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Vice President for Survey Research and Institutional Policy

SUMMARY: The Vice President for Survey Research and Institutional Policy will lead and direct AAU’s public polling, institutional surveys, and research in support of AAU’s advocacy messaging, campaigns, and projects. The position will direct opinion research, measurement, and analysis for paid and earned media campaigns at the university, state, and federal levels. The vice president will empower AAU with rigorous data, research, and insights to understand public opinion and guide campaigns.

The vice president will also oversee and direct AAU’s institutional policy initiatives and will work with staff, senior fellows, AAU members, and other partners to advance AAU’s institutional policy projects on a variety of topics of importance to America’s leading research universities.

Essential duties and responsibilities include the following. Other duties may be assigned to meet business needs.

Survey Research
  • Leads the strategic direction of AAU’s public opinion and institutional survey approach, oversees the execution of the strategy, and generates insights that inform key strategic decisions in support of the association’s mission and goals.

  • Collaborates with AAU and member institution advocacy teams to develop, lead, and manage campaigns and public opinion research programs to support AAU’s advocacy priorities and messaging to inform AAU’s understanding of various populations, including the public and our members.

  • Provides expertise in policy strategies, political advertising, campaign development, and direct action; utilizes effective tactics including polling data, media engagement, and policy-related research.

  • Serves as the in-house expert in matters related to polling and surveys, including the design, execution, fielding, analysis, and interpretation of large-scale of surveys and polls for AAU and individual members.

  • Designs and evaluates research instruments, including public polls, focus groups, and online polling.

  • Directs and oversees quantitative and qualitative data analysis, compiles results into audience-appropriate materials, and presents results to internal and external stakeholders to support external communications and advocacy decisions.

  • Formulates creative research questions, hypotheses, and research designs to create actionable insights.

  • Develops and manages project deliverables, schedules, budgets, consultants, and staffing plans, ensuring resources are used effectively and efficiently.

  • Supports and helps broaden AAU’s public media strategy, including public presentations/conferences, public polling, and social media strategy in partnership with AAU’s Vice President for Communications.

  • Communicates analysis plans, research findings, and advocacy ideas to non-technical staff and external stakeholders through writing and graphics.

  • Works with member campuses on state, regional, and local targeted strategic campaigns with clear goals and benchmarks; builds and executes state, campus, student, or faculty campaigns for targeted goals, political accountability, and state battles.

Institutional Research
  • Oversees the Deputy VP for Institutional Policy’s work related to AAU’s institutional projects, initiatives and activities, including the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education initiative and the AAU PhD Education initiative. 

  • Oversees and directs policy studies and initiatives, data projects, and communications on a variety of topics of importance to research-intensive universities.

  • Engages AAU members, experts, and other partners to advance AAU’s immediate and long-term institutional policy goals and explores and implements various levers for advancing institutional change.

  • Facilitates the sharing of effective institutional practices across AAU institutions and constituents.

  • Performs research and policy analysis in support of AAU’s interests and reviews publications and communications on behalf of AAU’s initiatives and projects.

  • Works with internal stakeholders to develop and refine AAU’s institutional projects, initiatives, and best practices.

Management and Leadership
  • Provides supervision and guidance for direct reports; develops professional development and training plans; holds staff accountable to meet commitments and follow AAU’s policies.

  • Serves as a member of the leadership team; provides updates and reports to the Board of Directors; and, upon request, meets with member institutions’ Boards of Trustees. 

Qualifications and Requirements

Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. Qualifications include:

  • Deep experience managing public opinion research initiatives across multiple stakeholder groups; experience working for a political/campaign polling firm is a plus. Experience on Capitol Hill, political campaigns, or in the media is highly preferred.

  • Experience administering weekly tracking surveys and other rapid-response instruments; familiarity with targeting, direct mail, voter files, media buying, and performing opposition research.

  • Adaptability, creativity in solving problems, ability to prioritize/shift gears quickly; and ability to be comfortable in a high-pressure environment.

  • Sound understanding of the political, regulatory and advocacy environment—ideally in higher education.

  • An ability to identify and communicate implications of research findings—not just data and results.

