Director, CLS Program
Job Details
Washington DC - Washington, DC
Full Time



Position Summary

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight weeks abroad studying one of fifteen critical languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. In addition to summer study abroad programming, the CLS Program offers CLS Spark, an opportunity for American students to study critical languages virtually when they may not have access to language learning on their campuses or the ability to travel overseas. By prioritizing inclusion and access, the CLS Program ensures that the next generation of America’s global leaders reflects its diversity.


The CLS Program generates approximately 5,500 applications each year for approximately 550 opportunities to participate in intensive language institutes. Based in Washington, DC, the Director of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program oversees the administration of intensive language institutes virtually and abroad, as well as outreach and selection activities for the program and a comprehensive plan for alumni engagement.


The Director oversees all programmatic and financial aspects of the administration of the CLS Program, including the development of institutional partners, preparation of participants for the education abroad experience, the review of health and safety protocols, administration of the language institutes, and monitoring and evaluation of program outcomes. The Director also works to ensure that the diversity of U.S. higher education institutions and students is reflected in outreach efforts and contributes to the development of policies and guidelines informing the selection process, student preparation process, and on-program support.


While experience with program administration, monitoring and evaluation, and financial management is an important requirement for any candidate, an understanding of U.S. academic culture broadly and study abroad trends is also essential. The position requires strategic thinking, ability to direct staff on large projects, ability to multi-task, close attention to detail, and a talent for communicating with diverse audiences. Some travel is required. The Director reports to the CLS Program Senior Director.


Position Duties and Responsibilities

  • Grant Management and Reporting: 
  • Prepares grant proposals; 
  • Manages program budgets and monitors budgets of subawards;
  • Prepares regular and semiannual grant performance reports and impromptu data reports for the funder and third parties; 
  • Ensure compliance with document retention policies and procedures for the proper disposal of program files;


  • Leadership and Communication
  • Communicates regularly and coordinates with U.S. granting agencies; 
  • In conjunction with the program funder, assists in the implementation of program-related initiatives;
  • Contributes to the development and implementation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies and practices for the CLS Program;
  • Works with the U.S. Department of State to coordinate outreach activities for the CLS Program and other programs of the U.S. Study Abroad Branch;
  • Coordinates and conducts presentations about the CLS Program for students, study abroad administrators, and faculty, including at national and regional conferences;
  • Maintains contact with U.S. university faculty and administrators to strengthen existing networks and develop new contacts, thereby increasing CLS visibility on U.S. campuses, and increasing the program’s network of scholarship application evaluators;
  • Develops and maintains institutional relations with foreign universities and academic partners; 
  • Develops a strategic vision for mentoring staff and guiding professional development;


  • Program Administration
  • Supervises the overall CLS Program outreach strategy with the support of an Assistant Manager and program staff, working strategically to develop recruitment and merit-based selection processes that result in a large applicant and finalist pool that is broadly reflective of the diversity of the United States;  
  • Directs the planning and administration of intensive language programs, including program design, review of program policies, student advising, on-program support, and evaluation of program outcomes;
  • Reviews health and safety protocols for overseas immersion programs, revising to align with best practices in the field of international education, and provides guidance and oversight of the pre-departure participant medical review;  
  • Coordinates with the Assistant Manager for Outreach and Selection and the Alumni Engagement Officer to build alumni networks, develop and implement alumni initiatives; 
  • Ensures compliance with document retention policies and procedures for the proper storage and disposal of program files


  • Management and Staff Development: 
  • Supervises direct and indirect reports, including the Assistant Manager for Outreach and Selection, the Data and Reporting Officer and the Program Assistant;
  • Together with the Senior Director, plans program activities and calendars, manages the distribution of assignments across program staff, standardizes operating procedures;
  • Provides training and operational support to program staff and partner organizations; and
  • Undertakes additional duties assigned by the Senior Director, as needed.
  • A minimum of seven years of relevant progressive experience in program administration, higher education, international education, or a related field;

  • BA or an advanced degree is preferred, but not required;

  • Familiarity with American higher education, U.S. academic culture and study abroad trends;

  • Demonstrated support of diversity, equity, and inclusion in education abroad;

  • Ability to communicate with diverse groups of students, faculty, and administrators;

  • Knowledge of language and culture of at least one target region desirable;

  • Communication Skills:

    • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English, and the ability to communicate with clarity and precision to diverse audiences, specifically racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse communities;

    • Strong public speaking skills and ability to present information clearly and concisely to both general audiences and to key stakeholders;

    • Ability to communicate effectively about issues affecting underrepresented and underserved students and groups;

  • Administrative Competencies:

    • Advanced leadership and team management skills;

    • Outstanding organizational skills and attention to detail;

    • Ability to manage multiple priorities quickly and effectively;

    • Knowledge of health and safety protocols for education abroad programs strongly preferred;

    • Knowledge of budgetary procedures, especially U.S. Government grants preferred; 

  • Technical Skills:

    • Expert knowledge of Microsoft Office applications, particularly Word and Excel;

    • Experience working with a database, basic data analysis and the use of data for public communications strongly preferred;

    • Experience working with content management systems or web publishing preferred;

    • Interest in using data analysis and communication to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in study abroad.



American Councils is committed to taking affirmative steps to enhance employment opportunities for minorities, women, veterans, and people with disabilities, and strives to ensure that meaningful employment and promotional opportunities are maintained for everyone. American Councils’ commitment to equal employment opportunity is based not only on federal requirements, but also on a longstanding commitment to maintaining a diverse workforce reflective of the communities in which we operate.



The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information.