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

Cebul photo

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. 


Lily Geismer - History, University of Michigan

Project: Don't Blame Us: Grassroots Liberalism in Massachusetts, 1960-1990

Geismer photo

Fellowship year: 2010

Mentor: Nancy Maclean, Duke University

Lily Geismer is Assistant Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College.

Geismer's teaching and research focuses on the intersections of political realignment, public policy, grassroots social movements and metropolitan history since World War II. Her first book Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party will be released in December 2014. She is currently beginning work on a new project that will examine the privatization of public policy, and the increasing promotion of market-based and individualist ideology to address social inequality by both political parties since the 1960s.

Geismer's dissertation recasted the conventional narratives of liberalism, civil rights, suburban politics, and electoral realignment. Most accounts of postwar suburban politics have focused primarily on Republican mobilization and fail to acknowledge that during the last half-century the Democratic Party has also become primarily suburban-centered in both base and outlook. Geismer's community study explored how suburban liberals shaped the social and political landscape in the Bay State and the nation in both progressive and problematic ways. Throughout the postwar period, grassroots liberal activists in Massachusetts proved particularly effective at working within the established channels of government to achieve the passage of laws that aligned with their suburban-centered vision of democracy and fairness. Many of these policies, nevertheless, provided individualist solutions to structural problems that often constrained more than enabled the achievement of spatial and racial equality. Tracing the evolution of this activism and ideology through the overlapping arenas of civil rights, housing, education, growth and development, environmentalism, feminism and antiwar activism, her dissertation revealed how Massachusetts has been able to preserve both its liberal reputation and racially and spatially segregated landscape. In doing so, her project aimed to prove to politicians, policymakers, and scholars across a variety of disciplines that both suburban liberals and Massachusetts need to be understood less for the reasons that they stood against the national tide and more for what they represent about American society and politics over the last 50 years.

Selected Recent Publications

Good Neighbors for Fair Housing: Suburban Liberalism and Racial Inequality in Metropolitan Boston.” Journal of Urban History 39, no. 3 (May 2013): 454-477.
Kennedy’s Liberalism.” in A Companion to John F. Kennedy, ed. Marc Silverstone, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
Integrating Gender and Political History into Courses on Post-1945 U.S. History.” with Tamar Carroll, Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (March 2012): 28-30.


Brendan Green - Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project: Two Concepts of Liberty: American Grand Strategy and the Liberal Tradition

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Brendan Green is the Stanley Kaplan Visiting Fellow in the Department of Political Science and Leadership Studies at Williams College.

Green's dissertation synthesized and added to scholarly literature that explores the effect of liberal ideology on political life in America and liberalism's influence on American foreign policy traditions. Green argued that differing visions of the concept of liberty led to the splintering of American liberal thought. He developed a theory of liberalism's effects on foreign policy and tested it on American Grand Strategy toward Europe in the 20th century, arguing that the early 20th century and inter-war period featured a back and forth contest between positive and negative versions of liberalism, resulting in the American intervention in World War I, followed by two decades of isolation. After World War II, Green contended, a still relevant conception of negative liberty among American foreign policy elites shaped America's search for an exit from Europe because it was perceived to be less costly; the expansion of the state and the mobilization of resources for foreign policy was perceived to interfere with liberty at home. He argued that by the early 1960s, positive liberty had achieved widespread acceptance among the foreign policy elite, causing a switch to a firm commitment in Europe. Not only was there no longer any perceived trade-off with liberty at home, but the positive conception of liberty implied a need to reinforce and spread market democracy abroad – key prerequisites of achieving a positive notion of political freedom. This led to a continued European commitment and its expansion, through peaceful and warlike means, after the Cold War.

Selected Recent Publications

U.S. Military Innovation Since the Cold War: Creation Without Destruction, with Harvey Sapolsky and Benjamin Friedman, (Routledge 2009).


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.


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