ASG Rising Leaders Program

Class of 2021 Application

The Aspen Institute has earned a reputation for gathering diverse, nonpartisan thought leaders, creatives, scholars, and members of the public to address some of the world's most complex problems. But the goal of these convenings is to have an impact beyond the conference room. They are designed to provoke, further, and improve actions taken in the real world.

As part of the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Strategy Group and Aspen Security Forum have been strongly committed to cultivating the next generation of leaders in national security and foreign policy, formally and informally, since their inceptions. Historically, Aspen Security Forum Scholars have gathered in Aspen once a year for the in-person Aspen Security Forum. Now that we have pivoted to virtual gatherings — with a view to in-person events recommencing when safe in 2021 — we offered the opportunity to young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 and/or within the first 5-10 years of employment to participate in the inaugural Aspen Strategy Group Rising Leaders Program.


Participants contribute to the conversation on critical foreign policy issues while honing their leadership skills in the prestigious setting of the non-partisan Aspen Security Forum. The 10-month cohort for 2021 began in late March.

As a group, Rising Leaders exchange ideas with: world leaders; senior government officials; members of Congress; journalists; prominent thinkers and practitioners in academia, policy, and business; and Aspen Strategy Group members. This offers an unparalleled opportunity for participants to learn from key decision makers—and each other—under the aegis of the Aspen Strategy Group. The curriculum includes work on group and/or individual papers to be published on our website and newsletter. The Rising Leaders will also become part of a lifetime network of alumni, which offers the chance to further connect with other bold thinkers in national security. Over the course of their careers, Rising Leaders will be considered for Forum participation, partnership opportunities, and have a lasting affinity to our public and policy programs. In line with the Aspen Institute’s mission, they will ultimately drive change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the greatest challenges of our time.

Why join the Rising Leaders Program?

Over the course of the program, participants will:

  • Develop and hone their leadership skills

  • Participate in breakout conversations and monthly meetings with high-level officials

  • Attend special workshops and trainings with Aspen Strategy Group members

  • Contribute to the conversation at the Aspen Security Forum

  • Have the opportunity to engage with world leaders, senior government officials, members of Congress, journalists, prominent thinkers and practitioners in academia, policy, and business

  • Present and publish a relevant policy paper

  • Join a lifetime network of Rising Leaders alumni, which offers the chance to further connect with other bold thinkers in national security

  • Have a connection to the Aspen Strategy Group and be considered for partnership opportunities throughout their career

Annual Deadline and Notification

The annual application deadline for term membership is 11:59 PM (EST) on Sunday, January 17th. Candidates will be notified of their status in mid-March.

Questions about the program? Please contact Kathleen Shea at

Questions about sponsorships? Please contact Deb Cunningham at


Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be considered for the program?

Yes. Members of the Class of 2021 must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Unfortunately, this means we will not be able to consider international students without citizenship or permanent residency. However, this may change in the coming years. We encourage interested non-U.S. applicants to keep apprised of our future programming.

I am not within the age range and/or 5-10 years of employment. Can I still apply?

We will take the preferred qualifications into consideration; however, anyone may apply.

Is there a fee to participate?

No. If you are chosen to be a member of the ASG Rising Leaders Program, there is no fee required to participate. However, if you are a U.S. citizen/permanent resident currently abroad, only domestic airfare to the Aspen Security Forum (if in-person) will be paid for by the program.

I don't live in D.C. Will I be able to attend the events?

Almost all of the Rising Leaders Program will have a virtual component. We will keep members of the cohort apprised of any in-person opportunities, as public health guidelines permit.

​Are full-time employees, including journalists, active-duty military, and government employees eligible to participate in the program?


Will the decision on finalists to the program be made before an in-person or virtual Aspen Security Forum is announced?

Yes. Rising Leaders will have the opportunity to attend either version, regardless of the final determination.


If the 2021 Aspen Security Forum is not in-person, will Rising Leaders be able to attend the 2022 Aspen Security Forum?

No. Deferral of a Rising Leaders pass for the Aspen Security Forum is not available. 


Can previous Aspen Security Forum Scholars or people involved in other Aspen programs apply?


I applied to the program. When will I hear back?

All candidates will be informed of their status by early March.

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