CLP 2015: Day 4 - Tuesday, June 16
Jun 16 2015 - 11:59pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 4: Tuesday, June 16
Reported by: Bibianna Santana, Mary Baldwin College

For the girls the day began a little too early. We were under the misconception that class was to initiate at eight in the morning, but in reality, we were an hour too eager to start the day. Our morning consisted of the smell of freshly brewed coffee, whether made in the dorm or the campus café, and a stifling walk to the classroom where our second session with Dr. Quentin Kidd was waiting.

As we made our way to class, we were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Kidd at the steps where we briefly discussed yesterday’s lecture on the demographics of the regions in Virginia, immigration and the influence of Harry F. Byrd on Virginia, specifically in Winchester. It was a bit of an introduction to the discussion we would be having today on Virginia’s political history.

To set the discussion for the topic of the day, we had an overview of what it means to be an American. It isn’t an ethnicity nor a religion, therefore how do we define it if no two people have the same background, culture, religion, color, race or ethnicity in the United States, yet we still to maintain to define ourselves as American? This question pondered the faces of everyone in the room as he went on to provide us with the story behind the inquiry. The answer: liberals and conservatives are separated through an immeasurable factor based on the meaning of liberty. In other words, what it means to be an American. The flag is the physical manifestation that binds us together because we don’t have shared ethnicity, history, or religion, but rather a set of beliefs. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Despite the differences in how we believe is the best approach to ensuring these beliefs, we are bond together in pursuit of them. It’s a nationality that is built around a set of ideas. As in Germany to be bonded through their ethnicity, an Italian to their history, and Mexico through their religion. After having some “food for thought”, we broke for some real food, Jason’s Deli!

As we indulged in the delicious food we prepared for our guest speaker, Rob Bell, the Delegate of the 58th District of the Commonwealth. Delegate Bell conversed with us on the topic of sexual assault on college campuses, mental illness in Virginia and how to create an accessible path to public office or public service. Keep your career plans vague and flexible, have a backup plan, be a realist, and live where you love to be that reflects your personal beliefs in reference to politics. Time flies when you are enjoying the company of such an intuitive representative, unfortunately there isn’t enough of it in one day.

The final section of our session had come to an end as we concluded our discussion with Dr. Kidd about the shifting of the political parties in Virginia and gathered our things for dinner, as well as, announcements about our headshots in the North Lawn.  

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2015: Day 3 - Monday, June 15
Jun 15 2015 - 11:44pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 3: Monday, June 15, 2012
Reported by: Niko Leiva, Virginia Commonwealth University

Day three of the College Leaders Program began with the sounds of smart phone alarms and blaring AC units. After waking up and eating breakfast, we coalesced in the lobby of U.Va.’s Bice House to make our way to the classroom and begin our first day of classes.

As the morning sun and humid air quickly thawed away from our skin the residual cold of the air conditioned dorms, we began talking—reflecting on the prior day's ropes course activities and anticipating the start of our journey with Sorensen.

It became very clear that many of us did not attend U.Va., as the beauty of the Grounds drew comments from just about everyone during the walk to class. Those of us who were new to the University, myself included, couldn’t help but think about how much more picturesque and regal the school’s campus was compared to our own. Upon entering the class we were greeted by our first instructor, Lauren Gilbert, who oversees the Sorensen Institute’s programs.

After getting settled in, the class began. Today’s lesson was on ethics, politics and public service. We talked about what qualities and characteristics are necessary for effective and ethical leaders, as well as what conditions were desirable in our “ideal state”. We then proceeded to have a slightly more conceptual discussion in ethical theory, and began to break down different kinds of ethical dilemmas and ethical standards. It quickly became evident that the kind of information we were receiving and the sort of discussions that were taking place were invaluable to us as students of public policy and leadership.

Right before lunch, we were divided into small groups according to the region of Virginia that we were from or went to school in. Then as lunch was served, we ate with our groups and discussed the specific issues and benefits of our respective regions. Our working lunch ended with a discussion and comparison of our findings.

