The Sorensen Institute’s flagship Political Leaders Program (PLP) is a leadership development program for people in the public, private, nonprofit sectors who live or work in Virginia. Ideal applicants are people with 10+ years of career experience who are already engaged in the political, civic, business, nonprofit or governing life of their locality, region or the Commonwealth. Applications for the 2024 PLP will be available in mid-September with a November 13, 2023, deadline. Apply to the next PLP program.


PLP class

PLP develops skills, knowledge, experiences and professional relationships that enable participants to

  • Participate more effectively in civic life or public service
  • Have a greater impact on public policy in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Work with people across the partisan aisle or from different regions of the Commonwealth
  • Better understand the interplay between their current positions and politics and government in Virginia
  • Build up a network of professional relationships within the cohort, with guest speakers, and among Sorensen Institute alumni

Participation in this program has been an important step for people in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who want to enhance their effectiveness as civic leaders in the Commonwealth.



PLP class on a boat tour


Program participants meet in various locations across Virginia one weekend a month from March through December except for the month of July. Some sessions meet for three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) and some sessions meet for two days (Friday, Saturday).

With few exceptions, the following is a typical weekend schedule

  • Thursday: begins around 12:00 p.m. with an optional, dutch-treat lunch, followed by a tour, dinner, and guest speaker.
  • Friday: begins around 8:30 a.m. and is a full day of programming, activities, speakers, and a late-afternoon break. Adjourns after a dinner speaker, around 9:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: begins around 8:30 a.m. and usually includes class discussions, speakers, and panels in the morning and ends by 1:30 p.m.


    We ask that you confirm in advance your availability for the sessions below before you apply to the program. Any applicants who cannot commit fully to the two mandatory sessions should wait to apply in another year.

    Anticipated 2024 Schedule

    • Williamsburg Opening Weekend: March 14, 15, 16 (full attendance is mandatory)
    • Richmond: April 11, 12, 13
    • Roanoke: May 17, 18
    • Danville and Martinsville: June 20, 21, 22
    • No meeting in July
    • Harrisonburg: August 9, 10
    • Southwest Virginia: September 11^, 12, 13, 14 (No official sessions take place on Wednesday but hotel rooms will be provided on Wednesday night.)
    • Norfolk: October 17, 18, 19 (attendance on October 18 is mandatory)
    • Alexandria: November 15, 16
    • Charlottesville: December 13, 14 (includes graduation ceremony)


    PLP class


    Effective leadership – through building trust and working together – is a central theme of the program. We explore how leaders have gained positions of trust and shaped public policy in Virginia. We also look at how bipartisan and regional cooperation can be used to craft approaches and solutions 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 Political Leaders Program curriculum is focused on several core subject areas, including:

    Public Policy - Participants will experience presentations and discussions regarding a variety of public policy issues facing Virginia and its localities including but not limited to the state budget, transportation, education, healthcare, workforce and economic development, public safety, housing, energy, and the environment.

    Influencers in the Political and Governing Process - Elected officials are not the only ones who have an impact on the workings of government in Virginia. Cohort members will engage with current and former elected officials, appointed officials, boards and commission members, lobbyists and advocates, regional and subject matter experts, business and nonprofit leaders, economic and infrastructure development, innovation, funding priorities, reform efforts, and the changing nature of Virginia’s electorate.

    Experiential Learning – By engaging in hands-on experiences and reflection, leaders can better connect theory to real-world situations. Sorensen's experiential learning activities foster a deeper understanding of the different regions and cultures within Virginia. Each year’s program experience is unique, but include tours and site visits in regions across the Commonwealth plus engagement with businesses, academic centers, landmarks, cultural centers, and both public and private venues.

    Ethics in Public Service and Civic Life - The program will include a study of general ethical principles as they relate to public service and civic life. The development of skills and practical application of bipartisan cooperation in politics, government, and civic life is also a central theme throughout the program.

    For those interested in an intensive, "ready-to-run" campaign education as a candidate or key campaign/candidate advisor, see information about the curriculum Sorensen's Candidate Training Program that has been offered in years past.


    Applying to PLP

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    How Applicants Are Selected

    The application process is open to individuals who live or work in Virginia. Preference is given to people who have 10+ years of career experience and who are actively involved in the civic life of the Commonwealth or its communities through work in the public, private or nonprofit sector.

    A commitment to fully participate in the program is required. We ask that you confirm in advance your availability for the session weekends before you apply to the program.

    Approximately 36 participants are selected each year in a highly competitive selection process that includes a detailed essay-based application and interviews by staff members, Sorensen alumni, and/or regional leaders. The Sorensen Institute typically receives more than three times as many applications for the Political Leaders Program each year as there are available spaces in the cohort.

    A key goal of the selection process is to enable the Sorensen Institute to build program cohorts that reflect Virginia's diversity -- including race, ethnicity, gender, region, and employment in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. We seek in each cohort to have a balance between Republicans and Democrats, in addition to participants who have other party or no party affiliations. This balanced cohort composition is important to the effectiveness of the program and influences our selection process.

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

    Application Timeline

    • September – mid November: Applications accepted for next year's class
    • November – December: Interviews of applicants, selection of class participants
    • January – February: Acceptance packets distributed, forms and payments due
    • March – December: Class meets one weekend each month except for July


    Application details

    Program Applications Open Applications Close Application Process Link to Application
    Political Leaders Program Wed, September 13, 2023 Mon, November 13, 2023


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    Program Fee

    The program fee to participate in the PLP 2024 cohort is $5,900, which includes a private room for each weekend. Payment of the program fee for PLP 2024 participants will be due in full by January 22, 2024. Participants can also opt into a payment plan as a form of financial assistance.

    Financial Aid

    The Sorensen Institute has a limited amount of financial aid available for its programs. We note that many employers have been willing to pay for their employees to participate in Sorensen Institute programs. Requests for financial aid should be submitted with the program application. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but meals, lodging, and program materials are covered by the tuition.

    More information about the available payment plan and how to apply for financial aid can be found on the 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 participating in the program, please contact jw3uj@virginia.edu. If you would like to refer someone to one of our programs, please visit our referrals page