Grant Recipient

University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute - Training Virginia's Future Leaders

Students in the College Leaders Program stand on the University of Virginia's campus.

About the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership

It's no surprise that the university conceived by a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, who was also a former Virginia governor, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress and an American founding father, aims to keep nurturing public servants in Virginia. The University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership was founded in 1993 with a mission to strengthen the quality of all levels of government throughout Virginia.

The Sorensen Institute offers five programs designed for everyone from high school and college students to first-time political candidates and influential business and community leaders. The non-partisan institute does not take sides, endorse candidates or express opinions on issues or legislation. It strives to improve political leadership by bringing together diverse individuals with a passion for politics and public service.

To inspire and groom students for careers in public service, the institute offers two youth programs, one for college students and another for high school students. Both youth programs are residential and held during the summer at the University of Virginia. They feature Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum with three main goals:

  • To prepare future leaders for ethical and responsible citizenship and public service in the Commonwealth.
  • To connect Virginia's young leaders from different backgrounds and philosophies with each other and with current leaders in the government, business and non-profit sectors.
  • To energize the democratic system of government by promoting civic engagement among young leaders.

495 Express Lanes Community Grant Support

Although housed at the University of Virginia, the Sorensen Institute is funded entirely on contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The economic downturn made it increasingly difficult for many families and young students to afford the two-week College Leaders Program.

A 495 Express Lanes grant allowed the Sorensen Institute to help students from the Beltway-corridor defray the cost to attend the College Leaders Program.

"Without the support of the 495 Express Lanes grant, some of the students we assisted with scholarship funds would have not been able to attend the program,” said Colleen Smith, deputy director at the Sorensen Institute.  “Our classroom experience and diversity of participants would have suffered without the perspective of the students supported by the grant,” she said.

Students in the College Leaders Program enjoy learning from and networking with state and local leaders. The students also work in small groups to write, defend and lobby for legislation as part of the program.

The Commonwealth and its citizens also benefit from the students' participation – bills supporting grants for beekeepers, course credit for American Sign Language classes and updates to family life curriculum were crafted by Sorensen Institute students. The bills have since been approved by Virginia's General Assembly.

"We work regularly with our colleagues in the Virginia legislature and local government. Without the efforts and support of our elected officials, public-private partnerships like the 495 Express Lanes would never have been possible,” said Kevin Ginnerty, director of project delivery at Transurban. “Supporting the Sorensen Institute and their work to train the next generation of Virginia leadership was a great fit for our grant program."

More Information

To learn more about the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and the programs available to soon-to-be or current public servants and community members of all ages, please visit www.sorenseninstitute.org. The Institute encourages individuals, corporations and foundations to help improve governance in Virginia and consider donating funds to help the Institute with its mission.