CLP 2014: Day 11 - Tuesday, June 24
Jun 24 2014 - 10:48pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 11: Tuesday, June 24
Reported by: Vik Veeramachaneni, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Dani Bernstein, University of Virginia

Today the CLP Program had our last lecture from Dr. Kidd. We discussed hot topics like campaign finance and redistricting, both of which have currently become key factors in Virginia politics.

Following our lecture, we hosted Jean Jensen, who was formerly the Secretary of the State Board of Elections and has long been involved in politics in Virginia. She gave us some some insights into fundraising and how essential it is to a campaign, as well as the longevity of a candidate’s career in public office. She then challenged all the students to prepare and deliver one- to two-minute speeches. We then received valuable feedback and remarks about the quality of our content and delivery from Ms. Jensen and our fellow classmates.

After doing these exercises and speaking with Ms. Jensen, we hosted Cash Arehart, who works for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He spoke to us about the fundamental debates in our society today. We learned that in his opinion they are the following: Private Wealth vs. Common Wealth, Ethics vs. Law, Unity vs. Diversity, and Freedom vs. Equality.

Later in the afternoon the founder and members of OneVirginia2021 joined us to share and discuss their commitment and mission to help address the gerrymandering in Virginia politics. They highlighted the current district maps and we were able to see how much of a problem and unsolved issue gerrymandering has become. 

As a class we saw some fundamental problems in Virginia politics and realized the challenges and problems we may be tasked to help address in the near future.

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

CLP 2014: Day 10 - Monday, June 23
Jun 23 2014 - 10:28pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 10: Monday, June 23
Reported by: Bennie Ashton, Randolph-Macon College, and Bridget Whan Tong, University of Richmond

Today, our Sorensen class had the pleasure of having three awesome speakers before our lecture this afternoon.

Megan Rhyne, director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, came to talk to the class about the process of requesting information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. She identified the friction between journalists and government officials, and noted the changing culture of instantaneous news and transparency. Interestingly, not only do the press and individual citizens request public records, but businesses and firms increasingly seek this information.

Before lunch, we watched Across the Aisle, a movie about the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program. It was neat to see activities that we’ve already done (or will do this next week) in the context of a program composed of political leaders from Virginia.

Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd, a former member and member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors respectively, visited us after the movie. They were passionate about the local nature of politics and the need for civility among politicians. They provided examples of some of the issues they faced in local government and challenged students to think creatively about solutions.

Next, Ross Airington, a health policy analyst for VCU’s Office of Health Innovation, provided some background on the Affordable Care Act before analyzing the intricacies and nuances of the 14,000 page piece of legislation. He discussed the future of Medicaid expansion in Virginia given the passing of the budget and Governor McAuliffe’s line item vetoes.

Finally, we had class with Dr. Kidd, where we discussed the different models of political decision making. We also identified potential concerns and benefits within the relationship between state and municipal governments.

By shedding light on crucial elements of life in the Commonwealth, our speakers were able to provide multiple unique perspectives on the political influences faced within multiple levels of government. From Dillon’s Rule to Disproportionate Share Hospital programs, our speakers made the complexities of Virginia government interesting and applicable to everyday life.

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

CLP 2014: Day 9 - Sunday, June 22
Jun 22 2014 - 10:20pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 9: Sunday, June 22
Reported by: Meredith Gillet, James Madison University and Christian Alcorn, Williams College

For the first time since the program began last Sunday, the class enjoyed sleeping in as well as an 11 a.m. brunch. Afterwards, we headed downtown for an afternoon photo scavenger hunt on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall.

After dividing into three separate teams, each headed by a Youth Program Manager, the scavenger hunt began at 1 p.m. and ran for more than two hours. Aspects of the scavenger hunt included everything from shaking hands with a bearded stranger to drawing a picture on the Freedom of Speech Wall. Some of the parts of the activity included finding landmarks in the area such as the Pavilion while others required video documentation of singing "Wagon Wheel" with a street artist. While the game made the CLP Class of 2014 look a bit peculiar, it proved to be an interesting and unique way of getting to know downtown Charlottesville, as well as each other.

After returning to Bice, the class ate dinner and then went out to the Corner to cheer on the USA Men's National Team in their World Cup match against Portugal. Go USA!!! 

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

CLP 2014: Day 8 - Saturday, June 21
Jun 21 2014 - 6:49pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 8: Saturday, June 21
Reported by: Nicole Falgiano, James Madison University and Terrance Harris, Hampden-Sydney College

Today we completed a Senate Simulation. We were assigned different Senators, whom are currently in office in the General Assembly of Virginia. Prior to the simulation, each CLP member was assigned a senator to research and emulate. Additionally, we each wrote two bills to be brought to the Senate for consideration.

At the beginning of the day, we met as a party caucus to elect leadership as well as decide on a party platform and legislative goals. We also discussed legislation and strategy, in order to confirm the voting of our party line. The party in power assigned committee chairs and each party was able to appoint their committee members. Throughout the committee meetings, the bills were discussed and amended. Ultimately, some bills were not able to move out of the committees, while others were able to be brought to the Senate floor.

