What is the History Leadership Institute?

The History Leadership Institute (formerly “Developing History Leaders @SHA” and the “Seminar For Historical Administration”) is the best professional development opportunity for mid- and advanced-career professionals at history organizations of all types and sizes.

Since 1959, HLI has provided people at all management levels the tools, ideas, and connections to enhance their ability to lead institutions and the field. Today, the History Leadership Institute offers a related suite of programs to meet the evolving needs of today’s professionals:

History Leadership Forum
A half-day gathering to explore a critical issue or a cutting-edge approach to enhance the effectiveness and impact of history organizations. Topics and speakers change annually. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis and requires registration to the AASLH annual meeting. For more details, see the Annual Meeting.

History Leadership Seminar
Over four weeks, a cohort of eighteen Associates dives deep into a broad range of current and future national issues facing the history and museum field, including purpose, relevance, impact, decolonization, community engagement, equity and access, facilitating change, strategic organization, and much, much more. Through workshops, discussions, activities, and field studies facilitated by dozens of nationally-recognized experts working on the field’s leading edge, Associates tackle the most pressing challenges confronting history institutions and develop strategies for addressing them. HLI challenges history professionals to ask not “Are we doing things right?” but rather to ask “Are we doing the right things?”

The Seminar consists of two weeks online and two weeks in residence in June at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is led by director Max A. van Balgooy, president of Engaging Places LLC and a professor in the Museum Studies Program at the George Washington University. The program is supported and guided by a diverse coalition of institutional partners, listed below, that are committed to excellence and professional development. For a full description of the topics discussed in the program, view the 2018 curriculum and session descriptions.

Admission is a competitive application process and requires lodging and tuition fees.  Scholarships are available. The next HLI Seminar will be offered in June 2020. For more information, please read the blog post announcing changes to the program. If you have additional questions please contact senior manager, strategic initiatives John Marks (marks@aaslh.org)

History Leadership Symposium
Over two to three days, about two dozen experts and experienced leaders in the field from a wide range of perspectives develop potential responses, guidance, or solutions to a national issue facing history organizations. Participants are expected to prepare in advance and actively engage during the symposium, and are encouraged to develop articles, technical leaflets, or conference sessions related to the topic.  Admission is by invitation only and participation fees will vary. The symposium occurs on an irregular schedule in response to the needs of the field and funding.

Application Information

The Seminar welcomes applications from staff in large and small history organizations who want to deepen their thinking about the vexing issues facing the history field and more effectively achieve their organization’s mission and impact.

Applicants usually work in a leadership position at their institution, such as director, department head, or project manager.  Applicants should have several years of experience working as professionals in a non-profit organization focused on history, such as a museum, library, archives, historical society, historic site, or historic preservation organization. The Seminar is not designed for staff who are new to the field or students and faculty at academic institutions.

Applicants are expected to have a basic knowledge and experience with the standards and best practices of their profession (e.g., AASLH Code of Ethics) so that they can actively participate and discuss issues affecting mid- and advanced-career history professionals. If admitted, Associates are expected to participate as colleagues in all Seminar activities, including class discussions, small group activities, field sessions, and occasional meals, to strengthen the cohort experience.

Applications for HLI 2020 have now closed. The application for HLI 2021 will open this fall and be due in December 2020.  The 2019 application can be found here.

Applications require the following materials:

  • Cover letter, confirming you will participate in the Seminar if accepted
  • Personal statement that includes a short biography and description of your institution, how your participation in the Seminar will benefit you, your career, and/or your organization, and the potential impact of your participation on the Seminar, your fellow Associates, and the field.
  • Resumé (three pages maximum)
  • Two letters of recommendation, including a letter of support from your institution’s director/CEO or board chair
  • Request for scholarship (optional)


Applicants to the History Leadership Institute can indicate their desire for consideration for two different scholarship opportunities. Applicants who wish to be considered for either scholarship listed below will be asked to provide an additional letter outlining their eligibility.

