Note for 2023 Program: This year's program will take place on August 17-19 (The Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier), September 22-23 (Richmond), and October 12-14 (The Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier). The ELP, which includes an additional day compared to prior years, will have a program fee of $2500 in 2023. The window for applications will open soon. If you are interested in applying, please contact JaVori Warren at jw3uj@virginia.edu.

Applications: The Sorensen Institute Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) develops effective leadership and public policy skills for people who live or work in Virginia and who are in the first decade of their career. Apply to the next ELP program.

Goals of ELP


ELP Reception 2022

The intent of the Emerging Leaders program is to:

  • Bring together a diverse group of young professionals from across the Commonwealth who have an interest in strengthening the quality of governance at all levels and wish to expand their skill sets and knowledge base about leadership, policy, and governance;
  • Prepare participants to move into positions of greater responsibility within government, assume the role of a community leader, or seek elective or appointed office in the executive or legislative branches of government; and
  • Provide a balanced perspective by ensuring a mix of Republican and Democratic program participants. Applicants who have another party affiliation or no such affiliation are also encouraged to apply.

Program Details

ELP Class


The Emerging Leaders Program is an eight-day leadership development program that occurs in three sessions over three months.

With few exceptions, Emerging Leaders Program sessions start late morning on the first day of the session. The final day of the session ends in the late afternoon. The curriculum includes presentations, peer workshops, and dinners with guest speakers. A major component is a public policy project.


Because of the interactive nature of the program and the way in which lessons build upon one another, the overall success of the program depends on the attendance of all students at all sessions. Therefore, attendance during the entirety of the three-day sessions in August and October are mandatory. During the two-day session in September, an absence of one half-day may be requested. Absences require prior approval of the Sorensen staff and will be approved only if the absence will not affect the integrity of the program.

Sample Schedule

The dates for the 2023 program are as follows:

  • August 17, 18, 19: First Session in Orange, VA
  • September 22, 23: Second Session in Richmond, VA
  • October 12, 13, 14: Third Session and Graduation in Orange, VA


ELP small group


Effective leadership — through building trust, communicating with respect, working together, and ethical behavior — is a central theme of the program. We explore many issues that are not inherently partisan and that instead reward bipartisan or nonpartisan cooperation in crafting approaches to problems, opportunities, and challenges faced by Virginia residents. We also review techniques for finding common ground in addressing potentially divisive topics and challenging conversations.

The Emerging Leaders Program curriculum is focused on several core subject areas:

Public Policy

Participants will engage in presentations and discussions of a variety of public policy issues facing state and local governments.

Policy Advocacy Skills

The program involves real-world exercises in creating, advocating for, and defending public policy initiatives. The class will work in small groups to craft policy proposals similar to those considered by Virginia’s executive branch, General Assembly, and local governments.

Virginia’s Government Structure

From its single-term Governor to its part-time General Assembly to its system of counties and independent cities to the Dillon Rule, Virginia government has a structure that is unique. Program participants will learn about the powers and limitations that these attributes create.

Ethics in Public Service

The program will include a study of ethical principles as they relate to public service. We also explore Virginia's conflict of interest laws and Freedom of Information Act.

Effective Leadership

The cohort will learn how people in the first decade of their career (generally ages 22 to 35) can develop the management and leadership skills that facilitate professional growth and improve the chances for advancement to positions of greater responsibility.



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How Applicants Are Selected

The Sorensen Institute seeks applicants in the first ten years of their career working in local, state, or federal government or in the private or nonprofit sector positions that include interaction with government or public policy. (Typically, applicants range in age from 22 to 35.) Approximately 20-25 participants will be selected in a competitive selection process that includes an essay-based application and may also include interviews with Sorensen staff members and alumni. Interviews for the 2023 cohort will take place via Zoom during the month of June.

Ideally, the cohort will have a balance between Republicans and Democrats, as well as participants who have other party or no party affiliations.

If you would like to refer someone to the Emerging Leaders Program, please visit our referrals page.

Application Timeline

  • April/May: Applications accepted
  • June: Interviews and selection
  • June/July: Acceptance packets distributed; payment and return of forms in packet due
  • August/September/October: For the 2023 Emerging Leaders Program, the meeting dates are August 17-19, September 22-23, and October 12-14, 2023.


Application Details and Deadlines 

Program Applications Open Applications Close Application Process Link to Application
Emerging Leaders Program Mon, April 3, 2023 Mon, May 22, 2023

Tuition & AiD

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The program fee for the 2023 ELP is $2,500. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but food and lodging costs are covered by the program fee. 

Financial Aid

Requests for financial aid or scholarships will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the parent organization of the Sorensen Institute, once the selection process is completed.

More information about how to apply for financial aid as well as our installment payment plan are available on our Financial Aid page.

The deadline to apply for financial aid for the 2023 Emerging Leaders Program is May 26, 2023.

According to IRS guidance, the Lifetime Learning tax credit applies to students who are enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution. The course or courses must be either part of a postsecondary degree program or taken by the student to acquire or improve job skills. There are many other details surrounding the Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. We suggest that you contact your own tax professional to see if you qualify for these credits. Neither the Sorensen Institute nor the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service can provide tax advice. You can also contact the IRS' Office of Public Liaison at 202-622-2970 or view Publication 970 on the IRS website for further information.


If you have questions about the program, please contact JaVori Warren: jw3uj@virginia.edu.  If you would like to refer someone to one of our programs, please visit our referrals page