Leadership Academy Program Overview & Application

Through an immersive two-year program, Leadership Academy participants build their expertise to enhance their influence in the field of disability services and supports.

Leadership Academy Overview

This two-year program aims to support mid-career professionals interested in building their areas of expertise and thought-leadership to enhance their influence and reputation in the national I/DD community as the next generation of leaders.

Program participants will be expected to complete 60 units of learning activities that are completed over two years. Participants can earn the units through any of the ANCOR Foundation-sponsored activities, ANCOR-sponsored events, or completing external trainings (supporting documentation required).

The fifth Leadership Academy cohort application period is open from September 18–October 31, 2023. ANCOR staff will send out status letters in December 2023.

The ANCOR Foundation will kick off its next cohort in March 2024, with graduation from the two-year program to be held at ANCOR Connect ’26.

Program Requirements

Participation in the Leadership Academy requires attendance at virtual orientation and in-person kick-off meeting at ANCOR’s annual conference, ANCOR Connect. In addition, the program requires a combination of professional development opportunities and community service to the disability community.

Program participants will be expected to complete 57 hours of professional development that include: 

  • Subject Matter Expert Seminars: 15 hours
  • Mentorship: 12 hours
  • Culture Circles: 10 hours
  • Self-Directed Learning Experiences: 10 hours
  • Community Service: 10 hours
  • Capstone Project & Presentation

Qualifying Self-Directed Learning Experiences

  • Conference Plenary Sessions
  • Conference Breakout Sessions 
  • Professional Mentoring
  • Seminars

Qualifying Community Service

  • Active participation in an ANCOR committee or initiative 
  • Sharing subject matter expertise through presentations, speaking engagements or publications
Program Benefits

Participants in the Leadership Academy will receive: 

  • Ten bi-monthly ninety-minute subject matter expert-led seminars
  • A dedicated industry leader mentor to provide two years of one-on-one guidance
  • Complimentary admission to the Renee L. Pietrangelo Leadership Forum Pre-Conference
  • A dedicated ANCOR Connected Community peer support group
  • Dedicated networking opportunities. 

Upon program completion, Leadership Academy graduates will receive: 

  • Recognition at ANCOR Connect
  • A certificate of completion
  • Visibility on the ANCOR Foundation website
  • Access to a robust alumni network

Learn More

Application Process

Eligibility Criteria

  • Full-time employee of a service provider
  • Five to ten years of experience in the I/DD or disability field
  • Minimum one year of supervisory experience
  • Timely submission

To be considered, applications must be completed by the submission deadline: Tuesday, October 31, 2023.

Application Checklist

To be considered, applicants must provide:

  • Resume or employment history
  • Short answers to application questions
  • One letter of recommendation
  • A letter of commitment from the applicant’s organization, indicating willingness to provide support and resources as needed to enable participant to successfully complete the program

Apply Today

Subject Matter Expert-Led Seminars

From Institutions to a Meaningful Life: The Story of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the United States

This presentation introduces the history of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), specifically focusing on public welfare, policy, and practice milestones in the context of realizing everyday lives. For those of us who work alongside people with I/DD, we each have our own “why’s”—why we come to work every day, why we got into this field, and why we stay, even on the hard days. However, although we work with people with I/DD every day, many of our “why’s” have not necessarily been informed by learning about disability history. There’s so much we can learn from our past to make sense of our present and make changes for the future. 

Subject Matter Expert: 

Alli Strong-Martin, Communications Coordinator, ANCOR

The Implications of Policy and Regulation for I/DD Services

Although the federal-state partnership model on which the Medicaid program is built offers many benefits, it also means that policies and regulations governing the program can be complex. Nevertheless, it is imperative that community-based I/DD providers fully understand their programs’ expectations. This session will focus on the essentials of Medicaid’s policy and regulatory environment. Participants will leave with an understanding of crucial Medicaid rules and considerations for how to ensure the services they deliver comply with those rules.

Subject Matter Experts: 

Lydia Dawson, Senior Director of Government Relations, ANCOR 

Elise Aguilar, Director of Federal Relations, ANCOR 

Person-Centered Conflict Management

This seminar will focus on applying person-centered thinking strategies to support coworkers and teams to resolve conflicts by understanding perspectives, defining shared vision, and breaking down barriers. Additionally, the session will focus on principles of inclusive leadership and how to use the person-centered process to discover more about individual team members and the culture of an organization and its teams. We will break down barriers that may arise when assisting individuals with life decisions and assisting organizations with developing and maintaining an organizational vision. Also, during this session, attendees will gain experience using a variety of person-centered tools in a nontraditional way, focusing on resolving conflict, eliminating barriers, and moving organizations forward by using the Life Trajectory for team planning and the Integrated Support Star for organizational planning.

Subject Matter Experts: 

Heather Daily, Business Development Associate, Therap Services 

Dr. Shae Dotson, Assistant Director of Person Center Practices, Therap Services 

Change Management to Advance Mission-Driven Organizations

Supporting people with diverse needs in an evolving business environment means that our increasingly sophisticated work demands our ability to manage change. Whether developing new ways of delivering services, adapting to workforce shortages, or heightening your organization’s focus on equity and inclusion, leadership requires adapting to and initiating change. This session illustrates how effective change management in a constantly evolving environment can propel your organization toward its mission. By the end of this course, participants will have a working knowledge of critical considerations and techniques for responding to and initiating change at the organizational level.

