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

Emily Baer - Political Science, University of Minnesota

Project: "Party Factions and the Roots of Institutional Change in Congress: The Democratic Study Group and Liberal Democrats' Campaign to Reform the House of Representatives (1959-1994)"

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Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: Sarah Binder, George Washington UniversityBrookings Institute

Emily Baer' project addresses how factions within political parties promote policy and leadership change in the U.S. Congress through institutional reform. Congress is frequently criticized as an institution structured by rules and norms which make policy and leadership changes among its members difficult. Leaders are often slow to respond when policy preferences within parties change, a new group or constituency emerges, or elections reveal policy shifts among the public. The relative impermeability of parties to new ideas and leaders poses a significant problem for democratic representation and responsiveness within parties. This dissertation approaches these issues through a case study of the Democratic Study Group (DSG), the faction of liberal Democrats in the House from 1959-1994 and leader of the 1970s “reform era.” Liberals organized DSG out of their frustration with party leaders’ inability to overcome the power of southern conservative committee chairs, ultimately leading to a series of reforms significantly redistributing power between the Democratic leadership, committee chairs, and individual members. Today, this historic effort has taken on a renewed importance as a new faction – the Republican Freedom Caucus (analyzed as a comparative case) – has emerged to challenge the balance of power between junior members and party leaders.  But while the 1970s reform era is widely recognized for increasing representation and responsiveness in the Democratic Caucus, we know little about how a faction was empowered to lead the reform effort. In Baer' dissertation, she questions and analyzes using original archival research and in-depth interviews with former Members of Congress and their staffers: How do political parties respond to the changing preferences of their members? How does the rise of a new faction shape power in parties? And how can factions overcome the institutional hurdles to reforming rules and procedures, and expanding party leadership pathways and policy agendas?


Fritz Bartel - History, Cornell University

Project: "The Privatization of the Cold War: Global Finance and the Fall of Communism"

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Fellowship year: N/A

Mentor: Daniel Sargent, University of California, Berkeley

Fritz Bartel’s dissertation examines the growth of communist states’ sovereign debt to Western banks and governments from the 1973 oil crisis through the end of the Cold War. Between 1970 and 1989, the Eastern Bloc accumulated over $90 billion of sovereign debt to Western banks and governments.  The core argument of the project is that this sovereign debt – and the bankers and policymakers on both sides of the Iron Curtain who managed it – decisively influenced the end of the Cold War.  Through studies of the financial history of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and the Soviet Union, the project tracks the growth of Western financial power in the Eastern Bloc.  Based on extensive archival research across Europe and North America, it demonstrates the significant role that this Western financial power played in the years of transition from communism to democratic capitalism.  In so doing, The Privatization of the Cold War analyzes the rise of financial capitalism and the end of the Cold War as part of the same global history.  It is a history that illuminates the powerful role of non-state financial actors, as well as the challenges that global financial markets present to democratic governance, state sovereignty, and labor movements.


Ananda Burra - History, University of Michigan

Project: "Petitioning the Mandates: Anticolonial and Antiracist Publics in International Law"

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Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania

Burra has been selected as the Charles W. McCurdy Fellow in Legal History

Drawing on an interdisciplinary training in law and history, Ananda Burra’s dissertation is the first systematic legal-historical study of how transnational anticolonial and antiracist solidarity movements shaped the international law of individual protection and colonial rule in the mid-20th century. In particular, this dissertation examines how anticolonial activists, colonial officials, and members of the newly-formed international bureaucracy in the League of Nations and the United Nations negotiated a language of grassroots international protest, one based around the practice of individuals petitioning international organizations about colonial abuse. African American activists were particularly active in this field, framing their involvement in the Mandates as a protest against racial discrimination, turning a mirror on the United States’ own racial politics. Petitioning in the interwar and immediate post-war years thus shows us how inter-continental forms of protest could be deployed in fighting what States saw as primarily local battles. These battles spanned the period from 1920 until at least 1956, when the International Court of Justice engaged with the history and jurisprudence of the individual right to petition in international law. As such, Burra’s work engages historiographical debates in global history, histories of international institutions and human rights, histories of transnational social movements and decolonization, and histories of the United States in the world. By focusing on the role of non-State actors in international institutions, Burra’s dissertation also questions the consensus on the minor role played by non-white actors in international law-making before and immediately after the Second World War.