Denny O’Toole Scholarship

This need-based scholarship is offered to at least one associate each year. It is intended to facilitate the participation of a promising leader working at an institution who cannot otherwise fund their attendance in the program.

Diversity Scholarship 

The HLI Diversity scholarship is offered to at least one applicant who represents a background or perspective that is underrepresented in the history field.

Alumni Testimonials

Note: The alumni testimonials below refer to the program under its previous name, “Seminar for Historical Administration,” or “SHA.”

Christopher Miller (Class of 2016), National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

My experience…reinforced my perspective on the value of public history. History is a weapon that empowers us to be courageous and inspires us to guard our collective hope for a greater future. Through this immersive experience with like-minded colleagues, I was able to understand my role as a steward of history’s authentic truth.

Chris Goodlett (Class of 2016), Kentucky Derby Museum

[This program] is the single most profound experience I have had in my professional career. Intellectually, it provided the necessary time to step outside of the everyday work schedule and reconnect with why I found history so essential in the first place. The faculty challenged us daily to think about the history profession in different ways. Additionally, the chance to share this experience with peers across the country is invaluable. Daily opportunities to discuss the myriad of issues in all our institutions, whether to stand in solidarity amidst common problems or help each other provide solutions, is possibly the primary benefit of SHA. Even after returning home, I find myself relying on members of my SHA class to offer necessary insight, something I’m quite certain I’ll do for the remainder of my career.

Jennifer Niemi (Class of 2014) Minnesota Historical Society

The spring of 2014 I found myself at a professional crossroad. It felt like any minute I was going to be discovered as a fraud in my position as the program manager at Split Rock Lighthouse. I was questioning my every idea and decision. When I saw the all staff email looking for internal applicants for the 2014 cohort it felt like a sign. I would either apply and be found out for the sham I was or maybe someone would see something I was not. Much to my surprise I was chosen as one of two staff members given the go ahead to submit a formal application to the AASLH Seminar for Historic Administration (SHA). My time at SHA felt like a re-commitment to my job, the history field and myself. It reaffirmed that the work I was doing was relevant, alive and meaningful.

Aimee E. Newell (Class of 2013), Luzerne County Historical Society

Within the first hours of the SHA experience, I knew that it would be incredible, largely due to my classmates. Here was a group of people who shared my enthusiasm and passion! Like me, they wanted to make the field better, starting with their own institutions. For me personally, I loved the opportunity to learn and think about leadership and what it means for the history museum field. When I went home after the three weeks, I wanted more. Almost four years later, I am halfway through an MBA program (where I am learning more about leadership, entrepreneurship and finance) and five months into my first job as Executive Director. I am still in touch with many of my classmates, several of whom were instrumental in encouraging me take the leap to ED. They cheer on my successes and help me problem solve when I need it.

Jessica Ellison (Class of 2012), Minnesota Historical Society

Leaving my husband and three small kids for three weeks to attend SHA was not easy, but the best things in life rarely are. SHA provided a rare opportunity to be immersed in thoughtful, complicated discussions about relevant issues in my field; for a person who never takes a lunch break, it was miraculous! But perhaps the greatest benefit is your cohort of fellow history professionals, people you continue to connect with and learn from for years after SHA.

Ryan Spencer (Class of 2012), The Henry Ford

For me, SHA was the perfect professional experience at the perfect time in my career.  I had finished grad school in Museum Studies four years prior. SHA helped me take the theoretical knowledge I gained from school and attach it to my experiences in the trenches, as it were. SHA also connected me with a much wider professional network than I had known before. Suddenly, my eyes weren’t fixed solely on growth at The Henry Ford, but growth within the larger field of Public History and Museums.  Since SHA in 2012, I have blessed by three promotions and increased responsibility. I believe SHA helped prepare me for these new roles.

Jamie Glavic (Class of 2011), National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

SHA is more than professional development – it’s a career builder. From expanding my history network, to the friendships I share with my cohort, SHA has been pivotal in my professional growth and has presented me with opportunities I would have never thought possible. If you’re not sure what you next step is, or should be, apply for SHA. This program guided and helped me create my professional roadmap.

