CLP 2015: Day 8 - Saturday, June 20
Jun 20 2015 - 11:47pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 8: Saturday, June 20
Reported by: Tyler Adams, James Madison University

The College Leaders Program spent Saturday simulating the typical process of passing legislation in the Virginia Senate.

The students, having each been assigned a senator and submitted a bill proposal, met with their respective party caucus to elect leadership and discuss the party strategy going into committee hearings. The bills were read and their merits discussed, and a determination was made on whether the caucus would be willing to negotiate a compromise, or if there should be an attempt to table the bill in committee. The caucuses then decided which committees should be given priority based on the importance of the bills on the docket and assigned more senators to them.

Republicans and Democrats each had a majority in one of the three committees, while the third, the fictitious Committee of Redistribution, was split. In Redistribution, the parties came together to reach an agreement which gave the chairmanship to Sen. Alexander (D-Chesapeake). The committees were an opportunity for an initial review of bill proposals and for discussion on potential amendments. While the committees offered a chance to make improvements to the bills, the party with a majority could take advantage of their numbers to table bills which they deemed to be particularly incompatible with their political principles.

The party caucus then met for a second time to reevaluate the bills which had made it through committee and would be heard on the floor. During this time, there was a significant deal of interparty negotiations and haggling as bills were combined and votes were whipped. The party leadership attempted to set a party position for the major bills and eliminate the chance of a rouge senator breaking ranks, potentially becoming the deciding vote for the other party.

The session began with the election Sen. Stanley (R-Franklin) as Leader of the Senate. Several bills were introduced with strong bipartisan support, including a bill improving mental health treatment and an education bill. An impasse was reached several times, requiring a tie breaking vote from the Lt. Governor who, in a surprising turn of events, broke from the party to vote down Republican charter school legislation.

By the time session had adjourned, both parties walked away with several major victories. The Democrats were able to pass Medicaid expansion while Republicans managed to block legislation loosening abortion regulation. Overall, the simulation was an informative exercise which gave students an opportunity to experience the decisions that legislators make when crafting the laws of our commonwealth. 

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

CLP 2015: Day 7 - Friday, June 19
Jun 19 2015 - 11:45pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 7: Friday, June 19
Reported by: Logan Dupuy, James Madison University

On this beautiful day in Charlottesville, the morning started off as perfectly as possible. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. This is much like Goldilocks and the three bears expect we’re referring to the weather instead.

Once we had all trickled into the classroom, Dr. Kidd started our class discussion. We were technically supposed to be learning about the Constitution of Virginia but we got sidetracked on a number of occasions.

We began by chatting about the different colleges we all represented and all the different problems facing them. Our class discovered the Virginia Tech is continuing to grow dramatically and causing issues for other state universities because they aren’t getting as many viable applications. I think we all now have a friendly rivalry with VT. I was happy to notice though that my university, JMU (Go Dukes!) is doing fairly well and just plugging along. This conversation then segued into the politics of the different generations. We covered all of the recent-ish generations including Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials (like me and my classmates). Our generation is the “go-getter generation” with a strong passion for activism, including volunteerism.

After much sidetracking and a few tangents - about an hour and 30 minutes worth - we finally got onto the topic of the Constitution of Virginia. We learned how Virginia has a paternalistic political culture, much like the rest of the southern states, so our constitution reflects that. Dr. Kidd had us reflect on sections of the document that we would like changed and then a hearty discussion followed on what the consequences of the changes would be. We then moved onto the powers of the Governor and, to my surprise, how powerful the governorship of Virginia actually is. I’ve always wondered why in the constitution our governors were always restricted to one term and finding out how powerful they are helped explain this unique phenomenon.

After three hours of lecture we had our glorious lunch. Jason’s Deli keeps surprising me in the amount of options they have for lunch. The three or four times we’ve had them, it has always been something different but delicious. Today we weren’t disappointed either—it was a gigantic baked potato with a plethora of different toppings.

I had the pleasure of introducing our first guest speaker JoAnn Auger. Right away it was proving to be an exciting discussion as we were divided into two groups: extraverts and introverts. The goal was to describe the opposite group and the results proved amusing. They hit the nail on the head in many cases. We learned all about our different personalities and the different aspects of each.

Our second guest speaker was Dean Lynch who is a lobbyist for all 95 counties in Virginia. He talked about the duties he has and then answered questions that we had regarding our own counties. Following his very informative Q&A, our last guest speaker Ross Airington arrived. His explanation of how the Affordable Care Act works has been the best explanation I’ve ever heard for Obamacare. His way of explaining the debate going on in our General Assembly regarding Medicaid really helped shed some light on the situation.

Sitting in those chairs for eight hours had their toll and by the end, everyone was ready to get going, especially considering it was Friday afternoon. The weather was still perfectly pleasant on our way back and not much later dinner arrived! The food here is phenomenal and anyone who says differently is obviously off their rocker.

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

CLP 2015: Day 6 - Thursday, June 18
Jun 18 2015 - 11:23pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 6: Thursday, June 18
Reported by: Evan Fitts, Virginia Tech

Day 6 of the Sorensen CLP was a transition back to normalcy after the lengthy Southern Virginia experience we had the day prior in Danville.

The day began at 9 a.m. when Cash broke our four policy groups into four different focus groups to discuss the various difficulties and challenges associated with our culminating project ideas. Once the focus groups concluded, everyone returned to the classroom to hear from the first of the day’s three guests speakers.

The first speaker was the Chief of Police for the City of Charlottesville, Timothy Longo, who spoke to our class for an hour and a half, touching upon criminal justice issues from police corruption to the rule of law. His expertise and passion for ethical and professional policing was apparent in that classroom. As the son of a police officer, I understand that the scrutiny being placed on police departments all of the country right now is troublesome for officers and their families; however, after hearing from Chief Longo, I feel more secure in my belief that the profession will gain back the prestige it so rightly deserves.

