College Leaders

CLP 2013: Day 3 - Monday, June 3
Jun 3 2013 - 11:31pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 3: Monday, June 3
Reported by: Elias Bekri, Radford University and Blake Wheelock, University of Virginia

Today we kicked off the first of our academic program with guest speaker Bob Gibson, the executive director of the Sorensen Institute. He spoke about the history of the Institute and his career in journalism. After April Auger lead the class in a discussion about ethics in leadership, the class came up with a wide array of adjectives to flesh out a collective ideal of what an ethical leader could and should be. The discussion revealed the students' varying definitions of what it was to be an ethical leader, but also lead to collective agreement on what an ethical leader's values should be.

Next we did an exercise of the four types of ethical dilemmas that can arise to challenge political leaders as well as the average citizen. It consisted of reading about a fictional representative from Michigan and the ethical dilemmas he faced. The readings provided some insight as to how often political leaders can come into conflict with many different situations at once. We then broke up into regional groups and came up with lists about our local and state governments' efficacy.

Quentin Kidd then finished our session talking about the evolution of Virginia in regards to demography and population, as well as inviting a discussion of the prototypical liberal and conservative and the rationale behind their worldviews. Next we learned about Virginia’s higher education system and how it is the only state that does not actually have a “university system” per se. Dr. Kidd praised our higher education system and the state for this characteristic; explaining that this system has allowed Virginia to have the upper hand when it comes to higher education.

The CLP class finished its first day with pizza and homework.

CLP 2013: Day 2 - Sunday, June 2
Jun 2 2013 - 11:41pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 2: Sunday, June 2
Reported by: Aaron Barden, Virginia Commonwealth University and Andrew Whitley, Virginia Tech

Today the 2013 Sorensen CLP class had a good bonding experience that brought us all closer together as a group. We all met in front of the Bice House and then went on to make our fairly long trek out into the woods of the Poplar Ridge recreational group. At the start of our day in the woods, we were eaten up by the various insects of the backwoods of University of Virginia while we played an interesting game called “Alaskan Baseball.”
After we finished the game, we entered the actual high ropes course and did a few icebreakers to start the introduction process. We played a game that involved tossing stuffed animals to each other called “Group Juggle” and then a version of rock, paper, scissors called Evolution where we evolved from an egg to a chicken to a monkey to Chuck Norris (“The Supreme Being”).
Then we split up into two groups of 12, where our group’s first game was “The Island Game.” The goal of the activity was to be able to get our group from one “island” to the end of the course without touching the ground between them. The activity highlighted the values of communication and teamwork! Even though it took our group multiple tries to successfully complete the challenge, we finally did!
The rest of the day was spent suspended 20 feet in the air, where the majority of us faced a series of obstacles. Just like every other activity of the day, being put in a harness and belayed by our peers tested our ability to work together and communicate well with one another.
Although we fought high humidity, swarms of mosquitoes and the occasional rain shower, today was incredible at bringing the 2013 CLP class closer together!
Look below for more pictures from our day:


CLP 2013: Day 1 - Saturday, June 1
Jun 1 2013 - 11:38pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 1: Saturday, June 1
Reported by: Maggie Anderson, Roanoke College and Jermayne Wright, Virginia State University

On the initial day of the Sorensen Institute College Leaders Program, it felt as if for the first half of the day, most of the participating students were pretty timid towards each other as well as the staff. But as the day progressed, we all started to open up and get more acquainted with one another.
To start things off, Lauren Gilbert, our program coordinator, led us into an icebreaker which helped us learn each other’s names, colleges, hometowns and first political memories. A few of the memories were very interesting as some of us were attendees at President Reagan’s funeral in D.C., and others even shook President Clinton's hand! Ms. Gilbert also showed us that it is important here at Sorensen to not discuss our party affiliation. She did this by taking us through an exercise that made us realize that none of us would like to defend the stereotype of a specific party while we are here at this program, or in general.
After a brief break in action, we gathered again to learn about our fellow classmates–this time in a bingo game that required us to learn about the 23 CLP participants. This game permitted us to learn more about the personal lives and interests of each person in the program and compare and contrast a number of hobbies.
After the last break, the program leaders led us in an activity where we gave our opinions about the differences and similarities of community service and public service. We then met for dinner with our first guest speaker, Mr. John Thomas, who is the director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. During our discussion, Mr. Thomas conversed with us about the idea of a failing democracy, the polarization of parties and the lack of competition in Virginia’s districts. Overall, a majority of the students were very interactive with Mr. Thomas, as many questions and comments were addressed. Mr. Thomas even stayed after the discussion to elaborate on topics he had discussed during dinner.
We concluded the night’s activities with a campus-wide scavenger hunt, as we looked for different buildings, statues, and other major landmarks on the campus of the University of Virginia. We are still patiently waiting to find out the winning group for this event. 
We will start Sunday off strong at 8:15 a.m. for our second day in Charlottesville here at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership!


