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

Alphonso photo

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 Brunner - History, University of Chicago

Project: Irish-American Nationalists and the Dilemmas of National Belonging

Brunner photo

Fellowship year: 2005

Mentor: Timothy Meagher, Catholic University of America

Emily Brunner is Senior Academic Advisor at the University of Iowa.

Her scholarly interests include American Progressive reform, Irish nationalism, and the problem of state power in the post-World War I era. She received the O'Shaughnessy Award for her research topic, "Irish American Nationalists and the Dilemma of National Allegiance: 1910–24" from the University of Chicago Department of History.

Brunner's dissertation examined how Irish nationalist leaders responded to changing ideas about citizenship and how they contributed to the debate about what it meant to be a member of a state and a nation. She began with an exploration of the conditions during this period that made it more difficult for Irish-Americans to claim to be both Irish and American. Next Brunner discussed the debate over the boundaries of legitimate dissent while examining the connections between Irish-American nationalism and the global feminist movement, analyzing ways in which Irish nationalist women employed global feminist networks to access and sway audiences that might otherwise have been hostile to their cause.

Selected Recent Publications

"Coaching pre-medical students towards professionalism." with Kate Karacay. Clearinghouse, 2013.


Jenny Diamond Cheng - Political Science, University of Michigan

Project: Are Children Citizens?: The Minimum Voting Age and Liberal Democratic Citizenship

Cheng photo

Fellowship year: 2005

Mentor: Carol Sanger, Columbia Law School

Jenny Diamond Cheng is a Lecturer in Law at Vanderbilt University’s Law School.

Cheng's research focuses on the intersection of law and political theory. Her doctoral dissertation addressed the question: Given their disenfranchisement, to what extent does it still make sense to think of children as "citizens"? Her research focused on political discussions of the minimum voting age from 1942 to the present. The decades in and after World War II witnessed a quiet but persistent movement to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18, which gathered steam in the late 1960s and culminated with the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971. A close reading of the debates about the voting age over the last six decades reveals competing ideas about the meaning of the franchise and profound confusion about children's place in the polity. In her dissertation, Cheng explored the theoretical links between voting, military service, and education while additionally examining how advocates for lower voting ages have sought to frame youth as the natural heirs to the women's suffrage and African-American civil rights movements.

Selected Recent Publications

"Leave the Voting Age Alone.New York Times, 28 May 2012.


Merlin Chowkwanyun - History and Public Health, University of Pennsylvania

Project: The Dilemmas of 'Community Health': 1945-2000

Chowkwanyun photo

Merlin Chowkwanyun is Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and a member of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health.

Chowkwanyun’s work centers on three themes: the history of public health and health policy; racial inequality; and social movements. He is working on a book examining the development of post-WWII medical care and environmental health hazards in four regions (Los Angeles, Cleveland, Central Appalachia, and New York) and another about political unrest at medical schools and neighborhood health activism during the 1960s and 1970s. With Adolph Reed, he is writing an essay collection that questions the dominant theoretical assumptions and frames in disparities research (under contract with the University of California Press). With the Center for Public Integrity, he is part of a group of environmental health journalists and historians on a database featuring millions of previously unseen corporate documents that have emerged in recent environmental health lawsuits. He teaches courses on health advocacy and mixed methods.

Selected Recent Publications

"Q&A with Pau Gasol: The NBA All-Star's Health Advocacy Off-the-Court," Culture of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, April 20, 2015.

"Grassroots Isn't Always Best." Boston Review, February 23, 2015.

"We keep pledging to study the cause of riots like Ferguson’s. And we keep ignoring the lessons." The Washington Post, August 18, 2014.

"Training Historians and the Dual Degree." Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28, 2014.


Gretchen Crosby Sims - Political Science, Stanford University

Project: Social Responsibility and the Political Power of American Business

Crosby Sims photo

Fellowship year: 2003

Mentor: Cathie Martin, Boston University

Gretchen Crosby Sims is a Director at Social Finance UK.

She is focused on expanding Social Finance’s advocacy and policy efforts to support and encourage those seeking to redesign public services through outcomes-based commissioning. She is also engaged in supporting specific projects in children, family, and education related areas.

Gretchen’s career prior to Social Finance focused on identifying and scaling social interventions to improve people’s lives and to promoting supportive public policies.  Most recently, she was the chief program executive at The Joyce Foundation, where she oversaw strategy and impact evaluation process for seven grantmaking programs – education, environment, employment, gun violence prevention, democracy, culture, and special opportunities – and helped win evidence-based social policy changes in numerous issue areas. In earlier roles, Gretchen led Joyce’s K-12 education grant making and served as Director of Strategic Initiatives. Gretchen has also worked at the Council on Foreign Relations, CNN, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and as a policy adviser to presidential candidate Bill Bradley. She holds PhD and MA degrees in political science from Stanford University and a BA in government from Harvard University.

