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

Gwendoline Alphonso - Government, Cornell University

Project: Progressive & Traditional Family Orders: Parties, Ideologies, and the Development of Social Policy across the 20th Century

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Gwendoline M. Alphonso is Assistant Professor of Politics at Fairfield University.

Alphonso is interested in the study of state-society relations, particularly the intersection of culture and morality with law and political development. Her primary research interests are two-fold: first those pertaining to American Politics: United States Congress, Political Parties, American Political Development, Gender and Politics, Politics of the Family, Social Policy; and second those relating to Law: Feminist Legal Theory, Family Law, Comparative Constitutional Law and Theories of Criminal Law and Punishment.

Alphonso's dissertation examined the origins and evolution of partisan family ideology and its effect on social policy through three periods in 20th century American political history – the Progressive Era (1900–1920), the postwar Period (1946–1960), and the Contemporary period (1980–2005). The overarching contention is that the family has been a central organizing principle of political development and the historical development of American social policy, a claim that has been largely overlooked in political and policy analysis. Through extensive inductive analysis of party platforms, congressional hearings, family bill sponsorship/co-sponsorship and roll call data in the House and Senate, she identified patterns in the development of partisan family ideologies, contending that there have been two competing family ideologies – the progressive and traditional – that have persisted across the past century. She explored the two family ideologies as part of broader family political orders, defined as "constellations of ideas, policies, institutions, and practices regarding the family that hang together and exhibit a coherence and predictability." The dissertation documented and explained the change and evolution of the progressive and traditional family orders, their partisan composition and attendant social policies. By inserting social policies into evolving family orders and unearthing elite interests, partisan dynamics, electoral family conditions, and family ideologies, the project hoped to account for why certain types of policy ideas, such as same-sex marriage, gain ascendance during certain periods while others decline.

Selected Recent Publications

"Resurgent Parenthood – Organic Domestic Ideals & the Southern Family Roots of Conservative Ascendancy, 1980-2005.Polity 48 (2016): 205-223. 

"From Need to Hope: The American Family & Poverty in Partisan Discourse." Journal of Policy History 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2015): 592-635.

Public & Private Order: Law, Race, Morality and the Antebellum Courts of Louisiana, 1830-1860.”  Journal of Southern Legal History 23 (2015): 117-160. 

Of Families or Individuals?Southern Child Workers & the Progressive Crusade for Child Labor Regulation, 1899-1920.” in James Marten (ed). Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Period (New York: New York University Press, 2014).


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?


Boris Heersink - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: Beyond Service: National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics

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Boris Heersink’s dissertation focuses on the historical development of the Democratic and Republican National committees (respectively the DNC and RNC) during the 19th and 20th century.The (limited) existing literature on these institutions has argued that party organizations have developed from powerful 19th century local institutions (dominated by party bosses) which controlled candidate selection, into national institutions which hold no such powers and function as mere 'service providers' to party members. Additionally, political scientists have noted that this historical development in national committee activities has not been linear and that, while majority parties in the 20th century frequently ignored their national party organizations, minority parties invested heavily in theirs. He argues that we can best explain both phenomena by viewing the national committees as tools political actors use to promote or define their party's brand. From this perspective, we can explain both why the national committees dramatically expanded their activities in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as explain why, in subsequent decades, minority parties have had more active national committees than majority parties. Additionally, he argues that this perspective forces us to reconsider the image of the national committees as largely irrelevant ‘service providers’: he argues that the services the committees provide serve a specific (and important) role to members of the party, and that, in executing this task of brand-building, the national committees have played a crucial role in the creation of parties that share a truly national set of policy preferences.

Selected Recent Publications

"Measuring the Vice-Presidential Home State Advantage With Synthetic Controls." American Politics Research 44, no. 4 (July 2016)

"GOP voters picked Trump. Party leaders aren’t falling in line. Here’s why that’s surprising." (with Jeffery A. Jenkins) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, May 10, 2016.

"This research shows that vice presidential candidates actually do win votes in their home states." (with Brenton Peterson) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, April 26, 2016.

"The Republicans' Rules Dilemma." The New West, April 24, 2016.

"Bernie Sanders thinks the Democratic primary process ‘distorts reality.’ Does history back this up?" (with Jeffery A. Jenkins) The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, April 17, 2016.


Katherine Krimmel - Politics, Princeton University

Project: Special Interest Partisanship: The Transformation of American Political Parties

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Fellowship year: 2013

Mentor: Nolan McCarty, Princeton University

Katherine Krimmel is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College.

Krimmel specializes in American Politics where her research analyzes democratic representation in the United States from several angles.  Her book project, Picking Sides: Group-Party Linkages in Postwar America, analyzes changes in the relationship between political parties and special interest groups since the New Deal.  She also have two other projects examining the relationship between public opinion and different political outcomes.  The first, co-authored with Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, analyzes opinion and representation on gay rights issues.  The second, co-authored with Kelly Rader, investigates why the states most opposed to federal spending tend to receive disproportionately large amounts of federal money.

Selected Recent Publications

"Gay Rights in Congress: Public Opinion and (Mis)Representation." Public Opinion Quarterly (August 20, 2014)


Emily Pears - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: “Chords of Sympathy: The Development of National Political Attachments in the 19th Century”

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Emily Pears is an Assistant Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Her research is in the areas of 19th-century U.S. federalism, American political development, American nationalism and U.S. state building. Emily received her B.A. in Government from Claremont McKenna College and M.A in American Politics from the University of Virginia. She previously worked as a policy advocate for voting rights and redistricting reform issues in San Francisco and Sacramento, California.

Emily’s dissertation begins with the question of when and how citizens’ political attachments originally shifted from the state governments to the national government during the 19th century.  Looking specifically at how state building, party organization and cultural homogenization impacted citizens’ differential attachments to their state and national governments, Emily argues that across the United States state legislatures continued to hold public sway well past the civil war period.  While the national state grew significantly during the course of the 19th century, administrative functions at the state and local level remained the most visible to American citizens, allowing and encouraging them to maintain strong attachments to their state governments.  Party building in the 1830’s and 1840’s created an organizational structure that allowed individuals to connect their local activities to national political causes.


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