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Academy to Advance Leadership Within Extension

An elite leadership development program to enhance and promote the success of Extension.

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The Academy to Advance Leadership within Extension (AALE) is a rigorous program to cultivate and promote the development of personnel within North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at North Carolina State University who are affiliated with Extension.

Extension serves the state of North Carolina in numerous ways, and strong leaders are needed to envision and implement the ways in which Extension can impact the prosperity and well-being of this state’s residents. AALE will provide an elite leadership development program for those who want to strengthen their leadership abilities to further enhance and promote the success of Extension and its endeavors. For the objectives of AALE, “Extension” is broadly defined to include those who engage in outreach activities that serve either internal or external stakeholders associated with CALS.

Selection Criteria

Faculty and nonfaculty employees who have an Extension appointment or who are affiliated with Extension can apply for AALE. Applicants must have worked within Extension/CALS for at least five years.

Examples of job titles of those who are welcome to apply include County Extension Director, Associate or Full Extension Agent (NC State or N.C. A&T), Research Station Superintendent, Extension Specialist, or Extension Associate.

Applicants must demonstrate the following:

  • how they have contributed to Extension and its mission;
  • a solid foundation of Extension programming or research;
  • leadership experience either in their work role or within their community;
  • a goal for participating in AALE; and
  • what they envision for the future of their career.

Application Process

  • Candidates must complete an application and submit three references.
  • Selection committee members (composed of DEDs, DELS, and Extension and CALS administrators) will individually review and evaluate the applications using a rubric.
  • Those selected for AALE will be contacted by phone with a follow-up letter; those who are not chosen will be notified by letter.

Program Components

AALE is offered on a three-year cycle, beginning in the fall and ending the following November/December.

  • Five sessions – four work sessions and a final team presentation and graduation session.
  • Each of the four work sessions is for three days.
  • Sessions will be held over the course of 15 months, with one session every 10 to 12 weeks.
  • Participants must work on a personal and professional development plan.
  • The cohort is limited to 30 participants. Candidates must submit an application and references.

The program includes the following:

  • Collaboration – Participants will sit with different cohort members each session, work on a small assignment and report out together at the end of the sessions.
  • Leadership development sessions to further enhance leadership abilities.
  • Tours – including research and field labs, other CALS facilities, etc.
  • Guest speakers – cohort members will have dinner discussions about what speakers shared and how they can apply session topics to what they learned from them and the tours. The idea is to take “theory to “practice.”
  • Session assignments – cohort members will apply what they learn to a case study.
  • Homework assignments that include readings, assessments, and meetings with an accountability partner. (Each participant’s accountability partner will be the same for the duration of the program, and both will be in the same cohort.)
  • A team project – Teams will work together for the duration of the program and focus on a project that answers the question, “What will you do to improve Extension?”

Program Outline

  • Session 1:  Conceptualizing Self
  • Session 2:  Conceptualizing Change
  • Session 3:  Conceptualizing Others
  • Session 4:  Implementing Change
  • Session 5:  Team Presentations and Graduation


  • Attend all five sessions (held in different parts of North Carolina). The four sessions at the beginning will be three days each; the last session will be two days;
  • participate in sessions, group activities, and projects during the sessions;
  • complete homework assignments during and between sessions;
  • complete a personal and professional development plan;
  • meet with their accountability partner regularly;
  • submit reflections on what they are learning and gaining from AALE;
  • engage in a team project and present final results at graduation;
  • participate in future alumni events, and
  • help support the development of future participants in AALE.

Become a Better Leader

Extension serves the state of North Carolina, and strong leaders are needed to implement how Extension can enhance the prosperity and well-being of our residents.