22nd Century Scholars Program


The University of Virginia's Center for Politics, the Weldon Cooper Center/Sorensen Institute, the Miller Center, the Democracy Initiative, the Batten School, and the Career Center teamed up to offer a first-of-its-kind virtual public-sector summer internship program to help students who lost 2020 summer internships due to COVID-19. The program continues this year thanks to a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust.

Applications for summer 2021 were due on May 21.

2021 Program:


The five-week long program will be open to 50 currently enrolled UVA undergraduate students (rising Second, Third and Fourth-Year students) who are interested in working in the public sector. Each student will be assigned to one of five public-sector units of the University; the Center for Politics; the Miller Center; the Democracy Initiative; the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; and the Sorensen Institute.

Through this innovative program, students will gain hands-on experience and will have access to additional resources, such as career development sessions led by the UVA Career Center and webinars and networking opportunities with policymakers, non-profit leaders, and other guests. Each student will be paired with a UVA alumnus/a mentor.

This program will be conducted remotely in 2021. Students will be invited to an in-person reception in the fall of 2021.


The internship is five (5) weeks long.

During the first three weeks of the program, students will work at their designated participating unit. Programming criteria and internship requirements will vary by unit, but students may be tasked with submitting a final project such as a white paper and/or a digital exhibit and/or a digital conference (open to the public) on themes to be assigned at the unit level.

Student interns will work with supervising units to assist in specific unit-level projects and will also assemble weekly on designated days for hour-long, day-specific educational programming.

During the final two weeks of the program, the entire cohort will come together to work on a virtual exchange program with a delegation of undergraduate students from Iraq.


May 6, 2021: Call for applications

May 21, 2021: Applications close

June 1, 2021: Decisions announced

July 1 - August 6, 2021: Internship program dates


Each student selected for the program will receive a $2,000 stipend for the five-week internship payable at the end of the program.


Apply by downloading, filling out, and submitting the application form (available on the Miller Center website) to Stefanie Georgakis Abbott at sg9mj@virginia.edu. Deadline for submission is Friday, May 21, 2020.


Each student will be assigned to a participating unit, based on their indicated preferences on their application.

The Center for Politics: The University of Virginia Center for Politics is the nation's preeminent institution for the study and promotion of civics education and political participation. Founded in 1998 by University Professor Larry J. Sabato, the mission of the Center for Politics is to educate and inspire the public to actively engage in practical politics and other civic affairs through programs that are unique, compelling, and open-minded.

The Miller Center: The Miller Center is a national, nonpartisan institute that seeks to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation's governance challenges. Our scholars engage in research and writing that provides unparalleled insight into contemporary public policy debates. We are the sole source in the country of the oral histories of each presidential administration since Jimmy Carter's and the annotated transcripts of the secret White House recordings made by Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership: The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership was founded in 1993 to bring together diverse individuals with a passion for politics and public service. All have a wide variety of viewpoints and backgrounds but want to work together for the common good. Our non-partisan mission is to strengthen and enhance the quality of government at all levels throughout Virginia. At the heart of every Sorensen program are three central themes: ethics in public service, the power of bipartisanship, and a concentrated study of public policy issues.

The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy: At the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, we are committed to solving the world's toughest policy challenges. We know the complex issues of our time demand innovative, collaborative, cross-sector relationships within our walls and beyond. Our multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and emphasis on ethics reinforce our focus on how leadership works, why context matters in decision-making, and which actions lead to tangible results. We also know a preeminent, forward-looking leadership and public policy school will only flourish in an environment that includes individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, and we are committed to becoming an inclusive, welcoming and supportive community.

Democracy Initiative: The University of Virginia's Democracy Initiative aspires to excellence in integrated research, teaching and public engagement on democracy at a global scale -- bringing together a diverse range of scholars, government leaders, and practitioners to study and advance the prospects of democracy around the world. Democracy can endure only with a broadly educated electorate and leaders prepared to serve the common good. UVA's establishment in 1817 is inseparably linked to the nation's bold experiment with democracy -- as well as its unfulfilled promises. In this sense, the University's history, current efforts, and commitment to the future -- like that of the American republic more generally -- is both inspiring and challenged, promising and in need of completion. Our history uniquely positions us to be the global center for the study of democracy's successes and failures, opportunities and threats, and to influence policies that strengthen democracy at home and worldwide.


Direct all questions about the program to Stefanie Georgakis Abbott at sg9mj@virginia.edu.


