Miller Center

Miller Center Fellows 2007 – 2008

The GAGE Program at the Miller Center has awarded a Miller Center Fellowship to eight scholars for the 2007–2008 academic year. The Fellowship awards each fellow a one-year $20,000 grant to support his or her research and writing which may focus on American politics, foreign policy and world politics, or the impact of global affairs on the United States. Along with the fellowship grant, the Miller Center helps the Fellow choose a senior scholar who serves as a "dream mentor" throughout the fellowship year.

This year the Miller Center received a total of 87 applications from scholars across the country in a variety of fields including history, political science, economics, American studies, international relations, and sociology.

The Miller Center has awarded 74 fellowships since 2000. Most recipients have gone on to tenure-track positions and prestigious post-doctoral fellowships at leading colleges and universities. Others are now serving in the public sector or at non-profit foundations.

Saladin Ambar
Saladin Ambar

The Rise of the Hudson Progressives: How Governors Helped Shape the Modern Presidency

Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Mentor: Sidney Milkis, University of Virginia

Saladin Ambar is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University.

Ambar received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2008. His research interests include American politics, the presidency and executive politics, racial and ethnic politics, and American political thought. Among the more influential developments of late 19th-century American politics was the expansion in both theory and practice of executive power. The American governorship as an institution in its own right played a central role in pushing the legislative, party, and theoretical contours of executive behavior, contributing considerably to the edifice of the modern presidency. This dissertation explored how pre-presidential executive office and leading Progressive Era state executives built a line of practices that reinvigorated and expanded the scope of presidential action. The central case studies of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt's governorships are examined against a backdrop of shifting executive practices, exemplified by such instrumental governors as Grover Cleveland, Bob LaFollette, and Hiram Johnson. This study challenged the presumption of the modern presidency's origins. It posited that the modern American presidency cannot be fully apprehended without recognition of its ties to developments launched by state executives.

Recent Publications:
How Governors Helped Build the Modern Presidency, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012)
“Near Great? Give ‘em Hell Harry!” The Free Lance Star, 23 October 2008


Jefferson Decker
Jefferson Decker

The Conservative Legal Movement and American Government, 1971–1987

Jefferson Decker, Columbia University
Mentor: Daniel Ernst, Georgetown University

Jefferson Decker is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University.

He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2009. His dissertation described the political mobilization of conservative lawyers and their attempt to reform and reshape American government. In the 1970s, conservative lawyers, political activists, and donors created a network of non-profit legal foundations in order to challenge liberalism in the courts. These groups took on a variety of cases, from challenging local land use regulations and offering a "pro-business" perspective on environmental disputes to challenging "sweetheart deals" between government agencies and liberal trial lawyers. In doing so, they sought to reassert principles of federalism and limited government, while restricting (or rolling back) the regulatory state. After Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, veterans of these firms took jobs in the new administration, where they had an opportunity to rework some of the policies they had litigated from inside the government. In describing this journey from outsiders to policymakers, this dissertation described the evolution of public policy and conservative ideas about the law during the Reagan era.


Nicole Kazee
Nicole Kazee

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

Nicole Kazee, Yale University
Mentor: Lawrence Brown, Columbia University

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. 

She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University in 2009. In the last three decades, the American welfare state has undergone two significant changes. First, 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.

Recent Publications:
"Tax Can Help Workers, Employers." The State, 7 May 2008
"To Win SCHIP Battle, Enlist Employers." The Baltimore Sun, 9 November 2007

Christopher Lebron
Christopher Lebron

Power, Race, History and Justice in America

Christopher Lebron, Wilson Carey McWilliams Fellow; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mentor: Kwame Appiah, Princeton University

Christopher Lebron is Associate Research Scientist of Political Science and Senior Lecturer of Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale University.

Christopher J. Lebron received his Ph.D. in Political Science in 2009. His general interests are in issues of social justice, and political theory methodology. This project put forth a conception of justice termed democratic partnership developed for the purpose of addressing extant racial injustices in American society. He began from the premise that significant patterns of injustice in any society can only be understood, hence properly addressed, when we consider the development of the injustice over the course of a specified historical period. Further, any resulting injustice importantly centered on those aspects of social existence which undermine one's ability to partake and benefit from that society's resources and political life – he offered that this is the ability to have a sufficient amount of self-respect. Historically grounded injustices are best addressed, so he argued, by a normative theory informed by a robust conception of power, which he termed historically evolved socially embedded power. To give context to the claims of justice and this conception of power, he sought to provide a relevant political historical narrative focusing on the relations of power between major social, political, and economic institutions and persons of color and which considers the broader impact on society over time. Democratic partnerships are only fulfilled when the appropriate institutions take on the stipulated responsibilities while persons of color utilize the social bases of self-respect in order to be substantive equal members of democratic society.

Lebron is the author of the forthcoming book The Colot of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time (Oxford University Press, July 2013)


Michael Morgan
Michael Morgan

The Origins of the Helsinki Final Act, 1954–1975

Michael Morgan, Yale University
Mentor: Tony Judt, New York University

Michael Morgan is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chapel Hill.