2013 Youth Program Participants Announced
Apr 16 2013 - 9:26am

Members of the Sorensen Institute staff and regional boards have completed an exhaustive review of a record number of highly qualified applicants for admission to the 2013 College Leaders and High School Leaders Programs. We're proud to announce the College Leaders Program Class of 2013 and the High School Leaders Program Class of 2013! These students have proven themselves to be active and engaged citizens in their communities. We can't wait for them to join us in Charlottesville this summer!

College Leaders Program Class of 2013

Maggie Anderson, Roanoke College; Madison
Aaron Barden, Virginia Commonwealth University; Richmond
Elias Bekri, Radford University; Moneta
Christopher Boden, Hampden-Sydney College; Washington, D.C.
William Brackin, Old Dominion University; Hampton
Rachel Brooks, The College of William and Mary; Virginia Beach
Jory Bunn, Old Dominion University; Virginia Beach
Joniel Cha, The University of Virginia; Leesburg
Andres Chovil, George Mason University; Annandale
Kate Cude, Piedmont Virginia Community College; Charlottesville
Emily Dean-McKinney, The College of Wooster; Charlottesville
Chase Grogg, Hampden-Sydney College; Williamsburg
Brendan Hood, Virginia Commonwealth University; Colonial Heights
Toni Jones, George Mason University; Richmond
Zhina Kamali, Virginia Commonwealth University; Vienna
Daniel Ku, Virginia Commonwealth University; Fairfax
Max Maurer, Hampden-Sydney College; Oak Hill
Claire Nadolski, Lynchburg College; Virginia Beach
Colman Packard, Hampden-Sydney University; Charlottesville
Richard Pantele, Hampden-Sydney College; Richmond
David Snyder, Christopher Newport University; Fairfax
Stephanie Tipple, The University of Mary Washington; Warwick, RI
Blake Wheelock, The University of Virginia; Lynchburg
Andrew Whitley, Virginia Tech; Chilhowie
Jermayne Wright, Virginia State University; Norfolk

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013

Tyler Ambrose, William Fleming and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School, Roanoke
Sarah Ashman, Douglas S. Freeman High School, Richmond
Eric Asplund, Douglas S. Freeman High School, Henrico
Hayley Batten, Jamestown High School, Williamsburg
Jack Boettger, George C. Marshall High School, Vienna
Thomas Cannella, Poquoson High School, Poquoson
David Cohn, Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville
Mason Davenport, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Henrico
Alana Davitt, Norfolk Academy, Virginia Beach
Tim Dodson, Western Albemarle High School, Charlottesville
Sofa Getachew, Washington-Lee High School, Arlington
Oscar Guardado, James River High School, Richmond
Nicole Jackson, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Richmond
Isa Kivlighan, Stuart Hall School, Staunton
Emma Leeds Armstrong, Monticello High School, Charlottesville
Mattie Leibowitz, West Potomac High School, Alexandria
Rachel Lim, Deep Run High School, Henrico
Eddie Lin, Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach
Sarah Mosley, Yorktown High School, Arlington
Brian Murray, Cape Henry Collegiate School, Virginia Beach
Owen O’Hare, Carlisle School, Chatham
Meriwether Roberts, Collegiate School, Richmond
Amar Singh, South Lakes High School, Herndon
Rhea Somaiya, The Madeira School, Fairfax
Shaarada Srivatsa, Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville
Yash Tekriwal, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Glen Allen
Elisha Untiedt, Chilhowie High School, Marion
Peyton Wall, Fuqua School, Farmville
Sophie Webb, Western Albemarle High School, Charlottesville
Benjamin Zook, Loudoun Valley High School, Lovettsville