  • Strong organizational skills, follow-through ability, and flexibility around changing priorities and deadlines; ability to work on several campaigns at once.

  • Demonstrated success leading complex strategic-planning initiatives with vision, energy, and determination while working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, coupled with the willingness to act resourcefully, authoritatively, and resolutely.

  • A consensus-builder with vision and a collaborative, collegial style; the ability to establish credibility and forge relationships with broad and diverse constituencies; and the capacity to engage extraordinarily bright people in complex and highly collaborative decision-making processes.

  • An open, thoughtful listener, strategic thinker, strong communicator, and negotiator, with unquestionable integrity and exceptional writing, editing, and speaking skills.

  • An eye for compelling visual depictions of survey results and an ability to convert complicated research results into usable reports.

  • Demonstrated leadership in building and maintaining an innovative and positive working culture, including commitment to AAU’s values.

  • Ability to balance the needs of various internal and external parties with flexibility and a steady temperament.

  • Must be comfortable working for a non-partisan organization.

Education and Training/Experience
  • Advanced degree in the social sciences (e.g., economics, political science, sociology, psychology, communications), or in a quantitative field (e.g., statistics, informatics, econometrics); Ph.D. preferred.

  • At least 15 years of demonstrated relevant experience in policy advocacy, political science, or public opinion research, including a track record of developing and implementing campaigns and writing, conducting, and analyzing public opinion and individual-level polling.

  • Experience as tenured faculty member, including mentoring of Ph.D. candidates and service on dissertation committees.

  • Expertise in quantitative and survey research methodologies (e.g., bias correction for surveys, survey sampling and design, regression modeling, design and analysis of longitudinal panel surveys, behavioral data analysis).

  • Experience with qualitative methods such as focus groups and in-depth interviewing.

  • Expertise in survey questionnaires and survey metric development.

  • Experience translating abstract stakeholder requests into actionable research plans; experience translating survey analysis into actionable insights.

  • Experience with measurement error and psychometric methods (e.g., factor analysis, structural equation modeling, Item Response Theory modeling (IRT)).

Technology Experience
  • Proficient with Microsoft 365 Suite (Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint). Experience working with Zoom, SharePoint, and OneDrive preferred.

  • Advanced knowledge of digital media and tools, including ad tracking.

  • Advanced knowledge in data manipulation and analysis software and programming languages (R/Stata, SPSS, SQL/Hive, Tableau).

  • Experience working with survey research data vendors (e.g., SurveyMonkey, Dynata, Ipsos, SSRS).

  • Experience using campaign data platforms and tools; familiarity with paid communications channels including traditional advertising (TV, radio, print, etc.), digital advertising (Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, YouTube, Spotify, Google, etc.), and direct mail.


Extensive in-town and out-of-town travel is required.

Supervisory Responsibility 

This position manages employees in the department and is responsible for the performance management and hiring of the employees within that department.

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, printers, scanners, and filing cabinets.

Physical Demands

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to communicate and exchange information.

This is largely a stationary position; however, the employee is required to occasionally move about inside the office to access file cabinets, office machinery, etc. and operate a computer and other office productivity machinery and equipment, such as a copy machine, a computer printer, filing cabinets, etc. Some filing is required; this requires the ability to move files up to 20lbs across the office for various needs.

Position Type

This is a full-time, exempt position. Days and hours of work are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and weekend work will be required as job duties demand.

Other Duties 

Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities, and activities may change at any time with or without notice.


This job description is not to be construed in a manner which implies an employee’s right to employee. This job description is not a contract of employment, expressed or implied, nor is it an offer to enter such a contract or guarantee of employment for any duration.

AAU is committed to a work environment that is inclusive to all and free of discrimination. It is our policy to be an equal opportunity employer without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, disability, citizenship status or any other factors prohibited by federal, state, and local law. AAU will provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with a disability.


To be assured of full consideration, please send a cover letter, resume, salary requirements, and where you found this listing by March 22, 2021 to:

Email: [email protected] (Please reference Vice President for Survey Research and Institutional Policy)

Roxanne Murray, Vice President for Administration
Association of American Universities
1200 New York Ave, NW, Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005