College Leaders

CLP 2009: Day 21, Friday June 19
Jun 20 2009 - 11:50pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 21—Friday, June 19, 2009
Reported by: Derek Chaudhuri, Blue Ridge Community College

The College Leader’s Program started our day early. Most groups got a quick nap before the day began due to final draft papers being due at eight am. Luckily my group was done. After eating cereal and bagels with my dorm-mates, we headed to class. I love walking through the beautiful UVA campus every morning. Our lecture involved ethics in today’s business world compared to the past. We examined an interesting case study involving the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. This company was 95% in debt and needed governmental bailout money. The discussion on this topic was interesting to me because this issue is very similar to what our government is dealing with today. Should we bail out banks and car companies? The debate rages on! After a delicious lunch we had three guest speakers. The first, Bree Raum, was a lobbyist that spoke to our group about environmental and energy issues. I gained much insight on the pros and cons of windmills. I never knew that one turbine costs approximately two million dollars. She was followed by Michael Fox who discussed managing higher education. We discussed many in-depth problems that are facing our colleges today. My eyes were opened on problems I did not know existed in our college system. We also debated the pros and cons of mor issues such as in-state and out-of-state student rates. Our day ended with David Cox, a Lexington City Council member. We became local leaders as we addressed a bank’s idea to locate in our downtown where some individuals thought a park should go. I gained valuable knowledge of how a City Council meeting and issues are addressed. Many issues that seem to be such an easy fix come with many repercussions.  The excited day ended with some noodles and cake. YUM!

—Derek Chaudhuri, Blue Ridge Community College

CLP 2009: Day 20, Thursday June 18
Jun 20 2009 - 11:44pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 20—Thursday, June 18, 2009
Reported by: Lauren Gilbert, James Madison University

Today we had a double class session with Dr. Bragaw.  We are currently discussing the different theories of how to create public policy.  I find it interesting that many of the examples we are reading that are from the 1970’s are still pertinent today.  We are also spending time reviewing cost-benefit analysis as it applies to creating public policy.  We have a few case studies that we have been breaking up into groups to discuss the situations in detail, and then regrouping to discuss our findings.
     After lunch we had Sorensen's Coy Barefoot come to speak to us about the interplay of the media and politics. His presentation was very informative and I enjoyed it a great deal.  He broke down his presentation into directions about how to succeed when dealing with the media.  We covered how to write a testimonial, how to go about writing legislation, how to develop and carry a message, and what we need to run a campaign when it comes to the media.  Other things Coy taught us how to ask ourselves questions to ensure an effective message, how to structure kinds of messages to the number of people we want to reach, how to organize a media event, and how to present ourselves to the media in interviews.
     I found the information that Coy gave us to be very useful.  He spoke about the importance of integrity in the Sorensen Institute.  During the entire program people have spoken to us saying that we are future leaders, but until Coy spoke to us, I did not really realize what kind of a program we are in.  I truly feel lucky to be here for this month.  Many people applied to be here, and we were chosen to complete his program.  The things Coy said about drawing an ethical line and not crossing it really resonated with me.  The skills we are learning will help us not only in politics, but in our personal lives as well.  The session with Coy was one of the most memorable in the classroom so far, and I look forward to my future as a Sorensen graduate.
     And now, off to do the first draft for our policy proposal! 

—Lauren Gilbert, James Madison University

CLP 2009: Day 19, Wednesday June 17
Jun 17 2009 - 10:26pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 19—Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Reported by: Patrick Crute, Longwood University