Now Accepting Youth Program Applications Through March 4
Dec 17 2012 - 11:45am
The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is now accepting applications for the High School and College Leaders Programs. The High School and College Leaders Programs offer advanced, concentrated study in state and local politics, gaining hands-on training in politics, acquiring the information necessary to discuss Virginia politics and the skills to make a difference.
Students in the Sorensen Institute programs engage in substantive debate about challenges facing the Commonwealth. Students have the opportunity to learn key advocacy skills such as lobbying, fundraising, opinion writing, media and more. Students interact with Virginia's current public, private, and nonprofit leaders. Past speakers have included U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Governor Bob McDonnell, Governor Tim Kaine, members of the General Assembly, Congressional leaders and other policy makers from around Virginia. 
The College Leaders Program will take place from June 1 - June 15, 2013 and will be made up of approximately 25 student leaders from across Virginia. The cost of the College Leaders Program is $1,800, which includes all room and board.  Scholarships and financial aid are available. Read more at
The High School Leaders Program takes place from June 22 - to July 6, 2013 and will be made up of approximately 30 student leaders from across the state that are at least rising juniors or 16 years old by the program start date. Students will receive three undergraduate credits from the University of Virginia for their participation. The cost of the High School Leaders Program is $1,800 which includes all room, board and three U.Va. college credits.  Scholarships and financial aid are available. Read more at
The College and High School Leaders Programs applicant pool is evaluated to create a highly qualified and diverse class. Participants will be chosen from among all academic majors and backgrounds. Scholarships for program tuition are available and potential applicants are strongly urged to apply regardless of financial concerns.
To learn more about the programs or to apply please visit our applications page at
The application deadline will be Monday, March 4 at 5 p.m. but applying early is encouraged!


Congratulations CLP Class of 2012
Jun 29 2012 - 5:05pm

Congratulations to the members of the College Leaders Program Class of 2012, who graduated this past weekend! You can meet Sorensen's newest alumni on the class's alumni page.

CLP 2012: Day 25, Thursday, June 21
Jun 21 2012 - 10:51pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 25: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Reported by: Sean Simons, University of Mary Washington

Today was our last official day of class here at the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program. The morning began with Professor Bragaw leading the class in a recap of yesterday’s budget game. After discussing the exercise and the need for more compromise in our politics, the class then talked about some of the typical challenges that arise when making public policy.

After a delicious lunch, the class proceeded to vote on who will speak at graduation and who will serve as our class representative. After a close election, the class chose Brendan Oudekerk to speak at graduation and Claire McNabb to serve as our class representative.

Next, the class heard from Delegate Rob Bell from Albemarle County. Delegate Bell serves on the Health Welfare and Institutions Committee and is the Chairman of the Institutions Subcommittee. Needless to say, many students asked Delegate Bell a lot of questions about the Supreme Court's health care decision and his upcoming race for Attorney General.

Afterward, David Ledbetter, a prosecutor in Charlottesville, came and spoke to us. Following Mr. Ledbetter, the class heard from the Mayor of Charlottesville Satyendra Huja. In addition to being the local mayor, Mr. Huja also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and teaches classes in Urban Planning. Many of the students were very curious to hear about the challenges of being a city mayor and Mr. Huja’s thoughts on President Sullivan’s firing.

Our last speaker was former delegate Chris Saxman. After retiring from the House of Delegates, Mr. Saxman now works as a business consultant and students asked him a lot of questions about why he decided to leave politics for the private sector. Mr. Saxman also gave each of the three policy groups constructive feedback about our presentations tomorrow.

After a long day of class and lectures, students returned to the dorm for a long night of mock presentations and last minute proposal edits. Tomorrow, students will go in front of a panel of journalists and legislators who will pick apart our ideas and discuss the potential challenges that come with implementing legislation. 

CLP 2012: Day 23, Tuesday, June 19
Jun 19 2012 - 10:17pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 23: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Reported by: Meghan Hobbs, University of Mary Washington

For our final trip in the program, we went to Richmond to talk with various political leaders in the Capitol. We began our morning with a personal tour of the House and Senate Chambers. This experience was especially interesting for me because I had never been to the Capitol building. We were able to sit in the chairs on both the House and Senate floors as we listened to the historian’s account of what happens during session.