For lunch, we had Chick-fil-A, which was a pleasant, delicious surprise! As we were finishing up our midday meal, Dr. Kidd arrived for the day’s session of the Informed and Thoughtful Citizen. In our required readings, we had finally arrived at the modern-day two-party system in Virginia and were able to use the class time to talk about the distinct characteristics of the Republican Party and Democratic Party of the 21st Century.

At 3 p.m., the second guest speaker arrived. Mr. Joe Stanley, the Director of Policy at The Commonwealth Institute, spent his time talking about the policies and procedures involved with maintaining a balanced budget in Virginia. He ended by highlighting the importance of a Sorensen education and reminding us of our responsibility to be the next leaders of Virginia and to serve the needs of future Virginians.

Immediately following Mr. Stanley – who invited all of us to his institution’s policy summit in December – was Mr. Sean Holihan, a prominent Democrat in Virginia who acted as a sounding board for each of our policy groups. He offered direct assessments of each of our group ideas, which resulted in interactions that were both informative and humorous.

All three guests speakers provided a unique account of a Virginia political player’s life. I know I speak for my entire College Leaders class when I say that we appreciate Chief Longo, Mr. Stanley, and Mr. Holihan for sharing their experiences and advice with us. 

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

CLP 2015: Day 5 - Wednesday, June 17
Jun 17 2015 - 11:10pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2015
Day 5: Wednesday, June 17
Reported by: Benjamin Giustiniani, Hampden-Sydney College and Nathan Britt, The College of William & Mary

The day started bright and early at 7 a.m., which is pretty universally viewed as an absurd hour for college students to be awake. Today was the first day (other than pictures) that we were required to dress in business professional attire. We rode a charter bus 2 ½ hours to Green Rock Correctional Facility in Chatham, Va.

It was a little intimidating when we first arrived at the prison. The buildings were massive and the barbed wire and tall fences reminded me of every prison movie I have ever seen. Entry into the prison was unlike any process I have ever experienced before. Everyone had to pass through a metal detector and also give the guard a state issued I.D.

Green Rock has consistently been ranked as one of the safest and most efficient prisons in Virginia. Virginia is ranked number two in the nation with a 22 percent recidivism rate, or amount of inmates who are repeat offenders. One of the correctional officers said that 95 percent of inmates at Green Rock will renter society.

After seeing the visitor room, we were taken to the educational building where all of the programs for the inmates are held. I was surprised at the number of programs that are offered. There are numerous educational programs such as HVAC and electrical, janitorial, surveying, and a strong GED program that inmates can take advantage of while incarcerated. Inmates wake up at 5:45 a.m., eat, and then spend most of the day in these types of programs or jobs. The surveying program that Green Rock offers is the only of its kind in the United States and has been mentioned in numerous magazines and media articles. After we visited the educational building, we saw the cafeteria and the medical center.

The inmate pay scale is three different levels; the jobs that require no specific skill earn 25 cents an hour, while skilled jobs earn 35-45 cents. In the medical center there was a sign stating the cost of an eye exam and a pair of glasses. The sign really put into perceptive for me how little inmates are paid. A pair of regular glasses cost $22, while the base cost of bifocals is $35. An eye exam had a copay of $5. If you were an inmate paid 25 cents an hour, it would take you 20 hours of work just to be able to afford an eye exam. There was also a dental unit in the medical center where inmates have full dental coverage.

About a year and a half ago Green Rock adopted a program called BARK from one of the neighbor prisons where certain well-behaved inmates are allowed to handle dogs and train them. These dogs are rotated every 12 weeks and are put up for adoption. The prison has six dogs, handled by 12 inmates 24/7. The prison has an honors dorm, where the most well behaved inmates can live. There is a strict application process for the honors dorm that requires prospective honors inmates to go at least three years without an incident. The overall focus of the prison is to fix the behaviors that got the inmates into jail in the first place and turn out better citizens for society. The tour concluded after seeing the honor dorm and we made our way back to the bus.

After a huge lunch at a Mexican place in Chatham, we headed down to Danville to speak with the economic development leaders of the town. We filed into a very nice boardroom in a banking building and then listened to Wendi Goods Everson of the DRF and Corrie Teague of the city's economic development office tell us about the economic history of the town and how the city has begun to bounce back since the tobacco and textile industries left for greener pastures. After this, we were treated to a tour of Danville by the former mayor, Linwood Wright, who pointed out all of the exciting new developments that are making Danville into a new and revitalized town that retains its old south flavor.

The long day behind us, we returned to Charlottesville for dinner at Bice House and then set out to diligently work on our policy projects with our groups. I'm very excited to hear what the other groups have come up with and I'm extremely energized to begin working on my project with my group.

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

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:
Luke Basham, Central High School; Wise
Jack Beedle, Salem High School; Salem
Reagan Bracknell, Princess Anne High School; Virginia Beach
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
Angus Dawson, Douglas Freeman High School; Richmond
Giovana De Oliveira, John Randolph Tucker High School; Glen Allen
Spencer Gilbert, George C. Marshall High School; Vienna
Kiera Goddu, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School; Richmond
Hugh Halsey, Christchurch School; Rockville
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
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
Kia Wassenaar, Monticello High School; Charlottesville
Ryan Wilson, Tuscarora High School; Leesburg
Ellen Yates, Charlottesville High School; Charlottesville

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Featured Alumni

  • Chuck Smith.jpg

    Chuck Smith

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2005

    Chuck is a self-employed attorney and current candidate for Virginia Beach City Council. He is a a former Marine and U.S. Navy JAG Officer (Retired). From 2006 to 2008, Chuck served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.