HSLP 2013: Day 2 - Sunday, June 23
Jun 23 2013 - 11:16pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 2: Sunday, June 23
Reported by: Sophie Webb, Western Albemarle High School and Sarah Todd Ashman, Douglas Southall Freeman High School

Today, we got up bright and early and walked twenty minutes to Poplar Ridge, an outdoor facility at U.Va. that focuses on problem solving team building. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. we participated in both low- and high-ropes activities. As soon as we arrived, we jumped into action, playing "Alaskan Baseball", in which two teams attempted to pass an object down a line in the shortest amount of time while the other team kept score by running laps. This activity was a great start to a fun-filled day because it introduced all of the ideas that we would be focusing on throughout the project: communication, positive energy, leadership and cooperation.

Throughout the day, these themes were reinforced through many activities. Some of the low ropes activities were Zoom (where the entire group had to order a series of pictures so that a ‘zoom’ effect was created), Whale Boat (where groups of 15 balanced on a seesaw-like piece of wood) and Mines (where students had to memorize a certain pattern and guide their teammates through without the aid of verbal communication).

As we continued through our day, we challenged ourselves in various ways, including participating in elements of a high ropes course that proved much more challenging than we originally thought. There were two different high ropes elements that we used today. One, called the High Y, involved climbing a pole while a partner climbed a pole across from you, and then moving together along the ‘short arms’ of a Y before moving down to the end of the element. Another element involved climbing a pole and then crossing a moving set of wooden planks, which were controlled by our classmates on the ground. These activites helped to teach us to trust one another, have faith in ourselves, and work outside of our confort zones, which we found extrememly rewarding.

The day also succeeded in allowing us to get to know one another more, especially those in our group. Because it was only the second day of the program, spending time and talking with our classmates helped improve the sense of comraderie and closeness in our group. We really appreicated the team-building knowledge we gained at Poplar Ridge and the oppurtunity to strengthen friendships within our group.

HSLP 2013: Day 1 - Saturday, June 22
Jun 23 2013 - 12:45am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 1: Saturday June 22, 2013
Reported by: Benjamin O. Zook, Loudoun Valley High School and Tyler Ambrose, William Fleming High School and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School

The much-anticipated first day of the Sorensen High School Leaders Program started out with an uncomfortable but enjoyable tour of the U.Va. Grounds. After awkwardly getting to know one another in the nearly insufferable heat, we convened in the basement of Bice House to go through the basic rules, procedures and expectations.

However, we were then engaged in a simple, but informative and intriguing, activity. Lauren and our Youth Program Managers had us each call out buzz words commonly associated with five political parties (Democratic Party, Republican Party, Independents, Green Party, and Tea Party). After the very humorous and informative ordeal, we asked ourselves, “Did these buzz words accurately represent each party?” and “Would we be willing to identity with each and every one?” The answer was a unanimous "No!" Lauren then explained why it is essential for us not to immediately reveal our political affiliation upon first meeting one another—to prevent any quick and reactionary judgments that we so naturally make when identifying a person to political party.

Now that we had established the importance of avoiding bias, we divided into small groups of five to generate mission statements for the Democratic and Republican Party. When we read the mission statements aloud, the core beliefs of the two major parties were much different than the stereotypical terms we mentioned earlier. We learned from the activity that even though both parties in today’s political atmosphere seem horribly polarized, at the end of the day, their goals have more in common than what we initially think.

We were dismissed for a scrumptious dinner of pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, coleslaw, and beans and rice, all provided by Eppie’s. Awaiting us was guest John Thomas, the director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Mr. Thomas described in astounding detail the changes of Virginia’s political atmosphere and offered stimulating insight on pressing political matters. These matters included gerrymandering and how it accelerated the polarized atmosphere in the United States, the importance of business leaders in influencing legislation, and how politics and campaigns have evolved to focus more on the individual, along with numerous other issues like voter turnout. Mr. Thomas's political knowledge proved to be most impressive and revealing.

The day culminated with social activities including Super Sweet Sorensen Bingo and ice cream. We retired for the day eager for the physical challenges that awaited us at the upcoming Poplar Ridge ropes course and the rest of the program.  

CLP 2013: Day 10 - Monday, June 10
Jun 11 2013 - 12:22am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 10: Monday, June 10
Reported by: Daniel Ku, Virginia Commonwealth University

The 2013 College Leaders Program welcomed a series of guest speakers today before class began with Dr. Kidd. These practitioners represented a variety of fields: journalism, criminal justice, private sector consulting and campaign management. These individuals provided further insight in their areas of expertise, sharing how their experiences shaped the values they try to instill in junior professionals today.

Nate Delesline is a journalist from the Daily Progress who began his career in Vicksburg, Miss. after graduating from college in Delaware as an education reporter. Shortly after, he relocated to Culpepper, Va. where he spent much of his time covering stories within a heavily Republican district and stories about Gov. Bob McDonnell. He shared his approach in covering any story with three major points: timeliness, point of view and truth. Often times, journalists are faced with a deadline and it becomes a challenge to find compatible times to interview people. Other times, people are reluctant to express their opinion through the media.

Tom Longo, Charlottesville's chief of police, began his career in 1993 as Baltimore police officer. He began his story by saying that he thought that everyone shared his values. However, his mind changed when he was tasked to investigate police corruption. He shared an incident where he worked on a sting operation to investigate a police officer allegedly stealing money from citizens. Another police officer from Howard County was brought in to arrest the corrupt officer because he stole $360 dollars. “You can’t test for integrity–you’re testing for compliance to uphold his duties.” The moral of the story was that people make bad decisions because man has free will. In that way power can corrupt you. He concluded his thoughts by saying, “Mediocrity is the leading cause of misconduct–a failure to hold people accountable. It’s also laziness.”

Sean Holihan of Englin Consulting communicated the importance of advocacy in promoting legislation. He reminded the class of how powerful of an impact a legislator’s constituency has on his voting record. We were also reminded to always know your audience, from the subcommittee up. He also shared that you should not talk to people about you want to hear, but about what they want to hear. Mr. Holihan delved right into offering constructive criticism and advice concerning our culminating projects.

Jean Jensen was our fourth and final speaker this afternoon, talking to us about running a campaign, the importance of transparency and making into office. Jensen is the former secretary of the State Board of Elections, and executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia as well as president and executive director of a national women’s political organization. In her talk, she gave us three separate points to keep in mind while we move forward in our political careers.

  1. Know the laws and know the rules. The fastest way to mess up a political campaign is to "get your hand caught in the cookie jar" because you didn't understand the law. 
  2. Hire fast. The first people you want on your campaign are a treasurer, fundraiser, webmaster and chief of staff. Your treasurer will be your most important role on the campaign; without money, you don't have a campaign.
  3. Put together lists. Tap all of your resources when starting out. Friends, family, professional resources and, of course, our Sorensen network.

Her final lessons for us were: always take the highroad, and, in the spirit of bipartisanship, "check your donkeys and elephants at the door".

We finished the day with Dr. Kidd talking about Dillon's Rule in Virginia and our K-12 education system and the hike in sales tax, as well as the repeal of gas taxes coming down the pike and how it would support the transportation and infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. It was a lively discussion and engaged debate about local and state government within Virginia.

After a long and very thrilling day, every memeber of the class is ready to begin their campaigns, policy work and advising as soon as we graduate!

CLP 2013: Day 9 - Sunday, June 9
Jun 8 2013 - 10:37pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 9: Sunday, June 9
Reported by: Max Maurer, Hampden-Sydney College and Kate Cudé, Piedmont Virginia Community College

The College Leaders Program had the opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning. However upon waking up, everyone was ready for the challenges that the day ahead would bring.

Each person in the class was assigned to represent a Senator based on Virginia’s 2013 Senate. First each class member prepared a background report on their assigned Senator. Michael Nolan acted as “Governor Nolan” during the simulation. Next, the class separated into their respective caucus groups and developed a platform on which their party would develop a strategy.

Until lunch the class members discussed and voted upon bills, previously proposed by each Senator, within their corresponding committees: Regulation, Redistribution, and Government Services.

Lunch was a much-needed delicious delight, catered by The Bellair Market. During the working lunch, Sorensen students walked the hallways of Thornton Hall lobbying for their bills and making deals in preparation for the final caucus meeting before the Senate session.

After lunch, caucus meetings were held. Excitement grew as each party narrowed down the specific bills they intended to support within the Senate session.