After our quick tour, we went to hear from our great lineup of speakers. First, Tucker Martin, Director of Communications for Gov. McDonnell, described his job of focusing the Governor’s message and translating it to the various media outlets in the state. Our next speaker was Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly. She went through her responsibilities in this position, and encouraged us to be involved in any kind of campaign. She would not be where she is today without the knowledge she learned on the campaign trail. Next was Generra Peck, the Special Assistant for Policy, and her colleague Andrew. We asked these policy experts about our culminating projects. They offered each group some great advice about how the Senate and House will most likely react to our propositions.

Next we had a working lunch with Sorensen Chairman John Hager who has many years of experience in politics ranging from Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia to Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. His advice on political activism, as well as his devotion to respect and bipartisan cooperation, was well received.

CLP 2012: Day 22, Monday, June 18
Jun 18 2012 - 10:54pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 22: Monday, June 18, 2012
Reported by: Colin Christensen, Emory and Henry College

Today the 2012 Sorensen CLP class enjoyed an exciting day that none of us will likely ever forget thanks to the Washington Post, the New York Times, the NBC Nightly News, and of course, The Good Ole Song.

To put it candidly, the we will not remember what we discussed in class today. We will not remember the readings. However, we will remember today’s lesson – a lesson taught not in the classroom, but on the steps of the Rotunda.

Today we stood with 2,000 others on the historic U.Va. Lawn to protest the Board of Visitor’s decision to force the early resignation of U.Va. president Teresa Sullivan. I don’t think any of us truly planned to be active participants in the rally. However, we arrived to the rally about 45 minutes early and decided to sit on the steps of the Rotunda in order to pass time. As the Lawn began to swell with protestors, the result was the 2012 CLP standing at the forefront of all of the action.

Although the members of the 2012 CLP represent schools from all across the Commonwealth, we quickly became de facto U.Va. students. We led the crowd in chanting “U-V-A, U-V-A!” as President Sullivan made her way into the Board of Visitors meeting. Upon President Sullivan’s departure, we joined arms with other students to serenade her with U.Va.’s Good Ole Song.

Our actions on the Lawn today will never be forgotten for several reasons. First, because we chose to congregate on the steps of the Rotunda, our picture was published on the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times, and we were featured on NBC Nightly News. The second reason can be defined by transparency. The actions taken by the Board of Visitors were the antithesis of transparency. Although we are not U.Va. students, through Sorensen we have learned the value of effective communication and bipartisanship – qualities that are best effectuated through transparency from both sides of the aisle. Certainly, today’s events demonstrated the value of transparency within decision-making bodies. This will be a lesson will we surely never forget.


CLP 2012: Day 23, Sunday, June 17
Jun 17 2012 - 10:36pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 23: Sunday, June 17, 2012
Reported by: Brendan Oudekerk, University of Mary Washington

Today the members of the College Leaders Program were surprised with the day off for Father’s Day. Several members went to their respective hometowns to see their family and friends for the holiday. The rest of the students opted to remain in Charlottesville. Many people had their families visit, while others chose to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the town. After a long week of completing our first draft for our culminating projects, everyone was happy to have a well-deserved break.

After waking up we had some sandwiches for lunch, but several people had already left to have lunch with their families. My friend from Mary Washington came for a visit to see what Charlottesville had to offer. We walked around the Downtown Mall and did some shopping, but mostly enjoyed the great day. Some others went swimming, went to the gym or just relaxed in their dorm room watching movies or chatting with friends. This evening we all enjoyed the group’s favorite meal, Chipotle, for dinner. A few watched the basketball game in the dorm, and overall it was a quiet evening.

There are mixed feelings about the final week of the program; everyone is getting more and more excited about their culminating projects. Individual groups are becoming more eager to present their ideas at the end of the week from the research we’ve completed so far. A relaxation day, however, is definitely what we all needed! 

Featured Alumni

  • Kelly Porell.jpg

    Kelly Cannon

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    Kelly is the past Executive Director for Virginia21, the nation's first political action committee for college students. She is Director of the Run for the Dream road race weekend in Williamsburg, benefitting An Achievable Dream and Wounded Warrior programs.