CLP 2013: Day 6 - Thursday, June 6
Jun 7 2013 - 12:05am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 6: Thursday, June 6
Reported by: Richard Pantele, Hampden-Sydney College and Rachel Brooks, the College of William and Mary).

Today’s programming was insightful. We began the day by splitting up into focus groups comprised of one member from each policy area. The purpose of doing this was to present our preliminary ideas to the other groups in order to receive constructive criticism and strengthen our policy proposals. We all found this process useful. Many of the groups found that the greatest weakness was a lack of statistical information. After the combined groups met, we brought the information we gained in the focus groups to the class as a whole. This enabled the class and the Youth Program Managers to sit and discuss each individual project. After speaking with many people in the class, I found that the general consensus was that the session enhanced the substance and direction of each group’s policy.

After a brief break, Mr. Jeff Britt and Mr. Felix Sarfo-Kantanka visited the class. Mr. Britt serves as a vice president of grassroots issues management at McGuireWoods Consulting. Mr. Sarfo-Kantaka also works at McGuireWoods and serves as their assistant vice president in the state government section of the firm. Both of these gentlemen provided valuable insight about working in the world of public affairs. I found these presentations to be useful because I aspire to obtain a career in political consulting. It was clear that the class enjoyed their enthusiasm and willingness to be honest about the sensitivity of their positions as well as their willingness to share their story about how they got to where they are. They provided a realistic view of what it takes to have a successful career in the field of public policy. One of the greatest strengths of their lecture was their description of how people who identify with opposing political parties can come together and make a strong, valuable team in organizations like McGuireWoods Consulting. It is always nice to hear from people who started their political careers at the Sorensen Institute and are now experts in their fields.

In addition to the speakers from McGuireWoods Consulting, we had a two other guests visit the Sorensen College Leaders Program classroom. Ms. Connie Jorgensen, an assistant professor of political science at Piedmont Virginia Community College, gave an enthusiastic and effective presentation on the legislative process. After trying to start a rousing rendition of the "I'm Just a Bill" song from Schoolhouse Rock, she explained the details of how a bill really becomes a law and how to improve the likelihood that a piece of legislation will pass. Doing research, finding a legislator to carry the bill and getting voter support are a few key components to success in the legislative process. Considering many people in the College Leaders Program plan to run for office, the legislative process was a relevant topic to the group’s interests and ambitions.

While we ate lunch, Ms. Barbara Kessler, the director of human resources and workforce development programs at the University of Virginia, presented a resume workshop. Ms. Kessler’s advice was constructive for all of us regardless of age or class year. We received input about what to include and leave off of our resumes as well as what common mistakes to avoid. Since we all have varying degrees of experience and different accomplishments, she collected our resumes to individually edit and return early next week. Sorensen activities like the resume workshop will benefit us in applications, interviews, and other career-oriented endeavors.

After Ms. Kessler’s presentation, we had a class session with Dr. Quentin Kidd on “The Informed and Thoughtful Citizen” in which we went over the Constitution of Virginia and discussed different articles. Despite some rain, the overall opinion of the day was that it was productive and interesting. The College Leaders Program will start off another productive day tomorrow at 9 a.m., and I am excited to see what the rest of the program brings. 

CLP 2013: Day 5 - Wednesday, June 5
Jun 5 2013 - 11:02pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 5: Wednesday, June 5
Reported by: David Snyder, Christopher Newport University

On Wednesday, the CLP Class of 2013 spent half the day exploring an area of the Commonwealth that does not normally grace the front pages of state news - the city of Danville. First, we spent several hours talking to three community planning leaders in the Danville community. The city of Danville was once a hub of tobacco curing and textile manufacturing and represented the epicenter of Virginia economics. When the textile industry left the Danville area, the city suffered massive job losses. The loss of industry devastated the surrounding community and the culture of the area. Danville was left without alternative means of economic productivity, and unemployment soared.

Through a successful development of the River District in the middle of the city and increasing development investment all over the city, Danville has successfully begun a transformation of the city. Danville has succeeded in attracting large and small companies to the area, specifically in high-tech areas and manufacturing.

In addition to participating in a conversation with Danville community leaders, the class embarked upon a brief bus tour of Danville led by long-time Danville political leader Linwood Wright. I had a great time learning about the new developments of the Danville area. 

CLP 2013: Day 4 - Tuesday, June 4
Jun 4 2013 - 10:59pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 4: Tuesday, June 4
Reported by: Christopher Boden, Hampden-Sydney College and Stephanie Tipple, University of Mary Washington

We started our day at Thornton Hall learning about the different geographic regions of Virginia, breaking down the different facets of each region’s median income, prevalent industries and population. Then we moved to an overview of Virginia’s politics and how they’ve been shaped; starting with Harry Byrd, then the 1969 political schism and looking to explain why Virginia has historically been a red state. We spread into five groups to further break down and understand the past 50 years of Virginia politics, leaving off with the 2008-present political scene. A big point of the discussion was how Virginia has historically been a red state, and how certain factors and events have transformed the state from solidly red to purple.

