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

Francesca Ammon - American Studies, Yale University

Project: Waging War on the Landscape: Demolition and Clearance in Postwar America

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Francesca Ammon is Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

Professor Ammon is an historian of the built environment. Her teaching, research, and writing focus on the changing shapes and spaces of the 20th- and 21st-century American city. She grounds her interdisciplinary approach to this subject in the premise that the landscape materializes social relations, cultural values, and economic processes. In particular, Professor Ammon is interested in the ways that visual culture informs planning and design, the dynamic relationships between cities and nature, the politics of place and space, and the roles of business and the state in shaping the physical landscape.

Professor Ammon is currently a colloquium member of the Penn/Mellon Foundation Humanities + Urbanism + Design Initiative. She is on the board of the Society for American City & Regional Planning History (SACRPH). Before joining the PennDesign faculty, Professor Ammon was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She has also held the Sally Kress Tompkins Fellowship, jointly sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). While completing her Ph.D. in American Studies, she held a fellowship as a Whiting Fellow in the Humanities and was the John E. Rovensky Fellow with the Business History Conference.

Professor Ammon was the 2010-2011 Miller Center Ambrose Monell Foundation Fellow in Technology and Democracy.

Selected Recent Publications

“Post-Industrialization and the City of Consumption: Attempted Revitalization in Asbury Park, New Jersey.” Journal of Urban History 41. no. 2 (March 2015): 158-174.

“Unearthing Benny the Bulldozer: The Culture of Clearance in Postwar Children’s Books.” Technology and Culture 53, no. 2 (April 2012): 306-336.


Nancy A. Banks - History, Columbia University

Project: The Struggle over Affirmative Action in the New York City Building Trades, 1961–1976

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Fellowship year: 2004

Mentor: Thomas Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

Nancy Banks is the Dean of Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

While much scholarly work has been devoted to federal civil rights policy in the 1960s – including several studies on the growing commitment by the civil rights movement and the federal government in that decade to Affirmative Action – Banks believed there had been scant attention paid to Affirmative Action as it relates to the building trades unions, nor to the bitter and lengthy conflicts between civil rights activists, minority workers, and union members. Drawing upon a number of sources – including government documents and court records; the correspondence of political leaders, union officials, and civil rights organizations; and personal interviews with workers, politicians, and labor activists – Banks dissertation explored how Affirmative Action conflicts played out in New York City between 1961 and 1976, and analyzed the impact that they had on the development, implementation, and evolution of the nation's union-targeted affirmative action policies.


Betsy Beasley - American Studies, Yale University

Project: “Serving the World: Energy Contracting, Logistical Labors, and the Culture of Globalization, 1945-2008”

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Betsy A. Beasley is a Ph.D candidate in American Studies at Yale University.  Her dissertation traces the rise of Houston as a global city in the half-century following World War II, arguing that the city’s business elite, especially those in oilfield services companies including Brown & Root, Schlumberger, and Hughes Tool, imagined and enacted a new vision of globalism.  Vehemently resistant to the demands of labor unions, corporate executives positioned the U.S. not as a center of manufacturing and production but as a white-collar headquarters offering expertise in logistics, engineering, and resource management to the rest of the globe.  This project charts the material developments that established Houston as a global center of petrochemical services alongside the cultural narratives that influenced and helped make sense of social, political, and economic change. 

Whereas the most common vision of American global power in the postwar years emphasized the U.S. as an industrial producer whose commodities and high standard of living would be exported around the world, this project highlights an alternative vision based on exporting service and expertise and importing commodities and raw materials, a different globalism that would come to dominate American culture and politics in the post-industrial 1970s.  Drawing methodologically from geography, cultural history, and the history of capitalism, Beasley examines a management vision of U.S. global power while also exploring the resistance of organized labor to this imperial project and the attempts of executives to convince global oil consumers to support U.S. expertise as the best means to ensure access to inexpensive petroleum.   

Beasley holds a B.A. in history from the University of Georgia and an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College of the City University of New York.  Her work has been supported by the American Historical Association, the New Orleans Center for the Global South at Tulane University, and the Coca-Cola World Fund. She co-hosts and produces "Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast" with David Stein.

