Director, Public Policy

Washington D.C.
Apr 02, 2021
May 07, 2021
Full Time

Position Summary:  The Director for Public Policy develops and implements strategies to achieve NAFSA advocacy priorities and strategic plan objectives, as established by the Board of Directors. The position assumes lead responsibility for a diverse and highly visible portfolio of issues as well as the overall higher education policy federal portfolio.

NOTE: Due to the current pandemic, NAFSA employees are currently working remotely. However, please note that the permanent work location for this position is the NAFSA headquarters office in Washington, D.C.

Major Functions and Responsibilities:

Lead development of NAFSA’s portfolio of U.S. higher education federal policy issues (20%)

  • Identify and develop new policy ideas and concepts to achieve NAFSA’s strategic goals;
  • Stay abreast of relevant public policy debates taking place in Congress and within the U.S. higher education community in order to advance NAFSA’s policy agenda;
  • Collaborate with the Senior Director for Public Policy and the Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy to develop the association’s positions on international education and higher education policy;
  • Draft necessary written materials, including policy proposals, briefing papers, white papers, talking points, speeches, legislative language, and hearing testimony.

Engage government officials in direct advocacy and cultivate relationships (40%)

  • Serve as the lead public policy staff person on issues pertaining to NAFSA’s education policy agenda before the U.S. Congress, particularly with education and foreign relations committees, to ensure they are aware of the association’s priorities;
  • Develop key contacts and champions for international education and maintain effective working relationships with policymakers and their staff. This position will lead on managing relationships related to higher education policy but will also be expected to develop congressional relationships that advance policies related to international student and scholar issues;
  • Represent NAFSA in meetings with congressional offices and at policy-focused events;
  • Develop and lead NAFSA’s U.S. higher education policy agenda before executive branch agencies, including the Departments of Education and State; 
  • Demonstrate initiative in executing federal legislative strategies in a complex policy environment, using creative and effective strategies to overcome obstacles; demonstrating success in advancing organizational public policy objectives with Congress; and finding ways to raise awareness of global education policy issues.

Work collaboratively with NAFSA staff, member advocates, and coalition partners (30%)

  • Mobilize and manage disparate groups and coalitions to achieve NAFSA's advocacy priorities and strategic plan objectives in higher education policy portfolio;
  • Work with NAFSA members, allies, and champions to identify new advocacy opportunities;
  • Coordinate with the Director of Advocacy & Media Outreach to mobilize constituents to support advocacy objectives with the federal government;
  • Liaise with other NAFSA department staff to inform stakeholders of NAFSA’s policy priorities and to gain insight on policy and practice issues affecting the field of international education;
  • Maintain effective working relationships with coalition partners, managing NAFSA’s education abroad involvement in such coalitions;
  • Work collaboratively with inter-departmental teams to advance a broad range of the association’s strategic priorities as noted above in position description.

Manage special projects, task forces, and consultants within budget to achieve advocacy objectives, as needed, to: (5%)

  • Spearhead research on education abroad to advance NAFSA’s policy agenda;
  • Convene policymakers and thought leaders on the importance of graduating U.S. globally prepared students; and
  • Identify and convene appropriate NAFSA members to participate in federal program review panels and other programs;

All other duties as assigned, for example (5%)

  • Provide direction to temporary staff and interns, as required;
  • Maintain and update relevant sections of the NAFSA website;
  • Support media inquiries as requested by Senior Director for Media Communications & Advocacy; and
  • Respond to interdepartmental association requests


Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent in a relevant field
  • At least 5 years demonstrated effectiveness in advocacy or public policy
  • Strong interest in and command of higher education policy issues;
  • Strong understanding of Congress, federal agencies, and the policy process
  • Experience effectively managing a diverse portfolio of issues
  • Commitment to NAFSA’s mission and support for diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and well-being for all
  • Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively in a team environment
  • Ability to take initiative, set priorities, follow through, and exercise sound political judgment
  • Ability to work effectively under pressure in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment and meet multiple deadlines
  • Excellent written, oral, and organizational skills
  • Ability to be detail-oriented and discrete with sensitive material

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Advanced degree in a relevant field
  • Previous experience with NAFSA, international education, or other association membership organizations
  • Experience working with higher education institutions
  • Ability to speak a language other than English highly desirable

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