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College Leaders Program


The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership offers an advanced program on public service and leadership for college students. The program is based on a firm belief that young people not only can make a positive difference in their communities, they should be strongly encouraged to do so. Our College Leaders Program (CLP) gives students the practical skills and political knowledge to become effective advocates in government and business. The CLP is held each summer for two weeks on grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The program features a Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum with three main goals:

  • To prepare future leaders for ethical and responsible citizenship and public service in the Commonwealth.
  • To connect Virginia's youth leaders from different backgrounds and philosophies with each other and with current leaders in the government, business, and non-profit sectors.
  • To energize our democratic system of government by promoting civic engagement among youth leaders.

In 2007 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized the Sorensen Institute's College and High School Leaders Programs as among the very best in the nation and something of a national model when it comes to giving young people the skills and motivation to become politically engaged in their communities. Click here to meet the alumni of our College Leaders Program. And to learn about the history of this program and of the Sorensen Institute, click here.


The CLP curriculum is divided into three primary learning modules:

The Informed Citizen: Virginia Government and Politicsfocuses on the basics of Virginia state and local government; who the players are, how government functions, and what the primary issues facing Virginia are.

The Thoughtful Citizen: Virginia Public Policy
explores how public policy is formed and debated in the Commonwealth. Students learn how to engage positively and effectively in policy debates and learn how they can influence public policy.

The Active Citizen: The Tools of Modern Advocacygives students the hands-on training and real-world skills that they will need to make their ideas a reality. They will learn how to write a powerful op-ed, to pitch stories to the media
and hold press conferences, to give effective radio and television interviews, and to personally lobby issues with legislators.

Click here to learn more about the CLP curriculum.



Dr. Quentin Kidd—a professor of government and Chair of the Department of Government at Christopher Newport University. He is also the Director of CNU's Center for Public Policy. Dr. Kidd is a founding member of our faculty.



A typical College Leaders Program class includes approximately 25 students. All undergraduates at Virginia colleges and universities, or Virginia residents attending a college out of state, are eligible to participate in the program. Those students who will be seniors at the time of the application are eligible as well. Students come from throughout Virginia, representing a diverse variety of communities.

A CLP class will typically include students that represent arts and sciences, business, and applied sciences. Past classes have included students majoring in Political Science, Elementary Education, International Relations, Economics, Biology, Communications, Women's Studies, Sociology, Music, Leadership, Philosophy, English, History, Anthropology, Historic Preservation, Environmental Studies, Public Policy and Urban Studies, among others. This program is for all students who are keenly interested in learning more about leadership and public service, not just those who study politics.

Each class aims to reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Virginia's population. The program attracts students who will be leaders in all aspects of life in the Commonwealth.


Selection Process

The College Leaders Program applicant pool is evaluated to create a highly qualified and diverse class. Competition to participate in the program is particularly rigorous. Participants will be chosen from among all academic majors. Interviews are usually conducted in March and admissions decisions are mailed in early April. Students for the program are chosen through a careful selection process that includes the following considerations:

  • complete application and essay
  • resume or activity sheet
  • academic record
  • letters of reference
  • personal interview—a select number of qualified finalists will be contacted for a brief in-person interview. The interviews are conducted by board members, alumni, and staff.


Applications, Cost, Dates

We are not currently accepting applications for the College Leaders Program. More information about the application process can be found on our applications page.

To be eligible for the College Leaders Program, applicants must be:

  • a student at a college or university in Virginia, or be a Virginia resident attending school in another state
  • 24 years of age or younger (including graduating seniors)
  • in good academic standing at an accredited institution.

The application includes the following components:

  • the online application, which includes two short answer questions and one 300-word essay
  • the applicant's most recent transcript, showing all college coursework. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable
  • one letter of recommendation (students may submit up to two letters)
  • the applicant's most recent resume or activity sheet. Resumes or activity sheets will be reviewed for content, not formatting. 

The cost of the 2015 College Leaders Program is $1,800, which covers all instructional materials, events, room, board, meals, and field trips. 

The 2015 CLP will take place from Saturday, June 13 to Saturday, June 27.  Click here to view a sample schedule of the College Leaders Program.

If you would like to refer a candidate to our College Leaders Program, please visit our referrals page.  Information provided will only be used to contact potential candidates about applying for our program.



Scholarships for program tuition are available. Potential applicants are strongly urged to apply regardless of financial concerns. Click here to learn more about available scholarships and financial aid.


College Credit

Students can earn three undergraduate credits for an additional fee, set by the University.  Students taking the credit option will have one additional final paper due after the program adjourns.  A student's grade is determined by considering participation inside and outside the classroom, written assignments, the culminating project, and the final paper.  More details will be available to accepted students.


Program Schedule

The 2015 College Leaders Program will take place from Saturday, June 13 to Saturday, June 27. All students are housed at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for the duration of the program and are expected to attend all sessions unless excused by the Youth Program and Recruitment Coordinator. Aside from some field trips, the students will spend most of their time on grounds at the University.

A typical program day starts at 8am with breakfast, and class begins promptly at 9am. Lectures, presentations, discussions, and workshops run throughout the day with multiple breaks and lunch. Dinner is served each evening around 6pm, after which students have free time.  Field trip days usually begin earlier to allow for travel time, depending on the agenda for the day.  Two to three Youth Program Managers, all of whom are alumni of the College or High School Leaders Programs, live on site with the students and are available at all times. On the last day of the program a ceremonial graduation is held at the University around 10am, with move-out beginning around noon.  Family and friends are encouraged to attend.  To see a sample schedule of the College Leaders Program, click here.


If you have any questions about the College Leaders Program,
contact Lauren Gilbert at 434-243-2844 or

If you would like to refer someone to our program, please visit our referrals page.

Trust, Civility and Respect in Politics


Featured Alumni

  • Maribel Ramos.jpg

    Maribel Ramos

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    Maribel serves as a Legislative Assistant in the Washington office of U.S. Senator James Webb of Virginia. She previously served as a Policy Assistant to Governor Tim Kaine.