PHOTOS: Sorensen 2014 Autumn Gala
Nov 20 2014 - 6:52pm

Last Friday, Sorensen alumni and friends attended the 2014 Autumn Gala in Arlington. Coming on the heels of election season, this gathering of political leaders from both sides of the aisle was a reminder that our political differences do not have to divide us.

The event featured remarks from retiring Rep. Jim Moran, as well as his newly-elected successor Don Beyer and Sorensen alumni Rep. Robert Hurt and Rep. Scott Rigell.

The Sorensen Institute would like to thank all of our Autumn Gala Partners. Sorensen's programs would not be possible without their generous support.

Commonwealth Partners
Barbara J. Fried
Rolls-Royce North America

Table Hosts
Aldrich Capital Partners
David Bailey Associates
Virginia Automobile Dealers Association (VADA)

Half-Table Hosts
Cox Communications
Kaiser Permanente
State Farm

Matt Calkins
Jean Jensen
Maggie & Art Major
Shannon Valentine
Margi Vanderhye



Sorensen to host Senate candidate forum in Danville
Sep 26 2014 - 2:11pm

Sorensen is pleased to announce the next two installments of the Southern Virginia Public Leadership Series. Both events will be held at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, and are free and open to the public. 

Town Hall on Redistricting Reform
Wednesday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m.

Join us for an exciting discussion on redistricting reform in the Commonwealth. Panelists include former delegate Shannon Valentine, former state senator Charles Hawkins, and Bill Bolling, former lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Candidate Issues Forum with Warner and Gillespie
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner and GOP challenger Ed Gillespie will appear at a Sorensen Institute candidate forum, cosponsored by WSET-TV and the Danville Register & Bee.
Join our Facebook Event for more information.

Sorensen to host second Autumn Gala on Nov. 14
Sep 12 2014 - 2:34pm

Join new friends and old at the Sorensen Institute's Autumn Gala on Friday, Nov. 14. The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.

You can have your business or organization sponsor a table! Contact Colleen Smith at 434-982-4910.

Speakers include Jim Moran and Sorensen alumni Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell.

After dinner, the evening continues at a special alumni afterparty at Siné Irish Pub in Pentagon Row beginning at 9 p.m. All Sorensen alumni, including those who cannot attend the Gala, are invited to the afterparty. Potential PLP and CTP applicants are also welcome. (There is no dress code for the afterparty—cocktail and casual attire are equally appropriate.)

To purchase Gala tickets, visit To RSVP for the free alumni afterparty, email

Applications now being accepted for 2015 PLP and CTP
Sep 8 2014 - 4:06pm

The Sorensen Institute is now accepting applications for the 2015 Political Leaders Program and the 2015 Candidate Training Program.  Applications will be accepted for both programs until 11:59pm on Monday, November 10, 2014.  More information about the programs, as well as application instructions, can be found on our Application Page

If you know someone who would be a good addition to either class, feel free to submit their information to us using our Referrals Page and we will get in touch with the prospective applicant.

Sorensen Partners with Appalachian School of Law and Wellmont Health System for Healthcare Symposium
Aug 26 2014 - 2:14pm

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia is partnering with the Appalachian School of Law and Wellmont Health System to sponsor a day-long symposium on the future of health care on Sept. 22 that will feature keynote addresses by Dr. Bill Hazel, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources; Thomas P. Miller of the American Enterprise Institute, a critic of Obamacare; and Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The symposium, "The Future of Health Care: Moving from Policy to Implementation," will be hosted by Wellmont in Bristol, Tenn., on Monday, Sept. 22, and will feature health care experts, officials and providers from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The media is invited to cover the health law symposium at Wellmont's Monarch Auditorium. Continuing Legal Education Credit has been approved in Virginia and Tennessee and is pending in Kentucky.

The sponsors intend to provide rational debate and civil discourse among experts in the field who disagree on many of the basic issues. Public airing of different points of view on these issues can inform the debate and educate stakeholders and the public about problems and possible solutions that confront us in the complex arena of health care and health law.

The symposium agenda can be found below.