After lunch our second class began, taught by Dr. Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University. Dr. Kidd demonstrated his intimate knowledge of Virginia’s political history from the get-go. He was able to contextualize Virginia’s current political climate through an extremely informative, engaging and discussion-based class. I will be the first to admit that, despite having lived in Virginia all of my life, I have never learned so much about my home state as I did during our first class with Dr. Kidd. If today is anything to go by, I am expecting truly great things from the rest of our time here with Sorensen.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2015: Day 2 - Sunday, June 14
Jun 14 2015 - 11:24pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 2: Sunday, June 14
Reported by: Sarah Lewis, Virginia Tech

What a day! Today the Sorensen CLP class traveled across U.Va.’s campus to the Poplar Ridge Challenge Course. We set out on the adventure at about 8 a.m. The walk took a good 30 minutes, and by the time we got there, I was already sweating. The sun was out in full force as we met with the facility's instructors.

For most of the day, the group was split into two teams. My team was full of sharp, resourceful individuals who I grew to trust with my life. My favorite activity at Poplar Ridge is known as the Pamper Pole. The Pamper Pole is a 30 foot freestanding pole that is designed to be climbed and stood on top of. I decided to go first in order to curb my anxiety about the height of the pole. Using belayed ropes held tightly by my teammates, I climbed the ladder and metal notches to the top part of the pole. With my knees shaking, the poll slightly swaying, beads of sweat forming and my teammates encouraging me forward, I gathered the courage to attempt to place one foot on the top of the pole. I looked down at my teammates. “Are you sure you guys have me?” The responded was in unison, “We’ve got you!” After a deep breath, I lunged with my right leg and tried to throw my left foot on top of the platform. Missing the edge, I lost my balance and began to fall. Then suddenly, I was stopped midair by the ropes connected to my harness and help by my teammates. I was gently lowered to the ground and applauded. Man, did that feel good!

Besides being physically exhausted to the point that my thighs feel like Jello, I learned some valuable lessons today. I learned that political affiliation easily fades away when everyone is working towards a common goal. I learned that I have more in common with my classmates than I originally predicted, like our collective love for Chipotle at the end of an exhausting day. Lastly, I learned that if you're going to dive down from 30 feet in air, your best bet is to be surrounded by people you trust to slowly and compassionately lower you down after the fall.

Among the high ropes, cable wires, and awkwardly-set telephone polls, bonds were made today. Here’s to new friends and Sorensen CLP 2015! 

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2015: Day 1 - Saturday, June 13
Jun 13 2015 - 11:01pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 1: Saturday, June 13
Reported by: Stephen Hensell, Virginia Tech

As the clock turned to noon and the temperature hit the upper nineties, the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program Class of 2015 began to arrive.

This year’s class of student leaders from all across the Commonwealth of Virginia quickly dove into getting to know one another, how the program will work, and what they can expect to contribute to it and take away from it.

After I finished unpacking my car, realizing how grossly I over-packed and all of the things I forgot, we moved into icebreaker activities to become better acquainted with one another. I learned not only the names and university affiliations of other students, but how they first got inspired to follow politics and the ways in which they involve themselves. I learned quirks like who has a letter “z” in their name, and that none of us have worked as a page for the General Assembly. In all, the most valuable thing taken away is the inherent diversity of the class and the differences in opinions that we can expect to contribute to our conversations.

Following the icebreakers and a dinner of delicious pulled pork barbecue, coleslaw, cheesy potatoes, and sweet tea, we moved into a conversation with the Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute, Bob Gibson, and the Director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, John Thomas about the value of the program we were about to experience, the value of public education regarding politics, and the particular effect of poor politics in gerrymandering. Through explaining the impact of this singular issue on the entire Virginian political landscape, Mr. Thomas showed the grand impact that better political leaders can have on the Commonwealth in the future.

