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Tennessee Higher Education Initiative

Executive Director

Tennessee Higher Education Initiative


Job Summary

The Tennessee Higher Education in Prison Initiative (THEI) Executive Director is a full-time position primarily based  at the THEI office in Nashville, as public health conditions allow, with trips across the state to our program sites and  across the country to our partner organizations. Under the direction of the THEI Board of Directors, the Executive  Director will fulfill the mission of THEI by advocating for a student-centered mission, executing strategic planning  and direction, and working to be an agent of justice in the prison higher education arena at both the state and  national levels. The Executive Director will build and foster a positive culture of excellence in performance and  professionalism. The Executive Director is the face of the organization, striving to raise national awareness of THEI’s  work and to both protect and enhance THEI’s reputation. 

The ideal candidate can start by mid-April 2021. 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  education policy and working in a prison environment; flexibility with work hours, including the ability to work some  nights and weekends; experience with budget and staff management; and a strong commitment to breaking cycles  of poverty and incarceration. Familiarity with the public higher education system in Tennessee and its relevant  policy landscape are a benefit. Finally, the ideal candidate must have a reliable car, and be comfortable working in a  prison and collaborating with people who are incarcerated. We encourage folks who have been impacted by the  criminal-justice system to consider applying. 

Job Responsibilities

Key Responsibilities: 

Organizational Management and Internal Systems 

Lead the THEI human-capital development plan to build out portfolio teams 

Manage annual Performance Growth Plan process for all direct reports, shepherding reports so  that they may exceed their performance goals each year 

Lead the cross-functional management team, which includes the executive leadership team Manage relationships with external vendors, including financial services and auditing firms Prepare annual budget with Operations team input and secure board approval 

Maintain an organizational climate that attracts, retains, and motivates a diverse, high-quality  staff; assess THEI staffing needs on an ongoing basis 

Identify and support professional development opportunities for all staff 

Partner Relationships and Strategic Initiatives 

Act as primary contact with decision-makers at Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC),  college partners, correctional facilities, the Office of the Governor and relevant legislators, and  other key coalitions 

Partner with relevant state agencies including, but not limited to, the Office of the Governor,  TDOC, Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and Tennessee  Board of Regents 

Approve program-expansion partnership opportunities and assess their alignment with the  strategic goals and mission of THEI 

Manage the initial planning of new initiatives 

Act as a public presence and national expert at gatherings in/for the field 

Fund Development 

Develop and oversee the annual budget, ensuring both integrity and adequacy; empower  portfolio directors to oversee and manage their portfolio budgets 

Assess and identify the most cost-effective investment of resources toward systems, staffing,  daily operations, and expenditures; enact additional savings by making strategic choices,  prioritizing needs, and driving efficiencies 

Manage THEI resources in a fiscally responsible and compliant manner 

Approve fundraising strategy and pursue new opportunities to meet revenue goals Represent the organization externally at key public speaking events to raise national awareness  and shore up THEI profile as a standard bearer in prison higher education 

Conduct meetings and site visits with potential funders, either independently or in conjunction  with relevant program staff and/or Board members 

Ensure that the organization operates within the approved budget, maximizes resource  allocation, and maintains the organization’s positive financial position 

Board Governance 

Collaborate with the Board of Directors to lead THEI strategic direction and vision Effectively engage THEI Board of Directors, deploying timely and accurate information as  necessary for the Board to function properly and make informed decisions 

Partner with THEI Board Chair to structure and populate agendas for Board meetings and annual  retreat; work collaboratively with THEI Board Treasurer to design financial reports; write THEI  regular Staff Report with input from THEI staff


Required Qualifications: 

Ten years relevant professional experience, at least five of which spent in a leadership or executive  management position directly supervising high-level employees. 

Professional fundraising experience that includes writing and managing grants, building and maintaining  individual donor relationships, engaging in grassroots fundraising, hosting fundraising events, and  leveraging a nonprofit board of directors. 

Professional experience in financial oversight including budgeting, reporting and analysis, and responsible  cash management. 

Investment in relationship-building and passion for creating partnerships. 

Energy for creative problem solving. 

Expertise in Microsoft Office required. Proficiency in Salesforce preferred. 

Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, including public speaking. 

Valid driver’s license and the ability to travel, when public health conditions allow, on a frequent basis. Eligibility to be a badged Tennessee Department of Correction contractor. 

Timeliness around email correspondence. 

Commitment to self-care.

Additional Information


The position is a full-time exempt position. The salary range is $90,000 – $100,000 per year (commensurate with  education and experience), plus full medical/dental/vision insurance, a monthly wellness stipend, and generous paid  leave and holidays. Review of applications will begin immediately, with initial interviews conducted on a rolling basis.

How to Apply

THEI is an equal-opportunity employer; all applicants will be considered for employment without attention to race,  religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran or disability status. Interested applicants  should submit cover letter and resume to with “Executive Director Position” in the subject line.


  • Date Posted: January 27, 2021
  • Type: Full-Time
  • Job Function: Executive Leadership
  • Service Area: Community Development