The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC announces the search for Executive Director.


About IACS at USC

The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies - a 501c3 research institute located at the University of Southern California - is the only institute of its kind in the world. Established to create dialogue, spark ideas, inspire deep thinking, and support important and profound interdisciplinary, and interfaith research rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition, the Institute is dedicated to the idea that an ongoing examination of our world from a Catholic perspective is a mission infinitely valuable to both Catholics and the broader public.

The Institute is dedicated to developing a distinctive intellectual capital through the study and application of the long and rich Catholic intellectual tradition — a tradition that includes not only brilliant theologians and philosophers, but also scientists, social scientists, historians, poets, writers, artists, architects and musicians. The Institute promotes understanding, critiquing, and developing Catholic intellectual life for the service not only of the Church, but all religions, especially as it dedicates itself to the common good.

Led by a lay board of directors that reflects the world in which we live – business leaders, academic leaders and leaders from the Catholic tradition and faith – the Institute is led by IACS President Fr. James Heft, a Marianist priest and historian, who conceived of the Institute as a way to preserve and advance the theological, philosophic, artistic and intellectual contributions that Catholics and the Catholic Church have made to the today’s world.

The Institute is located on the campus of, and receives support from, the University of Southern California (USC), one of the world’s premier research institutions.

“Our affiliation with USC is critically important to the mission of the Institute,” explains Fr. Heft. “Here, on this campus, we are situated in the center of one of the largest, most diverse, and most vibrant Catholic communities in the world, among the best and the brightest academicians and intellects living today, and at the heart of Los Angeles, the most culturally and religiously diverse city in the world. I can think of no better place from which to launch the programs and conduct the research the Institute was created to produce.”

IACS Research

Since its establishment in 2004, the Institute has supported research by some of today’s greatest living scholars, including Charles Taylor, Kathy Caveny, Miguel Diaz, Lisa Cahill, Ken Miller, John O’Malley, S.J., Margaret Archer, Stefano Zamagni, Paulinus I. Odozor, and José Casanova – resulting in a significant number of highly influential and highly acclaimed publications by leading academic publishers.

In addition to the formal scholarship it supports, the Institute sponsors programs and lecture series that explore a broad range of topics, including the intergenerational transmission of faith for Catholics, Jews, Muslims and other believers, the role of faith in economics and social justice, the critical importance of interreligious dialogue to relations between nations and communities of faith, the impact of Vatican II in the 21st century, the future of the Catholic imagination in the arts, and more— that have helped establish the Institute as an independent entity with an international reach and reputation.


Discover an environment where professional satisfaction and career achievement are paired with optimal quality of life in one of the most distinctive  metropolitan cities in the world – Los Angeles - the capital of the entertainment industry and a cultural mecca featuring major universities, more than 100 museums and world-famous tourist attractions. Los Angeles is on the leading edge of several growth industries: L.A. County, with more than 87,000 jobs in the fashion industry, has surpassed New York’s fashion district workforce; the L.A. five-county area also has more than 700,000 people at work in health services/biomedical activities and 190,000 people in aerospace/technology. Downtown Los Angeles is the largest government center outside of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles is the only city in North America to have hosted the Summer Olympics twice. Here you will find the only remaining wooden lighthouse in the state and the largest historical theater district on the National Register of Historic Places. Enjoy all the amenities in a temperate climate that encourages year-round outdoor recreation and relaxed hospitality.  Family members of all ages will find all the key elements that contribute to safe and enjoyable life.  It's all here for the executive leader professionally prepared to step into this vital role.

The Role of the Executive Director

Rooted in the mission of the Institute, the Executive Director (ED) is the key management leader of the Institute, responsible for overseeing organizational administration, monitoring financial operations and developing the budget with the president and the chair of the Finance and Investment committee.  The ED oversees the  administrative, program, and communication responsibilities of the Institute. The ED will assist in the development of a strategic plan that will lead to the establishment of a residential center for scholars. The Executive Director reports directly to the President of the Institute, who in turn is accountable to the Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Role specifications include:

Fostering the Mission

  • Executive skill sets and presence to provide visible leadership in the USC and Catholic communities.
  • Proven skill to form beneficial partnerships with relevant USC departments/centers.
  • Management capabilities to oversee the annual speaker’s series, to help develop a scholar-in-residence program, and to coordinate and support occasional scholarly seminars.



  • Demonstrated skill to coordinate and oversee Institute staff (an assistant, director of development and her staff, and the director of communications).
  • Diligence and skill to keep key stakeholders fully apprised including providing operating reports for the president and Board of Trustees.
  • Proven skill to identify, recruit, hire, evaluate, and retain capable and qualified staff.
  • Fiscal and operations management skills to prepare and administer an annual operations budget of ~$750,000 and ensure resource utilization aligns with the budget along with skill to develop and present quarterly financial statements;
  • Administrative acumen to coordinate biannual board meetings. Skill to interact and work effectively with board committees.
  • Skill for administrative aspects of research and book publishing projects. 



  • Oversee staff managing marketing, communications, digital content, and orchestration of regular email communications to to scholars and donors; development of the Institute’s social and traditional media presence; and updating and revising of Institute’s publicity materials.
  • Experience in the effective use of a customer relationship platform to maintain optimum record-keeping and communication is advantageous.


