Senior Researcher/Project Director

Apply now Job no: 496460
Work type: Staff Full-Time
Location: Denver, CO
Categories: Business Operations / Services, Research

Position Summary

The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab at the University of Denver (DU) was created under the leadership of the Governor’s Office to unlock data-informed solutions to our most pressing social problems. Working together with a broad range of government and community partners, we conduct research with rigor to obtain the best available evidence to inform policies, programs, and investments. Our goal is to leverage data to inform policy and practice, set the wheels in motion to achieve and sustain change, and position our partners to pursue additional, meaningful change for the communities they serve with the guidance of eight essential elements: Prioritize Relationships, Learn Together, Apply Rigor, Activate Findings, Sustain Change, Make Connections, Welcome Risk for Reward, and act as a Bridge to the Research Community.

The Colorado Lab team currently consists of a three-person management team, a 10-person research team, as well as staff in operations and for the Linked Information Network of Colorado. The Colorado Lab also works closely with a network of affiliated researchers throughout the state. Colorado Lab research staff are required to possess a solid intuitive understanding of rigorous research methods and why they work, strong written and oral communication skills for explaining technical topics to non-experts, and coding skills necessary to manage and analyze longitudinal data efficiently. Staff members are expected to engage in a collaborative learning environment where employees are highly responsive to each other as well as to government and research partners. Staff hold themselves and each other responsible for completing high quality, well-documented work in a timely fashion.

The Colorado Lab seeks to add one additional staff member at the Senior Researcher/Project Director level.

Essential Functions

Project Leadership Functions

  • Productively engage in and build reciprocal partnerships with the Governor’s office, governmental agencies, legislative members, and external researchers that withstand changes in leadership and in landscape. The Colorado Lab is highly interactive with policymakers, and all staff are expected to play a role in supporting this value.
  • Direct and serve as the principal investigator on research projects involving multiple partners, tight deadlines, sensitive data, and potentially high-profile and/or controversial topics.
  • Simultaneously lead multiple project teams, including supporting strengths-based staffing, monitoring workflow, and providing project-specific supervision to other researchers (e.g., statistical code review, conceptualizing literature review).
  • Take responsibility/leadership for meeting projects’ contractual requirements and ensure projects stay within budget/time constraints. Identify, hire, and oversee external consultants/contractors.
  • Mentor, informally or formally, project team members and external partners in building capacity.
  • Serve as a senior researcher on projects that are directed by other members of the Colorado Lab team.
  • Advise on projects and consult with staff across the Lab on partner sensitivities, actionable opportunities, pivots, and strategic decisions.

Research and Evaluation Functions

  • Translate policy or practice questions into research designs. Engage government partners in this process to ensure research designs are matched to decision-making goals through skilled facilitation.
  • Develop analysis plans for a variety of research designs, including causal evaluations and mixed methods studies, which promote rigor, sustainability, and actionability.
  • Complete a variety of analytic tasks, including data management and analysis, based on a project plan, recommending deviations from the plan as appropriate.
  • Shepherd projects through the Institutional Review Board process.

Project Communication and Dissemination Functions

  • Conceptualize and execute on standard and innovative project deliverables that will meet project/decision-maker goals and are rooted in the Lab’s Essential Elements.
  • Conceptualize and support development of data visualizations and other external facing, layered communication tools (e.g., executive summaries, factsheets, social media messaging).
  • Lead dissemination of project findings that supports actionability and sustainability using effective oral and written communication for non-technical audiences about technical analytic and policy issues.
  • Perform skilled facilitation among researchers, government partners, and stakeholders to support meaning-making and actionability of findings.

Project Development Functions

  • Lead the development of contract and grant proposals, scopes of work, and associated budgets.
  • Initiate contract development with external partners/funders and provide content to the Lab’s operational liaison with DU.

