Association Leadership Academy

January to June 2022

2022 Leadership Academy Application Process Now Open
Early Decision Applications will be accepted through December 13, 2021

  • Updated academy curriculum featuring ESSAE leaders and industry experts
  • Capstone project enables participants to explore an area of particular interest  
  • Six day-long classes
  • Session facilitated by ESSAE leaders, graduates, and subject specialists
  • Open to both ESSAE members and non-members
  • Limited to no more than 20 professionals
  • Discounted tuition fee if registration is received by December 13, 2021!
  • Up to 30 credit hours to qualify to sit for the CAE exam or to re-certify

The Association Leadership Academy (ALA) is an accelerated program for association professionals, executives, and emerging executives in the association management field. The academy offers a unique learning experience over a series of monthly educational forums led by accomplished association and corporate leaders. 

Academy graduates become part of a group of distinguished association professionals who have completed the program. Graduates are recognized among their peers and receive a certificate of completion. 

Academy credits count toward the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. Graduates have found the academy curriculum beneficial in preparing and qualifying for certification and/or re-certification.

Graduates are encouraged to remain involved by connecting with peers, engaging in ESSAE committees, and helping formulate future educational programs.


The Academy is a 6-month program designed to help association professionals develop essential skills while creating a community within ESSAE. It is a great way to formalize and update everything you know about running associations — and to learn in areas you want to grow. The quality of the Academy’s instructors and the information-sharing among peers sets association professionals on a new path. 

Ideal candidates for this program are dedicated to growing within the association community and learning skills needed to be a leader in this environment. Candidates must currently be employed by a nonprofit organization or an association management company. 

The ideal candidate for this program:

  • Is interested in developing as an association leader
  • Has some understanding of associations
  • May be new to the executive director role
  • May bring non-association experience
  • May occupy the manager or director role at an association
  • May be an aspiring executive director and association leader
  • May be an association board chair 
  • May be interested in pursuing the CAE certification.

The Association Leadership Academy is open to all ESSAE members and non-members.

The Academy will comprise up to 20 association professionals who, but not limited to, have a minimum of five years of work experience and/or three years of association experience. Association experience might include professional, trade, or other non-for-profit association and/or membership based organization experience. 

We invite association executives, senior association staff, support staff with management potential or interest in studying association management, and current and aspiring Certified Association Executives (CAEs) to enroll in the program.


Participants in the Association Leadership Academy will emerge with the knowledge and critical decision-making ability on timely and significant topics relevant to association management. Participants will also have: 

  • Experiential learning opportunities;
  • A capstone project based on learning outcomes; and 
  • Sessions facilitated by ESSAE leaders, past graduates, and subject specialists.

Independent Leadership Projects

Each member of the ALA cohort will undertake an independent leadership project over the course of the program to learn more about an area of association leadership of particular interest to them as an emerging association leader. Each project will mix theory with practice and will provide an opportunity to roll up the sleeves and “do” the work of an association leader. Projects will fit within one of the eight general CAE Domains.

All Academy sessions will be held from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM (eastern) and be held in person at the NYS School Boards Association located at 24 Century Hill Drive, Latham, NY. Virtual access will be provided, however all participants are encouraged to attend in person to have the best experience. 

  • January 14 - Executive Leadership
  • February 11 - Governance
  • March 11 - Organizational Strategy / Operations  
  • April 8 - Business Development / Engagement & Management
  • May 13 - Advocacy / Marketing & Communications
  • June 10 - Career Development and Independent Project Presentations

Complete session details, assignments, and suggested reading will be provided to all participants in advance of each session.
A general class outline is available here!


Academy deans are executive staff and presidents/CEOs of statewide, regional, or national associations who represent professional achievement and accomplishment. Each educational forum will be moderated by an academy dean.


Enrollment in the Association Leadership Academy is a commitment to learning and professional development in the association management field. To be recognized as an ALA graduate, you must attend all six sessions. Participants who are unable to attend all six sessions should contact the ESSAE office at (518) 463-1755 or [email protected] for information regarding makeup opportunities.


