Miller Center

Miller Center National Fellowship

Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, the National Fellowship Program, a longstanding initiative of the Miller Center, will fall under the leadership of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at U.Va.. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, created in 1980, currently offers the premier graduate fellowship and undergraduate scholarship at the University. To learn more about the National Fellows Program, including how to apply, click here.

Meet The Fellows

Damion Thomas - History, University of California, Los Angeles

Project: "The Good Negroes": African-American Athletes and the Cultural Cold War, 1945–68

Thomas photo

Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Jeffrey Sammons, University of North Carolina

Damion Thomas is Assistant Professor of Physical Cultural Studies and affiliate faculty in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland.

Thomas's research interests include:  Sport and United States race relations, Black internationalism, African American popular culture, U.S. foreign relations, and Black masculinity. His book, Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics, provides a transnational perspective to the study of domestic American racial affairs by examining U.S. government attempts to manipulate international perceptions of U.S. race relations during the early days of the Cold War.  As nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin American gained their independence, the State Department began to send prosperous African Americans overseas to showcase African Americans as the preeminent citizens of the African Diaspora, rather than as victims of racial oppression. Athletes were prominently featured in the State Department goodwill tours, designed to undermine anti-Americanism. However, as African-American athletes began to provide counter narratives to State Department claims about American exceptionalism—most notably during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic protest—the transatlantic relationships these tours fostered were co-opted as a means to foster African Diasporic cultural and political agendas.

Thomas's dissertation, "'The Good Negroes': African-American Athletes and the Cultural Cold War, 1945–1968," examined State Department attempts to manipulate international perceptions of United States race relations by sending African-American athletes abroad as cultural ambassadors. This project argued that the politics of symbolism associated with the African-American athletes and integrated teams were designed to give legitimacy to existing racial inequalities in American society during the Cold War/Civil Rights Era. The symbol of the integrated athlete allowed the government to argue that the racial order was not an impediment to the advancement of individual African Americans.

Selected Recent Publications

Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics (University of Illinois Press, 2012).


Dominique Tobbell - History of Sociology and Science, University of Pennsylvania

Project: Pharmaceutical Networks: The Political Economy of Drug Development in the United States, 1945–1980

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Dominique Tobbell is Assistant Professor in the Program in the History of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Tobbell is a historian of twentieth century medicine and biomedical science and technology with a particular interest in the history of pharmaceuticals, health policy, and academic medicine.

Tobbell's dissertation examined the drug industry's efforts to build political support for itself in the second half of the 20th century and defeat the more radical agendas of pharmaceutical reformers. Critical to this effort was the industry's strategy of offering to the medical and academic communities solutions to their shared problems. These problems included a growing manpower problem in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences and the increasing authority of the FDA – and the government more generally – over medical practice. In this way, the current political economy of drug development, and in particular the political culture that sustains it, can be seen as having evolved through the mutually beneficial relations of industry and key sectors of the biomedical community.

Selected Recent Publications

"'Coming to Grips with the Nursing Question': The Politics of Nursing Education Reform in 1960s' America.Nursing History Review 22 (2014): 37-60. 

"Plow, Town, and Gown: The Politics of Family Practice in 1960s' America.Bulletin of the History of Medicine 87, no. 4 (2013).

Pills, Power, and Policy: The Struggle for Drug Reform in Cold War America and its Consequences (University of California Press, 2012).

"Pharmaceutical Politics and Regulatory Reform in Postwar America." in Kim Phillips-Fein and Julian E. Zelizer, eds. What's Good for Business: Business and American Politics since World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).


Katherine Unterman - History, Yale University

Project: Nowhere to Hide: International Rendition and American Power

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Fellowship year: 2011

Mentor: Elizabeth Cobbs, Stanford UniversityTexas A&M University

Katherine Unterman is Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University.

Katherine Unterman received her Ph.D. in History from Yale University in 2011. She also holds a Masters in Legal Studies from Stanford Law School and a B.A. from Harvard University. Dr. Unterman began teaching at Texas A&M University in Fall 2011. She specializes in 19th century U.S. history, American foreign relations, and legal history. Her book manuscript, Nowhere to Hide: International Fugitives and American Power, examines the history of international manhunts and the pursuit of fugitive criminals.

