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

Brent Cebul - History, University of Virginia

Project: The Rise of Antigovernment Governance: The Politics of Federal Economic Development and Local Business Mobilization, 1938–1994

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Brent Cebul is the Mellon Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond.

In 2014-2015, he was a Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. History from the University of Virginia in August 2014 and continues to serve as an Associate Fellow at UVa's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture where he is a project investigator for the Thriving Cities Project and serves as the associate director of the program on Culture, Capitalism, and Global Change. Cebul's current book project, Developmental State: Business, Poverty, and Economic Empowerment from the New Deal to the New Democrats, recenters the history of 20th-century liberalism by highlighting the recurring governing pattern of local-national, public-private partnerships begun in the New Deal.

Cebul’s dissertation was a social and political history of local business leaders’ perceptions of the federal government’s proper role in fostering community and economic development from the New Deal through the early 1990s. The project explored how business constituencies in the rural Sunbelt and deindustrializing Rustbelt created kindred public-private institutions that benefited from and sought to expand local, state, and federal developmental capacities. By illuminating the intertwined themes of localism and the evolution of fiscal federalism through the lens of the development policies of the New Deal, the Great Society, and Nixon and Reagan’s New Federalisms, the dissertation challenged assumptions about the decline of liberalism, the rise of conservatism, and business leaders’ embrace of neoliberal policy prescriptions. 


Joseph Crespino - History, Stanford University

Project: Strategic Accommodation: Civil Rights Opponents in Mississippi and their Impact on American Racial Politics, 1953–1972

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Joseph Crespino is Professor of History at Emory University.

Crespino's Research considers white Southerners more directly in the context of the emerging conservative politics of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s to reflect the complicated role that race has played in the emergence of modern conservatism.

Crespino's dissertation, "Strategic Accommodation: Civil Rights Opponents in Mississippi and their Impact on American Racial Politics, 1953–1972," won the 2003 Dissertation Award from the Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond. It examined the impact of racial desegregation on political culture in the American South by providing a case study of resistance and accommodation to civil rights reform in Mississippi's white community. His project revealed how key policy makers along with local economic elites led an accommodation to racial change that accepted token forms of desegregation in ways that preserved racial and economic privilege and forestalled further civil rights reform.

Selected Recent Publications

Strom Thurmond's America (Hill and Wang, 2012)


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 Hemmer - History, Columbia University

Project: Messengers of the Right: Media and Modern American Conservatism

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Fellowship year: 2009

Mentor: Silvio Waisbord, George Washington University

Nicole Hemmer is Assistant Professor in Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.

She works in the Presidential Recordings Program, transcribing and analyzing White House tapes from the Johnson and Nixon presidencies. Since completing her fellowship at the Miller Center in 2009, Hemmer has taught U.S. political history at Manchester University and the University of Miami. She was also awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in 2011-12, and is currently a research associate there. Hemmer's work as a historian bridges the divide between academia and the public. She has written about politics and history for the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times, and is a weekly contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Her book, Messengers of the Right, a history of conservative media, will be published by Penn Press in August 2016. She recently launched a new history podcast, Past Present. Having worked in a number of different capacities as a scholar, Hemmer returned to the Miller Center to continue building a career as a scholar who, through writing, broadcasting, and research, brings historical insights to contemporary debates about American politics and culture.

Selected Recent Publications

Hemmer writes about politics and history as a weekly contributor to U.S. News & World Report.

"The Dealers and the Darling: Conservative Media and the Candidacy of Barry Goldwater," in Barry Goldwater and the Remaking of the American Political Landscape, ed. Elizabeth Tandy Shermer (University of Arizona Press, 2012).


Julia Ott - History, Yale University

Project: When Wall Street Met Main Street: the Quest for an Investors' Democracy and the Emergence of the American Retail Investor, 1900–1930

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Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Meg Jacobs, Princeton University

Julia Ott is Assistant Professor of History at the New School's Eugene Lang College.

Ott's interests include 20th century American history, financial and business history, political conservatism, consumer culture, and women's and gender history.

Given the depths of populist and progressive hostility toward Wall Street in the decades before the World War I, few could have predicted that the nation's stock and bond markets would emerge as icons of a new era of permanent prosperity, even before the late 1920s stock market boom. Roughly 30 million Americans acquired federal war bonds, while the number of corporate shareholders likely increased fivefold in the 1920s. Ott's dissertation explained these transformations in political attitude and social practice by relating an intertwined history of investors and investorism. By analyzing the marketing of stocks and bonds by the federal government, corporations, and the financial industry, as well as new investorist theories of political economy formulated by a range of economic thinkers, her study revealed the early twentieth century origins of the idea of an ownership society in American political culture. Without the ideological validation considered in this dissertation, the United States would have never developed its first broad, national, impersonal market for financial securities in the 1920s.

Selected Recent Publications

When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy, (Harvard University Press, 2011).


Jon Shields - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: The Democratic Virtues of Christian Right Activism

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Fellowship year: 2005

Mentor: James Wilson

Jon Shields is Associate Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Shields's research interests include Christianity and democracy; social movements; and the politics of bioethics. 

Shields's dissertation focuses on the portrait of democratic education in Christian politics being principally complicated by the demands of political mobilization. That is, Christian leaders often need to mobilize apathetic or uninvolved citizens through more passionate exhortations before these deliberative norms can be taught at all. In fact, the culture war rhetoric that many scholars find so rampant in American politics is actually most commonly found in the context of mobilization. Shields argues that once Christian leaders have mobilized citizens, most then labor diligently to moderately and inform the passions they have provoked by encouraging activists to embrace deliberative norms before they practice public advocacy. He hypothesizes that this organizational tension, moreover, between the exigencies of mobilization and successful public activism highlights a deeper tension that democratic theorists need to confront between the ideals of a participatory and deliberative democracy.

Selected Recent Publications

The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University. with Joshua M. Dunn (Oxford University Press, 2016).

The Real Campus Sexual Assault Problem—and How to Fix It.” with Bradford Richardson. Commentary, October 1 2015.

"Fighting Liberalism's Excesses: Moral Crusades During the Reagan Revolution." Journal of Policy History 26, no. 1 (2014).


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