After our class with Dr. Kidd, we had our headshots and group photo at the Rotunda, taken by Bill Bond and Tracy Tanner Bond of Cloverdale Photography.

Dinner was a combination of Greek kabobs and sides, provided by Charlottesville's Sticks Kebob Shop.

In the evening, the College Leaders Program participants gathered into four assigned groups to work on the introductory plan and policy they want to implement for the culminating project. These four groups were each sectioned into different themes important to the Virginia political scene; social services, infrastructure, the electoral process and education. This meeting will set the stage for the preliminary panel on Thursday where the groups will present their findings and proposed plan for their culminating project and receive feedback.

CLP 2013: Day 3 - Monday, June 3
Jun 3 2013 - 11:31pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 3: Monday, June 3
Reported by: Elias Bekri, Radford University and Blake Wheelock, University of Virginia

Today we kicked off the first of our academic program with guest speaker Bob Gibson, the executive director of the Sorensen Institute. He spoke about the history of the Institute and his career in journalism. After April Auger lead the class in a discussion about ethics in leadership, the class came up with a wide array of adjectives to flesh out a collective ideal of what an ethical leader could and should be. The discussion revealed the students' varying definitions of what it was to be an ethical leader, but also lead to collective agreement on what an ethical leader's values should be.

Next we did an exercise of the four types of ethical dilemmas that can arise to challenge political leaders as well as the average citizen. It consisted of reading about a fictional representative from Michigan and the ethical dilemmas he faced. The readings provided some insight as to how often political leaders can come into conflict with many different situations at once. We then broke up into regional groups and came up with lists about our local and state governments' efficacy.

Quentin Kidd then finished our session talking about the evolution of Virginia in regards to demography and population, as well as inviting a discussion of the prototypical liberal and conservative and the rationale behind their worldviews. Next we learned about Virginia’s higher education system and how it is the only state that does not actually have a “university system” per se. Dr. Kidd praised our higher education system and the state for this characteristic; explaining that this system has allowed Virginia to have the upper hand when it comes to higher education.

The CLP class finished its first day with pizza and homework.

CLP 2013: Day 2 - Sunday, June 2
Jun 2 2013 - 11:41pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 2: Sunday, June 2
Reported by: Aaron Barden, Virginia Commonwealth University and Andrew Whitley, Virginia Tech

Today the 2013 Sorensen CLP class had a good bonding experience that brought us all closer together as a group. We all met in front of the Bice House and then went on to make our fairly long trek out into the woods of the Poplar Ridge recreational group. At the start of our day in the woods, we were eaten up by the various insects of the backwoods of University of Virginia while we played an interesting game called “Alaskan Baseball.”
After we finished the game, we entered the actual high ropes course and did a few icebreakers to start the introduction process. We played a game that involved tossing stuffed animals to each other called “Group Juggle” and then a version of rock, paper, scissors called Evolution where we evolved from an egg to a chicken to a monkey to Chuck Norris (“The Supreme Being”).
Then we split up into two groups of 12, where our group’s first game was “The Island Game.” The goal of the activity was to be able to get our group from one “island” to the end of the course without touching the ground between them. The activity highlighted the values of communication and teamwork! Even though it took our group multiple tries to successfully complete the challenge, we finally did!
The rest of the day was spent suspended 20 feet in the air, where the majority of us faced a series of obstacles. Just like every other activity of the day, being put in a harness and belayed by our peers tested our ability to work together and communicate well with one another.
Although we fought high humidity, swarms of mosquitoes and the occasional rain shower, today was incredible at bringing the 2013 CLP class closer together!
Look below for more pictures from our day:


CLP 2013: Day 1 - Saturday, June 1
Jun 1 2013 - 11:38pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 1: Saturday, June 1
Reported by: Maggie Anderson, Roanoke College and Jermayne Wright, Virginia State University

