Special Assistant, Free Expression Programs

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a dynamic, detail-oriented, and highly organized special assistant to support the operations of our growing Free Expression Programs (FEP) department, and directly supports the Chief Program Officer, Free Expression. The special assistant will work closely with the Chief Program Officer, the Managing Director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs, and C-Suite executives in supporting the management of the FEP department. The role also liaises with staff and teams across the FEP department, as well as external contacts and counterpart organizations. This position offers a significant opportunity for high levels of responsibility in a dynamic operational, administrative, and strategic role that supports PEN America’s programming in defense of free expression. This is a full-time position based at PEN America’s New York City headquarters reporting to the Chief Program Officer, Free Expression.

The special assistant will provide operational and strategic support to the Free Expression Programs department, as well as provide direct support to the Chief Program Officer, Free Expression in leading the work of a growing department. The special assistant collaborates with the FEP department leadership to facilitate effective management processes and procedures, build relationships and coordinate people, and problem solve. Key duties include: facilitating information sharing and communications across the FEP department; overseeing project management systems; supporting strategy and program planning efforts; planning and organizing meetings and events, including regular department meetings and an annual retreat; responding to internal and external information requests;  drafting and reviewing correspondence, reports, and presentations; and calendar management, scheduling, and expense reconciliation.  Collaboration with Human Resources, Finance, and the C-Suite is a critical element of this role. The special assistant also will work in tandem with staff across the department to assist with events and special initiatives. 

A right-hand person to the Chief Program Officer, Free Expression, the special assistant will have the opportunity to have an impact on PEN America’s work to defend free expression, gain an understanding of management in a mission-driven non-profit organization, and to build a range of skills. As PEN America continues to evolve and expand, there will be opportunities for increased responsibilities over time. The position requires an energized and highly organized work style, and the ability to work collaboratively and effectively with a large and diverse staff. The successful candidate will have a passion for developing systems and processes to facilitate effective coordination and collaboration, excel at written and oral communication, have demonstrated success in executing projects from start to finish, and demonstrate the ability to take initiative, problem-solve, and work independently. Candidates should have a passion for PEN America’s mission to defend and celebrate free expression. 

PEN America’s Free Expression Programs department is made up of six program teams working to defend writers and journalists and protect free expression rights in the United States and around the world. This work includes: the development of in-depth research on critical free expression issues; advocacy to defend against threats to free expression in the U.S. and globally; and campaigns on policy issues and on behalf of individual writers and journalists under threat. Learn more about PEN America’s work at: https://pen.org/.

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


  • Operational and strategic support to the Free Expression Programs department
    • Planning team meetings, retreats, team-building activities, and other general coordination of FEP staff; note-taking and facilitating information sharing
    • Facilitating FEP department strategic and budget planning processes
    • Organizing and overseeing internal department communications and information management systems
    • Will work to ensure personnel matters in the growing department are handled efficiently and smoothly, including assessment processes, human resources records processing, liaising with Finance with regard to salary allocations and financial reporting on grants, and job postings and recruitment
    • Supporting hiring processes across FEP, including working with subprogram areas to recruit and manage interns and fellows
    • Overseeing department onboarding of new staff
    • Maintaining implementation and compliance of digital security procedures across the FEP department, including coordinating with internal digital security experts, IT, and the Chief Operating Officer
    • Database management and recordkeeping
  • General support and assistance to the Chief Program Officer, Free Expression 
    • Calendar management and scheduling of meetings
    • Responding to internal and external information requests
    • Providing research and drafting of content in preparation for meetings, events, and external appearances
    • Expense reporting, financial reconciliation, and other budget tasks
    • Drafting and editing communications and correspondence
  • Other duties as assigned

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.


  • A minimum of three years of relevant experience, potentially including operations, administrative, or strategic roles; project management or coordination; and/or work related to communications, research, or writing 
  • Ability to stay highly organized, work independently, and multi-task in a dynamic environment, and to work quickly and accurately 
  • Professionalism and excellent interpersonal and relationship-building skills, and ability to think creatively and work collaboratively
  • Demonstrated ability to take initiative, problem solve, and create efficiencies in a growing organizational structure
  • Excellent research and writing skills, including meticulous proofreading; strong attention to detail and accuracy
  • Exemplary capacity to maintain confidentiality and discretion at all times; excellent decision-making skills
  • Commitment to and strong understanding of PEN America’s mission, centered on the celebration and defense of free expression, including the defense of speech reflecting a wide range of political opinions and ideologies, regardless of personal views
  • Interest in non-profit organizational management, free expression, human rights, and/or advocacy a plus
  • Willingness to occasionally work some nights and weekends to support PEN America events when agreed upon in advance with supervisor
  • Proficiency with Google Suite, Excel, Asana, and Zoom (WordPress and Canva a plus)

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and full benefits. The salary range for this position is $58-$65k 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 (five pages maximum) to [email protected]. Use “Special Assistant, Free Expression Programs” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Special Assistant, Free Expression Programs – 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 or solicitations, 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.