If you have questions about the Healthcare Symposium and wish to speak with a representative, please contact Beth Rhinehart at or (423) 230-8405; Bob Gibson at or (434) 982-4998; or Donna Weaver at or (276) 244-1241.

The website for the symposium is

The online registration site is


7:15 A.M. - 8:00 A.M.
8:00 A.M. - 8:30 A.M.
  • Greg Neal - President, Wellmont BRMC, Bristol, Tennessee
  • David Bailey - President, David Bailey Associates, Richmond, Virginia
  • Dr. Len Nichols - Director, Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
8:30 A.M. - 9:00 A.M. Keynote:
  • Marilyn Tavenner - Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C.
9:00 A.M. - 10:30 A.M. Panel 1 - Business Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
  • Karen Harned (moderator) - Executive Director, NFIB Small Business Legal Center, Richmond, Virginia
  • Jenny S. Kiesewetter - Attorney, Butler Snow LLP, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Mike Cole - Benefits Manager, K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.
  • Carl Knoblock - Virginia District Director, US Small Business Administrator
  • Debbie Stocks - President, Your Benefits Partner, LLC
  • Stewart Harris - Professor, Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, Virginia
10:30 A.M. - 10:45 A.M. Break
10:45 A.M. - 12:15 P.M. Panel 2 - Health Care Innovations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act along with Conflicts and Challenges:
  • Chris Bailey (moderator) - Senior Vice President, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Richmond, Virginia
  • Beth Bortz - President & CEO, Virginia Center for Health Innovation, Richmond, Virginia
  • Reginia Sayers - Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Cedar Bluff, Virginia
  • William T. Lee - Pharmacy System Director, Carilion Medical Center, Roanoke, Virginia
  • Karen Remley - Chief Medical Director - Virginia, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
12:15 P.M. - 1:15 P.M. Lunch
1:15 P.M. - 1:45 P.M. Keynote:
  • Dr. Bill Hazel - Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Richmond, Virginia
1:45 P.M. - 3:15 P.M. Panel 3 - Health Benefit Exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
  • Martin Kent (moderator) - President, The United Company, Bristol, Virginia
  • Jacqueline K. Cunningham - Commissioner of Insurance, Bureau of Insurance, State Corporation Commission, Richmond, Virginia
  • Julie M. McPeak - Commissioner, Department of Commerce & Insurance, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Dr. Miriam Fordham - Director of Health Care Policy Administrator, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Scott Johnson - Director, Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle, P.C., Glen Allen, Virginia
3:15 P.M. - 3:45 P.M. Keynote:
  • Thomas P. Miller - Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Alexandria, Virginia, and co-author of "Why Obamacare is Wrong for America"
3:45 P.M. - 4:00 P.M. Break
4:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M. Panel 4 - From Policy To Implementation with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: How Do We Get There?:
  • Dr. Nichols (moderator) - Director, Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
  • David C. Smith - Vice President, Health & Welfare at Ebenconcepts, Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Priscilla Harris - Associate Professor, Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, Virginia
  • Dixie Tooke-Rawlins D.O. - Provost, Dean and Executive Vice President, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia
5:00 P.M.



Sorensen Announces Emerging Leaders Program Class
Jul 31 2014 - 10:08am

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is Sorensen's newest leadership development program. Designed for young Virginians who have a background in state government, the program equips participants with the tools to become more active in public policy.

We are delighted to announce the names of those Virginians who have been accepted into this year's Emerging Leaders Program.

Emerging Leaders Program Class of 2014

Liz Childress, Richmond
Alicia Cundiff, Richmond
Jordan Evans, Richmond
Jacob Holmes, Bristol
Stasia Kodadek, Richmond
Stephanie Lynch, Richmond
Garrett McGuire, Arlington
Allison Miessler, Fairfax
Chris Monioudis, Roanoke
Ashley Myers, Richmond
Kasey Nabal, Fredericksburg
Bennett Opitz, Richmond
Ryan O'Toole, Richmond
Morgan Quicke, Warsaw
Erik Rison, Arlington

HSLP 2014: Day 15 - Saturday, July 26
Jul 26 2014 - 4:51pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 15: Saturday, July 26

Reported by: William Marker (The Governor's School of Southside Virginia and Central High School)

Today was the last day of the 2014 High School Leaders Program. Today we remembered the past two weeks, focusing on the knowledge we learned and the friendships we made. As we got ready this morning, we were reunited with our family and friends who joined us for graduation.