Covering the 1850s through the 1930s, Unterman's dissertation chronicled the international rendition of fugitives as both a set of practices that reached American power across borders, and the cultural ideas that justified it. With extensive research on extradition, international law, and criminology, she traces the evolving mechanics of international manhunts—the treaties, technologies, and procedures that enabled American law to reach beyond its borders. Equally important, she also analyzes jurisdiction as discourse: a set of ideas and representations of a shrinking world, where someone who broke American law had nowhere to hide. She argues that law needs to be considered alongside military and economic power as a tool of U.S. informal imperialism at the turn of the twentieth century. Bridging domestic and international history, she explains how Americans downplayed the question of other nations' sovereignty by treating international policing as a matter of maintaining law and order at home. These late-nineteenth-century precedents were eventually institutionalized by government agencies like the FBI and DEA, and have even been used to justify the practice of extraordinary rendition today.

Selected Recent Publications

Uncle Sam’s Policemen: The Pursuit of Fugitives Across Borders. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015)

Boodle over the Border: Embezzlement and the Crisis of International Mobility, 1880-1890.Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 11, no. 2 (April 2012).


Vanessa Walker - History, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Project: Ambivalent Allies: Advocates, Diplomats, and the Struggle for an 'American' Human Rights Policy

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Vanessa Walker is the Joseph W. And Diane Zerbib Assistant Professor of History at Amherst College.

Walker's primary areas of interest are the history of U.S. foreign relations and the history and politics of human rights. With both of these topics, she likes to focus on the interchange between international and domestic spheres and actors. She approaches foreign relations in broad terms to engage ideology, race, gender, culture, and (of course) policy, as important forces in shaping the United States’ global interactions through out its history.  Moreover, she likes to explore how foreign entities—both governmental and non-governmental—have shaped the country domestically, influencing American ideals, identities, society, and government institutions. Her current book project, for example, brings together high-level diplomatic and political history with that of activist networks and social movements to argue for the centrality of Latin America in the development of U.S. human rights policies and debates in the Ford and Carter presidencies. At its core, the project is a study of how foreign policy is made in a democracy, situating diplomacy in a larger social and political domestic context, and it traces the deep and inextricable connections between international structures and policies, and domestic dissent and reform in the 1970s. Although her primary focus is on the United States, Walker has also done research in Latin America and the Middle East, and enjoys offering comparative and transnational courses rooted in broader global contexts, such as seminars on Cuba and the United States and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Walker's dissertation examined the interactions between advocacy groups and foreign diplomats in the 1970s and early 1980s, revealing the way human rights policy was conceptualized, implemented, and evaluated. Highlighting the role that Chilean and Argentine advocates played in catalyzing the emerging human rights movement in Washington, D.C., her dissertation sought to place this advocacy-diplomacy relationship in its proper international context. More broadly, Walker considered how the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations approached human rights as a component of the U.S. relations with Latin America. Her dissertation placed particular emphasis on the Carter administration's relations with Chile and Argentina, and reevaluated its successes and failures in the context of a larger human rights moment, and its objectives to redirect U.S. foreign policy away from Cold War containment and intervention.

Selected Recent Publications

At the End of Influence: Rethinking Human Rights and Intervention in U.S.-Latin American Relations.Journal of Contemporary History, 46, No. 1 (January 2011): 109-135.

Critically Relevant and Genuinely Critical.” In "Fifty Years of William Appleman Williams’ Tragedy of American Diplomacy: An Anniversary, a Discussion, and a Celebration,” Passport, 40, No. 2 (September 2009): 35-6.


Kevin Wallsten - Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Project: Political Blogs and the Bloggers Who Blog Them: An Analysis of the Who's, What's and Why's of Political Blogging

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Kevin Wallsten is Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State University in Long Beach.

Despite the recent explosion in blogging, there have been relatively few empirical studies of the political blogging phenomenon. Wallsten's research project situated the role of political blogs in the American political system by addressing four sets of interrelated questions. First, who blogs and why? Second, do political bloggers use their blogs primarily as "soapboxes" (meaning they are expressions of personal opinions), "transmission belts" (meaning they simply provide links to websites or quote sources with little or no commentary from the blogger), "mobilizers" (meaning they are calls to action) or "listening posts" (meaning they elicit feedback from their audience)? Third, to the extent that these actors use their blogs as soapboxes for expressing their opinions, what is the content of this political expression? Finally, what impact are political blogs having on public discourse, mainstream media coverage and the policy making process? Taken together, the answers to these questions shed light on what the emergence of political blogs means for the quality and functioning of democracy in the United States.

Selected Recent Publications

"Racial prejudice is driving opposition to paying college athletes. Here’s the evidence." with Tatishe M. Nteta and Lauren A. McCarthy, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (December 30, 2015)

"Why American Catholics may not be persuaded by Pope Francis’s message on immigration." with Tatishe Nteta, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (September 27, 2015) 

"It’s time to end anonymous comments sections." with Melinda Tarsi, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (August 19, 2014).

