College Leaders

Accepting Youth Program Applications Through March 5th
Jan 17 2012 - 10:39am
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 May 26 - June 23, 2012 and is made up of 30 student leaders from across Virginia. The cost of the College Leaders Program is $2,250, which includes all room and board, and scholarships and financial aid are available. Read more at
The High School Leaders Program takes place from July 7 - 21, 2012 and is made up 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 $1,625, which includes all room, board and U.Va. tuition, and 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
* The application deadline will be Monday, March 5th at 5:00 p.m.*


Positions Open: Now Hiring Youth Program Managers
Jan 5 2012 - 12:39pm

Youth Program Manager
Position Announcement

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is seeking applicants to be Youth Program Manager in the summer of 2012 for its College and High School Leaders Programs.

Both programs are residential at the University of Virginia. The College Leaders Program runs for four weeks from May 26 to June 23, 2012, while the High School Leaders Program runs from July 7 to 21.

Desirable Qualifications are: effective time management skills; a high degree of organization; the ability to work with high school and college students in a residential and classroom setting; knowledge of Virginia government and politics; significant peer leadership experience; experience working in a peer-to-peer counseling setting; strong written and oral communication abilities; and excellent human relations skills.  Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree by the program start date.

The regular positions will run from May 22 to July 22, 2012. During the program, youth program managers will be required to live in residence with the students every night and work on average 6 days a week, with some vacation between the two programs. There will be some limited work requirements for recruitment and review of applications starting in February 2012. Program Coordinators will receive room and board with the students during the programs in addition to a $3,250 stipend.

Applications should include a current resume and relevant references, in addition to a brief letter explaining why the applicant is interested in the position. Letters of reference are welcome, but not required.

Please submit all materials to Lauren Gilbert, Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, VA 22904

Questions and applications can be directed to Lauren Gilbert at or (434) 243-2844.  Applications must be submitted by January 30, 2012 for consideration.  Applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview.

$3,250 plus room and board during program

A. The full time position runs from May 22 to July 22, 2012.
B. Be in residence at the University of Virginia at all times when students are in the dorms with one day off each week.
C. Assist in the daily operations of the programs - supervise students during the day, be on call certain evenings to assist students, etc.
D. Travel with the programs on all field trips.
E. Advise students in preparation of their culminating project as outlined in program materials. Oversee at least one student research group.
F. Provide administrative support during the program - help with coordination of activities, contact with speakers, development of culminating project groups, evening activities.
G. Coordinate social events for the students in the programs.
H. Provide reasonable assistance to the Sorensen Institute in the recruitment and selection of program participants.
I. Assist in evaluating students completing the CLP or HSLP for academic credit.
J. Other tasks necessary for the operation of the programs as requested by the Sorensen Institute's staff.

CLP 2011: Day 25, Wednesday, June 22
Jun 22 2011 - 10:56pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 25: Wednesday, June 22
Reported by: Benjamin "Benji" Clark, Longwood University

Wow! Where has the time gone? It seems only yesterday that our group was just a gathering of strangers with similar interests. Though we were asked to keep our political affiliations secret, the curiosity I once had has dissipated into a sense of fellowship and unity. Now, time to exchange my toga for some flip flops and tell you, esteemed reader, about our day.

We had our final class today with Dr. Bragaw from Sweet Briar College, beginning with a brief question and answer session in which we presented our critiques of the program. After asserting our different opinions like true politicians, we got back to business and started our lecture. Dr. Bragaw discussed the various issues associated with how a policy is created and how it ultimately ends. Following this lesson, we engaged in a lively classroom discussion about the rights of those with mental disabilities and the responsibilities of the nation to provide for their needs.

After lunch, we were pleased to have Brett Vassey, the CEO of the Virginia Manufacturer's Association (VMA), offer us valuable insights into his professional duties. He discussed the need for highly qualified workers in the manufacturing industry. He also argued that Virginians urgently need to recognize that many students in our school systems are not interested in pursuing a 4-year degree that is not specific to a particular trade.

Next, Andrew Lamar presented his experiences as a legislative liason to Gov. McDonnell. He stressed the importance of making a connection with the "urban crescent," and with reaching out to concerned citizens in all corners of the state.

