Vice President, Justice Policy

Vice President, Justice Policy

Urban Institute

Washington, DC   |   October 29, 2020

About Urban Institute

The Urban Institute is the trusted source for unbiased, authoritative insights that inform consequential choices about the well-being of people and places in the United States. We are a nonprofit research organization that believes decisions shaped by facts, rather than ideology, have the power to improve public policy and practice, strengthen communities, and transform people’s lives for the better.

Our experts diagnose current challenges and look ahead to identify opportunities for change. And we don’t stop there. We use our research findings to help stakeholders craft relevant solutions and strategies that address today’s concerns and avert tomorrow’s roadblocks. And we share our insights in real time with influencers eager to make smarter decisions.

For over 50 years, Urban has collaborated with philanthropists, social services providers, community advocates, businesses, and federal, state, and local leaders to:


Our experts immerse themselves in communities and gather and mine data to assess whether efforts to bolster families, cities, and neighborhoods are effective. Using innovative models, we forecast how potential changes to programs could affect people’s lives. As we learn, we share—by convening the best of diverse perspectives and bringing research to life through interactive data visualization and storytelling.


Urban’s experts help government leaders at all levels put policy into practice. We advise advocates hungry to drive social change and philanthropies keen to target investments for maximum impact. We also collaborate with nonprofits and philanthropy to refine their strategies and improve how they measure whether their interventions are making a difference. Through partnerships and public engagements, we make fact-based best practices widely available. 


Our research reveals what works and what doesn’t. Facts spark solutions. That’s why change-makers turn to Urban to help them address multidimensional problems with strategic approaches backed by evidence. They rely on us to provide sound, actionable recommendations for tackling complex social and economic challenges and to offer new, promising ideas for addressing anticipated barriers to opportunity.

More information about Urban Institute, including its commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can be found at the end of this document and on the Urban website.

The Opportunity

The Urban Institute is looking for a vice president to lead the Justice Policy Center, one of ten research centers at the Urban Institute. With national attention focused on issues of policing, incarceration, public safety, and racial justice, this is a unique opportunity to guide a widely respected center of justice policy expertise into its next chapter. The next vice president will lead a highly-skilled, creative, and engaged team of 50-plus that is dedicated to developing research-informed solutions to the crime and justice challenges that so deeply impact individuals, families, and communities, particularly communities of color.

About the Justice Policy Center

Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center (JPC) is dedicated to:

  • informing solutions to crime and safety challenges in the interests of promoting effectiveness in justice systems and operations
  • addressing the harms of victimization and justice system involvement
  • reducing racial and other inequities inside the justice system and out
  • strengthening community-led approaches to safety
  • promoting justice, dignity, and well-being for all

JPC conducts objective, rigorous, interdisciplinary research, evaluation, and policy analysis and delivers data-driven recommendations, training, and technical assistance. In carrying out its research, JPC seeks to center the voices, experiences, and perspectives of the people, practitioners, and communities most affected by crime and the criminal justice system.

The vice president of Justice Policy is responsible for overall management of JPC, including guiding the development of research and policy agendas and business strategy, and the management of a 50-plus person team of research, policy, and operational staff. This person will have primary responsibility for the financial health of the center, communications and external engagement, internal and cross-Urban Institute management, and hiring and professional development of the center’s diverse staff.

The vice president will report directly to President Sarah Rosen Wartell and work closely with the Senior Vice Presidents, Nani A. Coloretti and Kimberlyn Leary.

The vice president’s core responsibilities and corresponding desired skills and competencies are substantial. Understanding that no candidate will bring all of the desired skills, experiences, and characteristics reflected in this profile, we encourage candidates who offer key aspects of the ideal profile to express interest in this opportunity. People from communities that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and people with direct experience with the criminal justice system are strongly encouraged to apply.

Strategic Leadership & Vision

  • Develop and implement a clear vision and strategy for broadening and deepening JPC’s capacity to inform and influence public policy and practice.
  • Inspire and nurture an environment in which JPC scholars and policy experts can think boldly and ambitiously—in collaboration with funders and stakeholders—to build and grow compelling research programs and create and hold space for generative dialogues.
  • Champion the building of an increasingly diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment in JPC and across Urban.
  • Proactively identify opportunities that support the needs and ideas of internal and external stakeholders, advance policy program goals and solutions for the field, and support Institute-wide initiatives.

Desired skills and characteristics:

  • Demonstrated entrepreneurial leadership and strategic thinking.
  • Strong understanding of where the field of criminal justice research is moving and what research is needed to advance change.
  • An understanding of policy and the policy-making process and a point of view about how research can drive action and forward progress.
  • Ability to develop, communicate, and implement a clear strategic vision that provides direction while allowing competing points of view and perspectives to be heard and valued.

