Senior Program Officer, Fellows Program
MacAthur Foundation - Chicago, IL

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MacArthur Fellows Program Overview

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown exceptional creativity and dedication in their pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of MacArthur Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

How MacArthur Fellows Are Chosen

Each year, the MacArthur Fellows Program invites new nominators on the basis of their expertise, accomplishments, and breadth of experience. They are encouraged to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. Nominators are chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible.

After nominations are received, they are each assigned to a Program Officer, who takes primary responsibility for preparing a dossier, gathering documents by and about the nominees, as well as numerous evaluations from independent experts. Dossiers are reviewed by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders across the arts, sciences, humanities, public policy, social sciences, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept absolutely confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their full counsel independent of outside influence.

After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and board of directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Typically, 20 to 25 Fellows are selected each year. Between June of 1981 and September of 2011, 850 Fellows have been named.

The MacArthur Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.

The Role

The primary function of the Senior Program Officer is not choosing MacArthur Fellows, but building dossiers about nominees, documents that serve as the basis of deliberations by the Program’s independent Selection Committee. The successful candidate will be assigned nominations mainly (but not exclusively) in the natural sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine. In addition, the Senior Program Officer will provide informal guidance to other program officers who are working on nominations in related areas. The Senior Program Officer will also contribute to the development of lists of potential nominators, and actively follow recent advances in fields across the spectrum of scientific research. Although the Fellows Program team is highly interactive and collaborative, the Senior Program Officer may be called on to provide leadership of important management or administrative tasks, as needed.

Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have deep knowledge of concepts and leaders in multiple science- and math-related fields, having demonstrated mastery and leadership in one or more areas through professional experience. S/he will not be an advocate for any specific area(s) of inquiry or agenda, be it political, intellectual, methodological, artistic, or social. S/he will be able to differentiate the significant and durable from the trendy and fashionable. S/he will have a broad intellectual capacity, curiosity, and passion for an eclectic range of issues and subjects across the broadest array of areas, including those not yet defined.

Essential Responsibilities and Duties:

--Review and develop dossiers in response to outside nominations in the sciences, mathematics, technology, and engineering.

--Draft briefs and nominees to be reviewed by an independent selection committee. Make presentations to the Selection Committee.

--Develop and implement projects of special interest, providing leadership for collaborative efforts within the team.

--Meet with nominators, Selectors, Fellows, and field experts.

--Perform administrative or other tasks as assigned by the Director.

--Represent the Fellows Program at related conferences and meetings.


--A doctoral degree in a science or math-related discipline is strongly preferred; a master’s degree in a natural science field with graduate-level statistical training is required.

--Minimum of 10 years relevant post-graduate work experience.

--Appreciation of the nature and importance of creative work and proven ability to recognize it.

--Demonstrated intellectual curiosity. Well-developed critical thinking and analysis skills.

--Outstanding writing, investigation, and speaking skills. Must be able to organize and clearly convey complex problems/issues in written and oral format for both expert and non-expert audiences.

--Must be able to conduct written and oral communications with outside experts with total discretion, sharing the content and/or identities with no one outside the Program staff and Selection Committee.

--Proven ability to analyze and summarize complex data quickly, identifying critical issues and developing solutions to problems.

--Must have command of MS Word and Excel. Ability to work with complex relational databases is essential; experience with advanced SQL query development is helpful.

--Comfortable with and open to people who hold diverse views and perspectives.

--A presence that is self-confident, diplomatic, with a collegial approach to work and, with high professional standards.

--Demonstrated commitment to the beliefs and goals of the Foundation; well-organized and efficient at managing multiple tasks and meeting tight deadlines.

--Teaching experience and/or direct experience applying this expertise to contemporary social problems.

--Must be able to work in harmony with staff at all levels of the organization.

--Must be willing and able to travel occasionally.

About the MacArthur Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients of all ages may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in many other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $500,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.