Sims's dissertation examined the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) among America's most powerful companies as a source of political power. In recent years, many companies have embraced the notion of CSR and invested significant resources in strengthening their communities, supporting their employees, protecting the environment, and making philanthropic contributions. She argued that many of the things firms do in the name of CSR represent the provision of public goods, the practice of self-regulation, or the giving of politically valuable philanthropic gifts. These activities can give firms special standing with three groups of political actors: legislators, regulators, and other interest groups.


Maxine Eichner - Political Science, University of North Carolina

Project: Reinstating Family: Rethinking the Relationship Between the Family and the State

Eichner photo

Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Molly Shanley, Vassar College

Maxine Eichner is Reef C. Ivey II Professor of Law at University of North Carolina School of Law.

Her teaching and research interests include sex equality, family law, legal theory and torts. She writes on issues of liberal theory, feminist theory, and family law. Eichner's recent scholarship focuses on the stance that the state should take with respect to family ties among citizens. Eichner received a B.A. and a J.D. from Yale University (where she was an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal), before pursuing her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. She held a Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship through Georgetown Law School, and clerked for Judge Louis Oberdorfer in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, as well as for Judge Betty Fletcher in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She practiced civil rights, women's rights, and employment law for several years at the law firm of Patterson, Harkavy, and Lawrence in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Eichner's dissertation, "Reinstating Family: Rethinking the Relationship Between the Family and the State," explored the relationship between state and family by examining the understandings of the family-state relationship embodied in three different areas of contemporary United States law. Specifically, she studied the intersection between parenting and the workplace, the state and federal laws delineated "family" and the laws governing the relationship among parents, children, and public schools. She argued that a more nuanced, richer understanding of the relationship between family and state should be incorporated into American law.

Selected Recent Publications

The Supportive State: Families, Government, and America's Political Ideals (Oxford University Press, 2010). 

"The New Child Abuse Panic." The New York Times, July 11, 2015.

"Market-Cautious Feminism." in Austin Sarat, ed. Special Issue: Feminist Legal Theory Studies, in Law, Politics and Society 69 (Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016): 141 - 187.

"The Supportive State: Government, Dependency, and Responsibility for Caretaking." in Care Ethics and Political Theory (Oxford University Press, 2015).


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.


Shamira Gelbman - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: Coalitions of the Unwilling: Insurgency and Enfranchisement in the United States and South Africa

Gelbman photo

Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Elisabeth Clemens, University of Chicago

Shamira Gelbman is the Byron K. Trippet Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wabash College.

Gelbman's research interests include race, social movements, and democratization in the United States and South Africa. 

Based on a paired comparison of the American civil rights movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Gelbman's dissertation argued that state actors' responses to social movements vary with changing coalition dynamics at both the elite and mass levels. Specifically, the confluence of intra-regime conflict and labor-civil rights coalitions provides the incentives for democratic concessions that would otherwise be too politically risky for public officials who are beholden to constituencies that oppose suffrage expansion to undertake.

Selected Recent Publications

"Interest Groups, Twitter, and Civic Education.” in Civic Education in the Twenty-First Century: A Multidimensional Inquiry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015): 273-290.

Affirmative Action.” Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West, ed. Stephen L. Danvers (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013). 

Alien Land Laws.Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West, ed. Stephen L. Danvers (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013). 


George Xuezhi Guo - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: The Guanxi (Interpersonal Relations) of Chinese Communist Elite: Theory and Practice

Guo photo

Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Lowell Dittmer, University of California, Berkeley

George Xuezhi Guo is Professor of Political Science at Guilford College.

Guo specializes in comparative politics, international politics, East Asian politics, and comparative political thought.

Guo constructed his dissertation around the model of guanxi, an ideal which has deep cultural roots embedded in Chinese philosophy and thought as well as the inspired ideal personality which is preoccupied with a man-centered social system and ethic-oriented social norms. His dissertation, "The Guanxi (Interpersonal Relations) of Chinese Communist Elite: Theory and Practice," established a theoretical model of guanxi in Chinese interactions as exemplified in a study of Chinese Communist Party elite politics. While guanxi is used as an instrument to acquire social resources or political advantages, Guo argued that it also functions as a social norm to comply with social rituals, as a vehicle for communicating emotional attachments, and as a moral obligation to uphold mutual dependence and to ensure mutual stability between people within their networks. In this respect, Guo fundamentally disagreed with the prevalent view of guanxi as consisting only of cunning tactics for pursuing individual personal interests.