Next, we were pleased to have Charlottesville's Mayor Dave Norris as a guest speaker. He discussed the unfortunate trend of low voter turnout in local elections. Lastly, he highlighted several issues that are facing Charlottesville and how he plans to address them during his term in office.

Our day ended with a discussion generated by Paul Brockwell of the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), who explained his work with the website for this organization and also the "Whipple Report."

CLP 2011: Day 24, Tuesday, June 21
Jun 21 2011 - 10:52pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 24-Tuesday, June 21
Reported by: Andrew Reese, James Madison University

For the last of our field trips, we traveled Richmond, the heart and seat of Virginian politics. Being from Alexandria, I was amazed at the lack of traffic during rush hour. While I marveled at this occurrence, we pulled up to our first stop, the Virginia General Assembly.

It was strange to just walk right into the House of Delegates and take a seat. This was the first time I had been there, and it was cool to think about all the history that had occurred in the building.

In the chamber, we heard from Del. Joe Morrissey, a passionate and blunt politician who has strongly-held beliefs and is not afraid to let everyone know about them. While lamenting the redistricting process, he also advised us to take our chances and not be afraid of what others may think. This message definitely resonated with our group.

Lisa Guthrie and Jeff Painter from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters were next to speak. VALCV is a lobbying organization committed to fight for the environment and publish an annual report card on members' voting habits. They also gave a presentation on the growing uranium mining controversy.

Next we heard from John Hager, clearly a legend in Virginian politics. It was inspiring to listen to his story and answers to our questions.

We then took a working lunch with David Mills, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. The ground he had covered in such a short time was very impressive, and I was particularly intrigued because he graduated from JMU with unique experience in Harrisonburg.

After lunch, we loaded back onto the bus and drove out to the State Police Academy. As we turned the corner after entering the compound, we were surprised by 75 police cars sitting in a row. Let’s just say none of us had seen so many police cars before. Upon entering the building, we filed into a classroom and listened to State Police Superintendent Colonel W. Steven Flaherty. A 36-year veteran, he gave us an overview of the organizational structure and informed us of their many and often little-known duties.

We then split into two groups to experience different aspects of police life. My group first entered the simulation room. We were placed into a wildly realistic simulation where we tried to mimic the proper behavior of an officer in a stressful circumstance. Let’s just say some of us won’t become police officers anytime soon. Following this, we went outside and watched police dogs in action. Dressed in what was affectionately named "the Michelin Man suit", an officer acted like a criminal and was attacked by a canine. Alas, while I volunteered to be in the suit, I was not allowed.

With our goodbyes, we made our way back to Charlottesville. After dinner and a brief game of ultimate frisbee, we continued to work on our projects.

CLP 2011: Day 23, Monday, June 20
Jun 20 2011 - 10:18pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 23-Monday, June 20
Reported by: Adam Amick, Virginia Wesleyan College

Today has been an interesting day! It was not your normal class, and it’s fair to say that the Sorensen Institute’s classes aren’t normal. We are all interested in politics one way or another. We are willing to spend all this time and effort to become informed citizens of Virginia. We had a nice break from the usual lectures and civilized discussions among classmates today. Instead of the usual, we participated in a budget game in which we acted as members of either the House of Delegates or the Virginia Senate. Our budget crisis was set in the future, the date undetermined. Both the House and Senate had to fix a budget shortfall of $1 billion. The Commonwealth of Virginia is required by the state constitution to have a balanced budget. After agreeing within the respected bodies of the legislature, we had to come together to form a final agreement between the House of Delegates and the Senate.

We divided the class into eight people in the Senate and 12 people for the House. I was selected to be in the Senate, which was surprising. I thought, since I have been one of the more vocal participants in the program, I would find myself among the passionate members of the House. We were tired from working hard all night trying to perfect our culminating projects. We all thought that it was not going to be easy trying to balance the state budget. I personally thought that tempers would flare because of people’s personal opinions on cutting and spending while creating a balanced budget.

The Senate was able to tackle several spending and cutting issues such as increasing funds for disaster preparedness relatively easy. The House had a few issues in keeping order. By 11:45 a.m., 15 minutes before lunch, the Senate committee was able to adjourn while the House was still arguing over the budget issue. So we, being the proud senators that we were, decided to reward ourselves with a satisfying lunch of chicken tenders and french fries!

