College Leaders

CLP 2012: Day 18, Tuesday, June 12
Jun 12 2012 - 10:16pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 18, Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Reported by: Troy Ehardt, James Madison University

Today we embarked on our long awaited trip to Washington D.C. We arrived at the Capitol and headed to House side to meet with Virginia's senior senator Jim Webb. He talked to us about some of the points he formerly ran on and continues to fight for, from his military dedication to his beliefs on social justice. After Sen. Webb ended his speech, we were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Virginia's other senator and former governor, Mark Warner. He spoke to us on the importance of bipartisanship efforts in Congress to address the growing national debt. Sen. Warner's efforts to work across the aisle in the increasingly polarized political arena truly epitomizes what the Sorensen Institute is all about. The privilege of listening both Virginia senators was extremely thrilling and further increased my passion for politics.

After we broke for lunch, we heard from various legislative staff members who explained to us their positions entail and their role as a member of an elected official's staff. They discussed the difficulties of working for little pay in such an expensive city and the challenges they faced upon entering the competitive job market. Jack Ruddy, the legislative aide (LA) for Rep. Sam Graves, discussed his experience in CLP and how the skills he learned in the program assisted him in his career. We then heard from Amy Richardson and Toby Quaranta who work at NGP VAN and discussed the evolution of voter targeting via social networks and the internet.

We concluded our day with a fantastic speech from Lani Hay, a member of the current PLP class at the Sorensen Institute. She is the founder of Lanmark Technologies, a Government defense contractor. She told us her personal story of success and detailed her firm beliefs on increased role for women in the military. After a long fulfilling day in the nation's capitol, we headed back to Charlottesville and continued working on our policy projects.  

CLP 2012: Day 17, Monday, June 11
Jun 11 2012 - 10:54pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 17, Monday, June 11, 2012
Reported by: Grace Leahey, Lynchburg College

Today our schedule was once again packed with class and speakers. In the morning we talked about how every policy needs a strategy. Its strengths, weaknesses and boundaries all have to be considered. Not every policy is going to produce unanimous consensus, but being able to find balance is extremely important no matter what side you are on.

After a short break we came back and split into our culminating project groups. Each group discussed the issues of oil and immigration as they relate to different elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. Our professor had us present our thoughts and then asked some questions that really made us dig deeper into the strategy of each policy. I learned that policies are often multifaceted and that there is hardly ever a simple answer.

This afternoon we heard five speakers. Two were legislative aides who I thought were really interesting. They talked about what they do for their respective legislators and what helped them get to where they are. Then we learned a lot about what it takes to pass a bill and all the work that has to be put into it. A graduate of the College Leaders Program came today as well. The bill that her group proposed a couple years ago actually got passed, which gave us a great opportunity to discuss and think about what we should do if that is our goal. Last but not least we were pleased to hear from Delegate Ed Scott. I know we all appreciated the feedback he gave on all of our projects.

Although we were all very tired today it still turned out to be a productive and informative day. Our culminating projects are progressing, and none of us can believe our time here has gone by so fast.  

CLP 2012: Day 16, Sunday, June 10
Jun 10 2012 - 10:25pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 16, Sunday, June 10, 2012
Reported by: Samantha Gould-Ginesi, Virginia Commonwealth University

This morning started off a little slow. Everyone has been working hard in class and on our culminating projects and we were all excited for a day of relaxation. This morning and this afternoon we had a reprieve from the fast past of the College Leaders Program. The group, including our Youth Program Mangers, all went to Mint Springs Valley Park in Albemarle County. It was a nice change of pace to be able to relax and enjoy the beautiful day we had. The class had an afternoon full of fun in the sun including swimming, tossing a football and just sitting around talking about our experiences so far in the program.

After our fun in the park we came back to our temporary home at Bice. Many continued to hang out and watch TV, and some decided that a nap before dinner was needed after our two weeks of fast-paced and knowledge-filled days. We wrapped up the rest and relaxation part of the day by making s’mores.

