Emerging Leaders Program

ELP class


The Sorensen Institute Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is a seven-day leadership development program that meets over the course of three months for young residents of Virginia who have worked in state government and are interested in becoming more active in public service and public policy, whether as community leaders or as elected or appointed officials in the executive or legislative branches. Participation in this program will help train public policy and political leaders in the Commonwealth. The class meets at Carter Hall for one weekend in each July and September and in Richmond for two days in August.


The Emerging Leaders Program curriculum is focused on three core subject areas:

Ethics in Public Service
The program will include a study of general ethical principles as they relate to public service. We also explore Virginia's conflict of interest laws and Freedom of Information Act. The practical application of bipartisan cooperation in politics, including the use of mediation techniques, is a central theme of the program.

Public Policy
Participants will engage in presentations and discussions of a variety of public policy issues facing state governments.

Policy Advocacy Skills
The program involves real-world exercises in creating and defending public policy initiatives. The class will work in small groups to craft a policy proposal for the General Assembly of Virginia.

Selection Process

The Sorensen Institute seeks men and women, 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. The selection process will follow this schedule:

April to May: Application process 

June: Interviews and class selection 

August, September: Three program sessions, outlined on this page under "Program Schedule"


The application process is open to Virginia residents with a background in state government who are between the ages of 22 and 32. A commitment to fully participate in the seven days of the program is required.

We are currently accepting applications for the ELP.   Visit our application page for more information.  Applications for the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program are due by midnight on Wednesday, May 22nd.


Tuition for the 2019 ELP is $1,250.  Acceptance to any Sorensen Institute program is need-blind.  Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but food and lodging costs are covered by tuition.  No individual is ever denied participation in a Sorensen program because of inability to pay the tuition cost.

Participants can apply for financial aid.  Requests for financial aid will be reviewed by members on the Sorensen Statewide Advisory Board after applicants have been accepted to the program.  In 2018, we met 100% of demonstrated financial need through a combination of grants, scholarships, and financial aid.  More information about 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.

Program Schedule

The Emerging Leaders Program meets three times in August, and September.  Classes meet the opening and closing weekends at Carter Hall in Millwood, Virginia and for one two-day session in Richmond.  Sessions generally run from 9:00 am on the starting day of the session to 5:00 pm on the closing day of the session.

The overall success of the program depends on the attendance of all students at all sessions. The absence of one person negatively affects the learning experience for everyone else. Therefore we have a strict attendance policy.  Attendance during the entirety of the first and last sessions is mandatory.  During the second session, one half-day absence may be requested.  The staff reserves the right to deny any absence requests to protect the integrity of the program. Absences require prior approval from staff.

The meeting dates for the 2019 Emerging Leaders Program are as follows:

August 2-3: First Session (Carter Hall)
August 23-24: Second Session (Richmond)
September 5, 6, 7: Third Session (Carter Hall)

If you have any questions about the Emerging Leaders Program, please contact Sarah Campbell at 434-243-2470 or sarah.campbell@virginia.edu.