2021 Program:

The Sorensen cohort comprised 11 students who studied transportation policy and leadership in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are proud of our cohort (Eniola Afolayan, Lara Arif, Will Clawson, Rachel Hightman, Nicholas Lawson, Susannah Loss, Gauri Prakash, Manan Shah, Katherine Snider, Allie Touron, and Derek Yang).

The curriculum included an impressive array of topics and speakers:

Tuesday, July 6

9:15 - 10:30  Scholar/Staff Introductions; Discussion of General Project Scope: Transportation Leadership in Virginia / General Overview of Transportation Timeline in Virginia

10:45 - Noon  Overview of Transportation Governing Structure and Priorities in Virginia /  Speaker: Shannon Valentine (Virginia Secretary of Transportation)

Wednesday, July 7

9:15 - 10:30  Overview of Northern Virginia Multimodal Transportation Network and Statewide Multimodal Priorities / Speaker: Nick Donohue (Virginia Deputy Secretary of Transportation)

10:45 - Noon  Rail and Public Transportation Priorities / Speakers: Jennifer Mitchell (Director, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; Paul Smedberg (Board Chair, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority - WMATA); Lisa Guthrie (Executive Director, Virginia Transit Association)

Thursday, July 8

9:15 - 10:30  Priorities for Virginia’s Roads, Bridges and Tunnels + Environmental Stewardship in Transportation Planning / Speaker: Rob Cary (Deputy Director, Virginia Department of Transportation)

10:45 - Noon  Public-Private Partnerships and Toll Lanes in Virginia / Speakers: John Lawson (Virginia Deputy Secretary of Transportation); Morteza Farajian (Build America Bureau; former head of the VDOT P3 office); Pierce Coffee (Transurban President, North America); Renee Hamilton (Dulles Greenway CEO)

Friday, July 9

9:15 - 10:30  Commonwealth Transportation Board Priorities Part 1 / Speakers: Mary Hynes and Mark Merrill (Members, Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board)

10:45 - Noon  Commonwealth Transportation Board Priorities Part 2 / Speakers: Carlos Brown and Alison DeTuncq (Members, Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board)

Monday, July 12

9:15 - 10:30  Review of Last Week’s Sessions; Student Observations; Preview of This Week’s Sessions

10:45 - Noon  Legislative Perspectives / Speakers: David Marsden (Chair, Senate of Virginia Transportation Committee); David Suetterlein (Senate of Virginia Transportation Committee)

Tuesday, July 13

9:15 - 10:30  Aviation, Uncrewed Aviation, and Spaceport and Space Flight in Virginia / Aviation Speakers: Michael Cooper (Manager, State and Local Government Affairs · Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority -- MWAA) and Mark Flynn (Director, Virginia Department of Aviation); Space Flight Speaker: Sean Mulligan (Virginia Space)

10:45 - Noon  Virginia’s Ports and Moving Goods Across Virginia / Speakers: John Milliken (Board Chair, Virginia Port Authority); Rodney Oliver (Port of Virginia); David White (Virginia Maritime Association and Chair, Virginia Freight Advisory Committee); Randy Marcus (CSX); Mike McClellan (Norfolk Southern)

Wednesday, July 14

9:15 - 10:30  Motor Vehicle Regulation and DMV Responsibilities / Speakers: William Childress (Executive Director, Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board); Linda Ford (DMV); Anne Gambardella (Virginia Automobile Dealers Association)

10:45 - Noon  Transportation Network Companies, Direct Sales of Motor Vehicles, and Independent Auto Dealers / Speakers: Edward Mullen (Uber Representative); Albert Gore III (Tesla); Gonzalo Aida (Virginia Independent Automobile Dealers Association)

Thursday, July 15

9:15-10:30  Moving People in Virginia / Speakers: DJ Stadtler (Virginia Passenger Rail Authority); Rich Dalton (Virginia Railway Express);  Rod Hall (Chair, Virginia Department of Aviation)

10:30-10:45 Break

10:45 - Noon  Smart Growth and Transit Oriented Development / Speakers: Jennifer DeBruhl (DRPT Chief of Public Transportation); Jay Fisette (DMV Advisors and Virginia Passenger Rail Authority; former Arlington County Board); Laura Bateman (Virginia’s First Cities); Trip Pollard (Southern Environmental Law Center); Kathy Galvin (Galvin Architects; former Charlottesville City Council)

1:00 - 2:00  Virginia High Speed Rail Town Hall featuring Amtrak President Stephen Gardner and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine

Friday, July 16

9:15 - 10:30  Inter-Jurisdiction Issues / Speakers: Jason Stanford (Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance); Bill Sudow (Chair, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority); Walter Tejada (MWAA Member)