By 1 p.m., we were back in the classrooms breaking into two large conference committees consisting of House and Senate members. For me, this was the most interesting part of the day. This was the moment in which we all could compromise in a political setting. After hours of constant bickering over what to cut and what to spend, we managed to keep a lot of programs that both the House and Senate wanted. This game has shown me the importance of compromise when faced with such a daunting task.

The budget that the entire class agreed on was a completely balanced budget- no surplus and no deficit- exactly what the state constitution mandates. We were all pumped up about what we learned. Now off to bed as we are going to Richmond tomorrow early to visit the State Capitol, meet several state legislators and travel to the State Policy Academy! It will be a fun day for all of us, as it is the last field trip of the program and perhaps the most engaging. Good night! 

Meet the College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Jun 20 2011 - 10:10am

The College Leaders Program Class of 2011 is entering its fourth and final week today. The class consists of 20 students from around the Commonwealth, representing both sides of the aisle and a variety of communities. Be sure to visit the class page to learn more about these remarkable individuals.

CLP 2011: Day 22, Sunday, June 19
Jun 19 2011 - 9:45pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 22-Sunday, June 19
Reported by: Marjahn Goodman, University of Mary Washington

Tensions are high as we approach the last week of the 2011 College Leaders Program.  Today is Father's Day. Some people visited their families to celebrate the day, while others, like me, stayed at Bice House and worked diligently on our culminating projects. We have a lot to look forward to in our final week here: the budget game tomorrow, a trip to the Capitol, project presentations, our last class with Dr. Bragaw, and our GRADUATION! Unfortunately, tonight few will get any sleep because the first drafts for our projects are due early Monday morning. So now I must get back to work!
Happy Father's Day!


CLP 2011: Day 21, Saturday, June 18
Jun 18 2011 - 10:31pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 21-Saturday, June 18
Reported by: Rebecca Lamb, James Madison University

Saturday started nice and early with a media training session with Patrick Getlein. We heard him talk about dealing with all different kinds of press, along with the traps and mistakes that rookie spokespersons can make. We saw clips of good and bad interviews, even a Steven Cobert interview to illustrate just how easy it is to fall prey to a skilled reporter. Getlein also talked about how important the relationship between reporter and spokesperson is. Having a connection that you can trust will go a long way in spreading your news, and when the media can trust you to be truthful and engaged, they will be more likely to share your story.

After the presentation part, Getlein had us split up into our policy groups. The economic development group selected Matt Forcum as their spokesperson, and he and Getlein conducted a mock interview using the media packet that each group had to submit on Thursday. After Matt finished, the education spokesperson Benjamin Clark went through a phone interview with the quintessential "jerk" reporter, challenging him to stay on message and not get thrown off by the reporter’s probing questions. When they had finished, we were introduced to a triangle message template, which would help keep our message focused. It worked like this: To start, pick the headline of your story, one aspect that summarizes all of your information. For my group, agriculture, is was “Honeybees are essential to Virginia’s agriculture.” Then write out your three main points and the information that supports them and stay on that message. As we wrote, the last two remaining groups were excited about having their information laid out in front of them for their mock interviews.

Agriculture was next, and I was the spokesperson for my group. I was interviewed in the format of a television spot. Getlein advised us that you would never know what TV editors would cut or keep, and to “speak in sound bites.” He modeled a typical TV reporter, and I found that I didn’t have time to consult my notes in the wake of his rapidfire questions.

The last group, transportation, was the most eagerly anticipated because of their controversial topic. Peter, their presenter, held a mock press conference after his formal presentation. When he opened the floor to questions, several hands went up, but the most surprising was Joe Stanley, who took on the role of "spotlight hog", asking questions faster than Peter could answer them. However, the group as a whole answered the majority of their questions in an intelligent and controlled fashion, and at the end, Getlein stressed the importance of keeping command of “your room”, and being able to navigate through dangerous questions and end the conference on your terms, not the media's.

The training was enlightening for all, especially for those actually being interviewed and for groups that received valuable feedback on their policies. I was surprised to learn how much I knew about my policy, not needing the notes I had written. I think that most everyone came away from the exercise feeling confident and energized to continue working on their proposals.

