Selection Criteria

Emerging Leaders will be chosen from corporate, non-profit and government sectors to create a class of about 20 participants. Ideal Emerging Leader candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the next five to ten years. Between the ages of 30 to 40, they have a strong professional or personal interest in international affairs, a commitment to community engagement, and a thirst for knowledge. The Council will intentionally seek exceptional leaders who reflect the rich diversity of Chicago.

Ideal Emerging Leader Candidates are:

  • Between 30-40 years old –  Candidates must be 40 or under as of June 30, 2020.
  • Interested in global affairs – Candidates should have a strong demonstrated professional or personal interest in global issues, trends, and events.
  • Passionate and driven – Candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the next 10 years.
  • Engaged in the community – Candidates are active in their communities and committed to working on solutions that will positively impact Chicago’s role as a global city. 
  • Able to participate in key meeting dates and sessions – Emerging Leaders meet on the first Friday (2 to 5 p.m.) and third Wednesday (5 to 8 p.m.) of each month, in addition to other mandatory dates listed above. Emerging Leaders must also participate in a Council program of their choice each month. Awareness of the time commitment by the candidate’s supervisor is mandatory for the program.
  • Prepared to deliver – Candidates are expected to complete an end-of-year project that explores a key issue within the Emerging Leaders curriculum. Candidates will complete a short policy memo and a persuasive flash talk, and will receive support from Council staff and experts on design, execution.  Completion of a project is required of every participant and will require additional time devoted to it.
  • Invested in the Emerging Leaders Program – There is an Emerging Leaders participation fee of $15,000 corporate/private sector participants and a non-profit and public sector rate of $5,000. A reduced participation fee may be available to those individuals who demonstrate a clear financial need and inability to cost share in this way. Emerging Leaders continue their engagement with the Council and maintain active membership after the completion of their program year.
  • Unique in their experiences and perspectives – The Emerging Leaders program aims to select a cohort who are diverse not only in their personal and professional backgrounds, but also with the ideological and intellectual perspectives they bring to the program.

Mandatory Meeting Dates:

  • EL Class of 2021 Orientation and Welcome Reception: Evening of July 15, 2020
  • EL Class of 2021 Retreat: September 11-12, 2020
  • Washington, DC Study Mission Briefing: Evening of September 28, 2020
  • Washington, DC Study Mission: October 4-6, 2020
  • EL Holiday Social: December 4, 2020
  • Every third Wednesday of the month, 5-8 p.m., beginning October 21: (2020: 10/21, 11/18; 2021: 1/20, 2/17, 3/17, 4/21, 5/19, 6/16)
  • Every first Friday of the month, 2-5 p.m., beginning November 6: (2020: 11/6, 12/4; 2021: 1/8, 2/5, 3/5, 4/2, 5/7, 6/4)

In addition to the required semi-monthly meetings, Emerging Leaders will be expected to attend a minimum of one public program hosted by the Council each month.

Applications for the Emerging Leaders Class of 2022 will be open from November 2, 2020 through March 8, 2021. For any questions about the program or application process, please contact Jennifer Petersen.

Selection Process

Initial Application

November 2, 2020-March 8, 2021 at 12 noon

  • All candidates must complete and submit the candidate information form, three essays, and two letters of reference to be considered. All materials must be submitted by the deadline.
  • Reference letters are open and should be completed by those who can speak to the candidate’s qualifications for the program.
  • Applications will be scored by the Emerging Leaders selection committee composed of Council leadership members, Emerging Leader alumni, and Emerging Leaders Program staff.


April 19-23, 2021

  • Candidates selected from the initial round of applications will receive an invitation to interview with the Emerging Leaders selection committee. Additional information about participation fees and sponsorship will be available to candidates at this time. Each interviewee will be asked to submit information on their financial and time commitments at this time.
  • Each candidate will be interviewed for 20 to 30 minutes at the Council on Global Affairs by a sub-group of the Emerging Leaders selection committee.
  • Candidates will be notified on the status of their application the week of April 13.


May 2021

  • If selected, each participant is required to submit a statement agreeing to meet the expectations of the Emerging Leaders Program, including: full participation at meetings, programs and events; outreach to their network on behalf of the Council; and ongoing engagement and Council membership after the program year.
  • All candidates will be notified on the status of their application the week of June 1.

