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Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
Date Posted 06/08/2021
Admin-Business And Financial Management
Employment Type Fulltime
Application Deadline Open until filled

Cornell University embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students, faculty and staff of all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized identities to apply.


Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives (ED)

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Ithaca, NY


The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students, faculty, and staff of all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized identities to apply .


The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is a pioneer of purpose-driven science and home to Cornell University’s second largest population of students, faculty and staff. We work across disciplines to tackle the challenges of our time through world-renowned research, education and outreach. The questions CALS probes and the answers it seeks focus on three overlapping concerns: natural and human systems; sustainable food, energy and environmental resources; and social, physical and economic well-being. CALS is fundamentally invested in improving the lives of people, their environments and their communities both in New York state and around the world.


The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) seeks an outstanding candidate for the position of Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives (ED) who will be responsible to, and work collaboratively with, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean to define and implement the next generation of purpose-driven projects aimed at solving the most challenging global issues of our time. The ED will work with the dean to establish the university-wide-strategy, organizational structures, systems, and processes for a portfolio of strategic initiatives that includes the university-wide initiative “ClimateX,” a high impact, cross-institutional program poised to launch in Fall 2021. The ED will also play a critical role in CALS’ new strategic planning initiative, which is also slated to begin in Fall 2021.


The ED will be capable of communicating effectively across a range of audiences and will drive change with a holistic, collaborative approach to enhance partnerships, inspire collaboration, and motivate people to action. The ED will be a leader who can connect scholarship to action across the university and is able to develop and help manage large, complex collaborations with internal and external constituencies. The ED will work closely with colleagues in the Alumni Affairs and Development division to support and deepen current external relationships and help extend and transform them into longer-term, ever more impactful engagements.


Drawing on deep experience in communications, marketing, branding, and project management, the ED will work intensively with Cornell leadership and faculty, staff, and student experts to establish dynamic, effective collaborative connections across the university to translate strategy into action and impact.


Required Qualifications:

  • Graduate or professional master’s degree in a relevant field.
  • Scientific background/orientation with sincere interest in global challenges, with domain focus on climate solutions.
  • At least 5 years of work experience in project management, marketing, communications and/or business, and a minimum of five years of experience in executive roles, with financial management responsibility.
  • Proven record in leading trans-disciplinary projects, including international projects, and strategic planning.
  • Experience working with a broad range of stakeholders, with specific expertise in public-private partnerships.


Preferred Qualifications:

  • The Executive Director will demonstrate a successful combination of the following key personal qualities, attributes, and professional qualifications:
  • Genuine, proven passion for the mission and goals of CALS through professional engagement, and a personal sense of urgency about the need to address the goals and objectives of ClimateX, and other key university-wide initiatives.
  • Success in executing a complex portfolio of strategic initiatives with business, government, and/or non-governmental organizations, including passion for promoting and supporting startups.
  • Experience in business development, joint venture formation, project management of mega-projects, formation and/or management of start-ups or early-stage companies.
  • Management of large, complex consulting engagements, consulting advisory positions, leadership in areas of corporate social responsibility, and/or positions in large NGOs or government agencies with an external focus.
  • First-hand understanding of impact-driven fundraising in the context of large NGOs and for-profit private sector partners.
  • Cross-sector partnership building experience.
  • Superb interpersonal skills. Executive bearing and personal presence to represent initiatives persuasively and with authority to senior administrators and faculty within Cornell. Proven ability to proactively engage and partner with diverse communities of stakeholders to support the efforts of the CALS dean more broadly with collaborators in the academy; in the community, including traditionally marginalized and underrepresented stakeholders; and in the corporate and nonprofit spheres, such as CEOs, board chairs and donors, to maximize the impact of our work on global climate solutions in the world.
  • Appreciation for the culture and legacy of a large research university, along with the ability to help drive change within the institution and enrich connections with external communities.
  • Ability to operate and succeed in an environment that can offer a high degree of ambiguity.
  • Strong group facilitation, organization, problem solving, and project management skills.
  • Strong mentoring, negotiation, communication, and organization skills.
  • An entrepreneurial self-starter who is a highly motivated, dynamic strategic thinker with proven leadership and management skills.


The Application Process

The Search Committee for the ED will begin reviewing applications in mid-June and will continue until the position is filled. For best consideration, applicant materials should be received by August 16, 2021.


Candidates Should Provide :

  • Letter of interest stating how the candidate’s experiences and qualifications connect with the required/preferred characteristics and priorities expressed in the position profile.
  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Statement of contribution to diversity, equity and inclusion .
  • Five professional references with emails, telephone numbers, and a description of the candidate’s professional relationship with each reference listed (references will not be contacted without prior written authorization from the applicant).


Applications and nominations should be sent electronically (PDF or MS Word) to: CornellCALS@agbsearch.com .

  • Visa Sponsorship is not available for this position.


Candidates should visit the Cornell EEO link to complete the University’s EEO survey for the position of Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, noting the requisition # WDR-000XXXX and posting date of June 08, 2021 for this opportunity in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


The search is being assisted by AGB Search Consultants:

Ms. Monica Burton: monica.burton@agbsearch.com 917-825-2961

Dr. Nancy M. Targett: nancy.targett@agbsearch.com 302-233-5202


Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized

employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with

Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native

Americans living on or near Indian reservations. For the full Cornell University Equal

Education and Employment Opportunity Statement, visit: Cornell EEEO .


University Job Title:

Senior Project Manager



Pay Rate Type:



Contract College

Contact Name:

Michele Cowen

Number of Openings:



Current Employees:

If you currently work at Cornell University, please exit this website and log in to Workday using your Net ID and password. Select the Career icon on your Home dashboard to view jobs at Cornell.


Online Submission Guidelines :

Most positions at Cornell will require you to apply online and submit both a resume/CV and cover letter. You can upload documents either by “dragging and dropping” them into the dropbox or by using the “upload” icon on the application page. For more detailed instructions on how to apply to a job at Cornell, visit How We Hire on the HR website.


Employment Assistance:

If you require an accommodation for a disability in order to complete an employment application or to participate in the recruiting process, you are encouraged to contact Cornell University's Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at voice (607) 255-3976, fax (607) 255-7481, or email at owdi@cornell.edu .


For general questions about the position or the application process, please contact the Recruiter listed in the job posting.


Applicants that do not have internet access are encouraged to visit your local library, or local Department of Labor. You may also visit the office of Workforce Recruitment and Retention Monday - Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to use a dedicated workstation to complete an online application.


Notice to Applicants:

Please read the required Notice to Applicants statement by clicking here . This notice contains important information about applying for a position at Cornell as well as some of your rights and responsibilities as an applicant.


EEO Statement:

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian reservations. Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university and a great place to work. Our inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff impart an uncommon sense of larger purpose, and contribute creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement.

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