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Sean T. O'Brien Named New Director Of Sorensen Institute

May 2, 2005 -- Sean T. O'Brien will become executive director of the Thomas C. Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, a University of Virginia program that trains Virginians to become skilled in politics and public policy.

O’Brien, who for the past three years has served as deputy director of the institute, will succeed William H. Wood. Wood, founding executive director of the 12-year-old organization, announced his retirement from the institute earlier this year.

During his tenure, the Sorensen Institute graduated some 700 citizens from its five programs. Nine are currently serving in Virginia’s General Assembly, while nearly 80 have been elected to local offices throughout the Commonwealth. Scores of others have become active in the political process.

“The board was intent on selecting a candidate who had a career which personified the values of the institute, exhibited a passion for the mission, and demonstrated the capacity to lead it to the next level of impact while maintaining the current superb program and reputation,” said John P. Thomas, director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and the University's representative on the Sorensen Institute board. “The search committee was unanimous and enthusiastic in its support of Sean O’Brien."

O’Brien was influential in the institute’s recent expansion, he added, including the addition of two student leadership programs.

"It has been an honor to work with Bill Wood for the past three years. Together we have raised the visibility and reach of the organization," O'Brien said. "I am excited to build on the success of the Sorensen Institute to further develop thoughtful leaders in Virginia and serve as a model for the nation."

Wood, who will continue working at the Cooper Center, called O’Brien “the ideal choice to achieve the Sorensen Institute’s mission. During his time at the institute, Sean has demonstrated a broad range of skills. I am confident that I’m leaving Sorensen in good hands.”

O'Brien, who takes over July1, grew up in Virginia, and attended the University of Virginia where he completed his B.A. and Ph.D. After graduate school, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University. After returning to Virginia seven years ago, he worked with nonprofit organizations around the country and world on technology and communications strategic planning.

The Sorensen Institute's programs are designed to help Virginians understand governance and government, ethics and campaign conduct, and the complexity of public policy issues. In addition to the flagship 10-month Political Leaders Program, the Sorensen Institute provides development opportunities through a Candidate Training Program, two student programs for college and high school students, and a regional program for Southside Virginia.

The institute is privately funded though gifts from citizens, corporations and foundations that support its mission to improve the quality of governance in Virginia.

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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