The rest of the day was dedicated to rest and policy work in groups at Bice House. Everyone still has a lot of work to do before next Friday!  

CLP 2011: Day 19, Thursday, June 16
Jun 16 2011 - 7:32pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 19-Thursday, June 16
Reported by: Peter Murray, Hamilton College

The day began with an intensive class by Professor Bragaw on policy advocacy and entrepreneurship. As a part of our overall focus on the politics of public policy, we were challenged to answer difficult questions. How does public policy successfully work its way through our political system? How do we define problem and solution in a political atmosphere dominated by groups advocating for their own interests? What are all of the factors that contribute to the general political mood? While we wrestled with these questions and more, Professor Bragaw introduced us to Kingdon’s fascinating policy streams theory. This theory argues that policies, in order to be successfully passed into legislation, require political consensus on the definition of a problem and its legislative solution. The timing of consensus can be brought on by crises, like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, or by other, less dramatic cultural or historical trends. We brought our studies to the local level by breaking down into groups of five and considering a case study about Kokomo, Indiana in the midst of the potential bankruptcy of the Big Three auto companies. We discussed the mayor’s effort to “green” the city by promoting use of biodiesel and incentivizing other renewable energy industries in Kokomo. Our conversation focused on the potential job growth spurred by the town’s green policies.

After the discussion, we took a well-deserved break for lunch, a feast from everyone’s favorite caterer, Chick-fil-A. Luckily, there was a frisbee in my bag, which I had been throwing on the famous U.Va. Lawn the other day. After everyone ate, we headed outside and tossed the disc around. Even though some of us didn’t have much experience with the frisbee, our entire class joined in for a fun game outside the tall walls of the physics building.

When we returned to the classroom, we were pleasantly surprised that our speaker was the one and only Joe Stanley. Joe dropped some knowledge on us about the job market in politics right now. In addition, he talked to us about the value of Sorensen’s alumni network. By the end of Joe's talk, the class had newfound respect and gratitude for our capable and accomplished program director.

We finished the day with Professor Bragaw, debating a vehicle-miles traveled tax, which is coincidentally my group’s transportation project topic. While much of the class disapproved of replacing the gas tax with a VMT, my group vigorously defended our policy in what seemed like a contentious dry run of our final presentation next week. Just another insightful day at the College Leaders Program, which seems to be flying by! 

CLP 2011: Day 18, Wednesday, June 15
Jun 15 2011 - 10:44pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2011
Day 18-Wednesday, June 15
Reported by: Kaylin Minton, Longwood University

Do we as citizens use history in a positive way so as to not repeat the errors of the past? Do we look at our economic, military and political mistakes to learn for our future? While views may be opposing, we as citizens can all agree that history is not an objective matter. Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution of the United States as a political weapon and its meaning has been contested since its creation. As part of our class discussion today we did just that as we debated whether or not the Constitution of the United States should contain a balanced budget amendment. We agreed that the rising debt of our country is an intergenerational issue which began as an older generation's borrowing and will end as a younger generation's financial obligation. Our nation is in a recession that progressively looks more and more like a depression. Our class almost unanimously agreed that the Keynesian economic approach on the money-borrowing issue is simply not working  in America and reform is necessary.

After trying to sort out our nation's economic woes, my class began to review policy analysis and how to figure out a problem in search of an answer. Professor Bragaw lectured the class on how to define what the problems are and what the root causes are. We also discussed how a leader is to decide when a problem’s causal nature makes it a public versus a private issue.

To take the policy analysis one step further, my peers and I divided into groups of four in order to dissect and discuss a current policy issue. Several entities are in favor of lifting the moratorium on uranium mining and establishing a site in Pittsylvania County. The class discussed a zero-risk policy and what kind of a price we are willing to put on a life in order to further economic development in the more deprived areas of Virginia.

It was a pleasure to have Felix Sarfo-Kantanka and Jeff Britt from McGuireWoods Consulting come and speak to the class today about professional lobbying. They were very informative on a number of different issues including grassroots and state government relations. The class was not short of intelligent questions to pose to our guests today.

Finally, owe were allotted some time to work on our culminating projects. It's very interesting to see how these projects are coming together for all of the different policy groups. It’s going to be very exciting to see all of my classmates propose their legislation to a panel of professionals next Friday!

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.