Participants will receive a certificate of completion, graduation pin, and be listed on the Academy website by graduating class year. Are you looking for even more advanced training? ALA Masters will be offered in 2023! Click here [LINK] if you want to be notified when registration for Masters’ opens! 


Up to 30 CAE credit hours will be earned by attending all six sessions of this Academy which can be used toward your CAE exam registration or CAE recertification.


Early Decision (applications received on or before December 13, 2021):
1st Person: $700 Members | $1,350 Non-Members
2nd Person from the same organization: $450 Members | $775 Non-Members
Early Decision rates will automatically be applied if registering on or before December 13. A deposit of $50 will be required for all applications.

Regular Registration (applications received on or after December 14, 2021):
1st Person: $750 Members | $1,400 Non-Members
2nd Person from the same organization: $475 Members | $800 Non-Members

Single Session Audit:
Auditing Sessions: $150 per session (Members); $300 per session (Non-Members)
Only one audited session allowed per program cycle

Full Series Registration includes 30 clock hours of professional development, all materials, lunch, and access to celebratory lunch on May 26, 2022, at the Annual Conference. Non-members are encouraged to join ESSAE and receive the full benefit of membership in the organization plus the member program rate.

Registrants are applying for the ESSAE Association Leadership Academy and agree to pay the stated fees. Cancellations received on or before December 13, 2021, will be refunded less a $100 cancellation fee. Cancellations received on or after December 14, 2021, will not be refunded. Replacements will be considered.


Need financial help? It's been an incredibly tough year and we understand you may need financial help when it comes to professional development. ESSAE has established a scholarship program to ensure the continued professional growth of colleagues who represent and are dedicated to our profession. Details can be found online:


Academy registration will open on Monday, November 15, 2021. 

Ideal candidates for this program are dedicated to growing within the association community and learning skills needed to be a leader in this environment. Candidates must currently be employed by a nonprofit organization or an association management company. 

The Academy is limited to 20 participants. The early decision window will run November 15 through December 13. Applicants will be required to submit a $50 deposit.  Applications will be reviewed by the ALA Committee and applicants will be notified by December 20. 

If there is availability, the application process will remain open between December 20, 2021 and January 4, 2022, and applicants who meet the criteria will be reviewed on a rolling basis and notified of their acceptance on a first-come, first-served basis.

What do graduates think? 

If you want to assess what you and your organization are doing right and identify the areas of opportunity for improvement, I would highly recommend ALA. - Cynthia Kimble, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance

I highly recommend ALA to anyone who has a desire to spend their career in associations. The ALA exposes you to all of the topic areas that you need to know in order to lead a successful organization. Not only were the sessions informative, but they were interactive, which made learning easier and more fun! I enjoyed meeting all of my fellow ALA classmates, and their journey in the association world. The connections and lessons learned throughout the class left a positive, long-lasting impression on me and my future in associations. - Ashley Ranslow, NFIB

ALA is a comprehensive program that provides association professionals with much-needed knowledge relating to all areas of association management. - Katie Bradley

When I first registered for ALA, I had the expectation that I would learn from a few professionals about how to improve in my job and my career. After finishing the course, I can say that was achieved along with much more that I didn't anticipate. I have gained confidence in myself, my knowledge and my skill set, increased motivation to continue to advance in my career and pursue my CAE, and a network of professionals to use as a resource. - Meagan Bowker, CAE, Capitol Hill Management Services

It was clear from the topic selection, the content, and the high-quality presenters that ESSAE and the team that prepared the ALA curriculum REALLY put in the time to develop a top-notch program. The topics were relevant and timely. We received practical advice based on real-life situations. ALA challenged me to think about ways I can become a more effective manager and how I can develop my leadership skills. The deans that opened each session and introduced the presenters were outstanding. They are in the association "trenches" and spoke with authority. Ignore their advice/wisdom/guidance at your own peril! The presenters were fantastic - from within the Capital Region and of national renown. Invest in yourself, your association, and your career, and participate in the ALA. You will learn and be challenged. - Mark Amodeo, The Business Council of NYS, Inc.