Sorensen in the News

Fifer and Elson appear on NOVA NOW!
Apr 8 2016 - 12:09pm

Craig Fifer and Brian Elson, co-chairs of Sorensen's Northern Virginia Regional Board, appeared on Cox's NOVA NOW! to talk about how Sorensen champions civility and respect in Virginia politics. They also discussed our upcoming Spring Gala honoring Virginia Women in Leadership. The event, featuring a panel discussion with women who lead in Virginia, is on April 19 in Richmond.

Many thanks to our Media Sponsor Cox Communications for this fantastic opportunity.

Visit for more information about the Gala and to purchase tickets through April 12.



"Across the Aisle" PBS Documentary
May 30 2014 - 10:26am

The 2008 public television documentary Across the Aisle follows the Political Leaders Program Class of 2007 during its 10-month program across Virginia.

Class members come face to face with their personal biases and political limitations by arguing against their own positions, breaking down political stereotypes, spending real time with their opponents, balancing a state budget, and touring state-run facilities to learn a new and highly functional approach to politics.

Across the Aisle is a poignant and personal story that reveals a new model for political leadership, in which the most powerful tools are civility, trust, and respect.

The documentary was produced courtesy of Fred Scott, a member of the Sorensen Institute's State Advisory Board. 


Emerging Leaders Program Featured in UVAToday
Jul 31 2013 - 5:02pm

Bipartisanship, Public Policy Focus of Unique Emerging Leaders Program

July 30, 2013

Many young Americans are apathetic toward the government’s ability to solve problems, recent reports find. That’s not the case for 18 young adults taking part in the University of Virginia Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s Emerging Leaders Program. Chosen from a pool of talented applicants, the members of the program’s 2013 class believe in government officials working together to reach the best decisions for the state, regardless of political affiliation.

“Virginia’s success is all of our success, no matter what role in political leadership we fill,” wrote Christopher “Dale” Hendon, of Fredericksburg, in his biography for the program. “At the end of the day it’s about learning and growing to improve for a better Virginia.”

Jay Sinha of Alexandria wrote that participating in the program will provide “a unique chance to learn from both peers and policymakers on the theoretical and practical aspects of state government and policymaking, and the opportunity of learning how to govern during troubled times.”

The second annual Emerging Leaders Program, sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, begins Aug. 2 in Williamsburg. Kick-off events include a public keynote address by Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, on Friday. More »

Virginian-Pilot Column Highlights Sorensen Programs
Oct 8 2012 - 3:30pm

Grooming for civil discourse, public service

By Dave Redmond, October 7, 2012

Though the campaign season is closing, the coming lull is a respite, nothing more.

Democracy is renewal. One election cycle ends; another begins. Like the tides, people and issues come and go. But the need for qualified, capable leaders is constant, and it's critical to the largely excellent function of government and industry in Hampton Roads and throughout the commonwealth.

For that, as much as any other institution, Virginians should support the Thomas C. Sorensen Institute For Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, which is recruiting the next rising political class in Virginia and, as always, searching for the financial means to support it.

Full column at»

Emerging Leaders Program Featured in UVAToday
Sep 7 2012 - 12:23pm

Inaugural Emerging Leaders Program Focuses on Bipartisanship, Public Policy

September 4, 2012 | Lisa Kessler

It all started this spring, when Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s office contacted the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, seeking assistance in developing the next generation of state government leaders.

The inaugural Emerging Leaders Program, sponsored by Colonial Williamsburg and State Farm, ended Aug. 26 in Colonial Williamsburg. Its 21 students – Virginians ages 22 to 32 who have worked in state or local government, had spent the month of August developing their leadership skills and learning more about public policymaking in Williamsburg and Richmond. More »

Emerging Leaders Program Featured in Daily Press
Aug 8 2012 - 4:45pm

Aspiring Virginia leaders meet in August in Williamsburg

By Jennifer L. Williams, | 757-247-4644

August 8, 2012

A new program for aspiring Virginia leaders kicked off with sessions in Colonial Williamsburg and continues throughout this month.

The eight-day Emerging Leaders Program is sponsored by the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia and was developed in partnership with Gov. Bob McDonnell's office, according to a statement from officials.

The 21 participants, ages 22-32, have each worked in state government and were selected through an application and interview process. Their work with the program includes exercises on policy formation in Virginia.

The group met at Colonial Williamsburg for three days last weekend. Sessions continue Aug. 10 and 20 at the University of Richmond, and Aug. 24-26 at Colonial Williamsburg.

"It's the first time we've ever done this program for young policy makers, and it couldn't have gone better," said Bob Gibson, executive director of the Sorensen Institute. "Colonial Williamsburg was a great starting place. They have the history and the people to interpret the history and bring it to life."

Participants are going through the training because of an interest in becoming more active in public service and public policy, whether as community leaders or appointed officials in the executive or legislative branches, according to officials. The curriculum focuses on three core subject areas: ethics in public service, public policy and policy advocacy skills.

Three groups of seven each will work on policy in three subject areas: How to improve highway safety to cut traffic deaths, how best to re-integrate former felons back into society and how to facilitate the better return of service people into the economy of Virginia, Gibson said.

Each group will put together a culminating project and present it to a group of legislators and academics on Aug. 25.

Speakers from Colonial Williamsburg, the administrations of the current and previous Virginia governors, the University of Virginia, State Farm Insurance and Christopher Newport University were scheduled to address the group in Williamsburg on the subjects of citizenship, ethics in politics and public service, the Revolution, cooperation in state government and team building.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and State Farm are major sponsors of the program.

Sorensen Gala Gathers Nine Governors
Apr 19 2012 - 11:27am

Tuesday's Gala was a historic event, gathering together all eight former governors of Virginia, as well as Gov. McDonnell. An April 18 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch has full details of the event, as well as a summary of each governor's remarks.

Watch the Newsroom for audio and video of this event in the upcoming week, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for a wealth of Gala photos coming soon.

She Should Run features CTP in its "50 State Strategy"
Sep 21 2011 - 5:29pm

She Should Run, a nonpartisan organization dedicated encouraging women’s public leadership, is promoting the Sorensen Institute's Candidate Training Program (CTP) as part of its "50 State Strategy."

The CTP is an intensive, four-day program focused on the fundamentals of a winning campaign. Participants explore the nuts and bolts of building a strong campaign from the ground up—all within the context of ethics and public service.

Applications for the January 2012 CTP are open now through Nov. 14. Apply today, or recommend a promising candidate to Bob Gibson at

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! 

HSLP Alum's ASL Bill Passes House and Senate
Mar 8 2011 - 12:07pm

HB 1435, drafted in part by HSLP alumna Hollis Erickson (2009), has passed the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. If signed by Gov. McDonnell, the legislation will require Virginia public high schools and state colleges and universities to count American Sign Language (ASL) courses toward their foreign-language requirements. Virginia would be the 36th state to adopt this policy.

Del. Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) sponsored the bill after receiving a letter from Erickson's ASL class at Loudoun Valley High School. After helping draft the bill, Erickson and her fellow students came to Richmond during session to testify in its favor.

"Thank you for preparing me for the legislative process through the Sorensen Institute!" Erickson said.

Visit the Richmond Times-Dispatch for more on this story.


Featured Alumni

  • Dyana Mason.jpg

    Dyana Mason

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2005

    Dyana is a former Executive Director of Capitol Pride Alliance and of Equality Virginia. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy.