The Sorensen Institute Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is a seven-day leadership development program (occurring in three sessions over three months) that develops effective leadership and public policy skills for Virginia residents who are in the first decade of their career.
The intent of the 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. The program prepares 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.
Priority will be given to applicants who are currently working or have worked in state and/or local government in the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, the program is also open to applicants who are interested in becoming more active in public service and public policy.
The program is most effective when it has a balance between Republicans and Democrats. Applicants who have another party affiliation or no such affiliation are also encouraged to apply.
In 2020, the class is scheduled to meet September 18-19, October 16-17, and November 5-7 and is anticipated to meet in person in Charlottesville and Richmond. We continue to monitor public health guidelines, and it is possible that the program will move online if necessary.
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:
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.
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.
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 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. The interviews will take place in Richmond in June.
The class is expected to have a balance between Republicans and Democrats, as well as participants who have other party or no party affiliations.
Applications for the 2020 program may be submitted between July 17 and August 18, 2020.
The application process is open to Virginia residents who are in the first decade of their career (generally between the ages of 22 and 32).
The application includes a series of short essay questions in addition to some basic contact and background information. Applicants may also submit up to two letters of recommendation.
Visit our applications page for more information.
Approximately 20-25 participants will be selected in a competitive selection process that includes review of the applicant’s application and interviews by Sorensen alumni, supporters, and staff members. Interviews for the 2020 class will take place either in person in Charlottesville and Richmond or via Zoom.
The program fee for the ELP was $1,250 in 2019. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but food and lodging costs are covered by the program fee. Limited financial aid may be available.
The Emerging Leaders Program sessions typically run from 9:00am to 5:00pm on each of the session dates.
The meeting dates for the 202 Emerging Leaders Program are:
September 18-19: First Session (Charlottesville)
October 16-17: Second Session (Richmond)
November 5-7: Third Session (Charlottesville)
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.
Limited financial aid may be available to encourage a broad applicant pool. In addition, prior program participants have raised funds in order to participate. Information about the process is available on our Financial Aid page.
The IRS provides information about a lifetime learning tax credit that may be available for programs taken to acquire or improve job skills. Unfortunately, neither the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership nor the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service can provide tax advice about whether an individual’s participation in the Emerging Leaders Program is eligible for a tax credit.