Then all groups decided that they needed to finish off their literature reviews and media briefings that are due tomorrow morning. It was a late night for all, filled with hard work and determination.

CLP 2012: Day 15, Saturday, June 9
Jun 9 2012 - 10:24pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 15, Saturday, June 9, 2012
Reported by: Nathalie Navarrete, Bates College

After of a long week of class, speakers and field trips we all took advantage of Saturday morning to catch up on some sleep. Per usual the halls were silent until right before noon when we were all ready for lunch. The day started off with Atima Omara-Alwala from the Young Democrats of America who spoke to us about the do's and don'ts of having a successful career in politics. Ms. Omara-Alwala spoke to us about the importance of being civically and politically engaged. For instance, she stressed the importance of networking, volunteering, interning and attending political events. She also focused on the basics regarding professionalism in the office.

After the talk a couple of us went to Blue Hole, a series of waterfalls that cascade into a large, deep swimming hole, surrounded by large boulders suitable for jumping. The drive to this spot about five miles past the town of White Hall was beautiful and a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon. However, once we got there we were disappointed to discover that the infamous rope swing at Blue Hole had been removed. Regardless, we made the most out of it and came back to Bice exhausted. Finally the day ended with dinner from Sticks Kebob Shop.

CLP 2012: Day 14, Friday, June 8
Jun 8 2012 - 10:13pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 14, Friday, June 8, 2012
Reported by: Claire Hathaway, Radford University

Our long awaited, much deserved Friday kicked off with our second session of “The Thoughtful Citizen” with Dr. Bragraw. We started the class by talking about how our cumulating projects were going and how each group was planning to tackle various issues and challenges specific to their group, whether transportation, education, or economy. I realized by the end of the discussion how far each group is really coming, and that the ideas that just two weeks ago were airy and not completely formed, are finally starting to take shape and become more and more tangible to us. We've gotten to that point where we all know what we’re doing, know what hurdles we face and are currently working on how to overcome them.

After that, we moved onto discussing problems in society and how people try to propose solutions. We also talked about trust, and the language of trust and how sometimes you have to make trade-offs in public policy. As one example we talked about the balance between efficiency and equality in our society. From there, we moved onto equality and how it works in society. To begin, we discussed what equality was and from there, moved onto what makes up a community. The topic of community and equality was complex, and challenged us to think about what composes a perfect society and if one is possible in reality. By the end of the segment, I felt as if I had gained a lot of knowledge about how American society is made up.

Class ended at noon, and after a lunch of Mellow Mushroom pizza, we started our afternoon session with Tony Sanchez and did a ‘Professional Speaking Workshop.’ Mr. Sanchez is an actor and brought to the table a wide range of techniques to help us with our public speaking, our professional appearance and overall appearance. He taught us useful breathing and articulation techniques that we can use before our final presentations to help us relax and present our project and ourselves better. Overall, his lessons were invaluable to us, and I for one find myself practicing my “P-P-P-B-B-B-T-T-T-D-D-D-K-K-K-G-G-G” when no one’s around to help my articulation!

We finished in the classroom around two and went back to Bice’s basement where we watched “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.” The movie focused on Lee Atwater and his time in the political campaign arena, especially while working on President George H.W. Bush’s campaign and how his strategies affected campaigns in the future.

At the end of the movie, we all gathered for a delicious dinner, and then some of us went off to explore “Live After Five” at the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville and start off the weekend right. It was a long and successful second week, and we are greatly looking forward to the third as we continue to move forward in our projects and get ready for Washington D.C. on Tuesday!  

CLP 2012: Day 13, Thursday, June 7
Jun 7 2012 - 10:40pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 13, Thursday, June 7, 2012
Reported by: Maha Khaliq, George Mason University

The morning started off early and bright as usual, and everyone headed to the last class of the Informed Citizen with Dr. Kidd. The class started off with a discussion on the previous day and the college leaders were more than excited to share their experiences at the Green Rock Correctional Facility as well as the exploration of the city of Danville.

