U.Va.’s Sorensen Institute Graduates 18 ‘Emerging Leaders’


The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, part of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, graduated its second class of “emerging leaders” Saturday in Williamsburg. 

The institute’s Emerging Leaders Program is a one-month leadership development program for young residents of Virginia who work with or in 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.

Participants include state policymakers between the ages of 22 and 33, including many who work either in the governor’s administration, the General Assembly or local governments, or who work with governments from the private sector.

“Virginia’s success is all of our success, no matter what role in political leadership we fill,” wrote Christopher “Dale” Hendon, of Fredericksburg, in his biography for the program. “At the end of the day it’s about learning and growing to improve for a better Virginia.”

Colonial Williamsburg was the program’s major sponsor. Its curriculum is focused on three core areas:

  • Ethics in Public Service.
The program includes study of general ethical principles as they relate to public service. The practical application of bipartisan cooperation in public policy formation, including the use of mediation techniques, is a central theme.

  • Public Policy.
Participants 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. Policy topics included crafting new state policies to study how to best acquire e-books for schools and libraries, protect drivers and passengers through primary enforcement of seat belt laws and help eradicate child hunger across Virginia.

Over graduation weekend, three policy groups presented policy proposals and defended them in front of a panel including state legislators, including state Sen. Bryce Reeves, Del. Jenn McClellan, Quentin Kidd, Taylor Stoermer and Sorensen Institute Executive Director Bob Gibson.    

At Saturday’s graduation, the class heard remarks about leadership from Taylor Reveley III, president of the College of William & Mary. 

The graduates are:

  • Ross Airington, Richmond; health policy analyst, Virginia Ccommonwealth University Office of Health Innovation, VCU Health System; Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management; American Society for Public Administration; Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society; Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats; American Civil Liberties Union; Second Chance Mentor, Offender Aid and Restoration of Richmond; B.A., political science, James Madison University; M.P.A., Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Jameson Babb, Richmond; Legislative aide, Del. Peter F. Farrell; chairman, Greater Richmond Young Republicans, former deputy finance director, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor; B.A. in government and history, College of William & Mary.
  • Allison Baeuchler, Williamsburg; legislative aide/campaign aide, Del. Mike Watson; volunteer, Williamsburg/Peninsula Delta Gamma Alumnae Chapter; former research assistant, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars; B.A., international relations and history, College of William & Mary. 
  • Gerald Bennett, Fredericksburg; residential counselor, Youth for Tomorrow; Fredericksburg Democrats; Young Democrats of America; graduate education student, University of Mary Washington; B.A. in liberal arts (business management minor), University of Richmond.
  • Evan Chapman, Ashburn; legislative assistant, U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott; master's of public policy student, George Mason University; B.A., political communication, Emerson College.
  • Ashley Chiera, Poquoson; legislative assistant, Del. Gordon C. Helsel Jr.; campaign manager, Helsel for Delegate; former intern, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman; master of public administration student, Virginia Commonwealth University; B.A., political science, Christopher Newport University.
  • Jonathan Hedrick, Christiansburg; managing member/human resources generalist, Ideaolutions, LLC; member, Montgomery County Republican Party; commissioner, Christiansburg Planning Commission, B.S./B.A., Christopher Newport University; M.A., public administration and urban and regional planning, Virginia Tech; graduate certificates in local government management, economic development, community collaborative leadership, Virginia Tech.
  • Dale Hendon, Fredericksburg; legislative assistant, Del. Mark Dudenhefer; former field representative, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher; member, Young Republican Federation of Virginia; graduate, University of Tennessee at Martin; former student body vice president, UT-Martin; Eagle Scout.
  • Colin Hood, Arlington; senior associate and management consultant, PwC; board member and networking chair, UVaClub of Washington, D.C.; member, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy; member, Arlington Country Republicans; member, Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans; member, D.C. Young Republicans; graduate and former Student Council president, University of Virginia.
  • Jonathan F. Judkins, Surry County, deputy commissioner of the revenue, Surry County/Commonwealth of Virginia; VALECO; Commissioner of the Revenue Association of Virginia Career Development Certification Program, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia; former interpreter, Chippokes Plantation State Park; B.A., political science/government and public affairs, Christopher Newport University; secretary, CNU Class of 2006.
  • Lathaniel Kirts, Chesapeake; Liberty University; Regent University; Morehouse College; deputy clerk, Norfolk Circuit Court; government relations intern; American Cancer Society; intern, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott; vice president, Morehouse Class of 2010; program coordinator, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus; graduate, Sorensen Institute College Leader Program; Norfolk Detention Home Prison Ministry; co-director, Virginia Leadership Network.
  • Eve Nealon, Winchester; communications director, Virtual Training Company Inc.; intern, Alicia Patterson Foundation; social media and technical consultant; communications director, Sam Kubba for Congress; secretary, Virginia Young Democrats; secretary, Frederick County Democrats; co-founder, Democratic Business Council of the Shenandoah Valley; B.A., international relations, Washington College.
  • Abbey Philips, Richmond; legislative assistant, Del. Jennifer L. McClellan, juvenile court advocate, Henrico County Domestic and Juvenile Court; advocate, Regional Hospital Response Team, YWCA; M.S.W., administration, planning and policy (magna cum laude), Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Rory Rowan, Richmond; multimodal transportation engineer and planner, Virginia Department of Transportation; member, Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Transportation Research Board of the National Academies; Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association; national task force member, Institute of Transportation Engineers; former fellow, Public Transit Office of the Florida Department of Transportation; M.S., urban and regional planning, Florida State University; B.S., civil engineering, University of Central Florida.
  • Jay Sinha, Alexandria; attorney, Data Privacy and Security Practice Group, LeClairRyan; Governor’s Fellow, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine; summer law clerk, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; legal extern, Del. Tim D. Hugo; member, McLean Citizens Association; graduate, University of Mary Washington; J.D., College of William & Mary Law School.
  • Alexandra Stephens, Norfolk; legislative aide, Sen. John C. Miller; intern, U.S Sen. Timothy Kaine; member, Virginia Young Democrats; undergraduate student, Old Dominion University; former vice president and director of outreach and political engagement, Old Dominion Young Democrats. 
  • Jesica Turner, Virginia Beach; executive assistant and government relations coordinator, Fort Monroe Authority; assistant secretary, Fort Monroe Foundation; graduate, Sorensen Institute College Leaders Program; B.A., political science and leadership studies, Christopher Newport University; member, Christopher Newport University Alumni Society, Peninsula Chapter.
  • Fatima Yousofi, Richmond; policy, planning and compliance analyst, Virginia Retirement System; program assistant, Preparing Future Faculty Program and Graduate School Mentorship Program, Virginia Commonwealth University; member, Psi Chi International Honor Society; M.P.A., public administration, Virginia Commonwealth University; B.S., psychology and criminal justice, Virginia Commonwealth University.