Graduation began and we reflected on everything we had learned at Sorensen. We heard from several speakers including Mr. Bob Gibson, Mr. Marc Johnson, Ms. Lauren Gilbert, and Mr. Grant Tate. They talked about leadership and how we are the future leaders of the Commonwealth. Class Speaker Galen Green challenged us by saying, “It is not just our right but our responsibility to take what we have learned and use this knowledge to serve our commonwealth, our country, and our world to the best of our ability.”

Two students, Jordan Arnold and Devin MacGoy, were awarded the Spirit of Citizenship Award for their active participation, outstanding morals, and leadership within the program. Lauren Gilbert concluded the graduation and welcomed us into the Sorensen family as alumni of this great program.

Once graduation was over, it was time for the hardest part. We returned to Bice for the last time where we packed our belongings and prepared to return home. Over the past two weeks we have all become best friends, but it was time to say goodbye. After lots of hugs and many tears, each of us returned to our respective areas across Virginia. No matter where we end up in life, we will never forget the friendships we have made here at Sorensen. 

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

HSLP 2014: Day 14 - Friday, July 25
Jul 25 2014 - 11:40pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 14: Friday, July 25

Reported by: Devin MacGoy (Potomac Falls High School) and Debbie Mayo (Maggie L. Walker Governor's School)

Today was the big day. This morning we presented and defended the policy proposals on which we have been diligently working for the past two weeks.

Our panel of judges included our instructor Marc Johnson, House Minority Leader David Toscano, PLP 2010 alumnus Jason Halbert of the Oak Hill Foundation, PLP 2013 alumna Carrie Chenery who serves as a senior policy advisor for the McAuliffe administration, and Sorensen's executive director Bob Gibson.

Each presentation was delivered extremely well, and the panel was impressed by the extent of our knowledge about the various topics. Their questions were difficult, but we all successfully rose to the occasion because of all of our vigorous preparation. Following the presentations, many of the students talked to judges about their legislation’s future potential in the General Assembly.

Following our policy presentations, we ate lunch and elected our class officers. We chose John Metz as our class President, who will coordinate future activities for our class and keep us connected. We also chose Galen Green as our class speaker, who will give a speech at graduation on Saturday.

Following elections, we talked with Sorensen Institute Development and Events Coordinator Rachel Casebolt, who informed us about alumni networking, giving back to Sorensen, and the significance of the pins we will receive at graduation. Lauren Gilbert, the Sorensen Youth Program Director, talked to us about the importance of recruitment in the continued success of Sorensen programs, and she encouraged us to tell our communities about the wonderful opportunities provided by the Sorensen Institute. In addition, our instructor, Marc Johnson, talked to us about the forging of Thomas Jefferson’s signature silver cups and how they represent the positive atmosphere that we will help to usher into Virginia politics. In our last class with Mr. Johnson, we talked about takeaways from the program overall and discussed the format for our final exam. Afterwards, we had some free time in Bice, during which we completed some end-of-program surveys and relaxed, feeling relieved that we successfully defended our policy proposals.

Dinner was at The Horse and Hound Gastropub in downtown Charlottesville, where Lauren and the Youth Program Managers awarded superlatives and announced the winners of Sorensen Points and last Sunday's scavenger hunt. We also had a ceremonial graduation for Sahana Ramani, who had to leave Charlottesville late Friday night. At the end of the day, we enjoyed relaxing and socializing on our last night at the program.

As the program draws to a close, we want to thank all the Sorensen staff members, guest speakers, teachers, and classmates for the wonderful opportunities and experiences we have had over the past two weeks. We have sincerely enjoyed our time together, and we are thankful for the opportunity to interact with so many different people from across the state. We have all learned so much about Virginia and local politics, and we have grown as critical thinkers and leaders of our Commonwealth. The Sorensen Institute has provided us with an invaluable experience, and we will carry all of its lessons forward moving into the future.