Other Lab Functions

  • Engage in other duties as necessary, requested, and appropriate to support the mission of the Colorado Lab and/or aligned with individual skill set, such as:
    • Identify and lead external communications and field-building opportunities that elevate the role and position of the Lab beyond a specific project.
    • Design and execute processes to support internal learning and improve team/organizational collaboration, communication, and functioning.
    • Contribute to structures and processes that strengthen daily and strategic operations in research, contracting, staffing, and Lab identity.
    • Proactively identify new project opportunities and secure project-specific funding.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Demonstrated passion for improving government performance and addressing complex social problems.
  • Demonstrated skill and commitment to building trusting relationships up and down the hierarchy of complex organizations.
  • Excellence in both written and oral communications.
  • Experience with technical and non-technical writing for peers, policy memos for policymakers and practitioners, slide decks, and public speaking.
  • Exceptional project management capabilities and creativity in problem solving.
  • Outstanding quantitative and analytical skills, including study design, analysis plan development and execution, and associated software use.
  • Experience generating and/or using data to drive insights and action.
  • Experience with skilled facilitation, evaluation capacity-building, and other forms of knowledge translation and skill building.
  • Track record of adeptly navigating complex organizations, developing trust with senior leaders, and building relationships among diverse groups of stakeholders.
  • Self-motivated with an orientation toward balancing results and process, with a track record of driving actionable use of data/research with limited supervisory direction.
  • Eagerness to learn, attention to detail, and ability to simultaneously manage multiple projects across diverse topic areas with tight deadlines.
  • Adept at navigating sensitive policy and evidence-building issues with discretion, confidentiality, and confidence

Required Qualifications

  • PhD in public policy, public health, anthropology, sociology, economics, criminal justice, law, or a related field.
  • Six years of experience leading research projects (e.g., principal investigator or co-principal investigator), including successful supervision of less-experienced researchers in completing routine tasks and growing their skills over time.
  • Experience using a variety of statistical programs (e.g., STATA, R, SPSS, SAS).
  • Experience generating and/or using data to drive insights and action.
  • Experience working with large administrative datasets.
  • Experience working with government agencies on evidence-building and/or the policy-making process.
  • In-depth knowledge of at least one major area of domestic social policy.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Expertise in implementation science
  • Track record of leading complex research projects and demonstrated success in meeting deadlines and government partner’s decision-making goals
  • Experience with data visualizations and innovative ways to share research findings
  • Experience with mixed methods approaches to generate actionable data
  • Track record of securing and managing external funding for research projects
  • Experience facilitating multi-stakeholder groups that include government, community/family. and non-profit partners

Working Environment

  1. Standard office environment.
  2. Unexpected interruptions occur often, and stress level is moderate to high.
  3. Noise level is quiet to moderate.

Physical Activities

  1. Ability to sit in front of a computer for an extended period.
  2. Occasionally required to move about the office/campus with the capability of transporting objects up to 20 lbs.

Work Schedule

Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Must be based in the Denver region with a balance of virtual and in-person work.

Application Deadline

For best consideration, please submit your application materials by 4:00 p.m. (MST) July 14, 2023.

Special Instructions

Candidates must apply online through to be considered. Only applications submitted online will be accepted.

Salary Grade Number

The salary grade for the position is 14.

Salary Range

The salary range for this position is $95,000- $110,000.

The University of Denver has provided a compensation range that represents its good faith estimate of what the University may pay for the position at the time of posting. The University may ultimately pay more or less than the posted compensation range. The salary offered to the selected candidate will be determined based on factors such as the qualifications of the selected candidate, departmental budget availability, internal salary equity considerations, and available market information, but not based on a candidate’s sex or any other protected status.


The University of Denver offers excellent benefits, including medical, dental, retirement, paid time off, tuition benefit and ECO pass. The University of Denver is a private institution that empowers students who want to make a difference. Learn more about the University of Denver.

Please include the following documents with your application:

  1. Resume
  2. Cover Letter
  3. Writing sample (excerpt max 4 pages). If you are not the sole author, provide a brief description of your role in the developing the product.

The University of Denver is an equal opportunity employer. The University of Denver prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age (40 years and over in the employment context), religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status, veterans status, and any other class of individuals protected from discrimination under federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance in any of the university's educational programs and activities, and in the employment (including application for employment) and admissions (including application for admission) context, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended in 2008; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and any other federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. For the university's complete Non-Discrimination Statement, please see non‑discrimination‑statement.

All offers of employment are contingent upon satisfactory completion of a criminal history background check.

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