During our last class, we had an interesting and lengthy discussion on “Richmond we have a problem: Modernizing Virginia’s outdated revenue system” by Sara C. Okos. Everyone shared their opinions and like always Dr. Kidd made sure the discussion was more among students in order for us to participate. By the end of the discussion and through the reading, we learned that tax brackets need to be adjusted in order to catch where income growth is actually occurring.

Due to taxes, we also ended up discussing the retail food industry and how grocery store might not exist in the future due to the online delivery of goods. This led to a lengthy debate by the class and most of us seemed to disapprove of this idea. Those for this argument suggested that by buying goods online, we can avoid the tax that is paid. Those opposed to this idea stated that the online system will not be as efficient as we cannot compare items and get the real life experience of doing our own grocery shopping. Moreover, everyone has their own picky habits when doing grocery shopping, which will not be accommodated through an online process.

During lunch, everyone enjoyed their Chick-fil-A and we all went back to our dorms to get our laptops as our new professor required it. After lunch, we had the pleasure to have April Auger come speak to us on the importance of professional presence. This was the most interesting segment of the day as it taught us how important it is to present a good image in order to be a professional. We went over different pictures of politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and important figures such as Mother Teresa and examined how they dressed. One very interesting activity we did was, April Auger made us visualize a person that we seem to think “has it together” and is very well composed. Once we had them in mind, we had to think about what characteristics make a person seem that they have it all. This activity made us think about how important it is to be genuine and humble. This segment of the day highlighted the significance and connection of image with politics. It is crucial to dress and behave professionally as we never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Today was also our first class with Dr. Bragaw. During this class, we focused a lot on economics and learned about issues such as obesity in the United States. Overall, it was a relaxing yet long day. The breaks in between really helped. The College Leaders Program is going great so far, and I have never gained so much knowledge in such a short period of time.

CLP 2012: Day 12, Wednesday, June 6
Jun 6 2012 - 10:10pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 12, Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Reported by: Marco Segura, University of Virginia

In our trip to Danville we visited the Green Rock Correctional Facility where we met police officers and the people who reside there. The rigorous trip took about three hours, but it was bearable because we woke up at 6 a.m. to be there exactly at 7 a.m., so the bus ride was sleeping time. Inside the correctional facility we saw the different ways in which the inmates were inside a level three prison. The most daunting experience was to see those prisoners, human beings, locked in a box like animals. Walking around those halls we could monitor the different ways in which the government tries to rehabilitate those who have broken the law. We also learned about the religious traditions and the dynamics of the prison.

Later, we went to Danville and met with Linwood Wright, who was the former mayor and vice-mayor and now works for the bank. It was mind-opening to see how a town like Danville has been hit by globalization; their textile and tobacco industries have been hit. However, Danville showed resilience and now has a lot of foreign countries investing in that area. Countries such as Belgium, Mexico, Sweden and Japan are represented. These companies bring jobs to Danville and improve their economy. After that, we toured the city and saw the old buildings where many factories once flourished but now are abandoned. Perhaps we will witness how Danville will become the new Detroit of the South.

CLP 2012: Day 11, Tuesday, June 5
Jun 5 2012 - 10:15pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 11, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Reported by: James Lawrence, Radford University

This day started off a little more sluggish than most because our first proposal was due at midnight. Upon arriving at class with Dr. Kidd, we went over reports on City/County annexation and on Gov. Gilmore's pledge to eliminate the car tax. This brought us into how Dillon's Rule works, which allowed him to take on a locality issue such as this.

