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

Goals of ELP


ELP Class

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.
  • 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 a seven-day leadership development program that occurs in three sessions over three months.

With few exceptions, the following is a typical weekend schedule

  • Friday: begins at 12:00pm with an optional, dutch-treat lunch on Friday, followed by a tour, dinner, and guest speaker.
  • Saturday: begins around 8:30 AM and usually includes class discussions, speakers, and panels in the morning and ends in late-afternoon.


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 first two days and last three days of the program are mandatory. During the middle two-day session, 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 Emerging Leaders Program sessions typically run from 9:00am to 4:00pm on each of the session dates. The dates for the 2022 program are as follows:

  • August 26-27: First Session
  • September 16-17: Second Session
  • October 20, 21, 22: Third Session


ELP Class


Effective leadership—through building trust and working together—is a central theme of the program. We explore many issues that are not inherently partisan and that instead reward bipartisan 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.

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 rather unique. Program participants will learn about the powers and limitations that these unique 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 class will learn how people in the first decade of their career 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 Virginia residents, ages 22 to 32, who are currently working or have recently worked in state government (specifically in the executive and legislative branches) and who desire to build public policy skills. Approximately 20-25 participants will be selected in a highly competitive selection process that includes an essay-based application and in-person interviews by staff members, regional board members and alumni. Interviews for the 2022 class will take place via Zoom the week of June 27- July 1.

The class is expected to 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 an Emerging Leaders program, please visit our referrals page.

Application Timeline

  • May - June: Applications accepted
  • June/July: Interviews and selection
  • July: Acceptance packets distributed; forms and payments due
  • August – October: The 7-day program meets (2 days in Aug, 2 days in Sept, and 3 days in Oct)


Application Details and Deadlines 

Program Applications Open Applications Close Application Process Link to Application
Emerging Leaders Program Tue, May 10, 2022 Mon, June 13, 2022

Tuition & AiD

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The program fee for the 2022 ELP is $1,800. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but food and lodging costs are covered by the program fee. 

Acceptance to any Sorensen Institute program is need-blind, meaning that the people who evaluate applications to participate in the program differ from those who review financial aid applications.

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. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but meals, lodging, and program materials are covered by the tuition.

More information about our financial assistance payment plan, and how to apply for financial aid, is available on our Financial Aid page.

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 Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. We suggest that you contact your own tax professional to see if you qualify for these credits. Unfortunately, neither the Sorensen Political 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