Old Media, New Media Sources: The Blogosphere’s Influence on Print Media News Coverage.” International Journal of E-Politics 4, no. 2 (July 2013). 


Derek Webb - Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Project: Paving the Rights Infrastructure: Civic Education in the Presidencies of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt

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Fellowship year: 2007

Mentor: William Galston, The Brookings Institution

Derek Webb is Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University

Webb joined the Constitutional Law Center as a fellow in 2012.  He works in the fields of constitutional law, statutory interpretation, American political theory, and legal history.  His publications include articles in Law and History Review, the American Journal of Legal History, and the South Carolina Law Review, as well as a co-authored book about Anti-Federalists in New York.  Derek is the winner of the Warren E. Burger Prize from the American Inns of Court and the William B. Spong Moot Court Tournament at William and Mary Law School.  After receiving his B.A. in philosophy from Yale University, he earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Notre Dame and a J.D. from Georgetown University.  He has held research and teaching fellowships at the University of Virginia and Princeton University and summer clerkships in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  In 2014 and 2015, Derek was a Supreme Court Fellowship in the Office of the Counselor to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Through a comparative study of civic education in the presidencies of Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, Webb extended and challenged the role of "liberal virtues" in American politics. In his dissertation, Webb extended the thesis that liberalism requires a range of civic virtues. Webb showed how different kinds of rights have required fundamentally different kinds of citizen virtue for their support. Challenging the thesis that liberalism embodies a comprehensive and self-sustaining conception of the good life, Webb showed how liberal ends have occasionally been achieved through reliance upon the moral ideals of complementary yet distinct non-liberal traditions.

Selected Recent Publications

Fitting Together Uneven Planks: The Constitution and the Spirit of Compromise, Constitution Daily, February 25, 2013.

Doubting a Little of One's Infallibility: The Real Miracle at Philadelphia, Constitution Daily, January 18, 2013.

The "Spirit of Amity": The Constitution's Cover Letter and Civic Friendship, Constitution Daily, December 13, 2012.


Justin Wert - Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Project: The Not-So-Great Writ: Habeas Corpus & American Political Development

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Fellowship year: 2005

Mentor: Gary Gerstle, Vanderbilt University

Justin Wert is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma

His research interests include Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence, American Political Development and American Political Thought. 

In Wert's dissertation, he analyzed the institutional development of Habeas Corpus law in four time periods: ante-bellum slave law; Reconstruction; the 20th century debates over the applicability ("Incorporation") of the Bill of Rights to the states; and habeas corpus during war, particularly the current prosecution of the "War on Terror." The writ of habeas corpus – "The most important human right in the Constitution" according to Zecharia Chafee – must be re-examined in the 21st century according to its etymological roots. Wert argued that habeas corpus has always been inextricably linked to shifting notions of American citizenship, moving from state to national, and then again to state conceptions of citizenship, with the respect to meaningful access to the "Great Writ." The origins of this divide can be found in the enduring, yet shifting, conceptions of state versus national citizenship in the American state.

Selected Recent Publications

Habeas Corpus in America: The Politics of Individual Rights (University Press of Kansas, 2011).

The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act. with Charles S. Bullock, III & Keith Gaddie (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016)

"Benedick v. Beatrice: Citizens United and the Reign of the Laggard Court." with Charles S. Bullock and Ronald Keith Gaddie, Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy (Spring 2011).

With a Little Help from a Friend: Habeas Corpus and Magna Carta After Runnymede.” PS: Political Science and Politics (2010)


James G. Wilson - History, University of Virginia

Project: Bolts from the Blue: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the End of the Cold War

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James Graham Wilson is a Historian at the U.S. Department of State.

He received his B.A. from Vassar College in 2003, and subsequently worked as a research assistant to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. He has presented portions of his dissertation in Rome, Geneva, Cologne, and Amsterdam, and has received the U.Va Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Humanities & Social Sciences as well as the U.Va Graduate Teaching Assistant Award. Recent articles have appeared in Diplomacy and Statecraft, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of American Studies.

James's first book, The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War was published by Cornell University Press in 2013.  It was based upon his dissertation, which drew upon fresh archival evidence that illuminates decision-making in Washington and Moscow during the last ten years of the Cold War. It contends that policymakers neither formulated a strategy for victory nor even articulated what victory meant—at least until the Berlin Wall crumbled in November 1989; that the revolutions of 1989-1990 were made possible by broad historical forces such as changes in the international economy and the nascent information age; and that the twilight struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union ended peacefully because of Gorbachev's devotion to new thinking, new faces, and the Soviet leader's (ill-founded) belief that he could reconfigure communism to adapt to a new era.