Fundraising Administration

  • Although not responsible for directly engaging donors to solicit financial support, the ED must bring administrative capability to participate in the development of, implementation and support of a fundraising plan for annual, foundation, and special donors.
  • Collaboration skills to coordinate the partnership between the Director of Development and Communications.
  • Willingness to participate in friend-raising events outside the office and after normal business hours.
  • Prior experience in fundraising operations is advantageous.


Desired Attributes and Qualifications

The next IACS Executive Director must have a combination of professional and personal qualities that speak directly to the opportunities and challenges for leadership presented by this unique institution at such a dynamic time. A Master’s degree is desirable, coupled with an understanding of the Catholic tradition as an intellectual resource and a tradition to be studied, extended, critiqued, and renewed are expected qualities, as are the personal characteristics of authenticity, integrity, transparency, and warmth. Proven budget development and management and financial skills, strong organizational abilities, including staff management, planning, delegating, program development, evaluations, and task facilitation, and strong written and oral communication skills are requisite to success in the role.

Demonstrated success in managing a diverse, mission-oriented team, implementing significant institutional initiatives, and advancing responsible stewardship of financial resources will also be valued.

The successful IACS  Executive Director will be:

  • A collaborative leader and team player;
  • An engaging and visible presence on campus and in the community;
  • A passionate champion for the mission of IACS;
  • A person of financial responsibility and acumen;
  • A strategic thinker with proven abilities to conceptualize, plan, prioritize, build consensus, and implement institutional initiatives;
  • An individual with the highest personal integrity, ethics, and a demeanor demonstrating a strong moral compass with kindness, humility, and a sense of humor;
  • An outstanding communicator (written and oral);.
  • An effective, creative problem-solver;
  • An individual with strong emotional intelligence, a balance of wisdom and judgment with an ability to work independently with little direction;
  • A person with respect for diverse cultures and inclusivity;
  • One who understands and drives for excellence;
  • Politically astute, yet not political;
  • A person who earns the trust of others through genuine engagement and demonstrated actions;
  • Able to facilitate multiple competing priorities, bringing excellent follow through skills and a record of responding to constituents in a timely way.


Key Attractors to the Role

  • Grasp a rare opportunity to play a key leadership role within an institution unlike any other in the world, focused on fostering research, dialogue and renewal of the intellectual life of the Church, the academic disciplines and society.
  • Enjoy the autonomy and independence to bring your best ideas, create the ideal model, and make your mark while building a lasting legacy within a nationally and internationally recognized organization where you will be listened to, heard and affirmed. Enjoy a mission-critical position where pivotal decisions will define, shape and elevate the future of the IACS.
  • Be a part of a truly collaborative, collegial and friendly culture in an organization fully committed to its mission and to fostering a real sense of community, mutual respect and support, as well as work-life balance. Here you’ll find a seasoned and capable staff and strong, competent and visionary board of trustees.
  • IACS has experienced progressive, continual growth as a “startup” for eleven years, publishing 12 books by top university presses, organizing international conferences (two held at the Vatican at it’s invitation), holding a dynamic annual lecture series at USC, and creating a series of major studies on interreligious dialogue, Catholic social teachings, economic justice, and other relevant subects. Grasp the opportunity to be a key leader in taking the Institute to its next levels of achievement and accomplishment.
  • Work within one of the world’s most diverse, dynamic, progressive, and admired metropolitan cities, at a major research university setting that offers a unique environment and support for a research Institute dedicated to inter-disciplinary and inter-faith dialogue. Geography, climate, demographics, and ambiance combine to offer you a truly excellent place to live. Family members will discover a sophisticated, open community that offers an attractive array of activities, amenities, services and opportunities whether they are looking for top-notch education, meaningful employment, or simply a safe, enjoyable, and comfortable place to live. Outstanding opportunities for active or spectator sports; cultural opportunities include music, art, dance, and historical sites, along with amenities of value for all ages.

Should you wish to participate in the search as a candidate, please submit a letter of interest and resume to: [email protected]

For more information or to discuss this position, contact:

Lisa J. Marks, Senior Partner & Division President
Heather Dobberstein, Senior Search Consultant
616.284.1673 | [email protected]

Wheless Partners | The Catalyst for Extraordinary Leadership |

New York | Houston | Atlanta | Birmingham | Dallas/Fort Worth | Phoenix | Denver | Minneapolis

Wheless Partners provides an array of leadership consulting services, Succession Planning, Talent Mapping and Board, Executive and Management search services to include Board of Directors, Chancellor, President, Chief Executive, Chief Officers, and other executive, senior and mid-level management roles.  The firm's contributions include executive and management leadership to internationally known and Fortune 100 organizations, mid-size corporations, and advancing small enterprises. Additionally, Wheless Partners has demonstrated expertise in conducting assignments on behalf of foundations, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations. According to the sentinel guide of the leadership and search industry, John Lucht's Rites of Passage At $100,000 to $1 Million+, these efforts have resulted in the firm being continuously ranked among the top search and leadership consulting firms.

Contact information:


[email protected]



Share This