Selected Recent Publications

Fighting for a Radical City: Student Protesters and the Politics of Space in 1960s and 1970s Downtown Manhattan.Urban History Review 37, no. 2 (March 2009)

Another New Kind of Marriage.Public Seminar,  July 20, 2015.


Anthony Chen - Sociology, University of California - Berkeley

Project: From Fair Employment to Equal Opportunity and Beyond: Race, Liberalism, and the Politics of the New Deal Order, 1941–1971

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Anthony S. Chen is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Northwestern University.

Previously, Chen was Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In addition to holding appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, he was also a Faculty Associate in the Program in American Cultures. From 2005 to 2007, he held the position of Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco. Chen's book, The Fifth Freedom (Princeton, 2009), won the President's Book Award from the Social Science History Association. Chen received his B.A. from Rice University 1994 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002.

Selected Recent Publications

The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972. (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Political Parties and the Sociological Imagination: Past, Present, and Future Directions.” with Stephanie L. Mudge. Annual Review of Sociology 40 (2014): 305-330.


Merlin Chowkwanyun - History and Public Health, University of Pennsylvania

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

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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.


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.


Michael Fein - History, Brandeis University

Project: Public Works: New York Road Building and the American State, 1880–1956

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Michael Fein is an Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences and an Associate Professor of History at Johnson & Wales University.

Fein's dissertation led to Paving the Way: New York Road Building and the American State, 1880–1956 (Kansas University, 2008), which won the Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Research from the New York State Archives. Fein has also published a collaborative work with Professor David Moss at the Harvard Business School. 

Fein's dissertation, "Public Works: New York Road Building and the American State, 1880–1956," examined the link between infrastructure and political development. The project used New York State as a case study to explore the expansion of state capacity, providing a historical perspective on the development of New York's massive public works program, from the paving of the first state roads to the construction of the Thruway. In so doing, Fein shed light on the ways in which public construction helped to reconfigure landscapes and communities, as well as political and economic structures. From that study, he drew important insights on a vital question in policy history: How have the units of the state addressed modern problems that are national in scope but local in implementation?

Selected Recent Publications

Paving the Way: New York Road Building and the American State, 1880-1956 (University Press of Kansas, 2008)

Tunnel Vision: ‘Invisible’ Highways and Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ in the Age of Privatization." Journal of Planning History 11, no. 1 (2008): 47-69.


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.   


Benjamin Holtzman - History, Brown University

Project: Crisis and Confidence: Reimagining New York City in the Late Twentieth Century

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Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Suleiman Osman, The George Washington University

Crisis and Confidence: Reimagining New York City in the Late Twentieth Century uses the sweeping transformation of post-1960s New York City to understand the broader remaking of the United States in the latter twentieth century. The project begins in the crisis-plagued New York City of the 1960s, the inauguration of more than a decade of widespread economic and political turmoil, and ends with the city’s proclaimed resurgence in the 2000s. During this period, diverse groups of city-dwellers, including grassroots organizations, non-profit foundations, elites, and elected officials worked to reshape New York as overlapping crises disrupted long-standing logics of urban governance and economics. In chronicling these varied initiatives, Crisis and Confidence reveals a defining characteristic of the period: as different sectors simultaneously embraced the sentiment that city government no longer worked, many turned toward market-based governing logics to sustain key areas of city life. These turns illustrate the powerful connection between local conditions and the broader shift toward a marketized political economy.


Alethia Jones - Political Science, Yale University

Project: Bootstraps and Beltways: The State's Role in Immigrant Self-Help

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Fellowship year: 2004

Mentor: Mark Stern, University of Pennsylvania

Alethia Jones is Director of Education and Leadership Development at 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Jones' research and teaching fields are urban studies and community development; the public policy process; race, ethnicity and politics; and, historical political science.

Jones' dissertation examined the politics surrounding informal immigrant financial practices to understand the relationship between state power and self-help in immigrant incorporation. The three cases Jones studied come from the two periods of highest immigration and permit us to see continuities from the past as well as account for different racial and political contexts. She additionally added an institutional dimension to the story of how politics affects the incorporation of immigrants. Unlike other studies that reinforce the classic "up by their bootstraps" immigrant, self-help story, this project specified the structure of the relationship between informal and formal institutions and the state.

Selected Recent Publications

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, ed. with Virginia Eubanks (SUNY Press, 2014).

"Identity Politics: Part of a Reinvigorated Class Politics.New Labor Forum, November 5, 2010.