Nicole Hemmer - History, Columbia University

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

Hemmer photo

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).


Nicole Kazee - Political Science, Yale University

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

Kazee photo

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.


Andrew Morris - History, University of Virginia

Project: Charity, Therapy, and Poverty: Private Social Service in the Era of Public Welfare

Morris photo

Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Alice O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Andrew Morris is Associate Professor of History at Union College.

Morris teaches 20th century American political history. 

Morris's dissertation examined how voluntary social welfare agencies came to terms with the expansion of the public welfare state from the 1930s through the 1960s. By examining a group of private family welfare agencies, Morris traced how these charities reinvented themselves from dispensers of material aid in the 1910s and 1920s to providers of therapeutic counseling services in the 1940s and 1950s. The Depression and World War II proved key turning points, demonstrating to private agencies the need for a relatively strong public welfare state to meet the basic needs of the poor, as well as the need for such agencies to clearly distinguish themselves both from their charitable past and from public welfare entities. By embracing a variety of counseling techniques rooted in the psychological training of their professional social workers, private family agencies helped build a therapeutic culture in the postwar United States, and decisively influenced the adoption of rehabilitative social work as an element of welfare reform in the early 1960s.


Stephanie Muravchik - History, University of Virginia

Project: New Creatures in Christ: American Faith in an Age of Psychology

Muravchik photo

Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Gary Laderman, Emory University

Stephanie Muravchik is Associate Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

Muravchik’s research has focused on twentieth-century American religion and the way self and community have been historically constituted in the United States. 
Her first book, American Protestantism in an Age of Psychology challenges the claim that psychology has been used to weaken American religion, virtue and community. It shows how major psychospiritual movements since World War II, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and The Salvation Army, innovated a practical religious psychology that nurtured participants’ faith, fellowship, and responsibility. And by fostering community and responsibility among some of America’s most disaffected citizens, psychospiritual movements helped cultivate the kind of society that bolsters our liberal democracy.

In her dissertation, Muravchik explores how after World War II, though they did not realize it, Christians began a successful project of redeeming millions of alienated Americans by fortifying pastoral care, fellowships, and evangelism with secular ideas and techniques adapted from psychology. They thereby shepherded millions of the nation's most disaffected citizens – especially the homeless, addicts, the sick, and the dying – into faith's fold. Muravchik traced their efforts and its effects in three contexts: the psychiatric training of ministers, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and The Salvation Army rehabilitation centers. She ultimately argued that the model of selfhood developed in these settings, by merging individual happiness and self-determination with transcendent and communal relationships, could support an American democratic culture in the latter half of the 20th century.

Selected Recent Publications

American Protestantism in an Age of Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

The Cultural Contours of Parenthood: A Bibliographic Review.Hedgehog Review 15(3) 2013: 54-61.

“‘Be the Love of God Rather than Talk About It’: Pastors Study Psychology.History of Psychology 15(2) 2012: 145-160. 


Kevin Wallsten - Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Project: Political Blogs and the Bloggers Who Blog Them: An Analysis of the Who's, What's and Why's of Political Blogging

Wallsten photo

Kevin Wallsten is Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State University in Long Beach.

Despite the recent explosion in blogging, there have been relatively few empirical studies of the political blogging phenomenon. Wallsten's research project situated the role of political blogs in the American political system by addressing four sets of interrelated questions. First, who blogs and why? Second, do political bloggers use their blogs primarily as "soapboxes" (meaning they are expressions of personal opinions), "transmission belts" (meaning they simply provide links to websites or quote sources with little or no commentary from the blogger), "mobilizers" (meaning they are calls to action) or "listening posts" (meaning they elicit feedback from their audience)? Third, to the extent that these actors use their blogs as soapboxes for expressing their opinions, what is the content of this political expression? Finally, what impact are political blogs having on public discourse, mainstream media coverage and the policy making process? Taken together, the answers to these questions shed light on what the emergence of political blogs means for the quality and functioning of democracy in the United States.

Selected Recent Publications

"Racial prejudice is driving opposition to paying college athletes. Here’s the evidence." with Tatishe M. Nteta and Lauren A. McCarthy, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (December 30, 2015)

"Why American Catholics may not be persuaded by Pope Francis’s message on immigration." with Tatishe Nteta, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (September 27, 2015) 

"It’s time to end anonymous comments sections." with Melinda Tarsi, The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post (August 19, 2014).

Old Media, New Media Sources: The Blogosphere’s Influence on Print Media News Coverage.” International Journal of E-Politics 4, no. 2 (July 2013). 


← Return to Fellowship home