The Empire State Society of Association Executives Association Leadership Academy Master’s Level offers a unique, executive-level cohort learning experience over a series of five monthly educational sessions led by accomplished association and corporate leaders. Our three-hour sessions will lectures, interactive discussions, and exercises to promote strategic thinking, engagement, and peer collaboration. Participants will emerge with enhanced knowledge and critical decision-making ability on timely and significant topics relevant to association leadership.


All sessions are typically held from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM once a month on a Friday. Additional time is included for networking and idea-sharing amongst participants. Due to the interactive, cohort-based nature of the program, active participation was required and only those able to attend all sessions should register. 

In 2021, our sessions included: 

  • Change Leadership Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 
  • Organizational Strategy: A Journey To Sustained Success
  • Legal/HR Matters Impacting Associations
  • Governance: You and Your Board
  • Group Project


ALA Master's Level has been designed specifically for ALA alumni, executive and senior-level professionals from all association practice areas as well as industry partners. Take advantage of education specifically designed for executive and senior-level association professionals! It is vital to keeping abreast of the ever-increasing and changing opportunities and challenges ahead.

Executives cannot rest on their laurels and must constantly demonstrate leadership to staff, boards, and members. The ALA Master’s Level will help participants hone skills, anticipate problems, seek resolution, and plan for the future. It also will support new executives, helping to ensure that they are prepared, innovative, and forward-thinking as they seek opportunities to better serve their constituents.


Enrollment in the Association Leadership Academy Master’s Level is a commitment to learning and professional development in the association management field. To be recognized as an ALA Master’s Level graduate, you must attend all five sessions and present your project for the final session. Participants who are unable to fulfill the full attendance requirement in one year may apply for consideration to make up missed sessions the following enrollment year. Call ESSAE (518) 463-1755 for details.


All Master’s Level graduates will be recognized for their achievement and commitment to excellence at ESSAE’s annual conference on Thursday, June 10, 2021, where they will be awarded a certificate and graduation pin, then listed on the ESSAE Academy website by graduating class. Each class will be asked to evaluate the program and be part of shaping the program’s future.


CAE candidates, and/or current CAEs, who attend the full program will obtain 15 credits toward their CAE or CAE recertification. ESSAE is a CAE-approved provider, formally registered with the CAE program and committed to providing education that meets the CAE Commission's standards for helping individuals earn or maintain the Certified Association Executive credential. CAE Approved Providers have received guidance on such standards and pledged to properly represent course eligibility for CAE credit. Details on how to track your points/clock hours, visit:

Rita Lashway Scholarship

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:


Within the Academy registration process, you will be asked to select which topic/theme you would like to see featured for the fifth and final session in the leadership series. As part of the "pick your own adventure" session, participants will be required to meet periodically with 2-3 other leadership attendees to discuss their issue/topic and will have 30 minutes to present their findings (along with a session facilitator) to the group during May's session.

To create a shared experience, where getting uncomfortable lends itself to real learning, we will be asking this year’s Master Class to present in small groups during the final session in the series.

In groups of 2-3 people, participants will design their own presentation based on the CAE domains selected. To prepare, groups will need to meet several times between January and May, which may be done using video conferencing or in-person assuming local health guidelines and participant comfort level allows.

What is the end result? This depends on how you and your team approach the project.

Perhaps you’ll create something new that can be used as a tool for your colleagues. Teams may wish to use examples from within or outside their own associations or create a case study for the domain/topic. Discuss outcomes and how you might have changed to improve the end result. Or how might this topic/theme change in the future, impact association leadership, impacts felt due to COVID, etc.? What does this mean for the future of your association and/or perhaps the future of associations in general?

To view the full CAE Domain list, including sub-domains, download the CAE Exam Content Outline (PDF).

NOTE:  After submitting your ALA Registration, you will receive an email confirmation with a SurveyMonkey link to select your top three (3) choices from a list of CAE Domains. Registrants will be required to rank the CAE Domains in order of preference, how they resonate with you, and/or relevance to you and your organization.

More information on this project will be shared at the opening session.


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


Vanessa LaClair, CAE, CMP, Executive Director
Empire State Society of Association Executives, Inc.
1A Pine West Plaza | Albany, NY 12205 | (518) 463-1755 | @EmpireStateSAE | #ESSAEALA