As the day and conversations wound down through an ice cream social, and as students became more comfortable with their classmates, I came to the realization of how impactful this experience can be for all of us. We have the opportunity throughout these coming weeks and in the future to impact one another, and in turn the entire Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond. Now, as it turns to the time to head to sleep and prepare for the coming challenges for tomorrow, I feel that we all are waiting in anticipation of what our time at the University of Virginia will bring.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

Announcing the CLP and HSLP Classes of 2015
Apr 23 2015 - 2:03pm

We are delighted to announce the 2015 College Leaders Program and High School Leaders Program classes. Members of the CLP will meet in Charlottesville on June 13, and members of the HSLP will meet in Charlottesville on July 11. Congratulations to all!

2015 College Leaders Program Participants:
Tyler Adams, James Madison University; Louisa
Caitlyn Aird, George Mason University; Midlothian
Shalma Akther, Virginia Commonwealth University; Arlington
Graves Anthony,III, Hampden-Sydney College; Stanleytown
Robbie Bradshaw, Old Dominion University; Portsmouth
Nathan Britt, The College of William & Mary; Disputanta
Logan Dupuy, James Madison University; Vesuvius
Evan Fitts, Virginia Tech; Chester
Benjamin Giustiniani, Hampden-Sydney College; Clayton, NC
Stephen Hensell, Virginia Tech; Stafford
Christian Hughes, University of Mary Washington; Charlottesville
Michael Kalifeh, Northern Virginia Community College; Herndon
Ryan LaRochelle. Christopher Newport University; Glen Allen
Niko Leiva. Virginia Commonwealth University; Leesburg
Sarah Lewis, Virginia Tech; Winchester
Michael Lopez, College of William and Mary; Chesapeake
Jacob Perry, The Ohio State University; Charlottesville
Bibi Santana, Mary Baldwin College; Winchester

2015 High School Leaders Program Participants:
Reagan Bracknell, Princess Anne High School; Virginia Beach
Luke Basham, Central High School; Wise
Jack Beedle, Salem High School; Salem
Josie Bulova, James W Robinson Secondary; Fairfax
Kyle Campbell, Salem High School; Salem
Virginia Chambers, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Richmond
Ronak Chopra, South Lakes High School; Herndon
Ross Cooper, TC Williams High School; Alexandria
Giovana De Oliveira, John Randolph Tucker High School; Glen Allen
Spencer Gilbert, George C. Marshall High School; Vienna
Hugh Halsey, Christchurch School; Rockville
Joveria Javed, Robert E. Lee High School; Springfield
Cat Johnson, Charlottesville High School; Charlottesville
Jordyn Kent, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Disputanta
Mary Alice Kukoski, Saint Gertrude High School; Richmond
Nadine Lin, Douglas S. Freeman High School; Richmond, VA
Aidan McClellan, Maury High School; Norfolk
Ryan McDowell, Chatham High School; Dry Fork
Harrison Premen, Kettle Run High School; Warrenton
Kate Price, Sherando High School; Stephens City
Camryn Rascoe, Warwick High School; Newport News
Dharaa Rathi, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Glen Allen
Elizabeth Rountree, Douglas S. Freeman High School; Richmond
Jack Salm, Broadwater Academy; Cape Charles
Christina Shaw, Patriot High School; Gainesville
Ahmad Shawwal, Massaponax High School; Fredericksburg
Mary Stuart, Stafford High School; Fredericksburg
Kia Wassenaar, Monticello High School; Charlottesville
Ryan Wilson, Tuscarora High School; Leesburg
Ellen Yates, Charlottesville High School; Charlottesville

Arehart to Join Sorensen Staff
Mar 12 2015 - 9:44am

David Arehart will be joining the Sorensen staff as Youth Program and Recruitment Director in mid-March. David, or Cash as he is known by friends and colleagues, is the newest addition to the Sorensen staff. He is a graduate of the Political Leaders Program Class of 2014, which elected him class President.

Prior to joining the Sorensen staff, Cash was as an Education Outreach Specialist for Colonial Williamsburg where he was a Constitutional Historian and also portrayed several historic characters including John Marshall and Edmund Randolph during his fourteen years with the Foundation. He also served as a liaison between Colonial Williamsburg and Sorensen for the Emerging Leaders Program. A native Virginian and an Eagle Scout, Cash is part of a family that has resided in the Shenandoah Valley since the 1760’s.