Nora Krinitsky - History, University of Michigan

Project: The Politics of Crime Control: Race, Policing, and State Power in Modern America

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Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Kelly Lytle Hernandez, University of California, Los Angeles

“The Politics of Crime Control: Race, Policing, and State Power in Modern America,” examines the building of the American coercive state from the end of World War I through the early post-World War II years, with particular attention to the entwined processes of criminalization and racialization in the urban North. Chicago serves as the site of analysis, and offers an ideal site through which to consider many of the pivotal transformations in modern American history and their relationship to crime control—including urban expansion, migrations and immigrations, tensions between labor and capital, Prohibition and the temperance movement, industrial boom and economic crisis. The dissertation augments the burgeoning historical literature on the American carceral state, and demonstrates that in order to understand the vast scope of modern coercive state power, scholars must consider the dense legal terrain of American cities, and account for the considerable power wielded by local policing institutions to define the boundaries of legality. The dissertation weaves together analyses of these state institutions, as well as their critics and members of policed communities, drawing on municipal, state, and federal government records, legal treatises and legislative debates, commission investigations, news reports, and the records of social reform and racial improvement organizations. Policing thus serves as a lens through which to understand the production of racial knowledge, the relationship between citizens and the coercive state, and the negotiation of rights in the modern United States. 


Heather Lewis - History, New York University

Project: Scaling Down: Half a Century of Community Control in New York City's Schools, 1945–95

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Heather Lewis is Associate Professor of Art and Design Education at the Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design.

Lewis’s teaching and research integrate the history of education, art and design, and urban development through the prism of New York City’s urban communities and their changes over time.

The community control movement in education was part of a multi-pronged movement targeting housing, employment, healthcare, policing and welfare in many of New York City's African-American, Puerto Rican, and Asian communities of the late 1960s. While the movement for community control of schools paralleled and intersected with organizing in other fields, it had a distinct trajectory and a unique set of outcomes because of the role public education is supposed to play in producing the conditions for citizen participation in democratic governance.

Spanning a half-century in New York City's school system (1945–95), Lewis interpreted the historical trajectory of multiple efforts to scale up educational reform by scaling down governance and bureaucracy. Her dissertation claimed that improvement was possible because educators and school board members in these decentralized districts were driven by a similar moral commitment to societal and school change as were the community control activists in the 1960s. Given the limitations of the school system's decentralized structure, a downturn in the local and national economy, and the continued resistance of the teachers' and principals' unions to community control, local district leaders' accomplishments in the '70s and '80s were significant. Lewis's dissertation posited that while the continuity of leadership and improvement in educational outcomes in these districts may not have been representative of the 32 community school districts created under decentralization, the districts' broader social and political contexts were not atypical. Rather than treating the two districts as idiosyncratic, her dissertation argued that other New York City community school districts with similar student populations and committed leadership could have followed a different course if there had been more effective support from the central school system, teachers' and principals' unions, elected officials and the public.

Selected Recent Publications

New York City’s Public Schools From Brownsville to Bloomberg: Community Control and its Legacy (Teachers College Press, 2013).

Future Teachers and Historical Habits of Mind: A Pedagogical Case Study. History of Education Quarterly, 56, no. 2 (February, 2016)

Assessment by Design: Scaling up by Thinking Small.” in Reframing Quality Assurance in Creative Disciplines (2015): 107-116.


Margaret Pugh O’Mara - History, University of Pennsylvania

Project: Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Politics and the Roots of the Information Age Metropolis, 1945–75

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Margaret O'Mara is Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington.

O'Mara's research interests include: Silicon Valley, national politics, economic globalization, postindustrial cities, and higher education. Her current research project examines the technology industry's impact on politics, culture, and place since 1970. She also works with government, business, and civic organizations on projects exploring how innovation drives growth and change.  Most recently, she was the lead curatorial advisor to the Bezos Center for Innovation at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry.

O'Mara's dissertation, "Cold War Politics and the Roots of the Information Age Metropolis, 1945–1975," examined the effect of Cold War politics upon urban space in the United States during the 30 years following World War II. She specifically explored the way in which the increased national focus on higher education and scientific research during the 1950s and 1960s strongly encouraged the suburbanization of people and industry – particularly the rapidly growing advanced scientific sectors – in metropolitan areas in many different parts of the country, including the major metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Northern California's Silicon Valley.

