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Tennessee Higher Education Initiative

Academic Coordinator

Tennessee Higher Education Initiative


Job Summary

The Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI) is a nonprofit organization that disrupts systems of harm and creates opportunities for autonomy and success through education, support, and advocacy with and for justice impacted individuals. THEI is a grassroots, community organization committed to principles of harm reduction, healing, and centering the lived experiences of the people we serve. We engage in reimagining and building towards the world we want to see through systems work and direct service.

THEI seeks a full-time Academic Coordinator, responsible for overseeing day-to-day implementation of THEI Academic Programs inside Tennessee prisons. Under the direction of the THEI Director of Education Programs, the Academic Coordinator will work closely with the administration and staff at our partner prisons,  and the points of contact at our partner colleges to coordinate and facilitate Bachelor’s and associate degree programs in prisons. The Academic Coordinator will assist with all aspects of the administration and logistics of the program on the ground, including providing in-person support services directly to incarcerated students who have limited access to communication or information channels. 

This full-time, exempt position will require substantial car travel on a weekly basis to prison facilities and partnering colleges. The ideal candidate could be based in any region of Tennessee. Apart from facility travel, the Coordinator’s primary office location can be work-from-home, or THEI’s office in Nashville. 

Priority will be given to applicants who demonstrate a strong commitment to providing educational opportunities to at-risk populations and understand the mission of THEI to be located within a larger social-justice movement. Further, we seek applicants who have experience working in secondary or post-secondary education and/or working in a prison environment; flexibility with work hours including the ability to work nights and weekends; excellent organizational and time management skills; and a strong commitment to breaking cycles of poverty and incarceration. Familiarity with TDOC practices and/or knowledge of the public higher education system in Tennessee are a benefit, but not required. Finally, the ideal candidate must have a reliable car, can drive to TDOC prisons across Tennessee, be comfortable working in a prison and collaborating with incarcerated individuals.  We encourage folks who have been impacted by the criminal-justice system to consider applying.

Job Responsibilities

Key Responsibilities (organized by stakeholder group):

Stakeholder Group #1: Students

  • Build relationships and rapport with all THEI students in multiple cohorts
  • Meet with students on a regular basis; advocate on behalf of students
  • Facilitate the smooth communication of student needs and concerns to respective partners and work to resolve student challenges
  • Oversee program logistics to ensure the smooth start and end to spring, summer, and fall semesters annually
  • Facilitate College Prep program and oversee the annual admissions process, which requires maintaining meticulous records, juggling multiple priorities at once, exceptional written communication skills, and strong attention to detail. 
  • Ensure students have access to educational materials necessary to succeed in their courses and ensure professors have the technology and materials needed to successfully teach their courses
  • Manage student records and instructional materials 
  • Log contact notes in a timely manner, utilizing Salesforce and Google Drive
  • Ensure all education information and data are maintained correctly in electronic and paper files
  • Partner with the community to create and facilitate student success & academic workshops geared toward student interest
  • Led and managed student council groups

Stakeholder Group #2: Prison Sites 

  • Build and maintain rapport with the prison administration and staff
  • Maintain awareness of the current happenings in the prison facilities, in order to remain adaptable and responsive to emerging needs
  • Oversee on-site implementation of college programs at assigned prison sites 
  • Identify new volunteer partners, and oversee & manage volunteer relationships with prison facilities, including scheduling faculty orientations and training sessions
  • Swiftly problem-solve on a regular basis, given the unpredictability of the prison environment

Stakeholder Group #3: College Partners

  • Assist college partners with the distribution and collection of course materials and supplies
  • Serve as a liaison between incarcerated students and the college, communicating key information and advocating for student interests and college interests as appropriate 
  • Communicate regularly with faculty as needed to ensure the smooth implementation of courses and to mitigate possible disruptions to courses
  • Support in the execution of the college’s administrative processes, such as student rosters, roster changes, course adds, and withdrawals
  • Collaborate with college partners to host annual graduation ceremonies inside TDOC facilities 
  • Facilitate Faculty Training and post-evaluation collection for all partner instructors prior to the start of each semester


Required Qualifications: 

  • Minimum education requirement of associate degree. Bachelor’s degree in a related field preferred (e.g Education, Counseling Psychology, Program Administration, Social Services)
  • Minimum of 1-year experience as a teacher, trainer, advisor, prison educator, or similar role 
  • Proficiency in Google Suite, particularly Google Calendar, Sheets, Docs, and Slides
  • Ability and willingness to organize and manage data
  • Exceptional administrative, as well as superb written and verbal communication skills
  • Valid driver’s license and the ability to travel to and from prison on a regular basis
  • Flexible schedule including the ability to work in the evenings and occasional Saturdays 
  • Timeliness around email correspondence
  • Investment in relationship-building and passion for creating partnerships with diverse populations
  • Energy for creative problem-solving 
  • Willingness to navigate “gray” areas with intentionality and judgment
  • Thoughtfulness and critical understanding of the social and historical context of THEI’s work.
  • Commitment to self-care, social justice, and equity
  • Emotional intelligence with the ability to balance healthy boundaries, maintain professionalism with the incarcerated student population, and follow guidelines received from the Tennessee Department of Correction
  • Flexibility to meet student needs and organizational changes with comfortability taking appropriate initiative 
  • Ability to work well with diverse individuals and groups, balance needs, and employ objectivity; effectiveness with both independent and teamwork
  • Must be eligible to be a badged TDOC contractor

Additional Information


The position is full-time, exempt, with a starting salary of $50,000 per year, plus travel reimbursements, full medical/dental insurance, a monthly wellness stipend, Simple IRA with employer match, and generous paid leave and holidays.

How to Apply

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to work@thei.org with “Academic Coordinator” in the subject line.


  • Date Posted: April 16, 2024
  • Type: Full-Time
  • Job Function: Educator
  • Service Area: Education
  • Start Date: 04/15/2024
  • Salary Range: $50,000
  • Working Hours: 40hrs/week