Career Opportunities

Executive Director

The Role

You have a unique opportunity to shape the next decade of impact by Education Systems Center (EdSystems) and strengthen pathways to opportunity for hundreds of thousands of learners across an array of education and workforce systems. With an organization in a strong fiscal position and with the backing of a broad coalition of funders and partners, you will be responsible for overseeing and spearheading EdSystems’ strategies and project portfolio to drive systems impact and advance racial equity in educational and workforce systems in Illinois and, potentially, beyond. As someone deeply motivated by results, impact, and racial equity, you will bring your dedication and vision to the role. Additionally, you have the opportunity to work with and continue to develop a deep and talented team that not only cares deeply about the organization’s mission, but that is bold and strategic and takes responsibility for driving continual progress across all aspects of EdSystems’ expansive portfolio.

The Organization

EdSystems is a mission-driven policy development and program implementation center based within Northern Illinois University’s Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development. We have a primary focus on Illinois, while also working with national and international partners. We leverage our NIU home to forge partnerships with State agencies and intergovernmental bodies. Our intense focus on effective stakeholder engagement and successful execution has resulted in EdSystems securing long-standing leadership roles in a variety of key policy and implementation areas across the state.

Founded in 2012, EdSystems has established itself as a unique catalyst for education equity and improving student success from the K-12 system into college and career. As reflected in our 10-year anniversary milestones, EdSystems has led the launch and scaling of an array of Illinois policies and programs that advance racial equity and prepare more young people for productive careers and lives.

The organization is at a pivot point, as its past work has laid the foundation for the dramatic scaling of high-quality college and career pathways, related work-based learning (WBL) systems, more seamless systems for transitioning to postsecondary, and integrated data systems to monitor outcomes. Recently the team coalesced around five new goals, or “Big Bets,” to ensure that Illinois’ education and workforce systems are not simply creating structures that enable pathways to opportunities, but are truly lessening racial inequities and leading to tangible progress for our Black and Latinx students that have for far too long been underserved by these systems. These Big Bets frame the priorities for the next several years for each of EdSystems’ portfolio areas and will be embedded into the team’s continued journey to advance racial equity.

The new Executive Director will have the opportunity to lead the payoff of these Big Bets, adjust them with the team moving forward, and establish the organizational direction well beyond them into the next chapter of EdSystems’ impact.


EdSystems’ next Executive Director will lead an organization with a skilled and diverse staff and excellent reputation, relationships, and funding partnerships. Specific responsibilities include:

  • Developing, continually refining, and advancing an ambitious vision and impact strategy for EdSystems and ensuring EdSystems achieves its strategic objectives.
  • Overseeing the management and day-to-day operations of EdSystems, ensuring that the center is operating efficiently and effectively.
  • Providing leadership to staff, including setting goals, evaluating performance of direct reports, and providing professional development opportunities.
  • Developing and strengthening relationships with foundations, State agencies, secondary, postsecondary, and other funding partners to ensure EdSystems maintains a strong fiscal position.
  • Hiring, managing, motivating, and developing a top-performing team of dedicated professionals, including fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, transparency, and collaboration.
  • Building and maintaining productive working relationships with key stakeholders, including heads of education organizations and advocacy groups, State agency leadership, school district and community college leaders, civic and business leaders, education experts, researchers, and others.
  • Serving as one of the primary spokespersons for EdSystems, compellingly communicating the center’s mission, goals, and achievements to external stakeholders in Illinois and beyond.
  • Interfacing with broader university leadership, including the heads of other centers within the Outreach division, and serving as an active, collaborative member of the University’s Outreach executive leadership.


  • Passionate commitment to the EdSystems’ mission and advancing racial equity in education and workforce policy and programs.
  • 8 years of leadership experience within the non-profit, education, private, or government sectors; a record of accomplishment in Illinois and demonstrated understanding of Illinois state educational systems strongly preferred.
  • Superior strategic thinking, with ability to translate innovative, strategic ideas into tangible program plans and actionable steps. Capability to see and support innovative ideas, and to embed innovation within operational plans.
  • Strong project management skills with demonstrated ability to execute policy and program development strategies and manage tactical execution to achieve results. Particular skills in designing annual plans, monitoring progress, and refining plans as needed. Experience managing data-focused staff or department with public facing research, metrics or dashboards is a strong plus.
  • Demonstrated fundraising success, particularly with foundations.
  • Demonstrated success in effectively leading and developing staff, with professional experience advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within an organization.
  • Strong analytical skills, with a proven ability to synthesize substantial amounts of information and identify the essence of the problem and determine solutions.
  • Outstanding relationship-building, interpersonal, and collaboration skills, underscored by strong judgment and emotional intelligence; positive relationships with Illinois governmental, education, and civic leaders preferred.
  • Exceptional verbal and written communication skills: ability to communicate directly and respectfully with staff and external stakeholders.
  • Strong knowledge of education or workforce issues required; experience working in or with public high schools or community colleges is a strong plus.
  • Demonstrated commitment to building trusting relationships and partnerships with people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, socio-economic levels, and perspectives.
  • Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree in education, public policy, or a related field preferred.

Terms of Appointment

  • Salary commensurate with demonstrated capacity to excel in the role.
  • Generous public university benefits.
  • Full-time appointment.
  • EdSystems is currently working in a hybrid remote and in-person environment, with two days in-office in Chicago per week, adjusting as public health conditions shift.
  • The position will be expected to frequently travel throughout Illinois and occasionally out-of-state as needed to meet responsibilities of the position.

How to Apply

If you are passionate about the EdSystems’ mission and have a track record of success in leadership positions, please submit a resume and cover letter below. Select candidates will be invited to interview with NIU and EdSystems leadership, as well as an external advisory group formed specifically for this position. Candidates will also be required to follow NIU application and hiring procedures.

Accepting applications through April 3