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ELP Applications Now Open!

Apply today for the 2024 program
ELP group on steps


Sorensen designed this program for Virginians in the first decade of their career who have an interest in assuming greater responsibility in the community through leadership, policy, and governance. ELP attendees are able to

  • Bring together a diverse group of young professionals from across the Commonwealth who have an interest in strengthening the quality of governance at all levels and wish to expand their skill sets and knowledge base about leadership, policy, and governance;
  • Prepare participants to move into positions of greater responsibility within government, assume the role of a community leader, or seek elective or appointed office in the executive or legislative branches of government; and
  • Provide a balanced perspective by ensuring a mix of Republican and Democratic program participants. Applicants who have another party affiliation or no such affiliation are also encouraged to apply.

Program Details

Program Schedule

The Emerging Leaders Program is an eight-day leadership development program that occurs in three sessions over three months.

With few exceptions, Emerging Leaders Program sessions start late morning on the first day of the session. The final day of the session ends in the late afternoon. The curriculum includes presentations, peer workshops, and dinners with guest speakers. A major component is a public policy project.

Sample Schedule

The dates for the 2024 program are as follows:

  • August 22, 23, 24: First Session in Orange, VA
  • September 27, 28: Second Session in Richmond, VA
  • October 10, 11, 12: Third Session and Graduation in Orange, VA

Because of the interactive nature of the program and the way in which lessons build upon one another, the overall success of the program depends on the attendance of all students at all sessions. 

Therefore, attendance during the entirety of the three-day sessions in August and October are mandatory. During the two-day session in September, an absence of one half-day may be requested. Absences require prior approval of the Sorensen staff and will be approved only if the absence will not affect the integrity of the program.


Effective leadership — through building trust, communicating with respect, working together, and ethical behavior — is a central theme of the program. We explore many issues that are not inherently partisan and that instead reward bipartisan or nonpartisan cooperation in crafting approaches 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 Emerging Leaders Program curriculum is focused on several core subject areas:

Public Policy

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

Policy Advocacy Skills

The program involves real-world exercises in creating, advocating for, and defending public policy initiatives. The class will work in small groups to craft policy proposals similar to those considered by Virginia’s executive branch, General Assembly, and local governments.

Virginia’s Government Structure

From its single-term Governor to its part-time General Assembly to its system of counties and independent cities to the Dillon Rule, Virginia government has a structure that is unique. Program participants will learn about the powers and limitations that these attributes create.

Ethics in Public Service

The program will include a study of ethical principles as they relate to public service. We also explore Virginia's conflict of interest laws and Freedom of Information Act.

Effective Leadership

The cohort will learn how people in the first decade of their career (generally ages 22 to 35) can develop the management and leadership skills that facilitate professional growth and improve the chances for advancement to positions of greater responsibility.

Tuition & Aid

The program fee for the 2024 ELP is $2,600. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but food and lodging costs are covered by the program fee. 

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.

More information about how to apply for financial aid as well as our installment payment plan are available on our Financial Aid page.

The deadline to apply for financial aid for the 2024 Emerging Leaders Program is May 24, 2024.

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 Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. We suggest that you contact your own tax professional to see if you qualify for these credits. Neither the Sorensen 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.


How to Apply

ELP 2024 Salesforce Instructions
  • Access the 2024 ELP Application via Sorensen website or the “Cooper Center Portal Instructions” webpage: 
  • Create an account
    • We recommend creating an account well in advance of the application deadline to ensure timely completion. 
    • Submit the registration form (personal and contact information) to create an account 
      • Under “Which program are you interested in?” 
        • Select “Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership”
    • Check for an email from CCPS to create a password, then log into the portal 
  • Under the “Select a Service” dropdown tab, click “Sorensen Institute” 
  • The application process consist of three parts: 
    • 1. Application Form: Due Monday, May 20, 2024 at 11:59PM 
      • Under the “New Applications” dropdown tab, click “Emerging Leaders Program” 
    • 2. Personal Information: Due Monday, May 20, 2024 at 11:59PM 
      • Under the “Personal Information” dropdown tab, update your “Contact Information”, “Education”, “Employment”, and “Community Activities” 
      • You do not need to upload personal forms, e.g. insurance forms, at this time.
    • 3. Supplemental Materials (Resume and 1-2 Letters of Recommendation): Due Friday, May 24, 2024 at 11:59PM 
      • After you submit the application form, you will receive an email within 1-2 business days with instructions on how to upload supplemental materials.
      • Letters of recommendation may be submitted via email to 
Application Timeline
  • April/May: Applications accepted
  • June: Interviews and selection
  • June/July: Acceptance packets distributed; payment and return of forms in packet due
  • August/September/October: For the 2024 Emerging Leaders Program, the meeting dates are August 22-24, September 27-28, and October 10-12, 2024.
Application Deadlines

Applications Open:

April 15, 2024

Applications Close:

May 20, 2024

Financial aid completed by:

May 24, 2024

Supplemental materials submitted electronically by:

May 24, 2024

How Applicants Are Selected

The Sorensen Institute seeks applicants in the first ten years of their career working in local, state, or federal government or in the private or nonprofit sector positions that include interaction with government or public policy. (Typically, applicants range in age from 22 to 35.) Approximately 20-25 participants will be selected in a competitive selection process that includes an essay-based application and may also include interviews with Sorensen staff members and alumni. Interviews for the 2024 cohort will take place via Zoom during the month of June.

Ideally, the cohort will have a balance between Republicans and Democrats, as well as participants who have other party or no party affiliations.

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

Application Requirements
  • REQUIRED: Completing an online application that includes: short essay questions; and background/contact information
  • OPTIONAL: Submitting by email (do not mail) to JaVori Warren: one to two letters of recommendation (no more than 2 will be reviewed)
  • OPTIONAL: Submit financial aid application; more detailed instructions available on the financial aid application
Application Short Essay Questions

The online application includes a number of short-answer essay questions. Each question requires an answer of 250 to 500 words. The essays are a significant part of the selection process and very important to making admissions decisions. The essay questions on the online application are as follows:

  1. Describe your recent leadership activities? What do you consider to be your highest leadership achievement so far?
  2. What academic, community, governmental, political, professional, or other activity are you most proud of? What barriers have you encountered while pursuing this activity?
  3. What are your long-range political goals?
  4. What does state or local government in VA do well?
  5. What would you change about government in VA?
  6. What specific skills, knowledge, or resources do you hope to acquire from ELP?
Application Contact and Background Information

You should also be prepared with the following information to successfully complete the application:

  • How did you learn about the Sorensen Institute?
  • Current employment: employer, your title, your supervisor, work address and phone number
  • Education: high school, college, graduate school, and any relevant non-degree training programs
  • Past Employment: list past employers including your title, supervisor, and dates of employment
  • Activities: list organizations and activities that demonstrate your commitment to public service, community involvement, and/or volunteer work.
  • Contact information: your current mailing address, home phone, work phone, cell phone, and email address 
  • Two references

Join Us

Apply to the Emerging Leaders Program today.