The Republican caucus walked out when they did not agree to the way things were being run for this part of the legislative session. After a brief recess, everything went back to normal. Most of the bills passed; however, there were two vetoed bills with one of the bills passed only by the Senate by overriding the governor.

We are currently making corrections to our legislation and working on press releases for our bills in time for the early-morning deadline. 

CLP 2013: Day 8 - Saturday, June 8
Jun 8 2013 - 10:35pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 8: Saturday, June 8
Reported by: Claire Nadolski, Lynchburg College and Andres Chovil, George Mason University

We started off the day meeting up in one of the suites for lunch (yes, we had sort of a late start today) at noon. Several of us worked in groups before lunch to research our assigned senators and create a piece of legislation that they would possibly propose in the real Virginia State Senate. This assignment was due at 4 p.m. today, so several of us bounced ideas off of each other to figure out just what some of these legislators would suggest. Some of them have not produced much legislation while some are seasoned legislators with copious amounts of proposed legislation under their belts.

We also watched the movie Zero Dark Thirty together as a class down in the basement lounge of Bice. It was awesome to have a chunk of the day to just hang out together and not be stressed out working to a deadline. I had never seen the movie before and liked it very much, while others had seen it and still enjoyed just being there. We spend a great deal of time here working on a paper or working in groups, but this was just a recreational time to be college students together. I believe it is the small things like this that separate the Sorensen Institute College Leaders Program from other programs and put them infinitely beyond in quality and experience.

The class is also preparing for the Virginia Senate simulation game taking place tomorrow afternoon. Each individual has been assigned a specific role to play during this simulation. Roles assigned include current Virginia state legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the Virginia Lieutenant Governor. Each individual is responsible for drafting a one page report on their assigned role including the following information on their particular Senator: their personal background, the specific region they represent in the Virginia State Senate, their district’s key issues, their political philosophy and ideological/ partisan agenda, their political history, their committee assignments, and the issues that they are most passionate about and have introduced into legislation. Additionally, individuals must identify other key senators that share similar political philosophies and views in order to ally themselves with and pursue similar goals. Lastly, each individual must decide on what role they want to play within their caucus. This can include taking leadership roles or lobbying for legislation behind the scenes. 

CLP 2013: Day 7 - Friday, June 7
Jun 8 2013 - 12:33am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 7: Friday, June 7
Reported by: Colman Packard, Hampden-Sydney College and Jory Bunn, Old Dominion University

For Friday June 7 the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program was slated to continue the discussion of the Informed Citizen. As a treat for the students, the youth program managers and Dr. Kidd brought us Starbucks coffee for the first time, which was a pleasant change to the morning session. We picked up where we left off on class yesterday and finished up our discussion on the Virginia State Constitution. From there Dr. Kidd spent some time explaining and holding a class discussion on Dillon’s Rule vs. Home Rule. We talked about the railroad builders Wynn and Stanford and how they chose different paths after creating the lines. We also talked about Landmark and the creation of the Weather Channel.

The rest of the morning session was spent discussing the creation of public policy. The majority of the discussion was built around our own public policy groups. It was structured in terms of how to make the policy germane and what that entails. We looked at how our projects could be effective for communities and the state. We wrapped up with a short talk about how to connect the elements of policy making and how it all fits into the current government's agenda.

With the end of Dr. Kidd’s informative lecture, we had the delight of ingesting a delicious lunch catered by the local Jason's Deli. The Sorensen participants added insights on Virginia’s constitution as a side dish to their chips and sandwiches before the afternoon got underway. Ms. JoAnn Auger conducted a Myers-Briggs workshop. Myers-Briggs is the most accepted and long lasting test for determining personality. For the first activity, students were divided up into two groups: introverts and extraverts. The introverts were vastly outnumbered compared to the extraverts. However each group had an equal amount of opinions for each other! As the discussion ensued about who has the "better" personality type, Ms. Auger informed us all that no matter what personality we had, we all could learn from the other types' strengths. Furthermore, the Myers-Briggs workshop gave us suggestions on how to deal with abrasive personalities and how to accept people for who they are. With our first Friday winding down, I’m sure we all had one aspect of today’s session that we will hold onto for life!  

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.

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