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

Saladin Ambar - Political Science, Rutgers University

Project: The Rise of the Hudson Progressives: How Governors Helped Shape the Modern Presidency

Ambar photo

Fellowship year: 2008

Mentor: Sidney Milkis, University of Virginia

Saladin Ambar is Associate Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University.

He teaches courses in American politics on the American presidency and governorship, race and American political development, and political parties and elections. Professor Ambar is the author of How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) which won the Robert C. and Virginia L. Williamson Prize in the Social Sciences, and the newly released Malcolm X at Oxford Union: Racial Politics in a Global Era (Oxford University Press, 2014).  He is currently working on a book about the political career and thought of former New York Governor, Mario M. Cuomo. Since his arrival in 2009, Professor Ambar has been active in Lehigh's Africana Studies program where he has taught courses in Black Political Thought, along with a First Year Seminar on the Political Philosophy of Barack Obama.

Ambar's dissertation explored how pre-presidential executive office and leading Progressive Era state executives built a line of practices that reinvigorated and expanded the scope of presidential action. The central case studies of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt's governorships are examined against a backdrop of shifting executive practices, exemplified by such instrumental governors as Grover Cleveland, Bob LaFollette, and Hiram Johnson. This study challenged the presumption of the modern presidency's origins. It posited that the modern American presidency cannot be fully apprehended without recognition of its ties to developments launched by state executives.

Selected Recent Publications

Malcolm X at Oxford Union (Oxford University Press, 2014)

How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012)

Malcolm X at the Oxford Union.” Race and Class (London, UK: April, 2012): 24-38.

Jefferson Decker - History, Columbia University

Project: The Conservative Legal Movement and American Government, 1971–1987

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Fellowship year: 2008

Mentor: Daniel Ernst, Georgetown University Law Center

Jefferson Decker is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University.

Decker writes about politics and government in twentieth-century America.  He is the author of The Other Rights Revolution: Conservative Lawyers and the Remaking of American Government (Oxford University Press, 2016) in which he illustrates how a series of legal battles over property rights and the regulatory state shaped the public ideas and policy agenda of modern U.S. conservatism.

His dissertation described the political mobilization of conservative lawyers and their attempt to reform and reshape American government. In the 1970s, conservative lawyers, political activists, and donors created a network of non-profit legal foundations in order to challenge liberalism in the courts. These groups took on a variety of cases, from challenging local land use regulations and offering a "pro-business" perspective on environmental disputes to challenging "sweetheart deals" between government agencies and liberal trial lawyers. In doing so, they sought to reassert principles of federalism and limited government, while restricting (or rolling back) the regulatory state. After Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, veterans of these firms took jobs in the new administration, where they had an opportunity to rework some of the policies they had litigated from inside the government. In describing this journey from outsiders to policymakers, this dissertation described the evolution of public policy and conservative ideas about the law during the Reagan era.

Selected Recent Publications

The Other Rights Revolution: Conservative Lawyers and the Remaking of American Government. (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Legal Conservatism.” in Oxford University Encyclopedia of American Political, Policy, and Legal History (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Nicole Kazee - Political Science, Yale University

Project: Wal-Mart Welfare?: The Role of Low-Wage Employers in American Antipoverty Policy

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Nicole Kazee is Director of Health Policy and Programs for the Office of the Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Kazee monitors federal, state, and local health policy changes that impact the university’s clinical operations; analyzes and communicates to internal and external audiences their potential impacts; and provides strategic guidance for university leadership on how policy affects operations, revenue streams, and other aspects of health system practice. She also provides programmatic leadership for initiatives related to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, including building care coordination models, developing a community health assessment, and applying for federal and state grants and contracts. 

Kazee's dissertation explored how antipoverty programs have increasingly helped low-income workers and their families. This change expanded the relevant interest group community to include employers and their organizations, which have a new stake in the type and generosity of government policies that are used to support the poor. Second, policymaking authority has devolved to the states, which increasingly make decisions about which policies to enact and who will be eligible for them – and vary widely in these choices. This project asked why some states offer greater work support than others, and why particular policies are chosen over the alternatives. Most importantly, the project emphasized the role of employers in policy choices, determining the conditions under which the business community will shape antipoverty policies and the nature of its influence.

To answer these questions, her dissertation created an original scale of Work Support in all 50 states, looking primarily at three very different policy areas: Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, state minimum wages, and state earned income tax credits. A quantitative analysis considered a wide range of variables that could potentially explain these state policy outcomes, and identified broad patterns across states. Finally, three states are studied in depth through media analyses, the examination of government documents, and, most importantly, numerous personal interviews. These case studies captured the more subtle, contextual elements of policymaking that ultimately shape state outcomes.

Selected Recent Publications

"Tax Can Help Workers, Employers." The State, May 7, 2008.

Christopher J. Lebron - Political Science, Massachusetts institute of Technology

Project: Power, Race, History and Justice in America

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Fellowship year: 2008

Mentor: Kwame Appiah, New York University

Christopher J. Lebron is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at Yale University

Lebron's general interests are in issues of social justice, and political theory methodology. 

His dissertation put forth a conception of justice termed democratic partnership developed for the purpose of addressing extant racial injustices in American society. He began from the premise that significant patterns of injustice in any society can only be understood, hence properly addressed, when we consider the development of the injustice over the course of a specified historical period. Further, any resulting injustice importantly centered on those aspects of social existence which undermine one's ability to partake and benefit from that society's resources and political life – he offered that this is the ability to have a sufficient amount of self-respect. Historically grounded injustices are best addressed, so he argued, by a normative theory informed by a robust conception of power, which he termed historically evolved socially embedded power. To give context to the claims of justice and this conception of power, he sought to provide a relevant political historical narrative focusing on the relations of power between major social, political, and economic institutions and persons of color and which considers the broader impact on society over time. Democratic partnerships are only fulfilled when the appropriate institutions take on the stipulated responsibilities while persons of color utilize the social bases of self-respect in order to be substantive equal members of democratic society.