        Today, unlike most weekdays, the members of the College Members Program had the luxury of sleeping past 7:45am! After a long day in the nation’s capital, the leaders of Sorensen informed us all that class would begin tomorrow at one. So, the day began with most of the members sleeping in as late as possible, though some were productive and worked on the culminating project. Once all the members had woken up, we began the day by listening to Doug Easter and Jonathan Williams speak about their respective jobs at Easter Associates Inc. Both Mr. Easter and Mr. Williams are lobbyists for the firm that handles lobbying and management for businesses in the state of Virginia. Doug spoke about what it is like to not only lobby in Richmond but also what it is like to lobby in Washington D.C. Mr. Easter advised that no matter what, if we wanted to be lobbyists we should follow the “Lobbyist’s Ten Commandments,” (which he gave us in a hand out) and to always tell the truth, especially when we did not know the answer to a question.  Mr. Williams also spoke to us about his experiences as a lobbyist. Interestingly, Mr. Williams has only been a part of the Easter Associates Inc. for eight months so his story and advice were about how he became a lobbyist. After law school, he worked on the Hill and began to make connections. He says that it was these connections, both in D.C. and in Richmond that were the most beneficial to getting to where he is today. His advice to us was that if we wanted to go anywhere in politics to meet people and make connections.
        After the speakers, Dr. Bragaw began the day's lesson entitled “How does an idea’s time come? Identify Problems.” He said that, simply stated, the day's lesson was about agenda setting and policy formulation.
        To get us energized, he began the day asking each group how the culminating project was going and what work was left to be done. The Economic Development group is pursing the idea of giving tax credits for businesses manufacturing renewable energy. The Transportation group is juggling the concept of the gas tax, tolls and hot lanes as a way to raise funds for specific projects. In the words of Dr. Bragaw, transportation “is the most dysfunctional area of public policy in the Commonwealth.” The Crime and Justice group is reviewing the process in which convicted felons are given back the right to vote. Another group has the issue of immigration and they are working on an idea that some immigrants should be given in-state tuition in the Commonwealth if they have taken certain steps towards becoming a citizen. Finally, the K-12 group is looking to standardize the grade scale for high schools all over the state.
        The rest of the class was spent critiquing the process by which public policy is crafted. The “scientific method of writing public policy” was created in the sixties and doesn’t really allow for interpretation and flexibility. In essence, our conversations centered around the fact that once a problem is identified and a solution is crafted, it is seemingly very difficult to change the solution down the road. In addition, the class discussed the different types of agendas and who set them. For instance, the governmental agenda is set by the citizens and is concerned about the realm of possibility, that is, what the government is actually capable of accomplishing. The decision agenda, also known as the radar agenda because anything on it is on the radar, is set by specific entities trying to accomplish specific things.
        Today, though not quite as exciting as a trip to Washington D.C., was a good day spent learning the inner workings of public policy.

— Patrick Crute, Longwood University

CLP 2009: Day 18, Tuesday June 16
Jun 17 2009 - 12:14am

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 18—Tuesday, June 16, 2009
d by: Christopher Harts, Hampton University