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

HSLP 2014: Day 13 - Thursday, July 24
Jul 24 2014 - 11:27pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 13: Thursday, July 24
Reported by: Nikki Kothari (Thomas Jefferson High School) and John Metz (Maggie L. Walker Governor's School)

On Thursday we tried to create a budget for Virginia - which, given our balanced budget provision, was a far more difficult task than it might seem. In the morning we were divided into two uneven groups - the House of Delegates and the Senate - and sent off to separate rooms to begin our budgeting.

Perhaps by design, our impromptu House and Senate came to resemble their real counterparts quite well. Whereas the house was prone to sudden and dramatic voting shifts, the Senate was, partly on account of its smaller size, more measured. Nevertheless, each house proved equally important, as the pacing of the Senate would have been impossible without the big thinking of the House.

Our first step was creating budgets within our respective houses. Once that was done, we split into two committees focused on combining the house and senate budgets separately. Lastly, we came together as a class to vote on our final budget.

I think we have a newfound respect for our legislative bodies. It was incredibly difficult to make cuts and try to raise revenue. Of course we want to promote education and the environment and create jobs, but to do this, we have to raise taxes or make cuts neither of which benefit the community. We had to learn about making tradeoffs and making value judgements on various services and goods.

Nevertheless, there were some key differences between our body and the real General Assembly. Because we were not organized into parties we were more prone to erratic policy shifts. The limited nature of our policy options also reduced the versatility of our body in responding to its challenges. Despite these limitations, we were able to come together to produce a moderate, balanced budget. 

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

HSLP 2014: Day 12 - Wednesday, July 23
Jul 23 2014 - 11:05pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 12: Wednesday, July 23
Reported by: Robin Owens (Godwin High School) and Kiran Hampton (South Lakes High School)

Today’s action at the High School Leaders Program began with a 6:50 a.m. rendezvous just inside the front doors of Bice House. We boarded a bus and drove to Richmond, the River City.

Inside the Capitol's House Room 2, we settled in for a series of engaging speakers. Our first two speakers were Abbey Phillips and Eric Philipkoski, legislative aides to Members of the House of Delegates. These speakers talked primarily about the daily grind as a legislative aide. Virginia has a citizen legislature, meaning that our elected officials typically have full-time jobs in addition to their duties at the General Assembly. Many of us were interested in the observation that legislative aides work to “keep the ship sailing” while their delegate is back in her district.

Next, we heard from Jeff Britt and Felix Sarfo-Kantanka. Jeff Britt is a lobbyist for a major firm, and Felix Sarfo-Kantanka is Governor McAuliffe's legislative director. These speakers spoke to the complexity of lobbying in Virginia. We were interested to hear about the complex ethics regulations which govern the profession of lobbying.

Bryan Coy, Governor McAuliffe's press secretary, was our next speaker. Mr. Coy spent most of his time speaking about how he got his current job. He said that his relentless enthusiasm and strong work ethic while working on various campaigns was a key factor in his success. Following a gubernatorial election, the new governor has a tremendous number of new positions to fill. Those who distinguished themselves helping a candidate get elected are likely to enjoy the spoils of victory.

Next we had a Republican strategist, Jeff Ryer, who told us about running college campaigns and campaigns for local office in Virginia, and even a bit about wrestling. He told us an underdog story of his high school presidency, in which he championed the less popular crowd in order to win.

Finally, we had Victoria Cochran, who is the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. She told us her story of being a public defender and dealing with hard cases, as well as being passionate about mental health issues.

We also had a tour of the Richmond Capitol, which was what the U.S. Capitol was modeled after. We discovered secrets from clocks to painting construction, and saw the last statue George Washington posed for before he died.

Next we had a tour of the Executive Mansion, which has been home to the Commonwealth’s governors since 1813. Though most of the furniture and rooms on the lower level were roped off, we discovered that after 4 p.m., Governor McAuliffe and his family have free rein over the entire house. We even found out that some of previous governors' kids jumped in the fountain or had a lemonade stand.

We then got back on the bus and traveled back to Charlottesville, where many groups started to finish up final projects and work on their presentations for Friday.

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

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