Director, Speaker Series

University of Chicago
  • Location
    Chicago, Illinois
  • Sector
  • Experience
    Mid Career
  • Posted
    Nov 22

Position description

Created in 2013 by University of Chicago alumnus David Axelrod (AB'76), the nonpartisan Institute of Politics is committed to fostering in our students a passion for public service, meaningful dialogue and active engagement in our democracy. By bringing practitioners from the public arena to campus, and providing extracurricular opportunities in politics, policy, government and journalism, the non-partisan Institute seeks to open pathways for engagement and leadership to students across campus. This is done through the four primary programmatic components of the Institute. The Speaker Series program hosts nationally and internationally recognized speakers on a wide variety of issues related to the mission of the IOP. The Fellows Program presents an opportunity for political practitioners, policy makers, journalists, and others engaged in politics and public service, to be in residence at the University of Chicago for an academic quarter and provide weekly, extracurricular seminars to University of Chicago students. The IOP also sponsors a robust, paid internship program for undergraduate and graduate students, placing them in high-level settings overseas, in Washington, D.C. and at the state and local levels. Lastly, the IOP’s Civic Engagement programs provide pathways for students to take an active role in shaping politics and policy in their communities through leadership development programs, student-led civic engagement projects, and political exploration treks.


Job Summary 

The Director of Speakers Series is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction and quarterly planning of enriching and engaging content for the Institute of Politics’ robust Speakers Series. This series sponsors 100+ public programs each year, bringing to campus over 200 leaders from the political, policy, foreign affairs, journalism, activism, and nonprofit sectors. The Director serves as the primary leader of the Institute’s efforts to devise creative, topical and substantive programming that connects students and the broader public to the most important issues and leaders of our time.



  • Leads the strategy and design of the Institute’s ongoing political and policy-oriented Speakers Series program of public events, including topic selection, framing and content development, and identifying and securing speakers.
  • Drives the internal generation of specific program ideas and event content, working collaboratively with staff and students to maximize creativity, diversity, relevance and impact.
  • Develops a calendar of programs that includes some events planned well in advance around anticipated hooks or topics, and some quick turnaround events that are topical and responsive to the news of the moment.  Ensures a mix of high-profile newsmaker voices and lower profile but still compelling, issue-focused voices.
  • Leads on the identification and booking of IOP Speakers Series guests, including drafting letters of invitation and creating event briefings as necessary.
  • Works closely with the Institute’s Director of Production and Special Events, who leads on the logistics planning and execution of all events in the Speaker Series and other public IOP events, to ensure smooth event execution.
  • Works closely with Director of Communications to develop promotional materials and outreach strategies to cultivate audiences.
  • Works closely with the IOP’s Student Advisory Board to ensure student input in development and production of the Speakers Series, including the vetting of ideas from students and other University constituencies.
  • Supports select productions for The Axe Files podcast, co-produced by the IOP and CNN.
  • Serves as a key resource for program information. Resolves problems or questions referred by program staff, University administrators, or other contingencies.
  • Develops and stewards content relationships with internal and external partners, including student organizations, University departments and centers, and off-campus entities.
  • May train, oversee and monitor the work of the Associate Producer, Speaker Series; advise and manage the Speaker Series Content intern.
  • Helps develop special projects, partnerships, and events outside of Speaker Series programming that leverage the IOP’s unique assets and enable it to contribute in new ways to public discourse and engage students.
  • Be onsite during most events—including typically 2 to 4 evenings a week during peak programming months (about six months/year), and, very occasionally, during some weekend hours. 
  • Provides specialized professional expertise in program management.  Implements plans for educational programs and initiatives and acts as a liaison between the program and program participants.
  • Plans and develops program objectives and/or content. Researches and identifies trends and needs and establishes program directions accordingly.
  • Performs other related work as needed.




Minimum requirements include a college or university degree in related field.

Work Experience:

Minimum requirements include knowledge and skills developed through 7+ years of work experience in a related job discipline.


Preferred Qualifications


  • Advanced degree focused in journalism, politics, public policy or public affairs.


  • 8-10 years of experience in journalism, politics, policy, or public affairs, focused on researching, developing and executing substantive political and policy-oriented content for broad audiences.
  • Deep knowledge of, experience in, and enthusiasm for politics and current events, including the ability to identify timely and relevant topics and speakers.
  • Experience working directly with highly accomplished VIP participants, including elected officials, media, diplomats and other prominent public figures.


Preferred Competencies

  • Broad knowledge of current affairs and politics, strong editorial sensibilities, and experience inspiring others to creative excellence.
  • Passion for the IOP’s mission of working with young people to inspire the next generation of political and public service leaders.
  • Intellectual curiosity, fresh thinking, and excellent instincts for where national, international, and local political and policy conversations are going next.  Have original takes on topics and framing for IOP events.
  • Bring a solid network of senior contacts in the political, public service, and journalism fields.
  • Excellent written / verbal communication skills and ability to sell ideas to others.
  • Deep knowledge of current affairs and politics, strong editorial sensibilities, and experience inspiring others to creative excellence.
  • Proven track record of developing and managing multiple, complex events or stories and producing work under demanding timelines.
  • Willingness to approach contentious issues from all possible sides, with an eye towards fairness and accuracy.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively and professionally in a creative, fast-paced, intellectual team environment, as well as to work well with influential guests, key University audiences (students, faculty, and administrators) and other external stakeholders.
  • Self-starting, high energy, results-oriented, and able to handle simultaneous high-profile projects with minimum supervision.
  • Experience managing staff and building cohesive teams.
  • Strong commitment to diversity.


Working Conditions

  • Be onsite during most events—including typically 2 to 4 evenings a week during peak programming months (about six months/year), and, very occasionally, during some weekend hours. 
  • Approximately two business related trips are required each year.

Application instructions

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