10:45 - Noon  Career Opportunities in Transportation Policy; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Measures in State Procurement / Speakers: Sandra Norman (VDOT Civil Rights Division Administrator); Grindly Johnson (Virginia Secretary of Administration)

Monday, July 19

9:15 - 10:30  Transportation Funding in Virginia: 2007 Legislation / Speakers: Dave Albo (Williams Mullen; former House of Delegates); Pierce Homer (Moffatt & Nichol Transportation Director and Senior Vice President; former Secretary of Transportation), Neal Menkes (former Senate Finance Committee)

10:45 - Noon  Transportation Funding in Virginia: 2013 Legislation / Speakers: Sean Connaughton (former Virginia Secretary of Transportation), Jasen Eige (former Governor McDonnell’s office), Jason Powell (Senate Finance Committee) 

Tuesday, July 20

915 - 10:30 Regional Focus: Northern Virginia Part 1 / Speakers: Chris Doherty (I-66 Express Mobility Partners); Phyllis Randall (NVTA Chair and Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chair); David Snyder (NVTA Member and Falls Church City Council Member); Monica Backmon (NVTA Executive Director); Marty Nohe (NVTA Historical Perspective and former Prince William Board of Supervisors)

10:45 - Noon Regional Focus: Northern Virginia Part 2 / Speakers: Canek Aguirre (NVTC); Matt LeTourneau (NVTC and Loudoun Board of Supervisors); Allan Fye (NVTC)

Wednesday, July 21

9:15 - 10:30  Regional Focus: Hampton Roads / Speakers: Marty Williams (CTB Member);Donnie Tuck (Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission and Mayor of the City of Hampton); Joe Dillard Jr. (Hampton Roads Transit)

10:45 - Noon  Regional Focus: Greater Richmond / Speakers: Jennifer McClellan (Central Virginia Transportation Authority and Senate of Virginia); Joi Taylor Dean (Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority); Danny Plaugher (Virginians for High Speed Rail); Brantley Tyndall (Director of Outreach for Bike Walk RVA at Sports Backers)

Thursday, July 22

9:15 - 10:30  Regional Focus: I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan / Speakers: Dale Bennett (Virginia Trucking Association); Delegate Terry Austin; I-81 Advisory Committee Members (Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Chris Hurst)

Friday, July 23

9:15 - 10:30  TBD

10:45 - Noon  U.S. Department of Transportation Priorities / Speakers: Lynda Tran (Senior Advisor and Director of Public Engagement) and Maurice Henderson (Senior Advisor)

12:15 - 1:00  Final Session: Discuss Completing Individual Projects and Closing Remarks


2020 Program:

Upon learning that many students were losing public sector summer internship opportunities due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sorensen Institute joined with our sister organizations in the UVA Institute of Democracy to create the 22nd Century Scholars program, a five-week internship via Zoom for approximately 60 student interns. The program is so named because these scholars will, through their work, make a lasting impact on public policy that extends into the 22nd century.

Nine student interns (eight from the University of Virginia and one from William & Mary) were part of the Sorensen program, in which they studied crises faced by the past six Governors of Virginia, heard from speakers who were involved in the state's response to those crises, prepared a memorandum of best practices and effective leadership for those facing crises in the future, and prepared a presentation to the program leaders based on their memoranda.

In addition to studying past crises, the students drew parallels to crises facing Virginia and the nation in the summer of 2020.

Students also participated in daily online seminars where they learned about Virginia history and engaged in leadership development exercises. They also had assignments to volunteer in their own communities, and were mentored by professionals with public service experience.

In the first weeks of the program, Sorensen's interns had the opportunity to hear from and pose questions to the Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (Mike Henry) and then Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Mark Warner (Mike Harney).

On the state level, they heard from Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Chiefs of Staff to Governors Gilmore (Boyd Marcus), Warner (Bill Leighty), Kaine (Bill Leighty and Wayne Turnage), McDonnell (Martin Kent), McAuliffe (Paul Reagan and Suzette Denslow), and Northam (Clark Mercer). Denslow now serves as the first woman Clerk of the House of Delegates in the 400-year history of the General Assembly. Turnage now serves as the Deputy Mayor of the District of Columbia for Health and Human Services.

We are proud of our Sorensen internship cohort: Roark Corson, Nidhi Desai, Thomas Driscoll, Martha Gallagher, McClain Moran, Alec Scicchitano, Christine Shan, JaVori Warren, and Maggie Wells.

The Sorensen Institute would like to thank the UVA Center for Politics for their organizational efforts with regard to the 22nd Century Scholars Program. We would also like to thank the Danville Regional Foundation and the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce for their support of our work with the interns.