Essential FAQs

1. What is the Essential class?
 As the flagship Leadership Austin program, the Essential Class brings together cross-industry, established leaders that reflect the diversity of Greater Austin.  Participants benefit from the diversity of classmates’ experience as they cultivate new relationships, explore complex regional issues and deepen their leadership skills.  At the end of the class, alumni are poised to have increased impact through their civic engagement.

2. What will I gain from participating?
 Participation in the Essential Class offers the unique opportunity to be part of a nine-month experience during which you will learn a great deal about yourself and about the many different communities that are part of Greater Austin. In addition, you will make lifetime friendships with individuals representing the diversity of the region.

At the end of the year, many graduates say that their Leadership Austin experience has been life changing – professionally and personally.  Alumni have: 

  • A broader and more profound understanding of complex community issues
  • A deeper appreciation of how these community issues relate in to on another in a greater system
  • A heightened recognition of the potential of civic leaders to make significant impacts in community issues
  • An increased understanding of the ways in which they can be effective contributors
  • A deep understanding of the value of collaborating with diverse partners to accomplish complex goals
  • A greatly expanded network of colleagues to serve as resources in their endeavors.

Alumni end the year committed to being involved in their communities in even more meaningful ways. 

3. Who should apply?

Essential participants are established community and business leaders who are looking to broaden their impact in the region.  Ideal candidates for Essential:  

  • Are recognized leaders amongst their peers
  • Are seeking to build relationships across industries with others equally committed to the community
  • Have a proven record of service and commitment in their professions, community groups and neighborhoods

In addition, the following qualifications must be met at the time of the application deadline:

  • Applicant must be a resident in the Greater Austin area for at least one continuous year.
  • Applicant cannot be a candidate for public office. 
4. What if I applied previously and was not selected?
 Those who have previously applied to the Essential Class are strongly encouraged to reapply. Many Essential Class alumni were selected to participate after more than one application. Experienced civic and community leaders recognize that a long-term perspective and perseverance are fundamental to success.

The Essential Class plays a crucial role in educating experienced leaders on complex community issues while honing leadership skills to work effectively with our communities diverse constituencies.  Because this curriculum can only be successful when the class composition reflects the diversity of Greater Austin, the Selection Committee selects individuals for each class to reflect the region’s geographic, ethnic, and professional diversity. Therefore, the Selection Committee reviews the class composition as a whole when selecting candidates. 

5. How can I best convey my experience and interests on the application?
 The Essential application is designed to lead you through a process to reflect on your civic, community and business leadership experiences and future goals.  Make sure to follow instructions and submit your application materials in advance of the deadline. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.

The selection committee will be looking for the following to be illustrated in your application: 

  • A record of leadership and achievement in community/civic/business activities which indicates past and future leadership activity and ability.
  • A demonstrated personal commitment to community service and to solving community problems. Leadership may be demonstrated through a variety of initiatives including traditional and non-traditional activities.
  • Demonstrate a strong interest in and the potential for creating positive change and being a strong leader for the common good of the entire community.
  • Proven ability to foster collaboration and consensus.
  • High standards of personal quality and integrity. 

Your full application will include: 

  • Completed application form
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • An updated resume
  • A head shot photo suitable for publication (head and shoulders, neutral background); pictures of at least 300 dpi resolutions are preferred
  • A Scholarship Request Form (if applicable)
  • The $30 application fee

In the words of one Selection Committee member, Leadership Austin is looking for applicants who have a “fire in the belly” to make a difference in the Greater Austin area. They are seeking individuals who have a proven commitment to the community and have demonstrated previous experience in leading initiatives that resulted in a benefit to others.  

6. Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
 Applicants must provide two letters of recommendation. You are encouraged to have one letter from someone who can speak to your leadership character and the second to be from someone who can speak to your leadership accomplishments. The best people to write a letter of recommendation are those who know you well; have worked with you on a community project; have knowledge of your leadership skills and experience; and can write a heartfelt, first-hand testimonial on your behalf.

Leadership Austin is more interested in the content of the letter than status of the person writing the recommendation letter. Examples of potential references may include colleagues, friends, members, clergy, or educators. We suggest staying in touch with the individuals writing your letters of recommendation to ensure they are able to submit the letters by the application deadline. 

7. Who reviews the application?
 A diverse and anonymous Selection Committee is appointed by the Leadership Austin Board of Directors’ Executive Committee each year to ensure that participants in the Essential Class represent the diversity of the Greater Austin community. 

8. What are the time commitments involved?
 The Essential program consists of 2 overnight retreats and 7 full day sessions over the course of nine month (September through May).  Selected applicants will be expected to meet all of the following commitments for the Essential program of:

  • Opening Retreat in September (Thursday to Friday)
  • 7 full day session once a month (October – April)
  • Closing Retreat in May (Thursday to Friday)
  • Participation in a Community Engagement Team ( 8- 10 additional hrs over the nine month period)

In addition, class members will be invited to participate in activities outside of class to build stronger relationships with their classmates.

9. I am not sure I can attend all of the class days -- can I still participate?
 Attendance at the Opening Retreat is mandatory. Individuals who arrive late or who are absent from the Opening Retreat will be dropped from the class. There is an allowance for a limited number of excused absence hours for the remaining class days.

Essential Class members and alumni include individuals of many cultural traditions. Every effort is made to take these cultural observances into account when building the class schedule; however, this is not possible in every instance.

10. What if I do not live in Austin?
 Applications are welcome from individuals living or working within the five-county (Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays) area who are committed to civic and community leadership roles. Because the Essential Class curriculum frames its programming in a regional context, it is valuable to have participants representing all areas.  

11. What is the tuition cost?
 Tuition for the Essential Class is $3,500. Payment plans are also available for class members who wish to pay tuition over time. 

12. Are partial scholarships available?
Yes. A core value of Leadership Austin is inclusiveness and tuition will not be a barrier to participation in Essential. Selection for the Essential program is made without regard to an applicant’s financial circumstances.  Scholarship requests are considered only after the Essential selection process is complete and will in no way impact consideration of your application.

Applicants requesting assistance are asked to take full advantage of available employer training dollars, community organization support and their own personal capacity.  Scholarship requests must be submitted with the Essential application and we are not able to consider requests after the application deadline. Read more about scholarship assistance here.

13. When will I find out if I have been selected?
Notification will be emailed to all Essential applicants by August 25.
14. How can I learn more about the Essential Class
 Attend one of the Essential recruitment events to talk with alumni, board members, and staff about the program and their personal experiences.

More questions? Please contact us and we’d be happy to answer them!

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