After another caucus meeting to discuss the amendments, we met in a mock Senate setting. The Senate environment was quite tense, as both parties were very passionate about the bills brought to the floor. Although there were many upsets, we were able to pass many bipartisan bills that would positively influence the citizens of Virginia. After seeking the governor’s approval, we chose to return to the Senate to vote to overturn a few vetoes. At the end of the day, we were able to overturn one veto.

Overall, we learned a lot about parliamentary procedure and were able to get a feel for what it is like to be in the shoes of a Virginia Senator for a day. This experience taught us how easy it was for one to vote simply by party, despite their beliefs. ​ 

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

CLP 2014: Day 7 - Friday, June 20
Jun 20 2014 - 10:30pm

College Leaders Program 2014
Day 7, Friday, June 20
Reported by: Charlotte Horne, Randolph-Macon College, and Tim Coleman, Hampden Sydney College

Today was the first Friday of the two-week College Leaders Program. It has been a great first week. We have had hearty discussions on all topics, and as we get to know each other, we are becoming more open and engaged.

The first part of today’s class dealt with the Virginia Constitution, and all six of the previous Constitutions that Virginia has had. We discussed what changes occurred between each Constitution and what it meant for Virginia. These changes included expansions in voting rights throughout the commonwealth, the separation of the areas of the state due to the Civil War, and the aftermath of reconstruction. All these changes lead up to the current version, which was written in 1971.

After a short lunch break, we came back and looked at the current Constitution and went through each article to discuss sections that we believed needed to be changed or removed, and why. This led to discussion on voting rights for convicts, gubernatorial term lengths and limits, and much more. We ended class by having a guest speaker come in and help us work on our resumes. Working on our resumes has given us great skills in helping us look forward to our future presence in the work force.

We are having such a great time and we are really looking forward to engaging in a Senate simulation tomorrow to further our knowledge of the inner workings of the Virginia General Assembly.

CLP 2014: Day 6 - Thursday, June 19
Jun 19 2014 - 10:54pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 6, Thursday, June 19
Reported by: Chris McGrath, Virginia Commonwealth University and Evelyn Clark, Roanoke College

Today was an extremely busy and unique day at the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program. It was the first day that we had multiple speakers come to our classroom. The first few days of this week have been filled with class time with Dr. Quentin Kidd, a field trip to a prison, and an adventure to the rope course at Poplar Ridge. Today we had multiple speakers all offering very different perspectives on their jobs and lives.

In the morning, the groups discussed their culminating projects for potential legislation with the other groups in order to receive criticism and better understand each other’s ideas. This was extremely beneficial for the students to explain their group’s project to others in order to better understand themselves and get constructive criticism.

First up today was Sean Holihan who spoke about his career path and how he got to where he is today. He started with policy dynamics within the state and his experiences working in the General Assembly. He also gave great insight on how to better improve our culminating projects. Mr. Holihan stuck around for a while after his talk to answer questions and give more career advice, which was very enlightening.

Next, Joann Auger taught the class a lot about the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and what the class’s results meant. She made the class get into groups and do multiple activities that got the students out of their comfort zones and really understanding their results. This was a great way for the students to engage with each other and truly comprehend their personality traits.

Finally, David Poole, the founder of the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), spoke to the class. He founded VPAP in 1997 and its mission has been to show transparency in government funding. He was a fascinating speaker who brought a lot of enthusiasm to the class through interactive activities involving campaign finance.

In the evening, the students enjoyed some heated conversations. As one of the Youth Program Managers said, as the students debated at lunch, “It’s finally beginning to sound like Sorensen!” 

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

CLP 2014: Day 5 - Wednesday, June 18
Jun 18 2014 - 10:13pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 5, Wednesday, June 18
Reported by: Desyre Z. Calloway, Christopher Newport University and Ray Roakes, Virginia Commonwealth University

The 2014 Sorensen CLP class departed from Charlottesville today on their first field trip and ventured southwest to the town of Chatham and the city of Danville. The curriculum for the day included a tour of the Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, a panel discussion on economic development in Danville, and finally, a tour of the city of Danville before returning back to Charlottesville.

The first destination was certainly one to remember as the first thing we saw upon pulling into the parking lot was an extensive, razor wire fence encompassing the prison. The facility had security measures which required all visitors to leave their photo ID in the main office area upon entering, walking through a metal detector and then receiving a pat down by one of the staff members. Once everyone was cleared to enter the actual prison grounds, we were met by Mr. Collins who was enthusiastic and engaging throughout the entirety of the tour. We were able to speak with several correctional officers, other staff and even inmates who were able to give us thorough insight about the inner workings of the correctional center.

After departing Chatham, we then headed to Danville where we met with Corrie Teague of Danville's Office of Economic Development and Wendi Goods Everson of the Danville Regional Foundation. We were able to learn a lot about the city's past success in manufacturing tobacco and textiles, its present struggle of unemployment and overall financial hardships, as well as their tireless and innovative efforts to secure a bright future for Danville. Some of the efforts that we were informed about involved targeting and educating youth as well as becoming more health conscious as a city, both things that affect positive business growth and stability. One thing of interest is that Danville is equipped with high speed broadband internet, which the city is leveraging to attract data-centers. Another goal that is being implemented is making downtown more attractive to young professionals.