Subject Matter Expert: 

Greg Wellems, Vice President of Operations, Keystone Human Services 

Strategies for Leading Your Organization through Times of Crisis

The best crisis management strategy is prevention but being prepared is crucial when that fails. However, how does one prepare for the unexpected? The answers to that question are at the core of this session, during which presenters will walk through the stages of a crisis, the roles and responsibilities of a crisis team, and the steps to take to put a crisis response plan into action. Participants will leave knowing the critical decision points they will encounter when facing a crisis and the considerations essential to emerging from a crisis on solid ground.

Subject Matter Expert:  

Brad Goldstein, Partner, Resilience Communications LLC 

Fundraising and Revenue Development Strategies

Let’s face it: service delivery costs are increasing, while state and federal funding is remaining stagnant. In turn, financial sustainability requires a diversified set of funding streams. Designed to illustrate the “why” and the “how” of diversifying your organization’s revenue sources, this course will equip emerging leaders with a range of ideas for potential non-governmental sources of revenue, as well as an outline for deciding if and how to pursue potential sources of new funding.

Subject Matter Experts: 

Merrill Friedman, Regional Vice President of Inclusive Policy & Advocacy, Elevance Health 

Mariana Nork, Chief Corporate Engagement Officer, ANCOR 

Samantha Nottingham, Chief Development Officer, Birch Family Services (NYC) 

Essentials of Financial Management for I/DD Providers

As a human services organization leader, the odds are that you were attracted to the work for reasons other than the opportunity to pour over quarterly profit and loss statements. Nevertheless, leading a complex organization requires at least a working understanding of essential financial management functions. Whether you are a seasoned expert in financial management or just seeking to glean the bare minimum to get by, this course will walk you through the essentials you will need to speak fluently and ask the right questions when it comes to your organization’s finances.

Subject Matter Experts: 

Erica Metzger Hare, Chief Financial and strategy Officer, Aspire Living & Learning 

Diane Wright, Controller, Aspire Living & Learning 

Producing Productive Partnerships with Your Organization's Executive Leadership

As managers, we often think about our direct reports—the people under our direct supervision. However, effective leadership also requires that we “manage up,” building relationships and gaining buy-in from those higher up in the org chart, including the CEO and the Board of Directors. In this course, presenters will make a case for why partnering with your organization’s most senior leaders is so important and strategies for optimizing those partnerships. By the end of the course, participants will be able to identify short- and long-term strategies for building and engaging in productive CEO and Board relationships.

Subject Matter Experts: 

Erica Buchanan, Executive Director, CADENCE of Acadiana Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Violet Vision International 

Robert Budd, Chief Executive Officer of Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. 

Gabrielle Sedor, Director, ANCOR Foundation and Chief Operations Officer, ANCOR 

Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Through Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist Hiring Practices

More and more organizations are recognizing the importance of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility—or “DEIA”—in the workplace. However, these efforts often emphasize the diversity among the existing workforce without recognizing how their hiring practices prevent the execution of effective DEI efforts before potential colleagues even apply for the job. In response, this course is designed to help participants identify hiring practices that, though standard, may unintentionally inhibit progress toward the creation of a more diverse and inclusive workplace. By the end of this course, participants will be able to identify the unintended biases that can emerge with traditional hiring practices and will begin to craft refined practices that work to subvert bias in the hiring process. 

Subject Matter Expert: 

Sasha Sencer, Director of Education and Intersectional Collaboration, ANCOR 

Cohort Culture Circles

Brazilian educational theorist Paulo Freire gained global recognition when he proposed a new educational paradigm based on dialogue, autonomy, hope, humanization, and liberation in his 1970 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. One tool that Freire offers to support his theory is a concept known as Culture Circles. Culture Circles are considered dynamic spaces of learning.

During Culture Circles, individuals meet in an educational process that investigates themes of interest to the group. The key elements guiding the process are problem-posing and dialogue, where the participants lean into their collective knowledge to generate ideas for change and find ways to transform those ideas into a reality. 

At least two cohort members will lead each circle. They will identify a problem based on the previous month’s seminar that interests the group. They will share this problem with the cohort to ponder at least two weeks before the discussion. Together, the cohort members will engage in dialogue to devise potential plans of action that address how this problem arises in their organizations, within other organizations, within ANCOR, within the I/DD space, or as is otherwise applicable. The overall goal is to work together to identify potential areas for improvement and share knowledge to consider new pathways for future success.


Each cohort member will be assigned a mentor from the ANCOR membership to provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling during the course of the program.

Meet Our Mentors!

Enrollment Fee

ANCOR Member Fee


Non-Member Fee


Upon the completion of virtual orientation, no refunds shall be awarded.


Email Sasha Sencer, ANCOR’s Director of Education & Intersectional Collaboration.