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Job Req ID:  80100

Dialogue & Debate Director

The SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University is searching for qualified candidates for a Dialogue & Debate Director to lead a new university debate initiative. The Director will lead and design the new initiative to promote the virtues of debate across different perspectives at Johns Hopkins University, and will support the Institute’s other efforts to strengthen global democracy through informed, inclusive dialogue.


About SNF Agora Institute:

The SNF Agora Institute, founded in 2017, is a multi-disciplinary academic and public forum dedicated to strengthening global democracy by improving and expanding civic engagement and inclusive dialogue, and by supporting inquiry that leads to real-world change. By building integrated partnerships with scholars, practitioners, students, and the public, we use research to identify and sharpen strategic choices that members of the public and civic and political stakeholders around the world can make to realize the promise of democracy. 


About the University Debate Initiative:

There is widespread concern that Americans, and others living in democracies around the world, are losing the capacity to engage each other productively across different backgrounds and perspectives. Meanwhile, research has shown that university campuses have become dominated by individual speakers rather than events that involve dialogue across competing views on policy issues. At a moment when discourse seems poisoned by affective polarization and a fragmented news and social media landscape, colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to model for students – at the time in their lives when they are maturing into their identities as democratic citizens – the habits and the virtues of reasoned debate and dialogue across difference.


To this end, the Institute is launching a new university debate initiative, with programming set to commence in Fall 2022. The centerpiece of the initiative will be a series of debates on cross-cutting issues hosted at the university’s Baltimore and Washington, D.C. campuses. The events will be branded and held live in front of an audience, COVID-19 restrictions permitting. The initiative seeks to place a premium on identifying points of agreement in the debates, and on intensive collaboration with students across our campuses in the development and execution of the series.


The debate series is expected to include two marquee public debates (one per semester) and six additional debates throughout the year.  The marquee debates will feature nationally recognized speakers, with attendance expected to be approximately 300-500 attendees. The smaller-scale debates are intended to be student-facing with an audience of approximately 100 attendees from the Hopkins community.


Specific Duties & Responsibilities:

The SNF Agora Dialogue & Debate Director will lead this initiative, coordinating the planning, design, and implementation of the series, and provide expertise and guidance to student and faculty partners, including a dedicated student committee. Among their duties, the Dialogue & Debate Director will:

  • Report directly to the SNF Agora Deputy Director and responsible for leading and overseeing the debate series from content creation to ensuring proper execution and coordination of all debates and associated events
  • Design, develop and guide the structure and format of the debate series, including two marquee public debates per year  and several smaller-scale debates
  • Identify and develop best practices for the execution of the debates, including through the use of emergent technologies and systems
  • Thoughtfully identify and recruit speakers of high-caliber for the marquee events, such as current and former top government officials, members of Congress, national media personalities, nationally and internationally recognized civic leaders and renowned subject-matter experts, with the goal to advance the strategic mission of the debate series
  • Collaborate with key university stakeholders and across various departments within the University, working in close partnership with the Office of the President, Homewood Student Affairs and University Special Events; facilitate relationships with university leadership and key stakeholders to brainstorm and conceptualize the debate series
  • Create debate content that facilitates audience engagement and engenders fascinating conversations with senior-level attendees and high-profile speakers; foster audience and speaker engagement on vital issues affecting our democracy
  • Moderate the marquee debates, bringing a high-level of expertise that allows for mutual conversation and evokes interesting dialogue
  • For the smaller-scale debates, moderate or identify outside moderators or guide students’ moderation, and serve as student mentor
  • Orchestrate and oversee debate set-up and production, ensuring all elements of the series are executed at a high level of professionalism; oversee event and production staff and manage event day set-up and post-production breakdown
  • Co-develop and coordinate marketing campaigns with University communications staff, Institute staff, and Homewood Student Affairs
  • Represent the university’s debate initiative to distinguished speakers, attendees, and the community as this is a public facing position; serve as the primary liaison to high-profile speakers who participate in the initiative;
  • Use independent judgement to develop content, choose speakers and utilize resources; in partnership with the Assistant Director of Finance, allocate a six-figure annual operating budget in support of the debate initiative
  • Lend expertise and collaborate on other SNF Agora events, including but limited to developing programming aimed at fostering inclusive dialogue, including ideating, planning, and producing
  • Exercise independent judgement and work with limited supervision/direction
  • Serve as a resource to students and faculty across the university interested in promoting dialogue and debate in their own courses and elsewhere on campus
  • Perform other duties as assigned in furtherance of the Institute’s mission