Selected Recent Publications

"Key Figures at the End of the Cold War." C-Span Discussion, April 28, 2014.

The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2013)


McGee Young - Political Science, Syracuse University

Project: Therapy and Poverty: Private Social Service in the Area of Public Welfare

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McGee Young is Head of Product at Open Energy Efficiency.

Previously, Young taught in American politics with a specialty in political organizations and public policy at Marquette University. He is also the Founder and CEO of MeterHero, a software platform for tracking water and energy data. He was a winner of the Midwest Social Innovation Prize, a finalist in the Clean Energy Challenge, and his company was selected for the inaugural class of the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator. Prior to MeterHero, Young founded H2Oscore, a web-based portal for water utilities to help promote conservation. He previously served as the Faculty Entrepreneur Fellow in the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In 2014, he was named as one of Milwaukee's "40 under 40" by the Milwaukee Business Journal. 

Young's dissertation examined the development of the small business and environmental lobbies through the prism of 20th century American political development. He analyzed the relationship between the strategies and tactics of interest groups and the structure of political opportunities. Young additionally argued that political constraints placed on groups by preceding institutional and political configurations, together with the relationship between groups and political parties as well as groups' own internal organizational struggles, shape the capacity for groups to influence the political process.

Selected Recent Publications

"From Conservation to Environment: The Sierra Club and the Organizational Politics of Change.Studies in American Political Development 22, no. 2 (2008): 183-203.

"The Political Roots of Small Business Identity.Polity 40, no. 2 (2008): 436-463.


Emily Zackin - Politics, Princeton University

Project: Positive Rights in the Constitutions of the United States

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Fellowship year: 2009

Mentor: Tom Burke, Wellesley College

Emily Zackin is Assistant Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University.

Zackin's research interests include constitutional law and civil liberties, American political and constitutional development, social movements, constitutional theory, and American political thought.  Her book Looking for Rights in All the Wrong Places: Why State Constitutions Contain America’s Positive Rights was published by Princeton University Press in 2013.

As a Miller Center fellow in 2008-09, Zackin's dissertation examined the long tradition of positive rights in American politics, focusing specifically on movements directed at amending state constitutions. She examined three movements from different historical periods (education rights, labor rights, and victims' rights), each of which resulted in widespread constitutional activism at the state level. Zackin argued that even if we accept the conventional distinction between positive and negative rights, the American constitutional tradition still includes positive rights. Her research demonstrated that, although state constitutions are more detailed and less enduring than the U.S. constitution, they are recognizably constitutional and trump both legislatures and courts, thereby allowing activists to mobilize around them to change government policy.

Selected Recent Publications

Looking for Rights in All the Wrong Places: Why State Constitutions Contain America's Positive Rights (Princeton University Press, 2013).

American Constitutional Exceptionalism Revisited” with Mila Versteeg, University of Chicago Law Review 81, no. 4 (Fall 2014): 1641-1707.

"Kentucky’s Constitutional Crisis and the Many Meanings of Judicial Independence.Studies in Law, Politics & Society 58 (2012): 73-99.

"What’s Happened to American Federalism?" (Review Essay) Polity 43, no. 3 (July 2011): 388–403.


Anne Mariel Zimmerman - Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia

Project: Special Relationships, Dollars, and Development: U.S. Foreign Aid and State-Building Egypt, Jordan, South Korea, and Taiwan

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Anne Peters is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University.

In Peters's dissertation, she aimed to explain the relationship among U.S. aid, regime stability, and economic outcomes. She argued that weak institutional legacies and disparate regime coalitions have compelled Jordanian and Egyptian elites to undertake a strategy of redistribution of aid, distorting state institutions and driving up the real exchange rate, while unified coalitions and strong institutional legacies allowed Taiwanese and Korean elites to marshal aid funds toward the creation of developmental institutions. Peters provided a much-needed description of the coalitional politics of foreign aid in Egypt and Jordan, and emphasized the importance of political feasibility when formulating U.S. aid strategies.

Selected Recent Publications

Why Obama Shouldn’t Increase Democracy Aid to Egypt.” Foreign Policy, 14 February 2011.
Protests in Egypt: the real reason for Obama’s Two-Handed Game.” The Christian Science Monitor, 31 January 2011.


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