Executive Director, Achievement & Assessment Institute

Position Overview

The University of Kansas (KU) seeks nominations for and expressions of interest in the position of Executive Director of the Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI). At a critical time for our society, AAI has the potential to increase our positive impact on the lives of children and adults through research, development, direct-impact programming, the development of healthy environments, and community engagement. The Executive Director will be the driver of AAI's future—providing visionary and inspirational leadership that elevates this already successful, indispensable institute to its next level.

AAI is a unique and influential leader, providing innovative tools to enhance the capacity of organizations that help children, adults, and communities. AAI supports researchers, practitioners, faculty, staff, and students in research and service related to key areas of its mission. AAI's impact can be seen in its partnerships with local, state, national, and global communities to apply scholarship to implement programs with direct public impact; development and publication of generalizable knowledge that allows the magnification of their mission through solution development; faculty support and encouragement to generate resources for research and development in support of enhanced achievement of individuals and organizations; and vital work experiences for students as they develop professionally.

AAI is one of 11 designated research centers that fall under the auspices of the University of Kansas Office of Research. The Office of Research facilitates innovation, creative activity, discovery, and the application and dissemination of knowledge. AAI is comprised of eight Strategic eight Tactical Centers.

The Executive Director is an executive level position reporting to the Director of AAI and is responsible for implementing AAI strategies into daily operations to meet mission, quality, and growth objectives. Potential areas of growth are K-12 educational assessment, technology used to facilitate education and social services, systems transformation, and equitable and participatory evaluation and research. With more than 400 full-time employees, affiliated faculty at KU and other institutions a $68M budget, and a compound annual growth rate of approximately 12%, AAI is the largest research, development, and implementation center at the University of Kansas. AAI strategic centers will report to this position.

KU is the state’s flagship university, an R-1 institution, and a member of the Association of American Universities, with 40 graduate programs ranked by US News. Founded in 1865, KU enrolls 27,638 students, employs nearly 2,900 faculty members and 10,689 staff, and offers programs in nine locations, including online through Jayhawk Global and at its research residential campus on beautiful and historic Mt. Oread in Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence has a lively downtown and a thriving arts and music scene, and its local government has enacted ordinances supporting equality for all members of its population.

At the minimum, the Executive Director must have ten years of experience growing and leading entrepreneurial service delivery enterprise, with at least five years of experience as a senior member of its executive team; three years' experience advanced business planning and/or management in a research and development focused environment; and demonstrated leadership in managing continuous improvement processes in a collaborative environment.

Job Description

Reporting to the Director, the Executive Director is responsible for implementing AAI strategies into daily operations to mission, quality, and growth objectives. Potential areas of growth are K-12 educational assessment, technology used to facilitate education and social services, systems transformation, and equitable and participatory evaluation and research.

Primary duties and responsibilities include the following:

Strategic Leadership and Planning and Organizational Development (55%)
  • Lead and manage a team of eight strategic center directors, providing guidance, mentorship, and vision to foster a collaborative, and impactful work environment.
  • Collaborate with the AAI Director, AAI Strategy and Business Development Officer (BDO), Director of Finance and Administration, and center directors to develop and implement the strategic plans and objectives consistent with and supportive of KU’s strategic plan.
  • Develop and translate individual center strategic plans into a comprehensive AAI strategy. Create actionable steps for growth, implementing organization-wide goal setting, performance management, and annual operations planning.
  • Design structural and operational solutions that address the diverse needs of strategic centers.
  • Monitor PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental) trends to anticipate and adapt AAI strategies.
  • Oversee the execution of strategic initiatives, ensuring they are implemented effectively and efficiently.
  • Monitor progress toward strategic goals and adjust as necessary.
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of strategic initiatives. Develop reports and make presentations to leadership, internal organization and team regarding performance and outcomes.
  • Foster a work culture that encourages adherence to mission, appropriate risk taking, and growth.
  • Ensure effective recruiting, onboarding, professional development, performance management, and retention.
Operations (40%)
  • Oversee AAI operations to ensure employee productivity, satisfaction, and well-being, building a culture that ensures team members thrive and organizational goals are met.
  • Allocate resources effectively to achieve strategic objectives, which includes budget management, development and protection of intellectual property, staffing, and resource allocation.
  • Identify opportunities for process improvement and efficiency enhancement within the organization and implement best practices.
  • In concert with other university offices, assess and manage operational risks, ensuring compliance with regulations and industry standards.
  • Lead change initiatives and manage organizational transformation effectively to ensure fluid transitions and connected and thriving staff.
  • Address barriers and challenges that prevent centers from growing or optimizing their mission.
  • Stay informed about societal, economic, technological, and industry trends and evaluate their potential impact on AAI’s operations.
  • Work with appropriate university offices to ensure compliance with national, state, and university regulations and laws, and take appropriate action when necessary.
Other Duties as Assigned (5%)