Minimum Qualifications (Mandatory):

  • Bachelor's Degree in related field
  • Four years related experience
  • Advanced degree may substitute for required experience, to the extent permitted by the JHU equivalency formula.*


* JHU Equivalency Formula: 18 graduate degree credits may substitute for one year of experience.  Additional related experience may substitute for the required education on the same basis. For jobs where equivalency is permitted, up to two years of non-related college course work may be applied towards the total minimum education/experience required for the respective job. 


** Applicants who do not meet the posted requirements but are completing their final academic semester/quarter will be considered eligible for employment and may be asked to provide additional information confirming their academic completion date. 


Preferred Qualifications:

Applicants from a variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply. It is desirable that candidates have:

  • Master’s Degree
  • 7-10 years of experience in policy debate, public speaking, media, or another related field
  • Experience in debate and dialogue, including knowledge of best practices in the design and implementation of debates
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and an ability to work with diverse populations
  • Strong oral and written communications skills
  • Demonstrated experience in the art of debate and facilitating a dynamic dialogue
  • Experience moderating debates with senior leaders from government and civil society
  • Experience coordinating major event planning
  • Demonstrated commitment to the promotion of dialogue across different backgrounds and perspectives
  • The ability to work with diverse populations
  • The ability and passion to mentor undergraduate students and teach them the values and skills of debate


Special Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:

  • Experience moderating high-caliber events with senior-level professionals from government and civil society
  • Experience working in the media or broadcasting, for example serving as a news anchor or correspondent
  • Demonstrated experience/skills in the art of rhetoric


Classified Title: Communications Associate
Working Title: Dialogue & Debate Director 
Role/Level/Range: ATP/04/PD 
Starting Salary Range: Commensurate with experience 
Employee group: Full Time 
Schedule: M-F, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm 
Exempt Status: Exempt 
Location: Hybrid/Homewood Campus 

Department name: SNF Agora Institute 
Personnel area: School of Arts & Sciences


The successful candidate(s) for this position will be subject to a pre-employment background check.


If you are interested in applying for employment with The Johns Hopkins University and require special assistance or accommodation during any part of the pre-employment process, please contact the HR Business Services Office at jhurecruitment@jhu.edu. For TTY users, call via Maryland Relay or dial 711.


Johns Hopkins has mandated COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, as applicable. Exceptions to the COVID and flu vaccine requirements may be provided to individuals for religious beliefs or medical reasons. Requests for an exception must be submitted to the JHU vaccination registry. For additional information, applicants for SOM positions should visit https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine/ and all other JHU applicants should visit https://covidinfo.jhu.edu/health-safety/covid-vaccination-information/.


The following additional provisions may apply, depending on campus. Your recruiter will advise accordingly.


The pre-employment physical for positions in clinical areas, laboratories, working with research subjects, or involving community contact requires documentation of immune status against Rubella (German measles), Rubeola (Measles), Mumps, Varicella (chickenpox), Hepatitis B and documentation of having received the Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccination. This may include documentation of having two (2) MMR vaccines; two (2) Varicella vaccines; or antibody status to these diseases from laboratory testing. Blood tests for immunities to these diseases are ordinarily included in the pre-employment physical exam except for those employees who provide results of blood tests or immunization documentation from their own health care providers. Any vaccinations required for these diseases will be given at no cost in our Occupational Health office.


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