Buffalo & Niagara Falls Workforce Leadership Academy

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Buffalo & Niagara Falls Workforce Leadership Academy for 2023-2024.

The Workforce Leadership Academy brings leaders from across the Buffalo & Niagara Falls workforce ecosystem together for a year-long series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. The Academy provides a forum for local leaders to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions for economic opportunity for all. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply race, equity, and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs.

Alumni of the Academy become part of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Fellows Network, joining Fellows from fourteen previous Academies in eleven cities in the US and Canada.

Workforce Fellows

Academies engage senior-level managers of organizations that make up the Buffalo & Niagara Falls workforce development ecosystem. A maximum of 24 Fellows will be selected. Applicants should be:

  • Located and working within Buffalo & Niagara Falls
  • Working within nonprofit organizations, business associations, community colleges, universities, union-based training efforts, public agencies, and  economic development
  • In a position of leadership and decision-making authority related to workforce development efforts, with the capacity and ability to execute strategies on behalf of their organization
  • Engaged in or planning workforce development efforts in Buffalo & Niagara Falls related to connecting workers to quality jobs and/or career pathways
  • Interested in designing and implementing effective strategies to strengthen their local workforce system
  • Committed to achieving equity across race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation
  • Eager to collaborate with others in their local workforce system, reflect on their current work, explore leadership practices, and gain feedback from colleagues

Inclusivity and diversity are core values of the Buffalo & Niagara Falls Leadership Academy. Applicants of color are strongly encouraged to apply. The cohort of Fellows will be selected to represent the diversity of organization type and focus as well as race, ethnicity, and gender.

Academy Goals

The Academy engages leaders in a yearlong peer learning cohort to:

  • Expand and deepen professional networks and partnerships
  • Strengthen organizational and systems leadership skills
  • Apply a race and equity lens to assess and improve workforce services and strategies
  • Apply systems change framework to Fellows’ work
  • Deepen understanding of effective strategies and programs
  • Provide a forum to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions

Academy Structure

Over the academic year beginning March 2023, Fellows participate in:

  • A virtual 90-minute orientation
  • An opening three-day retreat (two overnights)
  • Five Academy sessions and five Collaborative Learning Labs meetings held during the same week: four held online (5 hours) and one held in person (6 hours)
  • One leadership 360 assessment process and debrief workshop
  • A closing three-day retreat (two overnights)
  • Collaborative Learning Lab presentations at an in-person stakeholder event
  • Reception event for supervisors and advisors
  • Partners may also decide to offer additional networking and social events

Applications are now closed. 

Selected applicants will be notified on March 3rd*. 

*Subject to change due to the high volume of applicants

Advisory Council Members

  • Lindsay Aleshire, M&T Bank 
  • Paul Brown, Buffalo Building Trades Council & the Niagara Building Trades Council
  • Molly Carr, Jewish Family Services of WNY 
  • Michael Casale, Niagara County Center for Economic Development 
  • Betsy Constantine, Community Foundation of Buffalo
  • Susan Dundon, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation 
  • Karen Kwandrans, Niagara University 


  • Rob Leteste, Invest Buffalo Niagara
  • Christina Orsi, The John R. Oishei Foundation
  • Robert Restaino, Mayor of Niagara Falls
  • Casimiro Rodriguez, Hispanic Heritage of WNY
  • David Rust, Say Yes to Buffalo
  • Laura Smith, Buffalo Niagara Partnership
  • Stephen Tucker, Northland Workforce Training Center 
  • Thomas Ulbrich, Goodwill WNY 

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington DC. Its mission is to spark intellectual inquiry and exchange, create a diverse worldwide community of leaders committed to the greater good, and provide a nonpartisan forum for reaching solutions on vital public policy issues. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program advances promising strategies and policies to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, the Economic Opportunities Program has focused on expanding individuals' opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.

This initiative is made possible by the generous support of Walmart, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr Foundation.

Contact the Facilitators

Melinda Mack, Executive Director, NYATEP | [email protected], 518-545-9500

Megan Farry, Sr. Director Strategic Partnerships & Communication, NYATEP | [email protected], 518-728-7751

Joelle Monaco, Director Level Up Professional Development & Training, NYATEP | [email protected], 518-817-7604