Enlightened with more knowledge about Danville and the way the community works together to improve financial circumstances, we were given the opportunity to tour the city and gain further knowledge of its history with the help of Linwood Wright. Wright has had a lot of involvement in the city throughout his lifetime, serving as both mayor and vice-mayor on the city council. The tour included areas of downtown that are being revitalized, a drive through of the river district, and explored several industrial parks that are home to such companies as Nestle, Ikea, and the Regional Center for Advanced Technology and Training.

The day’s events left the CLP class of 2014 with a firm desire to further engage in community building on a local level.

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

CLP 2014: Day 4 - Tuesday, June 17
Jun 17 2014 - 11:05pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 4, Tuesday, June 17
Reported by: Jack Burden, University of Virginia, and Matt Shapiro, Virginia Commonwealth University

Today was the second full day of classes at the Sorensen Institute, and the first that we really dove into the assigned readings for the program. We began the day discussing what constituted the typical Democrat and Republican, as outlined in two articles by the Washington Post. We then began talking specifically about the political culture of Virginia, exemplified by Route 15, which runs from Leesburg directly south through the state.

After we came back from lunch, we broke into our reading groups, which each evaluated a different period of Virginia political history. The groups began in the mid-1920’s with the rise of the Byrd Machine, and went all the way through the end of the 20th century. After discussing individually, we all came together and Dr. Kidd led a group discussion that was intended to dive into the articles further, but quickly devolved into heated discussions on such topics as gay marriage and the Tea Party. All in all, it was a very educational afternoon.

After class, everyone returned to Bice and freshened up for our group picture and headshots, which were taken in front of Old Cabell Hall in 90-degree weather. Needless to say, some guys’ shirts were see through by the end. However, we all still looked good!

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

CLP 2014: Day 3 - Monday, June 16
Jun 16 2014 - 11:02pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 3, Monday, June 16
Reported by: Dani Bernstein, University of Virginia, and Chance Stone, Old Dominion University

Today was our first day of classes, and we started by discussing ethics in politics. Lauren Gilbert gave us case studies and examples of ethical dilemmas and asked what we would do if we were in the various scenarios she gave. In one scenario, in which a state Senator had to decide whether or not to fire a disloyal staffer and whether or not to go against his party, we were each assigned a character and asked to evaluate the ethical options for each given character.
After our lengthy and interesting ethical discussion, we went in a slightly different direction and broke up into smaller groups to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of specific areas of Virginia, including NOVA, Southwest Virginia, Central Virginia, and Richmond, and then the entire state. We had a quick lunch break and then regrouped to discuss our findings. As a class, we concluded that Virginia’s biggest current problems are its infrastructure, public education, government transparency, public safety, and access to health care (and some also suggested Virginia's environment and sustainability, but that didn't make the final cut).
After another quick break, Dr. Quentin Kidd joined us and lectured us on some of Virginia’s history, including its population changes, factors that affect its economy, and the regional differences in Virginia — specifically ethnic differences, wealth disparities, and the economies of particular regions. The whole day was very informative, and the lecture itself was fascinating. We had a great first day!

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

CLP 2014: Day 2 - Sunday, June 15
Jun 15 2014 - 10:50pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 2, Sunday, June 15
Reported by: Bennie Ashton, Randolph-Macon College, and Vikhyath Veeramachaneni, Virginia Commonwealth University

The first full day of the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program featured a unique approach to building teamwork and trust among the program’s participants. Beginning early in the morning, all the students participated in an outdoor ropes course challenge at the Poplar Ridge Challenge Course.

The activities began with team building and problem-solving challenges that encouraged effective cooperation within independent teams. Groups completed tasks while blindfolded, balancing on wooden beams, or atop wobbly structures, adding to the challenge of the opening activities.

Team members also participated in high ropes elements, which challenged the students to balance on a seemingly unstable wooden platform on a 30-foot pole and swing back and forth on cables after being suspended high in the air. In these high elements, students also worked together to support and safely belay each other, allowing individuals to challenge themselves without feeling that they were in any danger.

The ropes course introduced members of the College Leaders Program to the different personalities and methods of problem-solving of their team members. Learning about each another’s abilities, and sometimes even fear of heights, brought our students together and became an enjoyable experience. The elements of trust and respect the students developed for each other at Poplar Ridge will hopefully become the basis for a productive and meaningful two weeks at the Sorensen Institute. 

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

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Featured Alumni

  • Bobby Mathieson.jpg

    Bobby Mathieson

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 1999

    Bobby is a U.S. Marshall serving Virginia's Eastern District.

    He was a Virginia Beach police officer from 1975 to 2002, retiring as a master police officer. He later held a leadership post in the state Department of Criminal Justice and was subsequently elected to the Virginia House of Delegates where he represented the 21st District.