Research Associate, Higher Learning

Hiring Organization: 
Mellon Foundation
City and State: 
New York, NY

Mellon Foundation 

Research Associate | Higher Learning 

Mellon Foundation (“Foundation”) believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. The Foundation makes grants in four core program areas - Higher Learning, Arts and Culture, Public Knowledge, and Humanities in Place - and through its signature Presidential Initiatives. The Foundation seeks a Research Associate for our Higher Learning program. 

  About the program: 

The Higher Learning program strives to make advanced humanities knowledge as broad, deep, and varied as possible, in terms of both the perspectives it represents and the audiences it reaches. Understanding such optimized knowledge to be an intrinsic social good, we work with colleges, universities, and allied organizations to ensure that its value is widely recognized and that the power deriving from it is equitably distributed. We support curricular, scholarly, and structural innovations that further these goals, at all levels of the postsecondary educational system.   

Higher Learning’s program strategies are to: 

  • Create broad, equitable access to humanities higher learning opportunities 

  • Elevate the knowledge that informs more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures 

  • Accelerate the demographic transformation of US academic faculties and institutional leadership to better reflect the population and center humanities expertise 

Recent examples of projects funded through the Higher Learning program include “The Defense of Academic Freedom: A Center and a Campaign,” “TENTACLES Initiative,” and “Philosophy in Media: Mellon Fellowships in Race and Social Justice.” 

  Please visit the Foundation’s grants database to see all of the grants made through Higher Learning

  Position Summary: 

The Research Associate will report directly to the Higher Learning Program Director and provide support to or work in close collaboration with Higher Learning Program Officers, other team members, and the Office of Learning and Evaluation. 

The Associate’s core function is to produce concise analytical reports that are carefully researched, written, and illustrated, evaluating past and current grantmaking initiatives, providing information in support of prospective future initiatives, and serving the assessment and research needs of the program officers. Additionally, the Associate participates in Higher Learning’s grantmaking and grant management processes, assisting in the preparation of grant proposals, communicating with principal investigators and financial directors at grantee institutions, monitoring and evaluating the progress of grant-funded activities, and helping to prepare materials for review by the Foundation Officers and Trustees. The Associate also contributes as needed to Foundation-wide research and evaluation activities, as well as to various collective activities and special initiatives. Work time will be split approximately 75% on research activities and 25% on grantmaking support, though these percentages may vary throughout any given year or from year to year. 

This position combines independent work and collaboration with colleagues across the Foundation. The work is highly detail-oriented and requires consistent accuracy, the ability to anticipate outcomes, multi-tasking capability, flexibility, cool-headedness, self-direction, patience, efficiency, and discretion. 

The successful candidate will possess deep knowledge and understanding of the US higher education sector, and will ideally have some familiarity with the three strategic areas in which the Higher Learning program awards grants. The Associate must have excellent research, writing, and presentation skills (both graphic and verbal); and must be thoughtful, highly motivated, well-organized, solutions-oriented, collaborative, congenial, and able to anticipate and move forward with various aspects of the program’s workflow.  

Position Details: 

In addition to fulfilling other responsibilities as necessary, the Research Associate will: 

  • Conduct research in connection with past, current, and new program grantmaking initiatives and strategies; 

  • Prepare carefully developed, elegantly crafted, concisely written, and clearly illustrated analytical and evaluative reports as needed, in support of the Higher Learning program’s grantmaking efforts; 

  • Prepare briefing materials and reports for the Higher Learning Program Director and Program Officers, and for other key Foundation staff, as assigned; 

  • Assist in the preparation of special reports on program activities for Trustees, Foundation Officers, Senior Leadership, and program staff; 

  • Support and coordinate special research projects for grantmaking work and other initiatives for Higher Learning in conjunction with the Foundation’s other program areas and grantmaking offices; 

  • Participate as needed in meetings with current and potential grantees; take meeting notes and maintain records on potential grants and grant activities; 

  • Assist Program Officers with the development of new proposals for funding, including advising grantees in preparation and revision of the narrative and financial components of proposals; 

  • Manage prospective grants from first proposal receipt to presentation to the Foundation Officers and Board of Trustees, to the post-award phase—including their tracking and management in the Fluxx online grant portal—and communicate with grantees as directed about the progress of their proposals and grant activities; 

  • Assist in drafting grant recommendations and other program-related materials; 

  • Monitor and carefully review grant reports and requests for modifications, extensions, and transfers, correspond with grantees about deficiencies, alert program colleagues to unresolved difficulties, and take appropriate actions; 

  • Identify the need for grant modifications and no-cost extensions, and facilitate the modification approval process by providing instructions to the grantee, reviewing request materials, and updating relevant information in Fluxx;   

  • Keep grant records up to date and complete in Fluxx, the Foundation’s grants management system, in accordance with program guidelines and Foundation-wide policy and practice; 

  • Help plan and coordinate on- and off-site meetings; 

  • Potentially represent the Foundation at events relevant to the program’s mission; 

  • Collaborate with staff in other programs as required; 

  • Work with external consultants and evaluators as needed. 

  Candidate Qualifications: 

Bachelor’s degree in a humanities field; master’s degree strongly preferred. Full-time experience in a fast-paced, high-volume public-sector or non-profit environment is preferred but not required; experience with grants administration is strongly desired. Applicants should possess: 

  • Keen understanding of and interest in disciplines in the humanities and humanistic social sciences; 

  • Demonstrated knowledge of organizational practices and field-wide trends in higher education; 

  • A deep and nuanced understanding of how issues of racial and social justice figure within higher education 

  • Strong financial literacy. Ability to read and decipher budgets, spreadsheets, and balance sheets;  

  • Integrity, discretion, and attention to detail;  

  • Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities; 

  • Ability to work with minimal direct supervision on multiple projects and matters at once, while being a committed team player; 

  • 5-7 years of experience in program administration or management, or a related field; 

  • Superior research and written-communication skills; 

  • Excellent analytical, critical thinking, and organizational skills with precise attention to detail; 

  • Demonstrated computer skills, including mastery of Microsoft 365 suite, particularly Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and familiarity with web-based technologies. Knowledge of Fluxx is desirable; 

  • Commitment to social justice and cultural equity; 

  • Commitment to promoting and maintaining a collegial, collaborative work environment. 

  The Mellon Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. Mellon offers a generous total reward package that provides base salary as well as a comprehensive benefits program. Mellon is committed to providing compensation that is competitive and equitable within the philanthropic sector. The estimated annual salary range for this role is $115,000-$130,000. The amount of pay offered will be determined by several factors, including but not limited to qualifications, unique skills, credentials or experience that is expected to impact the candidate’s contribution to the role. We will also consider market data as well as the Foundation’s internal pay equity framework. 

Please note that Mellon maintains a hybrid work schedule, with three days/week in person at the Foundation’s Manhattan offices. 

Candidates should apply by submitting (1) a thoughtful cover letter describing fit for the position, (2) samples of or links to relevant research, and (3) a resume by Friday, June 7, 2024.

The Foundation will consider each response carefully, but only contact those individuals it believes are most qualified for the position. 

How to Apply: 
Submit resume, cover letter, and research sample by June 7
Application Deadline: 
June 7, 2024
Job Category: 
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