After the book work was done, each individual group presented their presentations. Our policy groups are on the economy, transportation and education. Campaign strategist Rich Savage came to speak to us about direct mail and messaging media directions. He presented his information on a PowerPoint slide, and had various handouts of former mail ads he had helped construct. I really learned a lot from his talk about how campaigns are broken down, and that there is always a way to spin an issue. Chelyen Davis from the Fredricksburg paper came and spoke with us for an hour after this about journalism in Virginia. Over the past few years media coverage of Richmond and state politics has greatly decreased as more interest has been placed on the Federal Government. At the end of her talk, she mentioned that media relations with the General Assembly have also changed as years have gone by to be less laid back and more formal.

To conclude the day we got to listen to Tom Kramer from Virginia21. Virginia21 is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization. The group was founded in 2002 by a few William & Mary students looking to advocate for lower student debt. Tom presented using a PowerPoint presentation that talked about how Virginia21 is advocating for the two largest problems facing today's students: paying for college and finding a good job. Accomplishments of the group thus far were to advocate for a $900 million bond policy for education. This past year Virginia21 ran a "What's Your Number" campaign that surveyed students across Virginia to find out the average student debt which is $21,000. After having listened to Tom, I feel that the education group is headed in a great direction and tackling tuition hikes across Virginia. Several students stayed after the presentation to inquire about bringing a chapter of Virginia21 to their institutions. It was a great way to close the day, and tonight we are looking forward to having some fun and getting some rest for our trip to Danville tomorrow! 

CLP 2012: Day 10, Monday, June 4
Jun 4 2012 - 10:17pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 10, Monday, June 4, 2012
Reported by: Sean Simons, University of Mary Washington

Today commenced with a (much-needed) hearty breakfast of doughnuts and coffee, courtesy of Dr. Kidd. Monday's class schedule began at 9 a.m. with a brief discussion of the movie "A Perfect Candidate," which we watched this past weekend. After reflecting on the 1994 Virginia Senatorial Election between Chuck Robb and Oliver North, our class concluded that perhaps there is no such thing as a "Perfect Candidate."

After, the class heard from approximately a dozen students who summarized the weekend's assigned reading material. Each reading was very diverse and the class debated everything from money in Virginia politics to the importance of non-partisan redistricting.

Following an extended lunch break that was greeted with great excitement amongst the students, we continued with yet another three hours of class. During the second half of class, we focused on the roles that counties and cities play in Virginia politics.

The most interesting part of the day took place when students discussed a reading on higher education in Virginia. It was very interesting to see how students from Southwest Virginia wanted the state government to put more money into education for their region as opposed to Northern Virginia. Conversely, those who live in Northern Virginia felt as if they were not getting their fair share of K-12 funding.

After class, students completed a short walk to the Lawn, where our class had our photos taken on the steps of the historic Rotunda. Everyone in our group was dressed to impress, and I couldn't help but think Thomas Jefferson would have been intimidated.

Our day concluded with students putting the finishing touches on their preliminary policy reports, which are due tomorrow.

With a full day of class and three different speakers on the docket, tomorrow is shaping up to be another busy day here at the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program. 

CLP 2012: Day 9, Sunday, June 3
Jun 3 2012 - 10:20pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 9, Sunday, June 3, 2012
Reported by: Claire McNabb, James Madison University

Today began not so early, as most of us only got up around 12 p.m. for lunch at Bice. Later this afternoon, we added yet another dimension to "The Informed Citizen" lens. Glen Besa, the Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, spoke to us about Virginia's environmental concerns, citing coal power plants and the threat of uranium mining among the most prominent. Interestingly enough, Mr. Besa was able to show how international environmental problems trickle down to us on a local level. Members of the CLP were able to engage in a question and answer session with Mr. Besa, concerning the new coal power plant in Wise County, and also the role Dominion Power plays in Virginia's legislative process. After our speaker, we returned to Bice and took advantage of our time to rest up for the coming week. A delicious dinner of Chipotle, a group favorite, was served. The mood remains light and cheery at Bice as many watched the Miss America Pageant and Game of Thrones while researching for our culminating projects, yet our proposals due Tuesday morning loom in the distance.