On the initial day of the Sorensen Institute College Leaders Program, it felt as if for the first half of the day, most of the participating students were pretty timid towards each other as well as the staff. But as the day progressed, we all started to open up and get more acquainted with one another.
To start things off, Lauren Gilbert, our program coordinator, led us into an icebreaker which helped us learn each other’s names, colleges, hometowns and first political memories. A few of the memories were very interesting as some of us were attendees at President Reagan’s funeral in D.C., and others even shook President Clinton's hand! Ms. Gilbert also showed us that it is important here at Sorensen to not discuss our party affiliation. She did this by taking us through an exercise that made us realize that none of us would like to defend the stereotype of a specific party while we are here at this program, or in general.
After a brief break in action, we gathered again to learn about our fellow classmates–this time in a bingo game that required us to learn about the 23 CLP participants. This game permitted us to learn more about the personal lives and interests of each person in the program and compare and contrast a number of hobbies.
After the last break, the program leaders led us in an activity where we gave our opinions about the differences and similarities of community service and public service. We then met for dinner with our first guest speaker, Mr. John Thomas, who is the director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. During our discussion, Mr. Thomas conversed with us about the idea of a failing democracy, the polarization of parties and the lack of competition in Virginia’s districts. Overall, a majority of the students were very interactive with Mr. Thomas, as many questions and comments were addressed. Mr. Thomas even stayed after the discussion to elaborate on topics he had discussed during dinner.
We concluded the night’s activities with a campus-wide scavenger hunt, as we looked for different buildings, statues, and other major landmarks on the campus of the University of Virginia. We are still patiently waiting to find out the winning group for this event. 
We will start Sunday off strong at 8:15 a.m. for our second day in Charlottesville here at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership!


SLIDESHOW: 2013 Spring Gala
May 10 2013 - 4:15pm

The 2013 Spring Gala on April 2 brought nearly 400 Virginians together in Richmond to honor our current and former Lieutenant Governors and Attorneys General. Speakers included John Hager, Mary Sue Terry, Jerry Kilgore, Tim Kaine and keynote speaker Jim Lehrer.

You can view larger versions of these photos by choosing the fullscreen icon in the bottom right, or by clicking the Flickr logo to view the set on Flickr.

Baliles Speaks at Sorensen Event in Danville
Apr 24 2013 - 3:13pm

The Sorensen Institute hosted another installment of our Southside Public Leadership Series on Monday. Gov. Jerry Baliles spoke on leadership at Danville's Instiute for Advanced Learning and Research, focusing on the six things he believes political candidates need to be effective leaders: humility in power, hard work, public speaking skills, a broad education, knowledge of law and political enthusiasm.

The event, which attracted more than 50 people, was sponsored by the Sorensen Institute and the Danville Register & Bee.

Coverage of the event is available online at the Danville Register & Bee.

Sorensen Announces 2013 Youth Program Managers
Apr 18 2013 - 10:41am

The Sorensen Institute is proud to announce the Youth Program Managers for our 2013 College and High School Leaders Programs:  Nathalie Navarette (CLP 2012, HSLP 2008), Michael Nolan (CLP 2012), and Dakota Thomas (CLP 2010).  The Program Managers help direct our College and High School Leaders Programs, which are held each summer on grounds at the University of Virginia.  They are critical to the success of the programs, providing on-site mentoring, instruction, and leadership to our students. 

Nathalie Navarrete, from Alexandria, Virginia, is a senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Program (2008) and College Leaders Program (2012).  Currently, Nathalie works with grassroots organizations to educate and mobilize voters in New England and she also serves as a classroom assistant in the Lewiston-Auburn public school system. After conducting research on citizenship revocation in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, she recently finished her senior thesis on labor economic theory. Nathalie will graduate in the spring of 2013 with a double major in Political Economy and French & Francophone Studies.


Over his college career, Michael Nolan helped found the Phi Kappa Psi Virginia Eta chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University and has served as one of its past presidents, responsible for organizing, educating and motivating a large group of type A+ personalities. In the Virginia Legislative Session of 2012, he interned for The Honorable Delegate Beverly J. Sherwood as a part of Virginia Commonwealth Universities Capital Semester Program at the General Assembly.  Michael graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A and the Sorensen College Leaders Program in 2012.



Dakota Thomas is a graduating senior of the University of Virginia's College at Wise's Class of 2013.  As an undergraduate, he majored in Government/Political Science, and Psychology.  Dakota received an undergraduate research grant for work with the Peace Theses, focusing on the Middle East.  He served for four years as a First Year Mentor, an upperclassman who provides academic advising to incoming students.  In the past year, he has also served as a Resident Advisor for the Freshman class, helping incoming students adjust to life on campus and away from home.  He has also served as an assistant to a two week summer study abroad program in Dortmund, Germany.  Dakota is a graduate of the College Leaders Program Class of 2010.

VIDEO: Founders Award
Apr 17 2013 - 2:58pm

Leigh Middleditch, co-founder of the Sorensen Institute, presented Sorensen's first Founders Award at this month's Gala. Award-winner Walt De Vries' Institute of Political Leadership in North Carolina was the inspiration for the Sorensen Institute. De Vries was also responsible for bringing Middleditch and co-founder Michael Bills together in 1993.

Michael Pearlmutter, executive director of the Institute of Political Leadership in North Carolina, accepted the award on behalf of Walt De Vries.



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