Attend an Information Session

  • November 9 at 5:30 p.m.
  • December 8 at 5:30 p.m.
  • January 13 at 5:30 p.m.
  • February 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Program Testimonials

One issue I had not considered much before the Emerging Leaders Program is…

…the incredible depth of programming and research that the Chicago Council brings to the community and to the broader debate on the issues of significant importance to the United States and the world.

John DeBlasio – Member of the Council's Board of Directors and Emerging Leader Class of 2013; Founder and Executive Director, GPD Charitable Trust

...Chicago’s role as a leading global city. While there are areas where Chicago excels, there are others where the city lags. Being exposed to the successes and failures of other comparable cities addressing many of the same challenges was illuminating.

Michael Y. Scudder – Emerging Leader, Class of 2012; Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP;

The Emerging Leaders Program changed the way I analyze information about global affairs by…

…creating a sustained conversation between leaders in multiple sectors. Day long workshops involving business, government, non-profit, and academic leaders are short – and rare enough – but long-term collaborations with experts from multiple sectors can lead to rethinking their roles in global affairs. It did it for me.

Noah Toly – Emerging Leader, Class of 2013; Director of the Center for Urban Engagement (CUE) and Professor of Urban Studies and Politics & International Relations, Wheaton College

…giving me access to the content experts that were brought in to discuss the issue with our class, and observing the way in which we all made sense of the issue differently based on our various sector perspectives.

Abigayil Joseph – Emerging Leader Class of 2016; Head of Investor Relations and Communications, Phoenix Sports Partners

The most important thing I learned from the Emerging Leaders Program was…

…how global business leaders think. The program provides an unusual community that allows us to learn about different styles of interpreting global affairs in a non-competitive environment. Creating a project together means that each of us is looking for a seemingly intractable problem that the group could solve, and our professional experiences come together to create – with the fits and starts of a volunteer endeavor – a joint product.

Joyce Coffee – Emerging Leader, Class of 2012; President, Climate Resilience Consulting and Senior Sustainability Fellow, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

…that despite Chicago’s image as a parochial Midwestern town, there is, in fact, a wide and diverse range of dynamic leaders from across the city’s public and private sectors who are deeply interested in global work. This work may differ depending on our professional and/or personal area of focus; nonetheless, Chicago has a vibrant and highly engaged community that cares deeply about the city’s place on the global stage.

Sonya Anderson – Emerging Leader, Class of 2012; Independent Consultant, Anderson Consulting

The thing that most surprised me about the Emerging Leaders Program was…

…the number of times I changed my mind or arrived at a much more nuanced view of an important global issue after exploring it with my classmates and the experts that the Council brought to the table to guide us through some of the world’s most complex topics.

Sean Shelby – Emerging Leader, Class of 2016; Vice President, Isobar

…how many opportunities were made available for those of us who wanted to take advantage of them. Besides the formal programming, the ability to communicate with officers and fellows at the Council, the special invitations to dinners after programs or receptions before programs, and the opening of doors by the Council made the program one of a kind.

Endy Zemenides – Emerging Leader, Class of 2015; Executive Director, Hellenic American Leadership Council

Alumni Events

These events are designed specifically for current Emerging Leaders and program alumni. 

  • Welcome Reception: July 17, 2019
  • Holiday Party: December 6, 2019 – 4:00-7:00 p.m.
    • ELs and a guest are invited to join us in the Council’s Conference Center for the EL annual holiday party. Chicago-area Consuls Generals will provide their perspectives on important global issues from 4 to 5 p.m., with a holiday social to follow.
    • Please register online or contact Jennifer Petersen with questions.
  • Salon in Partnership the Aspen Socrates Program: March 20-21
  • Public Program Featuring Current Class of Emerging Leaders and Alumni: May 20, 2020 – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
    • Join the EL class of 2020 as they present their policy prescriptions on some of the most compelling global affairs issues. The program will be followed by a reception to celebrate the Emerging Leaders Program.

Give Now


Your donation to the Emerging Leaders Program is critical to our effort to educate and equip Chicago’s most dynamic young thought leaders. Your direct investment supports the participation of one of our yet-to-be-named ELs.  

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