Selected Recent Publications

The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time (Oxford University Press, July 2013).

What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?New York Times Opinionator-The Stone, January 18, 2015.

Michael Morgan - History, New York University

Project: The Origins of the Helsinki Final Act, 1954–1975

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Fellowship year: 2008

Mentor: Tony Judt, New York University

Michael Morgan is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Morgan’s research focuses on the international history of the twentieth century, especially the Cold War. His current project examines the origins of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, a 35-country agreement that was a turning point in East-West relations and a landmark in the history of human rights.  He teaches courses on the history of international relations since the seventeenth century and the history of human rights.

Morgan's dissertation argued that the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975 was a turning point in the history of the Cold War. The brief ceremony in the Finnish capital was the culmination of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), one of the largest and most ambitious diplomatic undertakings in European history. Over the course of nearly three years, 35 countries jointly hammered out an agreement that covered almost every aspect of international affairs, including sovereignty and borders, economic and commercial relations, and human rights. By injecting human rights into geopolitics for the first time, by calling the centuries-old principle of absolute sovereignty into question, and by raising the possibility of reunifying a divided Europe, the Final Act had profound consequences for the future of the Cold War. It crystallized the difference between the political systems of Eastern and Western Europe, secured communist recognition of basic human rights standards, and, most importantly, bolstered dissident movements across Eastern Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, the Final Act's contribution to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has been widely acknowledged, and Morgan's dissertation, based on newly-declassified material from North American and European archives, was the first comprehensive account of how and why it came into being.

Selected Recent Publications

The Ambiguities of Humanitarian Intervention.” in Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri, eds., The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft (Brookings Institution Press, 2015)

The Seventies and the Rebirth of Human Rights.” in Niall Ferguson, Charles Maier, Erez Manela, and Daniel Sargent, eds., The Shock of the Global: The International History of the 1970s (Harvard University Press, 2010).
The United States and the Making of the Helsinki Final Act.” in Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston, eds., Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations 1969–1977  (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Robert Rakove - History, University of Virginia

Project: Befriending the Nonaligned: Kennedy, Johnson and the Neutral Powers

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Robert Rakove is a Lecturer in History at Stanford University.

Rakove studies the history of U.S. foreign relations.  His book, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World examines a critical period in the history of the relationship between the United States and the postcolonial world.  He is broadly interested in the interaction between the Cold War and decolonization.  

Rakove's dissertation examined the goals and strategies behind the policy of nonalignment, as well as its impact on world events in the 1960s. More broadly, this project pondered the dilemmas posed by efforts to reach beyond existing geopolitical relationships. Inevitably, it must consider basic structural questions: were the nonaligned states, each fielding major regional aspirations, viable partners for Washington? Were there inherent structural obstacles that could not be overcome? The dilemmas of great power status were central to this project, and the lessons we might learn from studying the challenges faced by Kennedy and Johnson bear some relevance in today's multipolar world.

Selected Recent Publications

Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Two Roads to Belgrade: The United States, Great Britain and the First Nonaligned Conference.” Cold War History 14, No. 3 (2014) 337-357

Jesse Rhodes - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: Making the Educational State: The Transformation of Educational Governance in the U.S. from a Nation at Risk to No Child Left Behind

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Jesse Rhodes is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Rhodes's major areas of scholarly interest are social policy (especially education policy), political parties, and the American presidency. His book, An Education in Politics: The Origins and Evolution of No Child Left Behind, has been published by Cornell University Press. With support from the Spencer Foundation, he is also analyzing the effects of education standards, testing, and accountability policies on citizenship; and with a Faculty Research Grant, I am investigating patterns of presidential partisan rhetoric. His research on political parties includes a longterm project, with Sidney Milkis, on the developing relationship between the presidency and the political parties during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama; and a multi-article study, with Shamira Gelbman, of the factors that inhibit or permit parties to embrace new positions on racial issues. 

Rhodes' dissertation blended historical and quantitative methods to model the development of new governing arrangements in education at the state and federal levels from the late 1970s to the present. As it showed, a national reform coalition composed of business elites, governors, and conservative intellectuals set a new agenda for education policy stressing high standards and accountability for results, profoundly shaping the trajectory of state educational policymaking during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the structure of opportunities and constraints provided by a diverse federal polity mediated the diffusion of the new educational agenda, helped create feedback loops that led to the reformulation of educational agendas and the refocusing of reformers on national government involvement, influenced the formation of new educational coalitions and organizations, and provided platforms and prestige for strategically placed individuals and groups to shape both state and national education debates. This policy feedback fed the increasing nationalization of educational governance, culminating in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), that has characterized the past two decades. However, states' commitment to the reform agenda have continued to be mediated by their unique political and racial environments, producing a patchwork of reform that belies NCLB's nationalizing pretensions.

Selected Recent Publications

"Financial Capacity, Ideology, and Political Donors in an Era of Deregulation." with Brian F Schaffner, Raymond J La Raja. (2016)

"Learning citizenship? How state education reforms affect parents’ political attitudes and behavior." Political Behavior 37, no. 1 (March 1, 2015): 181-220.

"The transformation of partisan rhetoric in American presidential campaigns, 1952–2012." with Zachary Albert. Party Politics (October 19, 2015)

An Education in Politics: The Origin and Development of No Child Left Behind (Cornell University 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).

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