awareness campaigns for University Life and Student Life initiatives including overseeing creative design for marketing collateral, establishing and ensuring strong distribution plans for critical University Life initiatives with campus partners.
Successfully manage a team including full-time staff and student workers.
The ED will support the ongoing development of a refreshed digital communications strategy that fosters brand recognition across all audiences, student engagement and furthers the values and work of the organization, setting, tracking and reporting out on Key Performance Indicators.
Drive the planning, content development, data collection strategies and processes for University Life’s communication channels (weekly student-facing messaging, social media and the University Life web presence).
Manage non-personnel budgets and create systems and processes for a smooth and efficient flow of work within the team.
Oversee requisite communication work by vendors and freelancers as necessary to support University Life’s work.
Write, edit, and/or review a wide range of communications including crisis response, press releases, speeches, talking points, annual reports, program collateral, blog posts, and op-eds. In addition, the ED will provide high-level executive communications support for the Executive Vice President of University Life, the Vice President of Student Affairs, the Senior Associate Vice President of Student Life, the Executive Director of Administration and Special Projects, and coordinate the team to provide written products.
Bachelor’s degree required
7- 9 years of professional-related experience required
Ability to be available as needed during off hours for rapid responses/crisis communications
Prior experience with executive advisement, communications and strategy initiatives
Passion for Student Life’s mission and values
A demonstrated personal and professional commitment to equity and inclusion in education and a culturally competent leader
A leader with exceptional people management and communication skills –a good listener who can be both empathetic and pragmatic
Experience with and understanding of best practices for web-based, email, and social media content production
Possess the highest level of personal and professional integrity and quality standards
Graduate or advanced degree is highly desirable
Demonstrated experience managing collaborative teams in a rapid and politically complex environment
Demonstrated success leading end-to-end projects
A strong learning orientation – the ability to learn from mistakes, the desire to continuously improve and grow, and the capacity to foster this with staff across the organization
An action-oriented style – the successful candidate will enjoy both strategic and tactical involvement in developing systems necessary for University Life’s evolution
Strong preference for candidates who have served in strategic planning, operational systems, and editorial director capacities in other organization
Columbia University is one of the world's most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty, staff, and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the University to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.
University Life is a central division focused on enhancing the student experience across Columbia’s 17 schools and colleges. We serve as a student life hub for the University and are committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive campus culture where students can thrive in all dimensions of their lives. In University Life, we focus on connecting students to each other, to the broader University and surrounding community, and to opportunities ...beyond their schools. We work to educate students about Columbia’s values and policies and share essential and timely information with students from the University. Through our programs, services, and partnerships, we support students’ educational enrichment during their time at Columbia.