Today, June 16, 2007, we traveled to Washington, D.C! After having to load the bus at 7:00AM, we weasle up the highways and byways to tackle what was to be expected as an eventful day! We arrived at the Senate building around 10:00AM and took a tour of the entire building. Luckily, we were able to stumble upon a session that was taking place where Senator John McCain was speaking. This was the start of a day that would definitely be remembered.
     We then left the session and went to a room to listen to two great speakers, one of whom was Senator Jim Webb. Senator Webb spoke on what the current state of the world issues were and his own accomplishments in the Senate. He claimed his focus to be on restoring National Security and the need for economic fairness and justice, which he believes to be the number one strategy. He acknowledged that our criminal justice system is poor and that there are more than enough non-violent criminals in jail. Furthermore, he expressed his compassionate nature towards the military being that his own family has such strong ties to it. Due to these strong ties to the military, he feels that soldiers deserve far more than they have been receiving, especially in regards to their education benefits. After expressing his ideas on this subject, he took questions from the class. One question that sparked my attention was "What are your beliefs on restoring voting rights to criminals who have completed their sentences?" He brilliantly answered by saying, "If you've done the time, you should have the right to vote."
     We then broke for lunch and I enjoyed the best meal known to man, pizza! Discussions around the lunch table hovered over the subjects of politics, as usual, and eventually we mustered up the strength to pry our full stomachs up to leave. We underwent more security checks and finally reached the conference room where more speakers began to come and speak with us.
    Our first speaker following lunch was Senator Bob Goodlatte. He emphasized how important it is for the state government to balance their budget. After answering a few questions, he had to hurry back to the House where they were completing four suspension bills and the War Supplemental which funds the soliders in Iraq. Next, we heard from Senator Jim Rand who first emphasized the need for systematic integration in the matters of domestic policy as far as healthcare, social security, education, and housing. He believed that once we integrate the financial systems we will be able to save money and impose economic recovery. Furthermore, he stressed how "Globalization is a good thing!" He told us how we have been saved from many deep recessions for the simple reason that globalization creates markets where profit margins are at their highest. He further expressed his belief for how the government should fund more healthcare for children, rather than the elderly, to ensure a stronger workforce. He was highly informative speaker.
     The next speaker, Brian Diffell, was himself a graduate of the first class of the Sorensen Institute. He currently works for Congressman Roy Blunt as a legislative director. He explained that there is no typical day due to the fact that your day is based on what his boss can or cannot do. He gave helpful information about how members of leadership must be able to balance roles effectively and be able to balance their time in both Washington, D.C and their own districts. He further explained how it is important to get involved in as many relationships as possible and gaining as many connections as you can; moreover, he says that you must be able to write, write, write well. He was very helpful!
     Congressman Frank Wolf, who had been a congressman since 1980, was the next speaker. He vibrantly introduced his discussion by emphasing America's debt of $17 trillion! He gave facts of how America's math and science test scores are falling, while China's are rising. Furthermore, he tells of how America's number of engineer graduates last year fell greatly, while China graduated approximately $700,000. He raises the argument that we as a nation are ignoring these facts and the question of who will be the holder of the 21st century? He closes by saying, that we as the younger generation must wake up! Ultimately, he challenges us with the closing words of the Declaration of Independence, "We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
     We then spoke with Jaime Lockheart, a 2007 graduate of the Sorensen Institute. She told us how extremely competitive it is to work on the hill. She emphasized how important it is to make strong connections and make sure that those connections remember you. She answered questions as far as how to find internships and what she plans to do in the next couple of years.
     Our final speaker was Rob Wittman, who took time from voting on the House Defense Authorization Act to speak with us. He drilled in our minds how the main key is service. He described his own purpose by saying, "I am here to serve," which ultimately should be the purpose of all citizens. He further explained how critical it is to listen to everyone when it comes to decision making. He told us that his job is a 365 day/ 24 hour-a-day job, and that he is often compelled to sleep in his office, just as many other legislators. He, too, explained that the rapid growth of China and India were both highly important. He seemed very passionate about doing all he can to assure the safety of America and was highly informative!
     Overall, the trip was pretty good. We gained a lot of information and helpful hints to kick-off our own careers. Moreover, we ended it the best way anyone could with the best dinner anyone could have, pizza!

— Christopher Harts, Hampton University

CLP 2009: Day 18, Tuesday June 16
Jun 17 2009 - 12:10am

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 18—Tuesday, June 16, 2009
d by: Michele Alexander, University of Mary Washington