Organizational & People Management

  • Manage, guide, and supervise JPC staff on projects, center operations, and organizational initiatives, including setting clear direction and performance expectations, building team skills, and assessing progress.
  • Serve as an inclusive, transparent leader who engages in authentic dialogue around issues of race and equity and seeks to build and grow a diverse team and body of work.
  • Develop and implement policies and practices that support staff growth, creating intentional pathways for professional development and advancement at all levels.
  • Provide support to JPC senior researchers for serving as effective internal leaders and managers and managing staff resources efficiently and effectively.
  • Create organizational structures that promote efficiency, internal equity, equal or improved access, and innovation.
  • Develop and execute operational plans consistent with budgetary goals and working with staff across initiatives.
  • Manage JPC’s budget in adherence to organizational guidelines and protocols.
  • Execute, report on, and measure JPC contributions to major projects and organizational initiatives.
  • Manage effective and collegial relationships with other Urban teams – communications, technology and data science, development, human resources, business operations, and other research centers – to develop partnerships, seed innovations, support intersecting research, promote business development, and lead diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Desired Skills and Characteristics

  • Capacity to deeply engage in racial equity work internally with center staff, more broadly across Urban, and externally in the spaces in which Urban operates; previous experience leading work on racial equity in justice and public safety preferred.
  • Personal alignment with Urban’s belief that creativity and intellectual growth thrives in an environment that welcomes differences in viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences.
  • A management style that is open and consultative with a focus on team building and creating a culture of belonging and inclusion.
  • Ability to lead in a complex, multi-disciplinary environment that is undergoing change and growth while it works to develop research-informed solutions to some of society’s most pressing problems.

Business Development & External Engagement

  • Cultivate new external partnerships and collaborate with JPC’s team and Urban leadership to manage relationships with multiple funders, expand funding opportunities, and ensure a robust and diverse funding pipeline.
  • Steward existing bodies of work, helping them grow and take advantage of opportunities for policy impact and fundraising success.
  • Empower and engage JPC scholars in the recognition of emerging trends and needs and the development of innovative research programs that broaden the organization’s scope and attract new funders.
  • Support and enhance JPC outreach and external engagement strategies, ensuring effective distribution of center products.
  • Maintain strong collaborative relationships across diverse institutions in order to represent JPC among government, business, media, and academic leaders.

Desired Skills and Characteristics

  • Compelling and thoughtful communication style that meets the needs of internal and external audiences and engenders trust and collaboration.
  • Experience working with funders; a track record of fundraising/business development.

Research Management & Content Expertise

  • Oversee quality assurance activities Center-wide to ensure high-quality products are delivered on time and within budget.
  • Ensure that JPC staff have the resources and support necessary to continue developing transformative work.
  • Act as a risk-management resource to staff to troubleshoot project-specific issues and concerns.

Desired Skills and Characteristics

  • A deep familiarity with quantitative and qualitative research methods and design, and ability to oversee their successful application.
  • Ability to help researchers bring an equity and inclusion lens to policy research, weaving that perspective throughout many programs of work, and informing how researchers define problems.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Urban

Our Vision

The Urban Institute’s mission is to open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions rooted in economic and social policy research. To advance our mission, we must attract and support a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, talents, and thought. We must foster an inclusive workplace, where all staff feel respected, heard, engaged, and valued. We must learn from and include in our research the experiences of the people and communities at the heart of the issues we study. These efforts are critical to the health, vibrancy, and relevance of our institution and, most importantly, to the excellence of the data and evidence we deliver.

Our Goals

Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Urban became a formal institutional priority in 2016 after we adopted Urban’s first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Roadmap. The roadmap outlines our aspirational vision, sets concrete objectives through 2020, identifies actions toward each objective, and assigns responsibilities to various leaders across the organization. It establishes goals for three mutually reinforcing domains:

  • Staff composition. Urban will recruit, attract, and retain diverse staff—including from historically underrepresented groups—with the full range of competencies needed to excel at our mission.
  • Workplace culture. Employees of differing backgrounds and perspectives will enjoy a community of mutual respect, inclusivity, and collegiality at Urban and know that diversity is valued.
  • Research content and communication. Urban will produce rigorous research that conveys respect for all people, avoids the perpetuation of stereotypes, acknowledges relevant historical and social contexts, and engages diverse audiences.

For the past four years, the roadmap has guided our DEI efforts and provided clear mechanisms for holding ourselves accountable for actions and outcomes. This year, we are developing our next five-year roadmap.

Compensation & Benefits

Working in the Nation’s Capital, the epicenter of public policy among a network of policy experts, you can expect to have an impact on policy areas you care about and work with great colleagues who are smart, mission-driven, and collaborative. You will blend academic rigor with on-the-ground collaboration, be encouraged and supported to fulfill your potential through meaningful work that matters, and enjoy a welcoming workplace free from harassment, discrimination, and intolerance.

In addition, we offer a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical, dental, disability, and life insurance coverage. Employees receive competitive paid time off allowance and are eligible to participate in a generous retirement savings plan plus elect a pretax benefit for commuting expenses.


Koya Leadership Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Molly Brennan and Shelby Woods are leading this search. Please make recommendations or express your interest in this role here or email [email protected]. All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Urban Institute is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected status under applicable law.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit