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Executive Director of Research Initiatives – Office of the Vice President for Research

Job Details

The Office of the Vice President for Research at Carnegie Mellon University is seeking a highly motivated, resourceful, and trustworthy individual to support our senior leadership team as Executive Director of Research Initiatives and Chief of Staff for the Vice President for Research. The office oversees the university-wide strategic initiatives and operational functions of Carnegie Mellon’s $600+ million research enterprise and associated top-ranked technology transfer and startup activities, which span the university’s academic colleges, research institutes and centers, and the Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded research and development center. Globally recognized for academic excellence and interdisciplinary research, this position is key Carnegie Mellon’s ambitious plans to deliver innovative and impactful solutions to the most pressing grand challenges of our time.

Job Summary:

The Executive Director of Research Initiatives will play a central role in ensuring that Carnegie Mellon’s research and innovation organizational strategy and priorities are clearly defined and effectively implemented. This individual will be a principal aide and analyst as the Chief of Staff to the Vice President for Research, serving as a key liaison with diverse internal and external constituencies and assisting in providing leadership and direction for institutional initiatives, special projects, time or critically sensitive decisions, internal communications, and policy development. They will help the Vice President and the senior leadership team of the office succeed as they work with the Carnegie Mellon community on strategic priorities and initiatives by keeping key projects on track, monitoring and evaluating progress, offering trusted counsel and feedback, and aligning and coordinating resources. They will be critical to ensuring that various groups and stakeholders are aligned and working in concert to achieve shared goals and objectives. This requires an individual that possesses a deep understanding of today’s complex academic research and innovation environment, exceptional organizational, problem solving and people skills, and great flexibility and patience. The Executive Director of Research Initiatives reports directly to the Vice President and is a member of the office’s senior leadership team.

Duties and Responsibilities:
  • Provides support and counsel to the Vice President and senior leaders on matters of strategic, operational, and tactical importance. Keeps the group apprised of emerging issues.
  • Provides high-level analysis on a broad range of complex research opportunities and issues, makes recommendations for action or resolution.
  • Facilitates effective and efficient decision-making processes by gathering data, assembling appropriate stakeholders, and formulating recommendations.
  • Supports the Vice President in managing relationships with internal and external constituencies and balancing commitments to the greatest strategic effect.
  • Provides project management on special initiatives that are viewed as being critical to the organization by the Vice President. Coordinates activities and project meetings, and reports on progress.
  • Ensures that team members and stakeholders are aligned and working in concert to achieve the shared objectives.
  • Researches and prepares reports, briefings, presentations, remarks, responses on institutional and strategic issues, and/or engages others to do so.
  • Interacts with constituents from across the campus and outside of the university to make certain that office initiatives and actions are aligned and synergistic with the strategic plan.
  • Provides support for the Vice President to the Board of Trustees, University Research Council, other advisory boards and committees.
  • Represents the Vice President and other senior leaders with diverse constituencies inside and outside of the university, as appropriate. Includes attending events, committees, or boards, and presenting information.
  • Assesses inquires directed to the Vice President, determines the proper course of action, and delegates to the appropriate individual to manage the response.
  • Develops and reviews items for the Vice President’s signature, including verifying facts and policy compliance, evaluating problems, presenting alternative options, and preparing responses.
  • Carries out projects that are highly sensitive and confidential in nature.
  • Completes other duties as assigned, which may include simple tasks such as maintaining electronic records, organizing calendars, or making phone calls.
Flexibility, excellence, and passion are vital qualities within Carnegie Mellon University. Inclusion, collaboration and cultural sensitivity are valued competencies at CMU. Therefore, we are in search of a team member who is able to effectively interact with a varied population of internal and external partners at a high level of integrity. We are looking for someone who shares our values and who will support the mission of the university through their work.

You should demonstrate:
  • Exceptional communication skills, interpersonal skills, diplomacy and the ability to effectively interact and build trusted relationships with diverse internal and external constituencies.
  • High administrative and analytical skills, able to see patterns, be a fast thinker, and make decisions with attention to accuracy, detail and local context.
  • Skilled supervisor and coach, able to motivate or inspire both junior and senior staff.
  • Proven ability to effectively organize, prioritize and perform multiple job functions and conflicting priorities, meet deadlines with short turn-around times, and manage changing situations.
  • Experienced in researching and preparing executive level documents, reports, presentations, and remarks.
  • Strong problem solving and conflict resolution skills to manage complex tasks and/or those that require balancing competing interests.
  • Ability to handle sensitive information and maintain confidentiality with discretion and good judgement.
  • Fast learner, result driven, accepts and acts on all forms of feedback to effect change.
  • Demonstrate patience, reliability, composure and stability under pressure.
  • Adaptable and open to change as the office and university evolves.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree or other terminal degree in discipline of relevance to Carnegie Mellon’s research and innovation portfolio. Ph.D. preferred.
  • Experience: A minimum of 8 years of experience supporting technical management is required. Experience with federal, state, and industry strategy and policy engagement, working in a higher education environment preferred.
    • A combination of education and relevant experience from which comparable knowledge is demonstrated may be considered.
  • Successful background check
Additional Information and Requirements:
  • Work Posture: With the importance of stakeholder relationships, the role is primarily in person on campus with some remote/ hybrid flexibility.
  • Sponsorship : Applicants for this position must be currently legally authorized to work for CMU in the United States. CMU will not sponsor or take over sponsorship of an employment visa for this opportunity.
  • Security Clearance: A security clearance or ability to obtain a security clearance is preferred.
  • Travel Requirements: This position may require travel both domestically and internationally.
Joining the CMU team opens the door to an array of exceptional benefits available to eligible employees.

Those employees who are benefits eligible have the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of advantages from comprehensive medical, prescription, dental, and vision insurance to an enticing retirement savings program offering a generous employer contribution. You can also unlock your potential with tuition benefits and take well-deserved breaks with ample paid time off and observed holidays . Finally, rest easy knowing you are covered by life and accidental death and disability insurance.

Other perks include a free Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus pass, our Family Concierge Team to help navigate childcare needs, fitness center access , and so much more!

For a comprehensive overview of the benefits that may be awaiting you, explore our Benefits page .

At Carnegie Mellon, we value the whole package when extending offers of employment. Beyond just credentials, we consider the role and responsibilities, your invaluable work experience, and the knowledge gained through education and training. We acknowledge and appreciate your unique skills and the diverse perspective you bring. Your journey with us is about more than just a job; it’s about finding the perfect fit for your professional growth and personal aspirations.

Are you interested in an exciting opportunity with an exceptional organization?! Apply today!


Interested candidates are invited to apply with a cover letter, resume, and through the CMU Workday application portal.

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to diversity and inclusion, and we welcome applications from individuals of all backgrounds and experiences.

Ferra Executive Search has been retained to manage the search.

If you have any inquiries or nominations, please send an email to:

Kevin Ferra, Founding Partner
Ferra Executive Search

Please use ‘CMU Executive Director of Research Initiatives” as the subject line when you contact Kevin.


Pittsburgh, PA

Job Function

Program, Project and Operations Management

Position Type

Staff – Regular

Full Time/Part time

Full time

Pay Basis


More Information:
  • Please visit Why Carnegie Mellon to learn more about becoming part of an institution inspiring innovations that change the world.

  • Click here to view a listing of employee benefits

  • Carnegie Mellon University is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Disability/Veteran .

  • Statement of Assurance


Carnegie Mellon University


Carnegie Mellon University challenges the curious and passionate to imagine and deliver work that matters.

A private, global research university, Carnegie Mellon stands among the world's most renowned educational institutions, and sets its own course.

Carnegie Mellon was founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie under the premise that a school established to foster and develop the technical skills of its students would soon produce students and graduates whose work would astound Pittsburgh and the world. Over 120 years later, our institution continues to produce talented alumni and draws faculty and staff eager to be a part of the university's creative, passionate and close-knit community. We place emphasis on practical problem solving, interdisciplinary learning, an entrepreneurial spirit, and collaboration.

Over the past 10 years, more than 400 startups linked to CMU have raised more than $7 billion in follow-on funding. Those investment numbers are especially high because of the sheer size of Pittsburgh’s growing autonomous vehicles cluster – including Uber, Aurora, Waymo and Motional – all of which are here because of their strong ties to CMU.

With cutting-edge brain science, path-breaking performances, innovative startups, driverless cars, big data, big ambitions, Nobel and Turing prizes, hands-on learning, and a whole lot of robots, CMU doesn't imagine the future, we create it. 

Pittsburgh is home to over 86,000 students from 10 colleges and universities. Pittsburgh was ranked as one of the top U.S. cities for millennials.

Some 177,000 people work in Pittsburgh's tech-related industries, and their ranks continue to grow as the city tops lists for jobs. Networking opportunities, small business accelerators, and an innovative community make the city appealing to entrepreneurs, especially recent graduates.

Pittsburgh is emerging as a tech and culture hub that The Washington Post praises for its "world-class art museums and colorful neighborhoods."

Robotics and software engineering lead the way. The city is home to GoogleUber and Apple offices and a budding ecosystem of tech startups including DuolingoModcloth and 4Moms, all of which have CMU roots.

Many seek Pittsburgh for being a hot spot for entrepreneurship and a model for future cities. Others come for the city's burgeoning food scene.

You’ll find CMU locations nationwide — and worldwide. Silicon Valley. Qatar. Africa. Washington, D.C. To name a few.

If your heart is in your work, come work with us.

Carnegie Mellon University isn't just one of the world’s most renowned educational institutions — it’s also a hotspot for some of the most talented doers, dreamers and difference-makers on the planet. When you join our staff, you’ll become an important part of our mission to create a healthier, safer and more just life for all. No matter what your role or location, you’ll connect and collaborate with dedicated, passionate colleagues — and you’ll have the satisfaction of delivering work that truly matters.

Carnegie Mellon University offers a wide range of competitive employee benefits to help you live well. Benefit eligibility varies based on the hours per week employees are scheduled to work and the employee's geographic location

We seek to cultivate diverse populations and perspectives and promote equity and inclusion. Our devotion to these ideals springs from a core belief in the power of education to be a transformative and enriching force for every person, irrespective of their background, identity or life circumstances. 

Inclusion and belonging are intricately interwoven into the very essence of our university, helping to shape our values, policies and practices. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are not only central to our ethos but also indispensable to our pursuit of academic excellence and innovation.

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