Christopher Cimaglio - Communications, University of Pennsylvania

Project: "Contested Majority: The Representation of the White Working Class in US Politics from the 1930s to the 1990s"

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“Contested Majority” examines how American politicians, journalists, pollsters, academics, social movement groups, and others have studied, written about, and claimed to speak for white working class people and how this work has shaped American politics. While popular and scholarly accounts of the rise and decline of liberalism and the rise of conservatism in the twentieth century US have often given the white working class a very prominent role (for instance, as the New Deal’s popular base and the forefront of the white reaction that provided an electoral majority for conservatives), this work sometimes frames the white working class as a homogenous group with uniform political views—centered, since the late 1960s, on cultural and racial conservatism.  Placing primary emphasis on how white workers have been represented in national politics and media and those who have represented them, “Contested Majority” offers a different angle on a familiar story.  It traces how prominent understandings of white working class politics, identity, and culture—from a militant, progressive working class combating economic royalists to culturally conservative and racially anxious “Middle Americans” and “Reagan Democrats” opposed to liberal elites—emerged, circulated, impacted political contestation, and shaped elite decision-making.  In doing so, “Contested Majority” points to the power of the white working class majority as a political symbol, one that has consistently featured in debate around fundamental issues in American politics, including the legitimacy of capitalism, unions, challenges to prevailing understandings of race, gender, and class, and an activist state combating inequality.


David Dagan - Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

Project: "Building the Big House: American Institutions and the Rise of Mass Incarceration, 1980-1995"

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Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: Kimberly Johnson, Columbia University

David Dagan’s dissertation examines the rise of mass incarceration in the United States as a project of state-building—a major expansion of government authority and capacity. While scholars have typically associated American state-building with centralization and particularly with the expansion of social policy, Dagan emphasizes the role of decentralization and the expansion of penal policy.

Dagan argues that mass incarceration was spurred by “interdependent fragmentation” – the condition that American governing authority is split both vertically and horizontally, even while policy responsibility is shared across those levels. This combination provided policy makers with substantial buck-passing opportunities that exacerbated punitive electoral dynamics and weakened moderating influences, particularly by putting off a reckoning with prison crowding and costs. Dagan shows these dynamics at work in Pennsylvania and Texas, where prosecutors fought pitched battles against judges and jailers throughout the 1980s, centered on the problem of prison crowding.

Dagan also traces the flow of tough-on-crime rhetoric back and forth between Washington, D.C., and the states. He argues that federal leadership was important in the rise of mass incarceration, even absent significant centralization. This leadership occurred through professional networks, which diffused ideologies and technologies of punishment to the decision makers sitting at the policy levers—state and local officials.

The project helps to link the analysis of rhetoric, policy choices, and outcomes in the mass-incarceration literature. It contributes to a new understanding of the American state by showing that fragmentation enables and even drives the particular brand of state power Dagan dubs coercive capacity.


Jeannette Estruth - History, New York University

Project: "A Political History of the Silicon Valley: Structural Change, Urban Transformation, and Local Movements, 1945-1995"

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Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: Mark Brilliant, University of California, Berkeley

Jeannette Estruth has been selected as the Miller Center/ Hagley Library Dissertation Fellow in Business and Politics.

It has become accepted wisdom that the history of Silicon Valley represents something universal about the power of technology to transform national and global economies in the twenty-first century. While acknowledging the influence of the Valley on technologies like computing, telecommunications, and surveillance, Jeannette Estruth’s dissertation takes a wider view, interrogating the relationships between the politics of urban development, labor organizing, and social inclusion to understand how the technology industry became synonymous with California’s South Bay Area in the postwar period. By drawing from a variety of archival sources-- oral histories, corporate memos, activist pamphlets, and union newspapers-- it argues that debates over land use, race, gender, labor, and the urban environment shaped the technology industry’s growth in the Valley in the twentieth century. Estruth posits that local claims to economic inclusion and the concurrent rise of the technology industry combined to produce a new normative political discourse by the 1990s. Defining this impulse as “techno-libertarianism,” she asks how an industry with its roots in federal defense spending came to see itself in opposition to the state; how the culture of participatory entrepreneurship sought to replace the culture of participatory left politics as the hallmark of progressivism; and how the collectivist ideals of the local political left were appropriated into a global promise of universal human liberation through market technologies. By uniting the technological history of the Silicon Valley with its urban and political history, her project prompts new understandings of the emergence of global economies in the postwar period.


Leif Fredrickson - History, University of Virginia

Project: "The Age of Lead: Metropolitan Development, Environmental Health, and Inner City Underdevelopment"

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Leif Fredrickson has been selected as the Ambrose Monell Foundation Funded Fellowship in Technology and Democracy.

Leif Fredrickson's dissertation seeks to answer two questions. First, how did twentieth-century metropolitan development affect lead exposure? To answer this, Fredrickson examines how policies and markets came together to affect energy, housing, and transportation infrastructures that led to increased and often disproportionate exposure from lead in sources such as paint, gasoline and batteries. His second question is: How did lead exposure affect individuals, communities and governments in the metropolis? To answer this, Fredrickson examines how lead affected education, income, medical expenses and other social outcomes for individuals, and how those effects in turn shaped the outcomes of families and communities. He argues that these effects contributed to the long-term inequalities we see across classes, “races,” and metropolitan areas (i.e., the suburbs and the inner city). Fredrickson also looks at how victims and their families and communities dealt with these problems, proactively and retroactively. Finally, Fredrickson examines how the ramifying effects of lead challenged local governments, who faced expensive measures to eradicate lead poisoning but also expensive costs from failing to eradicate lead problems.   