Selected Recent Publications

Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

"The Environmental Contradictions of High-Tech Urbanism." in Jeff Hou, Ben Spencer, Thaisa Way, and Ken Yocum, eds., Now Urbanism: The Future City is Here (Routledge, 2014).

"The Uses of the Foreign Student.Social Science History 36, no.4 (December 2012).

Cities and Suburbs." in Lynn Dumenil, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History (Oxford University Press, 2012).


Suleiman Osman - History of American Civilization, George Washington University

Project: The Birth of Postmodern New York: Gentrification, Post industrialization and Race in South Brooklyn from 1950 to 1980

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Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Thomas Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

Suleiman Osman is Associate Professor of American Studies at George Washington University.

He specializes in U.S. urban history, the built environment, U.S. cultural and social history, and the study of race and ethnicity, with a particular focus on the way urban space both shapes and is produced by culture and politics. His book Inventing Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York was published by Oxford University Press in February 2011. A history of gentrification in Brooklyn, the book explores the relationship between New York’s physical and symbolic cityscapes. Tracing the efforts of a new middle class to reinhabit and restore aging Victorian neighborhoods, Professor Osman examines how Brooklyn’s declining commercial and industrial landscapes were recast as postindustrial sites of anti-bureaucratic authenticity.

Professor Osman is also pursuing a broader project that looks at 1970s’ urban politics and culture. His recent chapter, "The Decade of the Neighborhood,” in Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman’s Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, offers an analysis of the “neighborhood movement” of the 1970s and traces the widespread and eclectic revolts against urban growth politics in New York, Boston and other cities in the 1970s.


Sarah Seo - History, Princeton University

Project: The Fourth Amendment, Cars, and Freedom in Twentieth-Century America

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Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: David Sklansky, Stanford Law School

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

Most scholars have explained the development of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in the twentieth century as an enduring struggle to limit the police’s discretionary authority to protect individual rights. But by beginning her inquiry with the automobile in American society—one of the most contested sites of the Fourth Amendment, yet the least studied—Seo’s show that the evolution in the law of searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment reflected the more difficult challenge of accommodating the police within the meaning of freedom itself. The mass production of the automobile created the greatest urban disorder at the turn of the century, and the state’s power to regulate the social chaos of the automotive society increasingly encompassed a proactive, discretionary form of policing. Seo’s project traces the implications of this shift in governance from nineteenth-century self-regulation to twentieth-century policing through Fourth Amendment car search-and-seizure cases. By prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fourth Amendment governed the first point of encounters between individuals and the police. And in the twentieth century, most of those encounters happened in the context of a traffic stop. Car stops and searches thus offer an important perspective not only on how the citizen-police relationship has evolved, but also on how Americans have wrestled with the paradox of discretionary policing in a society committed to the rule of law. Ultimately, the resolution entailed a change in what it meant to live in a free society. 


Peter Siskind - History, University of Pennsylvania

Project: Growing Pains: Political Economy and Place on the Northeast Corridor, 1950s–1970s

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Fellowship year: 2001

Mentor: Christopher Sellers, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Peter Siskind is Assistant Professor of History at Arcadia University and is the Chair of the Department of Historical and Political Studies.

Dr. Siskind specializes in American political, urban/suburban, and environmental history. He came to Arcadia in 2004 after teaching at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a Ph.D. in History in 2002. He earned an A.B. in Religion from Dartmouth College in 1990. Arcadia awarded him tenure in 2010.  He received his B.A. from Dartmouth University, his M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Siskind co-taught a course at the University of Pennsylvania with Governor Ed Rendell on contemporary campaigns and elections.

Dr. Siskind’s scholarship examines the contours of modern American liberalism – its evolution and internal tensions, its potential and limitations. Much of his writing has focused on the politics of land use and development in the cities, suburbs, and recreational vacationlands on the post-World War II Northeast Corridor from the metropolitan areas of Boston to Washington, D.C. He is also exploring a potential book-length work on the life of Nelson Rockefeller.

Selected Recent Publications

"Shades of Black and Green: The Making of Racial and Environmental Liberalism in Nelson Rockefeller’s New YorkJournal of Urban History 34, no. 2 (January 2008): 243-265.


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