Senior Manager, Freedom to Learn (Short-term, full-time position)

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a dynamic, visionary, and energetic senior manager to lead higher education advocacy and coalition-building efforts in our Freedom to Learn program. This is a full-time position based in Washington, D.C. or New York City and reports to the Program Director, Freedom to Learn. This position has an initial 16-month term subject to extension contingent on funding.

The senior manager will oversee and develop the advocacy and coalition-building work of PEN America’s Freedom to Learn program, which defends higher education institutions against educational gag orders and other forms of government censorship. They will oversee our existing coalitions, the Freedom to Learn Network of higher education association leaders and the Champions of Higher Education initiative of former college and university presidents, and will build out new state-level coalitions in at least five targeted states, with additional coalition-based work in other states. Responsibilities will include building and managing high-level partner relationships, convening and motivating coalitions both virtually and in person, overseeing advocacy campaigns, mobilizing a sector-wide defense of the freedom to learn in higher education, and expanding PEN America’s reach and impact in the higher education sector. 

The successful candidate will have demonstrated experience and fluency in higher education, along with having substantial experience in organizing, advocacy, free expression, and/or education policy. The position requires strong strategic, organizational, and people management skills, frequent interactions with high-profile higher education leaders and state and national advocacy organizations, and the skills to motivate ideologically diverse audiences.

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.


  • Manage, grow, and strengthen PEN America’s national coalition-based advocacy efforts on state higher education policy
  • Oversee and mobilize PEN America’s two national higher education coalitions, the Freedom to Learn network and the Champions of Higher Education initiative, and build out new state-focused higher education coalitions in at least five targeted states
  • Plan and lead virtual and in-person convenings
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in print to a variety of audiences about free speech, academic freedom, and educational censorship
  • Supervise and mentor the Program Coordinator, Freedom to Learn
  • Help expand PEN America’s reach and impact in the higher education sector, particularly among higher education leaders
  • Support and contribute to efforts to fundraise for the Freedom to Learn program, including researching new donors, participating in donor meetings, and assisting with grant writing and reporting
  • Support and advance PEN America’s mission to safeguard free expression in the United States and abroad

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 five to eight years of relevant professional experience, including experience in higher education, political organizing, advocacy, free expression, education policy, communications, or other related experience
  • Understanding of and interest in contemporary debates over free expression, particularly on college campuses
  • Demonstrated success in building coalitions and managing advocacy campaigns
  • Outstanding written and verbal communication skills; experience with public communication a plus
  • Diplomatic approach to external partners, and the ability to engage an ideologically varied set of stakeholders
  • Ability to travel an estimated 25% of the time, with availability to work some nights and weekends as necessary in relation to travel
  • Commitment to PEN America’s mission, centered on the celebration and defense of free expression for all. Willingness to defend the right to engage in speech that may be offensive and discomfiting and that reflects a wide range of political opinions and ideologies. PEN America promotes open and respectful dialogue across difference, and we work to allow a diversity of perspectives to flourish.
  • Commitment to PEN America’s advocacy and support for writers, artists and their allies around the world, without regard to the ideology or actions of their country’s government

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and full benefits. The salary range for this position is $75k-90k, commensurate with experience. 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 “Senior Manager, Freedom to Learn” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Senior Manager, Freedom to Learn – 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.