Required Qualifications

  • Ten years of experience growing and leading an entrepreneurial enterprise, with at least five years as a senior member of its executive team.
  • Three years’ experience with advanced business planning and or management in a research and development focused environment.
  • Demonstrated leadership in managing continuous improvement processes in a collaborative environment.

Preferred Qualifications

In addition, the most successful candidates will possess many, if not all, of the following characteristics:
  • Demonstrated thought leadership experience and/or scholarly credentials: Candidates may hold an earned masters or doctoral degree in an ecosystem related to the research and service mission of AAI (such as education, social welfare, public health, mental health, technology),as well as evidence of recognized academic or entrepreneurism-related thought leadership via journal publications, book chapters, books, invited conference presentations, magazine articles, editorials, blog posts, podcasts, and social media presence. The candidate could also have held previous roles as a leader in industry, inclusive of non-profit, of similar scope and scale as AAI, with similar mission-centric objectives.
  • Demonstrated success in entrepreneurial spaces: The Executive Director must have experience and skills working in entrepreneurial spaces. From theory to practice, they should embrace the spirit of entrepreneurism, calculated risk-taking, innovating, and the challenges of start-up environments. They should be naturally forward-thinking, creating innovative possibilities where others are content to stagnate. They must have the capacity and proclivity to conceive of multiple pathways and multiple futures to transform systems, not simply optimize the status quo. They must also be nimble and experienced with fast-paced environments with changing variables and needs. They must be a positive, disruptive force with strong negotiation skills. They will have experience designing large, complex products, services, or programs. They may possess previous experience as an Executive Operations Officer or similar role.
  • Strong relational skills: The Executive Director will work closely with AAI Central Office staff and Center directors to create a healthy and effective working environment for approximately 400 AAI employees, work productively with the Office of Research and other University entities, and partner with many external stakeholders. They will be a strong relationship builder who listens and coheres groups of people for collective success. They will be a confident leader who builds and nurtures a collaborative culture. They will be a strong, clear communicator who is comfortable tenaciously, but effectively advocating at local, regional, state, and federal levels. Likewise, they will be comfortable building the relationships required for effective advocacy for AAI and all its Centers. They should be able to have difficult conversations as often as required, while utilizing exemplary diplomacy to achieve the objectives of AAI. They will be a fair, warm, trustworthy leader who demonstrates genuine care for their team.
See link to complete job posting below for the full preferred qualifications.

Additional Candidate Instructions

Procedure for Candidacy
All applications, nominations, and inquiries are invited. Applications should include, as separate documents, a CV or resume and a letter of interest addressing the themes in this profile.

Witt/Kieffer is assisting the University of Kansas in this search. For fullest consideration, candidate materials should be received by May 24, 2024.

Application materials should be submitted to KUAAIExecDir@WittKieffer.com

Nominations and inquiries can be directed to:
Jeff Compher and Sandra Chu
at email listed above.

Contact Information to Applicants

Jeff Compher and Sandra Chu

Advertised Salary Range

commensurate with experience

Application Review Begins

Friday May 24, 2024

Anticipated Start Date

Thursday August 1, 2024

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Posting Information

  • Posting ID:  27697BR
  • Department:  Achievement & Assessment Inst
  • Primary Campus:  University of Kansas Lawrence Campus
  • Assignment:  Hybrid
  • Reg/Temp:  Regular
  • Employee Class:  U-Unclassified Professional Staff
  • Review Begins:  24-May-2024

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