The Sorensen Institute’s flagship Political Leaders Program (PLP) is a leadership development program designed for residents of Virginia already engaged in the political, civic, business, nonprofit or governing life of their locality, region or the Commonwealth. Apply to the next PLP program.


PLP Program in Norfolk, VA

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

  • Participate more effectively in 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

Participation in this program has been an important step for people who want to establish themselves as political and civic leaders in the Commonwealth.



PLP program in Southern Virginia 2022


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 12:30 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.

    2023 Schedule

    • Williamsburg Opening Weekend: March 9, 10, 11 (full attendance is mandatory)
    • Richmond: April 13, 14, 15
    • Lynchburg: May 19, 20
    • Danville and Martinsville: June 15, 16, 17
    • No meeting in July
    • Harrisonburg: August 11, 12
    • Southwest Virginia: September 6^, 7, 8, 9 (No official sessions take place on Wednesday but hotel rooms will be provided on Wednesday night.)
    • Norfolk: October 19, 20, 21 (full attendance is mandatory)
    • Alexandria: November 10, 11
    • Charlottesville: December 8, 9


    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.

    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, 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. Areas of exploration include current and former elected officials, appointed officials, boards and commissions, lobbyists and advocates, regional and subject matter experts, economic and infrastructure development, innovation, funding priorities, reform efforts, and the changing nature of Virginia’s electorate.

    Experiential Learning – Leadership can require an understanding of the different regions and cultures within Virginia. Each year’s program experience is unique, but include tours and visits in regions across the Commonwealth and engagement with businesses, academic centers, landmarks, cultural centers, and both public and private venues.

    Ethics in Public Service - The program will include a study of general ethical principles as they relate to public service. 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 our Candidate Training Program.


    Applying to PLP

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    How Applicants Are Selected

    The application process is open to Virginia residents of all ages who are actively involved in their communities and who desire to participate in political, governing, and civic leadership. A commitment to fully participate in the program is required. We ask that you confirm in advance your availability for the session weekends below 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 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 class.

    One essential goal of the selection process is to ensure that the program participants reflect the demographic and geographic makeup of the state. Each class has a balance between Republicans and Democrats, in addition to participants who have other party or no party affiliations. This composition is critical to the effectiveness of the program and influences our selection process.

    If you would like to refer someone to our Political Training 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 Mon, September 19, 2022 Mon, November 14, 2022


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    Tuition for the PLP Class of 2023 is $5,600, which includes a private room for each weekend. Tuition for the 2023 PLP is due in full by February 15, 2023.  Participants can also opt into a payment plan as a form of financial assistance.  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 jw3uj@virginia.edu. If you would like to refer someone to one of our programs, please visit our referrals page