Michael Morgan received his Ph.D. in International History from Yale University. The signing of the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975 was a turning point in the history of the Cold War. The brief ceremony in the Finnish capital was the culmination of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), one of the largest and most ambitious diplomatic undertakings in European history. Over the course of nearly three years, 35 countries jointly hammered out an agreement that covered almost every aspect of international affairs, including sovereignty and borders, economic and commercial relations, and human rights. By injecting human rights into geopolitics for the first time, by calling the centuries-old principle of absolute sovereignty into question, and by raising the possibility of reunifying a divided Europe, the Final Act had profound consequences for the future of the Cold War. It crystallized the difference between the political systems of Eastern and Western Europe, secured communist recognition of basic human rights standards, and, most importantly, bolstered dissident movements across Eastern Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, the Final Act's contribution to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has been widely acknowledged, and Morgan's dissertation, based on newly-declassified material from North American and European archives, was the first comprehensive account of how and why it came into being.

Recent Publications:
“The Seventies and the Rebirth of Human Rights,” The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective, (Harvard University Press, 2010)
“The United States and the Making of the Helsinki Final Act,” Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations 1969-1977, (Oxford University Press, 2008)


Robert Rakove
Robert Rakove

Befriending the Nonaligned: Kennedy, Johnson and the Neutral Powers

Robert Rakove, University of Virginia
Mentor: Robert McMahon, Ohio State University

Robert Rakove is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the United States Study Centre at the University of Sydney.

Rakove received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2008. Currently, Rakove is revising his dissertation for publication. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy initiated what he saw as a bold new effort to redefine the relationship between the United States of America and those states that had declared themselves to be "nonaligned" in the Cold War. Kennedy perceived far more danger emanating from turbulence in the Third World than did his predecessor, and felt himself obliged to go further than Eisenhower in reaching a rapprochement with post-colonial nationalists. Kennedy and his advisors hoped that a greater responsiveness to the interests and concerns of nonaligned states such as India, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt and Yugoslavia would prevent them from aligning themselves with the Soviet Union. They sought to improve America's position among the nonaligned states through vigorous presidential diplomacy, offers of aid, and carefully calibrated changes of policy.

His dissertation examined the goals and strategies behind this policy, as well as its impact on world events in the 1960s. More broadly, this project pondered the dilemmas posed by efforts to reach beyond existing geopolitical relationships. Inevitably, it must consider basic structural questions: were the nonaligned states, each fielding major regional aspirations, viable partners for Washington? Were there inherent structural obstacles that could not be overcome? The dilemmas of great power status were central to this project, and the lessons we might learn from studying the challenges faced by Kennedy and Johnson bear some relevance in today's multipolar world.


Jesse Rhodes
Jesse Rhodes

Making the Educational State: The Transformation of Educational Governance in the U.S. from a Nation at Risk to No Child Left Behind

Jesse Rhodes, University of Virginia
Mentor: Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University

Jesse Rhodes is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Rhodes received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2008. Rhodes' dissertation blended historical and quantitative methods to model the development of new governing arrangements in education at the state and federal levels from the late 1970s to the present. As it showed, a national reform coalition composed of business elites, governors, and conservative intellectuals set a new agenda for education policy stressing high standards and accountability for results, profoundly shaping the trajectory of state educational policymaking during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the structure of opportunities and constraints provided by a diverse federal polity mediated the diffusion of the new educational agenda, helped create feedback loops that led to the reformulation of educational agendas and the refocusing of reformers on national government involvement, influenced the formation of new educational coalitions and organizations, and provided platforms and prestige for strategically placed individuals and groups to shape both state and national education debates. This policy feedback fed the increasing nationalization of educational governance, culminating in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), that has characterized the past two decades. However, states' commitment to the reform agenda have continued to be mediated by their unique political and racial environments, producing a patchwork of reform that belies NCLB's nationalizing pretensions.

Recent Publications:
An Education in Politics: The Origins and Evolution of No Child Left Behind (Cornell University Press, 2012)
“Progressive Policy Making in a Conservative Age? Civil Rights and the Politics of Federal Education Standards, Testing, and Accountability.” Perspectives on Politics, (September 2011)


Dominique Tobbell
Dominique Tobbell

Pharmaceutical Networks: The Political Economy of Drug Development in the United States, 1945–1980

Dominique Tobbell, University of Pennsylvania
Mentor: Dan Carpenter, Harvard University

Dominique Tobbell is Assistant Professor in the Program in the History of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Tobbell received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. Tobbell's dissertation examined the drug industry's efforts to build political support for itself in the second half of the 20th century and defeat the more radical agendas of pharmaceutical reformers. Critical to this effort was the industry's strategy of offering to the medical and academic communities solutions to their shared problems. These problems included a growing manpower problem in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences and the increasing authority of the FDA – and the government more generally – over medical practice. In this way, the current political economy of drug development, and in particular the political culture that sustains it, can be seen as having evolved through the mutually beneficial relations of industry and key sectors of the biomedical community.

Recent Publications:
Pills, Power, and Policy: The Struggle for Drug Reform in Cold War America and its Consequences (University of California Press, 2012)
“Bioequivalence: The Regulatory Career of a Pharmaceutical Concept,” with Daniel P. Carpenter, Bulletin of the History of Medicine (2011)