In addition to directing the College Leaders Program and High School Leaders Program, he will be Sorensen’s chief recruiter for all five programs and provide staff support to the Political Leaders Program, the Candidate Training Program, and the Emerging Leaders Program. Cash is thrilled for the opportunity to mentor the CLP and HSLP classes of 2015.

All of us at Sorensen are happy for Cash to join the Institute’s team. Welcome, Cash!


Now Hiring 2015 Youth Program Managers
Mar 9 2015 - 7:39pm
Youth Program Manager

Position Announcement

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is seeking applicants to be a Youth Program Manager in the summer of 2015 for its College and High School Leaders Programs.

Both programs are residential at the University of Virginia. Each program is two weeks, with the College Leaders Program scheduled for June 13-27, and the High School Leaders Program being held July 11-25.

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; a good understanding of professionalism; strong written and oral communication abilities; and excellent human relations skills.  Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree by the program start date. Applicants should also be prepared to bring a personal computer or laptop for their own use, and it would be beneficial for an applicant to have a car.

The regular positions will run from June 11 until July 28. During the program, Youth Program Managers will be required to live in residence with the students every night and work each day, with some half-days off duty.  There will also be some vacation time between programs, from June 30 to July 9. There may be some limited work requirements to assist in preparation for the youth programs in late May and early June.  Program Coordinators will receive room and board with the students during the programs, as well as a university parking pass, in addition to a stipend.

Applications should include: a current resume; a letter of recommendation; three references that may be contacted; and a brief letter explaining why the applicant is interested in the position.

Questions and applications can be directed to Director of Programs Lauren Gilbert at (434) 243-2844, or Lauren Gilbert, Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, VA 22904.  Applications must be submitted by Sunday, April 5, 2015 at midnight for consideration.  Qualified applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview via phone after this date.


$2,400.00 plus room, board, and meals during program

Applications must be submitted by Sunday, April 5, 2015 at midnight for consideration.
A. The full time position runs from June 11 to July 28.

B. Be in residence at the University of Virginia at all times when students are in the dorms with some time 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, serve as a mentor and guide for students, complete administrative work at the Sorensen office, 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 and HSLP Application Deadline Extended: Thursday, March 5th at Midnight
Mar 2 2015 - 12:51pm

Due to difficulties with inclement weather this winter, The Sorensen Institute has decided to extend the deadline to apply or submit supplementary materials for the College Leaders Program and High School Leaders Program to Thursday, March 5th at midnight. 

More information about the programs and how to apply can be found on our Applications Page.

Questions can be directed to Lauren Gilbert,

Job Opportunity: Youth Program and Recruitment Director
Feb 3 2015 - 12:49pm

The Sorensen Institute is currently seeking to hire a new Youth Program and Recruitment Director.

The position involves responsibility for all program recruitment for five programs throughout the year and for managing faculty, staff, and speakers to ensure proper daily operations of Sorensen's summer youth programs, the High School Leaders Program and College Leaders Program.

Required knowledge, skills, and abilities include:
Ability to independently design, develop, modify and conduct a variety of research procedures;
Ability to serve as liaison to work with diverse groups of people;
Ability to interpret and assess the impact of regulations, procedures, legislative proposals and mandates;
Ability to accurately interpret and report findings;
Working knowledge of Virginia's political system;
Knowledge of policy analysis, legislative practices, research and evaluation techniques
Ability to conduct and report analysis
Ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing 

Applicants should have a four-year degree in social sciences or liberal arts and/or five years of experience in the field of youth program management or liberal arts educational activities, which may substitute for degree. With a four-year degree, three years of experience in the field of youth program management or liberal arts educational activities is required.

Applications will be accepted through February 23rd.
For more information about the job or to apply, visit the Jobs@UVA job listing.

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Featured Alumni

  • Mike Taylor.jpg

    Mike Taylor

    Candidate Training Program

    Class of 2006

    The first person to graduate from three Sorensen programs, Mike was elected Sheriff of Pittsylvania County in November 2007. He is also a graduate of the Political Leaders Program Class of 2006 and the Danville-Southside Leaders Program Class of 2005.