I love Washington, DC. I always will and always have. Call it bias because I have grown up around the city my entire life, or call it a love for beautiful architecture and historic monuments— but mainly just call it a love for the political buzz that surrounds the city.
     The Nation’s Capital is like a beehive that is ever growing and changing as each part is intricate to its design and function, from the structures keeping it together to its inhabitants. Today, we got to witness this constant motion of activity as we stepped through the doors of the Capitol Building into the world of national politics.
     Our first stop was to be greeted by Bob Gibson’s daughter, Logan, who took us through the building. We passed through the Dome Room with its amazing frescos and gorgeous ceiling and went straight to the Senate chamber where we got to see politics in action as Senator John McCain discussed healthcare reforms on the Senate floor (which was pretty cool, I must say).
     After seeing Senator McCain speak (and catching a glimpse of Senator Joe Lieberman), we were ushered onto our next destination – a meeting with Alfonso Lopez, who basically serves as Governor Kaine’s voice up in Washington. Mr. Lopez answered every question we threw his way with a grin and wit, keeping the excited mood spreading throughout our class alive. Mr. Lopez’s act appeared to be a hard one to follow, but Senator Jim Webb kept the momentum going as he spoke to the class.
     Lunch was next in the Senate cafeteria for what seemed like five minutes and then onto our next stop: a photo op with Senator Mark Warner and surprise visitor Senator Mark Begich from Alaska! A couple of us stayed after (even though we were being told by April to get a move on) to get pics with Senator Warner which was exciting – I guess you could say some of us got a little star struck!
     After the photo ops, we were onto our last parts of the day: back-to-back meetings with Virginia’s House Representatives throughout the Capitol building and its offices. First for the afternoon was Congressman Bob Goodlatte followed by Congressman Jim Moran. Next was Congressman Tom Perriello, who brought with him a fresh vivacity and breadth for the position he was elected to this past November. Sorensen grad Brian Diffle spoke next and was later followed by another Sorensen grad, Jamie Lockhart, who helped to show us where in politics a program like this can take us. Congressman Frank Wolf spoke next and taught us that as politicians we must fulfill the Constitution’s closing line of “[pledging] our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to our nation. Congressman Rob Whittman concluded the day by instilling in us the ideal that we are all here to serve and there is no better reason than that to enter the realm of politics.
     As we boarded the bus to travel back to Charlottesville and settled into watching Meet the Fockers (as we had watched Meet the Parents on the way to DC), our tired faces could not hide the lessons we learned and the memories we made as we traversed the Capitol’s sacred halls and meeting rooms. As for me, I cannot wait to go back to the city I love and will continue to immerse myself in the politics that keep it alive.

—Michele Alexander, University of Mary Washington

CLP 2009: Day 16, Sunday June 14
Jun 15 2009 - 11:24am

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 16—Sunday, June 14, 2009
Reported by: Mallory Johnson, College of William and Mary

The Sorensen CLP took a mini-break to the lake today!  After waking up at a leisurely hour, everyone got their bathing suits, sunscreen, and flip flops, ate a quick lunch at the dorm, and hit the road for a trip to Mint Springs in Crozet, VA.  One of the most beautiful driving routes is between Charlottesville and Crozet- the Blue Ridge Mountains are in full view and the countryside is dotted with rolling hills and green pastures.  We arrived and headed down to the beach for some swimming, tanning, and water frisbee.  I was treated to a dunk in the water by a group of gentlemen (though I forgot to pack a bathing suit when coming to Sorensen, I fortunately brought a change of clothes today) which was quite refreshing.  Once we had our fill of sand and sun, we headed up to the picnic pavilion where we had watermelon and roasted marshmallows for some good old fashion s’mores.  After stuffing ourselves, we worked off the energy at the playground.  No matter the age, the zip line, monkey bars, and crawling tunnels are still a lot of fun.
     We headed back to UVa and, being exhausted from the sun, took short naps until dinner.  The day was not over, though- with an impending literature review due tomorrow, our issue groups went into full work mode.  Though usually loud and social, the second floor of Bice was unusually quiet with nearly every CLP participant writing, researching, or meeting with their advisers to ensure that the 8-15 page report was of top quality.
     It’s hard to believe that we’re half-way through CLP- it seems just yesterday we were moving in and getting to know one another on the ropes course at Poplar Ridge.  As cliché as it sounds, the bonds we’ve formed have made us into sort of a family.  I have a strong feeling that the friendships we’ve made will not dissipate once the program ends.  As one of the Program Managers said, once in Sorensen, always in Sorensen!

