Program Coordinator, Free Expression and Education

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a proactive and organized program coordinator to support our advocacy in defense of the freedom to learn and teach. This full-time position, part of the our Free Expression and Education program, is based in Washington, D.C. or New York City and reports to the senior manager of free expression and education. This position has an initial nine-month term subject to extension contingent on funding.

The program coordinator will help design and carry out coalition-building efforts against censorious legislation and politically-motivated efforts to constrain public education, as documented in PEN America’s recent reports, Educational Gag Orders and America’s Censored Classrooms. This work will involve organizing events and speaking opportunities for a new PEN America initiative involving high-profile higher education leaders defending colleges and universities against political and legislative incursions. The coordinator will also support the work of several additional higher education coalitions and working groups, helping to bring together stakeholders for strategy sessions and check-in meetings, and will play a leading role in organizing a summer 2023 convening of many of these stakeholders, as well as potential future convenings. Responsibilities will include planning events, coordinating schedules and meetings, building relationships with current and retired higher education leaders, and helping expand PEN America’s reach and impact in the higher education sector. 

The successful candidate will possess fluency in the higher education sector, along with at least 2-3 years experience in event planning, project management, advocacy, political organizing, executive assistant work, or a combination. The position involves frequent interactions with high-profile higher education leaders, and requires advanced skills in prompt, careful, polished, and courteous communication. The program coordinator will have an opportunity to make a critical difference on a growing team that is rapidly becoming a national nexus of free expression and higher education advocacy.

In alignment with PEN America’s current policy, all applicants should be available to report to the office at least three days per week. This policy is subject to change.


  • Coordinate meetings, speaking engagements, op-ed placements, and email communications for a group of high-profile higher education leaders
  • Facilitate communications, check-ins, convenings, and email listservs for networks of higher education leaders nationally and in affected states 
  • Organize logistics for virtual and in-person summits and gatherings
  • Develop positive relationships with higher education leaders and stakeholders involved in PEN America’s coalitions and initiatives
  • Serve as a thought partner in developing PEN America’s advocacy efforts in higher education
  • Execute administrative tasks, including calendar management and scheduling of meetings and press availabilities, recordkeeping and expense tracking, and responding to information requests
  • Manage team meeting schedules, press availabilities, email lists and email software
  • Communicate effectively to a variety of audiences about issues of free speech, academic freedom, and educational censorship
  • Help expand PEN America’s reach and impact in the higher education sector, particularly among higher education leaders
  • Support and advance PEN America’s mission to safeguard free expression in the United States and abroad
  • Depending on program needs and public health guidelines, domestic travel may be up to 10% of this role

All PEN America staff are considered to be stakeholders in the development of our shared organization. As such, staff play a role in varied activities within the workplace as part of their job responsibilities. These may include committees or task forces to work on office issues, diversity and inclusion, strategy projects, training or other initiatives.


  • Bachelor’s degree plus a minimum of 2-3 years of relevant professional experience, preferably in the higher education, event planning, or advocacy sectors
  • Understanding of and interest in contemporary debates over free expression, particularly on college campuses
  • Polished, meticulous, and impeccably courteous written and verbal communication skills, consistent with organizing meetings, events, and travel for high-profile college and university leaders
  • Strong project and time management skills, including meeting deadlines
  • Ability to engage an ideologically varied set of stakeholders
  • Experience with using email communication or advocacy alert software, social media, graphic design software, or other communications tools for professional purposes a plus
  • Comfort and effectiveness with organizing convenings and events and with building relationships and coalitions; professional experience in these areas a plus
  • Energetic, prompt, and skilled at multitasking
  • Proficiency with Google Suite and Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • Familiarity with Asana or other project management software a plus

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and full benefits. The salary range for this position is $50,000-$55,000, commensurate with experience. Candidates whose expectations are outside this range are welcome to apply, as PEN America is open to considering talented individuals at varying stages of their careers. PEN America’s benefits package includes medical, dental, and vision health insurance, paid time off, 10 paid holidays, pre-tax commuter benefits and a 403b retirement plan.


Please submit a cover letter, resume, and unedited writing sample to [email protected]. Use “Program Coordinator, Free Expression and Education” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Program Coordinator, Free Expression and Education – Jane Doe”). Please also share where you heard about this position in the body of your email. Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.