Association Leadership Academy - Level One

The Association Leadership Academy (ALA) Level One is an eight-month accelerated program for association 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 at the Empire State Society of Association Executives (ESSAE) conference and trade show in the spring.

ALA credits count toward the completion of 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.


ESSAE’s Association Leadership Academy 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. 

The Association Leadership Academy is open to all ESSAE members and non-members. 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. See the full schedule for program-by-program details.


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 eight sessions.

Participants who are unable to attend all eight sessions should contact the ESSAE office at (518) 463-1755 or [email protected] for information regarding makeup opportunities.


Participants will graduate at the ESSAE Annual Conference, where they receive a certificate of completion, graduation pin, and be listed on the Academy website by graduating class year.


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


Need financial help? 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:


Chair: Mark Nelson, Ph.D., CAE, Executive Director, MAC
Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE, Executive Director, AIA New York State Inc.
Jeremy Johannesen, CAE, Executive Director, New York Library Association
Jennifer Martin, MBA, CAE, Executive Director, NYS School Nutrition Association
Jeanine Santelli, Ph.D., RN, AGPCNP-BC, FAAN, Executive Director, ANA-NY
George Swain, M. Ed., CAE, Director for Evaluation and Professional Learning, NYS Association of Independent Schools
ALA Advisor: Barbara Bradley, CAE

What do the 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, NYS School Boards Association

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.