—Mallory Johnson, College of William and Mary

CLP 2009: Day 15, Saturday June 13
Jun 13 2009 - 10:11pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 15—Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reported by: Joshua Owens, George Mason University

Today was not unlike any other: filled with qualified speakers, good ideas and healthy discussion; however in many ways today was far from ordinary. We met a bit earlier than usual at a different location with new people. As we strolled through the doors of the lecture hall at 8:30am, we found our seats based on the chalkboard's instruction to “Sit with someone outside your program.” The special guests were participants from the Political Leaders Program. It was great having professional adult versions of ourselves around. It was especially refreshing to learn that they were just like us in many respects—they stayed up too late the night before, needed their coffee in the morning and loved politics. I met a number of people with very similar career goals that expressed interest in working together in the future.
     The first speaker of the day was Virginia's Secretary of Education Tom Morris. He spoke to us about what his goals for education are and some ways to go about achieving a better school system. Economist Louis Rossiter spoke with the group about the state of the health care system. He provided us with necessary background and empirical evidence to have substantive conversations about health care reform. Rossiter elicited humor from the audience as he provided us with self-deprecating jokes about economists. This was coincidental as my new PLP friend had been ragging on me all morning for being an economics major. The last speaker of the day was William Howell, Speaker of the House of Delegates. He fielded nearly an hour's worth of questions ranging from redistricting reform and the Governor's race to marijuana laws and immigration reform. I found the day to be a great success all around. I enjoyed the speakers as well as meeting new people, and I look forward to maintaining the relationships with the people I met today.
     “Economists are people that do not know what they are talking about but can say it in such a way that makes you feel like you don't know what you're talking about.” - Louis Rossiter

– Joshua Owens, George Mason University

CLP 2009: Day 14, Friday June 12
Jun 13 2009 - 10:01pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 14—Friday, June 12, 2009
Reported by:  Sarah Bowers, University of Richmond

    The day began bright and early with flip flops, coffee pots, and speakers.  Our first speaker was Tim Longo, the chief of police of Charlottesville, who spoke to us about his experiences in the police force from serving as an on-duty officer to conducting internal affairs—investigating police officers and their personal ethics—to ultimately serving as the chief of police.  Chief Longo elaborated on the difficulty of implementing community policing, a type of policing based on forming relationships of mutual respect and trust between the community and its citizens in hopes of alleviating long term community problems.  Our next speaker was Amy Gardner, a reporter for the Washington Post.  Ms. Gardner spoke on her coverage of the 2009 gubernatorial race as a bipartisan reporter and the ethics necessary for accurate coverage.  While Ms. Gardner was able to give us the perspective of a reporter for a large paper, our next speaker—Chelyen Davis—provided insight into reporting for a smaller paper, the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.  Ms. Davis shared her opinion on the changing media with the influence of blogs and twenty-four hour internet updates, the fading of print newspapers, and the role of the media as watchdog.
     After a delicious lunch of chicken strips, salad and wraps, we headed back into the classroom for our first session of the Thoughtful Citizen with Professor Steve Brigaw.  After brief introductions, we wasted no time delving into the subject matter beginning with defining the most prevalent statewide problems.  We then attempted to clarify the definition of a public problem—as opposed to a local issue—and the services that government is able to allot to these problems as “public good.”  After discussion we found that the term “good” could be interpreted philosophically—as in justice and the right to life, equality, and fairness—and economically as in a product or service.  Our discussion turned from defining public good to the necessary steps to transform public good into public policy.  After a break for water and lemonade, we resumed class examining citizenship as determined by Aristotle, Tocqueville, and Madison.  As we left class, we were all excited to delve into our weekend plans and to re-engage with Professor Brigaw on Monday.