Charles Halvorson - History, Columbia University

Project: "Valuing the Air: The Politics of Environmental Regulation from the Clean Air Act to Carbon Trading"

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Charles Halvorson has been selected as the 2016 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellow.

Fifty years ago, the environmental movement convinced Americans that strong regulations were needed to protect human health and the natural world against the compounding detritus of industrial society. Meanwhile, environmental economists offered a different solution: let markets value the environment by pricing the social effects of degradation. Congress went with the environmentalists, passing legislation in the early 1970s to protect the public health from noxious emissions and effluents, regardless of the costs involved.

But as the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quickly discovered, defending major regulatory interventions against an onslaught of criticism from regulated industries required environmental advocates to convincingly establish the economic benefits of environmental protection. Over the 1970s, EPA officials invested millions of dollars in staffing economists at the agency and funding critical new research on the pecuniary benefits of regulatory protection at universities across the country. In the late 1970s, the agency began experimenting with emission trading and other market and economic incentive programs, putting EPA at the forefront of the larger regulatory reform movement.  

By leaning on cost/benefit analysis to justify regulations and turning to market trading to lower the costs of enforcement, EPA contributed to the ascendance of economics in policymaking. Yet by simultaneously rejecting economists’ calls to let markets price the environment, EPA preserved into the present the political salience of the moral and romantic values of 1970s environmentalism. 


Patrick O’Brien - Political Science, Yale University

Project: "The Unitary Executive as an Historical Variable: Presidential Control and Public Finance"

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Patrick O'Brien's dissertation, “The Unitary Executive as an Historical Variable: Presidential Control and Public Finance,” examines the policy domain of public finance – broadly defined to include expenditures, receipts, and money and banking or, in modern terms, fiscal policy and monetary policy – in order to demonstrate that presidential control over administration varies in broad historical patterns. Specifically, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, O'Brien provides an overview of four historical systems of administration for public finance, describing what he terms the New Deal era apparatus (1933-1980) and the Reagan era apparatus (1981-present) during the modern period and the Founding era apparatus (1789-1828) and the Jackson era apparatus (1829-1860) during the early period. Moreover, O'Brien shows how presidential control varies not only across eras but also within eras, unfolding as a process of innovation, stabilization, and constraint.

 

The theory and findings from O'Brien's dissertation call into question the foundation of the unitary executive framework, the leading political science approach to studying the presidency. Rather than assume that all presidents maintain the same, fixed structural advantages relative to the other branches of government – a first-mover advantage, a collective-action advantage, and an informational advantage – and then focus on standard political variables such as party control of the presidency, congressional support, and popular support, he provides a theory that explains why these very structural advantages change over time. Additionally, O'Brien demonstrates empirically that a change in structural advantages is a stronger indicator of a change in policy than are any of the standard political variables. 


Amanda Rothschild - Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project: "Courage First: Dissent, Debate, and the Origins of US Responsiveness to Mass Killing"

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Amanda Rothschild’s dissertation, “Courage First: Dissent, Debate, and the Origins of US Responsiveness to Mass Killing,” proposes a novel theory explaining US policy in response to mass killing. Rothschild argues that the most critical factors historically responsible for shaping US policy include the degree of congressional pressure for action, the level at which dissent occurs within the government, and the extent to which the president views the atrocities as a political burden. To develop her theory, Rothschild investigates the policies of seven presidential administrations regarding five cases of mass killing: the Armenian Genocide of 1915; the Holocaust from 1938 to 1945; mass killings in Bangladesh in 1971; atrocities in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995; and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The presidential administrations under examination include the administrations of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and William Clinton. In developing her case studies, Rothschild draws on primary source documents from eight archives across the United States and on several oral history interviews. Her conclusions highlight the enduring role of dissent in shaping US policy on mass killing, the significance of individual leaders in international relations, and the critical relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy. Rothschild's findings not only provide new historical data and theoretical insights relevant to academic literature in political science, international relations, international security, and diplomatic history, but also offer novel ideas for understanding present day debates on US foreign policy, atrocity prevention, and human rights. 


Matthew Scroggs - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: "Democracies Under Fire: How Democratic Targets and Allies Respond to Coercive Threats"

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Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

When do states concede to coercive threats? While the majority of research has focused on the states initiating these challenges, comparatively little attention has been given to the targets, the states that actually face the choice of whether to stand firm or back down. Matthew Scroggs' project examines the role that a target’s regime-type, broadly construed as democratic versus non-democratic states, plays in the decision-making process, arguing that democracies are more likely to concede when threatened due to the higher costs they pay for foreign policy failure and the relative ease that challengers have in identifying whether democracies are vulnerable to coercion. Further, Scroggs' argument also extends to the role of democratic allies, who are less reliable when threats of violence are employed against their protégés. Scroggs utilizes in-depth case studies, such as the Suez Crisis and the U.S.S. Pueblo incident, to demonstrate how his theory works in practice, as well as statistical analysis with data from the Militarized Compellent Threat (MCT) and Threat and Imposition of Economic Sanctions (TIES) datasets to show the external validity of his claims.


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