Rebecca M. Slaughter (Class of 2009), Las Cruces Museum System

I am incredibly grateful for time in Indy! I attended SHA at a moment of crisis in my career. I was struggling with the “where do I go from here” question. My classmates were brutally honest when I voiced my concerns and hopes for the future and I ended my three weeks a better museum professional with a new set of vibrant colleagues stretched across the country. I came home from my three weeks away with an infusion of hope and excitement about our work which still drives me today.

Richard Josey (Class of 2008), Collective Journeys, LLC.

One of the most transformative moments in my life was the moment when I attended the Seminar for Historical Administration.  Leaving SHA was like leaving church on Sunday; I was filled with a renewed spirit, sense of purpose, and new thoughts to consider in my future work.  Now, 9 years later, I’ve continued to build on those lessons and have been an advocate to send several of my colleagues.  SHA Alumni are like a family that keeps growing year after year.

Michelle Moon (Class of 2007), Lower East Side Tenement Museum

In midcareer, it often seems a mystery how the leaders of the field got from where we are to where they are ‐ how they developed their scope of knowledge about administration, purpose, and the issues of public history. SHA demystifies this process concentrating years’ worth of mentorship into a rich, intensive three weeks. Nowhere else will the midcareer professional find the breadth and strong grounding in leadership basics in such an efficient package.

Laura Minzes (Class of 2005), Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites Corporation

SHA gives you the background, tools and networking resources to help build confidence in your job performance. This is particularly true in the area of strategic planning. A strategic planning session shortly after my SHA class resulted in a truly changed direction for my section – a direct result of what I had learned at SHA! It is also truly a post graduate course, an entire semester or even a year compacted into just three weeks. Contemplating SHA for a number of years is normal…it is a big commitment, but the rewards are everything (AND so MUCH MORE!) that you anticipated they would be when you first considered applying.

Kat Burkhart (Class of 2004), Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County

Not everything learned at SHA is in the classroom. That is why it is so important for it to be an immersive experience. In addition to the Seminar’s amazing faculty and content, I learned a great deal in discussion with other students. The sharing of ideas and perspectives was truly valuable and provides insight into ourselves and our profession.

Program Alumni

Program alumni hold executive positions at such prestigious institutions as the Banneker-Douglass Museum, Conner Prairie, Dallas Heritage Village, Hanford Mills Museum, Senator John Heinz History Center, Historic Alexandria, Minnesota Historical Society, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, North Dakota State Historical Society, Oberlin Heritage Center, President Lincoln’s Cottage, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum, Yukon Transportation Museum, and many more.

The History Leadership Institute is also guided by a strong alumni committee, including:

  • Chris Goodlett, Kentucky Derby Museum
  • Marisa Hollywood, Queens Historical Society
  • Stacia Kuceyeski, Ohio History Connection
  • Jennifer Landry, City of Irving Arts & Culture
  • Deb Mitchell, Montana Historical Society
  • Jennifer Niemi, Minnesota Historical Society
  • Susan Fletcher, The Navigators
  • Stephen Light, Monticello

Are you an alumnus of the program who wants to re-connect? Send contact information or job updates to John Marks.

Contact Information

Use the information below to get in touch with any questions about the History Leadership Institute.
Director: Max van Balgooy, Engaging Places LLC
Program Administrator: John Marks, AASLH
Local Arrangements: Marianne Sheline, Indiana Historical Society

Below you will find the details of the next HLI Seminar, scheduled for June 2020. If you have additional questions, please contact John Marks.

  • Program Dates: June 1­–13, 2020 (online); June 14–27, 2020 (residential).
  • Location: Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Lodging: Associates will be housed in two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • Cost: $3,500/person, including tuition and lodging.
  • Scholarships: Two full-cost scholarships are available. More information here.
  • Application Deadline: December 15, 2020. Apply here.

Advisory Board Partners


  • Georgia Historical Society
  • Massachusetts Historical Society