—Sarah Bowers, University of Richmond

CLP 2009: Day 13, Thursday June 11
Jun 12 2009 - 10:59pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 14—Friday, June 12, 2009
Reported by:  Andrew Lundsten, Christopher Newport University

This was the last day that Dr. Quentin Kidd taught the first half of our lecture series called “The Informed Citizen.”  His aim was to give us a solid understanding of the geographical, political, and historical makeup of the Commonwealth.  Today we discussed a number of topics, including the budgetary process, funding from state vs. federal government, education, transportation, and the tax structure.  It was a great way to end the lecture with a survey of different topics, giving us a variety of perspectives on different issues.
     Craig Evans, a renowned journalist and former editor of Backpacker magazine, was nice enough to take time out of his busy day to speak with us.  Mr. Evans spoke about how it is essential for media to be the “4th estate.”  In other words, media is the fourth entity that should keep the three branches of government accountable.  In many respects news - particularly cable news - has moved from neutral reporting to biased commentary.  For this reason we must all view the media with a skeptic’s eye and dig below the surface to fully understand the facts.  Hearing his perspective on the evolution of media was both fascinating and informative.

—Andrew Lundsten, Christopher Newport University

CLP 2009: Day 12, Wednesday June 10
Jun 11 2009 - 9:52pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 12- Wednesday, June 10
Reported by: Abigail Quinn, Hollins University

It was a field trip day! CLP woke up bright and early to be out the door by 7:30 this morning.  Most of us slept on the way to Chatham’s Green Rock Correctional Facility. To enter the prison we had to give up our driver’s licenses and were patted down. Our group was split into two smaller groups, one lead by the facility’s Investigative Officer and the other with Officer Gibbs. Our tour guide took us to see the gym, pods (where the inmates sleep), visiting room, and classrooms for VOTECH programs and GED programs. Although the inmates were tough, I was surprised by how well everyone behaved and followed procedures.  The jail was really clean, mostly due to the fact that the inmates spend an hour each day cleaning. The jail provides such luxuries as air conditioning, two televisions in each cell, planned activities, and two libraries.  It was disheartening to hear that the new jail was already filled at capacity and that 82% of the inmates are black. I had no idea how many jobs correctional facilities provide to the surrounding communities: officers, doctors, educators, ect.
     Next we hopped into the bus and drove to get lunch. We dined at Mary’s Diner for some “Good ol’ Southern Cookin’” YUM!
     After we were stuffed we had a tour of Dansville from the Mayor, Linwood Wright. We drove all around the city. The factories that once ran Danville are being demolished and the property is being sold for development.  New factories owned by international companies are beginning to pop up. Companies such as Swedwood (IKEA) and Telvista (a Mexican call center) are reaching out to their American consumers by putting factories in the United States.
     The bus dropped us off downtown at America National Bank and Trust, where Charlie Majors, President and Chairman, talked to us about changes in Danville. In class we already established that Danville is one of the poorest communities in Virginia with one of the highest unemployment rates. Yet Wright and Majors seem optimistic. With new companies coming into the area, they are hoping that more people will become employed. Also, it seems that Danville is putting its money in the right places. They made the small city very broadband friendly which is allowing more companies to come to the area. Furthermore, they realize the need to get their students educated. They have been training their teachers on how to teach with technology and co-operate Galileo High School for technology and sciences, which is receiving national attention. After meeting with Mr. Majors, I think we all felt like we had a pretty good grasp on the city of Danville’s struggles and prospects.
     After leaving Danville, we drove another hour and half to Lynchburg where we had a delicious Italian dinner. Delegate Shannon Valentine, a Sorensen graduate and State Board member, met with us in small groups before dinner before having to leave to pick up her child. I respect her for being able to play the role of politician and mom.
     We sang songs the whole way back from Lynchburg. We were all a little loopy from a great day and little sleep. We arrived back safe and sound at 10pm. What a great (but long) day.

—Abigail Quinn, Hollins University

Featured Alumni

  • Jennifer McClellan.jpg

    Jennifer McClellan

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2001

    Jennifer serves in the Virginia House of Delegates where she represents the 71st District. She is also a graduate of the Candidate Training Program Class of 2005 and a member of the Sorensen Institute's State Advisory Board.