A Mission to Make the World a Better Place at American Institutes for Research

As a leader in behavioral and social science research and evaluation, [American Institutes for Research’s (AIR)](http://www.air.org/careers) mission is to use the best science available to bring effective ideas and approaches to enhancing everyday life. For AIR, making the world a better place is not wishful thinking; it is a goal that drives the organization.

Founded in 1946 as a not-for-profit organization and headquartered in Washington, DC, AIR conducts its work with strict independence, objectivity, and non-partisanship. Other locations in the United States include New York City, Austin, Chicago, Boston, San Mateo, and Chapel Hill.

AIR works with federal and state governments, foundations, and non-profit organizations to address some of today’s most challenging issues in the areas of education, health, and workforce. The intellectual diversity of its 1,800 employees enables the organization to bring together experts from many fields in the search for innovative answers to challenges that span the human life course.

Diversity is not defined just by race or gender. It encompasses the whole human experience — age, culture, education, skills, and life stories. Inclusion celebrates differences so that talented people from any background can contribute to a richer work environment, more useful and effective research and services, and greater professional potential. AIR’s commitment is about fully integrating diversity and inclusion into its strategy, culture, people and the work they do.

To accomplish this, they have a comprehensive four-pillar strategy. “The first pillar is about people and investing in the organization’s human capital” says Chief Diversity Officer at AIR, Monica L. Villalta. “We have a diversity council and six employee resource groups representing diverse populations.” The three remaining pillars revolve around cultural competence, the organization’s identity, and opportunities for individual and organizational growth.

AIR offers former military personnel an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the disadvantaged. This mission is closely aligned with the military commitment to serving the country and protecting citizens.

Another area where AIR is closely aligned with the time-sensitive, mission-oriented, and rule-driven training one receives in the military is the need for adherence to guidelines and procedures. This is especially important in their research and program evaluation division, as well as the infrastructure division which includes facilities management, finance, technology, and human resources. According to Villalta, these functional work areas are ideal for military personnel due to the discipline required around procedure, attention to detail, and time management.


Jack Buckley is senior vice president at AIR, where he started working in January 2017. Buckley leads the organization’s research and evaluation area, where he oversees projects across AIR’s entire range of subject areas. These areas include education, health, and workforce development, both in the United States and internationally.

After graduating from Harvard University, Buckley entered the Navy and served five years as a surface warfare officer and nuclear reactor engineer, leaving as a lieutenant (O-3). He had several positions while serving, including ordnance and anti-submarine warfare officer onboard USS Kauffman (FFG-59), and reactor controls division officer onboard USS South Carolina (CGN-37).

As senior vice president within the company’s professional services division, Buckley is responsible for leading and implementing the firm’s strategic vision for its research and evaluation services. His position requires strong leadership skills and the ability to effectively manage and collaborate with teams of professionals with diverse cultural and demographic backgrounds, skill sets, content expertise, and work experiences. Fortunately, Buckley’s military training gave him a very strong foundation for such skills and abilities.

As a junior officer, he was responsible for leading and managing several divisions with a complex range of tasks. “Having that experience right after college and very early in my career pushed me to grow as a leader and manager very quickly,” Buckley said. “I learned that, to be an effective leader, I needed to build trust and establish clear and open communication with my team and other officers. It was essential to mission success.”

Buckley’s experience in the military also required him to develop an acute attention to detail. When it came to complex projects, such as planning a cruise missile strike or deactivating and safely disposing of a shipboard nuclear reactor, he had to focus on everything from the big picture to the smallest minutiae. This skill now helps him hone in on the detailed requirements of a federal, state, or international government contract and ensure his teams are designing solutions that meet requirements and follow all government guidelines to the highest standards of quality.

In addition to applying many of the leadership, technical, and project management skills learned during his service in the military, Buckley was very attracted to AIR because he believed in its mission to improve the lives of people, especially those who are disadvantaged. “I believe that many other veterans who share a passion for serving our country may feel the same way. People who want to help others should consider a career at AIR.”

As veterans explore civilian careers, Buckley advises, “Remember that your training and experiences are appealing to a wide range of organizations. Pursue career opportunities that align to your values. That will help you stay engaged, interested, and feeling fulfilled.”