Director, U.S. Free Expression Programs

PEN America, a nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a dynamic, visionary, and skilled U.S. Free Expression Programs director to lead its First Amendment advocacy agenda in the United States. We are looking for a program builder who will leverage our existing body of work and new areas in order to help secure funding, add staff, and grow a thriving program. This is a full-time position based in New York; the position is part of PEN America’s Free Expression Programs team and reports to the senior director of Free Expression Programs.

The U.S. Free Expression Programs director will bring robust advocacy experience and First Amendment legal expertise; a track record of effective public speaking and media engagement, a formidable work ethic; affinity for fast-paced environments; and a tenacious approach to leading and driving forward PEN America’s advocacy, campaigning, and legal work on First Amendment and free expression issues in the United States. Priority areas of focus for this position will include responding to new and emerging threats to free expression and democracy in the United States, particularly with regard to press freedom; the future of journalism, including bolstering local journalism; protest rights; censorship; and articulating an inclusive and equitable approach to the robust defense of free speech. The director will also work closely with our digital freedom program director on efforts to counter the impact of disinformation on free expression and democratic discourse in the United States. This position offers the opportunity to craft a vision for the role that PEN America can play in fostering a healthy information landscape, bolstering societal trust, and countering the threats to free expression and democracy the United States faces today and will continue to face in the years to come.

The director will identify advocacy opportunities and plan advocacy and campaigning strategies, including mobilizing PEN America’s 7,500-strong Membership; conduct legal analysis and oversee involvement in litigation; participate in and build coalitions and engage partners; represent PEN America publicly; identify research opportunities; shape and guide projects; supervise staff, interns, and consultants; work collaboratively across the Free Expression Programs team and organization as a whole; and otherwise build and strengthen the organization’s program of work and impact.

The successful candidate will have a strong legal background on free speech and First Amendment issues, a strong track record of effective and creative advocacy, and a commitment to advancing a vision of free speech that also advances equity and uplifts historically marginalized voices. They will be highly self-motivated and able to manage multiple advocacy efforts on a range of issues at once; and be a program and organization builder with experience in fundraising and relationship building. PEN America is seeking an ambitious and passionate leader who brings a combination of relevant substantive expertise and a drive to push forward concrete and notable accomplishments.


  • Lead and drive forward PEN America’s advocacy agenda on U.S. free expression issues, including press freedom; the future of journalism, including bolstering the local news industry; protest rights; and censorship. Identifying and responding to emerging free expression threats
  • Conduct legal analysis of existing laws and pending legislation, and identify opportunities for legal action and advocacy in support of PEN America’s Free Expression Programs writ large, including expanding and overseeing PEN America’s role in free expression-related litigation
  • Cultivate and expand working relationships, coalitions, and partnerships with nonprofit organizations, think tanks, academics, and other key stakeholders
  • Formulate, analyze, and communicate the organization’s policy positions on U.S. free expression and First Amendment issues
  • Represent PEN America publicly with policymakers, partners and coalitions, the media, and through public speaking at events and conferences
  • Draft written products (e.g., policy papers, press releases, op-eds, etc.) relating to a range of free expression issues, as well as legal and legislative material
  • Identify and cultivate funding opportunities through grant writing and management, and relationship building with donors
  • Work in close collaboration with PEN America’s Washington office, free expression and education program, and digital freedom program, and with the membership and national engagement team to engage constituencies across the country in advocacy and respond to local and state-level threats to free expression


  • A minimum of approximately six to eight years of relevant experience, including in public advocacy, free speech, civil liberties, press freedom, and/or related areas
  • Strong academic, legal, and practical expertise on First Amendment and free expression issues in the United States; J.D. is required
  • Demonstrated leadership and program building success, including a track record for effective fundraising and constituency building. A track record for developing and executing innovative and effective advocacy and campaigning
  • Demonstrated ability to network, build external relationships, and mobilize coalitions
  • Exceptional writing skills, including the ability to write quickly and persuasively; legislative drafting experience a plus
  • Exceptional oral communication skills, including significant experience with public-facing presentations and engagement, including public speaking and media engagement
  • Formidable work ethic, drive, attention to detail, and ability to multitask
  • Collegiality and excellent interpersonal skills. Management experience preferred
  • A commitment to and passion for PEN America’s mission

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a resume, a short statement of interest that directly addresses your qualifications for the requirements as outlined above, and the contact information for two references. Please submit the entire application as one PDF to [email protected]. For the subject of the email, please include your name and “U.S. FEP Director” (for example, “Jane Doe – U.S. FEP Director.” 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.

About PEN America:

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.