Miller Center

Student Testimonials

Student Testimonial: David Casalaspi

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I entered the University, setting out instead with only one goal in mind: to learn how to think—to learn how to think critically and deeply about the world around me and develop some sort of meaningful philosophy to guide my life. It was for this and other reasons that I was drawn to the Miller Center Grant. After spending the Fall 2011 semester abroad in Paris, France, I returned to Charlottesville looking for ways to get the most out of my fourth year as I knew that I was on pace to fulfill all of my graduation requirements (including my history degree) by the close of my third year.

I first became aware of the Miller Center Grant in March 2011 when a history professor of mine recommended I consider applying, and after making an initial inquiry about the grant, immediately felt that it would be a perfect fit for my academic goals as I had always hoped to carry out some sort of large-scale research project during my final year at UVA, being able in particular to explore my burgeoning interest in education policymaking. Today, I feel extremely fortunate that the Miller Center has felt as much interest towards me as I have felt towards it, and I am certain that my experience working with them on my thesis will not only be one of most stimulating experiences of my college career, but also one of the most rewarding. Few institutions at the University (and even in the United States in general) have so much to offer young scholars in terms of both historical resources about and personal connections to the American political system, and I am certain that this grant will open up exciting opportunities for me both on intellectual and personal levels.

Student Profile: Marlee Crossen

Third-year student Marlee Crossen has been a student intern at the Miller Center since the spring of her second year. She has worked in areas of the Miller Center ranging from the Public Forums to the National Debate Series, focusing primarily on student outreach. She is a double major in History as well as American Government and is extremely interested in law. Next summer she is planning on attending the London School of Economics as well as working in Houston for Parkman Whaling, an energy consulting firm.

“The Miller Center has really opened my eyes to the amazing resources we have available right next door to the University. I have gotten to meet and discuss current topics with the people who are actually a part of molding those very issues. People ranging from John Yoo to Ryan Crocker have sparked my interest and encouraged me to be pursue my interest in a wide range of subjects.”

Student Testimonial: Adam Gillenwater


Adam Gillenwater, a research award recipient, with Miller Center scholars and staff.

The Miller Center’s Undergraduate Research Award offers a great opportunity to delve into an aspect of American political history of particular interest to you. Having always been fascinated by claims of presidential secrecy, I chose to study executive privilege—the right of a president to withhold information sought by Congress or the courts.


I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I first started out. I’d never undertaken a major research project before and I knew regrettably little about my topic other than what I’d garnered from my politics classes or read in newspaper articles. However, despite my lack of background knowledge or research expertise, I was still able to hit the ground running, thanks in large part to the Miller Center’s wealth of resources on the American presidency and the assistance of their helpful staff. By the time I turned in my final report after a year of research, interviews, and writing, I had developed a firm grasp on the historical development and modern relevance of this unique presidential power.

I feel extremely fortunate to have received this award, not only because it allowed me to explore beyond the contours of an important and interesting issue, but also because it provided me the opportunity to travel to places I never imagined I’d go. In trying to pinpoint when the use of executive privilege in the modern presidency expanded beyond its traditional constraints, I found myself spending a week in Abilene, Kansas conducting research at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. My visit to Abilene, a sleepy town of just under 7,000 inhabitants, actually passed for news when – through nothing but luck – I managed to snag the 10,000th research card that the library had ever issued. While I didn’t get a parade through town in my honor as Ike had when he returned to Abilene after two terms as president, I did get my photo in the local paper and a free book from the library’s director. The warm reception I received in Abilene was indicative of my experiences nearly everywhere my research took me, which served to make this entire process all the more enjoyable.

Embarking on a yearlong research project entails a significant commitment of time and energy, but I can assure you that this investment is well worth the rewards. You’ll become a near expert on your chosen topic, travel to interesting places, and meet gifted and often inspiring scholars. Moreover, you’ll discover research and writing skills you never knew you had! Choosing to apply for the Miller Center’s Undergraduate Research Award was one of the best decisions I made while at UVA and I encourage you to consider doing so as well.

Student Profile: Jennifer Wieboldt

Over the past two years, fourth-year U.Va. student Jennifer Wieboldt has worked at the Miller Center on various projects, including updating the American President web site’s online biographies. She is currently indexing the Carter presidential oral history, making it more easily accessible. Jennifer, a double major in History as well as in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law (with a minor in French), is also involved in the “Cavs in the Classroom” program. This past summer, the Arlington, Va. native studied abroad France for a month. Next year, Jennifer will be attending law school, possibly focusing on government relations and administrative regulation.

“I have enjoyed working at the Miller Center, because it has allowed me to apply my interest in history to projects outside of my classes,” said Jennifer. “Additionally, it has exposed me to a type of work relating to public affairs that has influenced my current plan to focus on government-relations law and public service as a career.”

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