The University of Texas at Austin - Civitas Institute

Civitas Fellows 2023-2024

Visiting Fellows

  • Kody Cooper

    Kody W. Cooper is UC Foundation Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he teaches courses in political thought, public law, and American politics.  He is the coauthor of The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics: Political Theology, Natural Law, and the American Founding (Cambridge University Press, 2022) and author of Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018).  He lives with his wife and eight children in a 150-year-old house in Chattanooga, TN.

  • Bernard Haykel

    Bernard Haykel is a scholar of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on the politics, economics and history of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) and Yemen. He is professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. His interests relate to how religious movements and ideologies as well as how heavy dependence on oil rents affect politics and societies in the Middle East. The persistence of authoritarian rule and its repressive practices are a particular feature of this region, and explaining this is an animating feature of Haykel’s scholarship. Professor Haykel is the author of “Revival and Reform in Islam” and editor of “Saudi Arabia in Transition,” both published by Cambridge University Press. At Civitas, Haykel will be completing a book on the modern political history of Saudi Arabia that is titled “Saving the Family Business: the Transformation of Saudi Arabia under MBS.” Haykel is considered an authority on Islamist political movements and Islamic law and is the author of articles on the politics of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Salafism, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. He has supervised over 10 PhD dissertations that deal with Arabian politics and history and has received several prominent awards, such as the Prize Fellowship at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, the Carnegie Corporation and Guggenheim fellowships and the Old Dominion Professorship at Princeton. Professor Haykel appears frequently in print and broadcast media. These include interviews in and articles for PBS, NPR, the New York Times, Project Syndicate, Al Arabia, Al Jazeera, and the BBC among others. He earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Texas Fellows

  • Alexander Duff

    Alexander S. Duff, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas, writes widely in the history of political philosophy, and his publications on classical, modern, and contemporary political philosophy have appeared in both scholarly and popular publications. He has held fellowships from the Tocqueville Program for Inquiry into Religion and American Public Life at the University of Notre Dame and from the Program for the Study of the Western Heritage at Boston College. He is the author of Heidegger and Politics: The Ontology of Radical Discontent.

  • Benjamin Kleinerman

    Benjamin A. Kleinerman is the R.W. Morrison Professor of Political Science at Baylor University where he teaches classes on political thought and political institutions. He also is on the Board of Directors of the Jack Miller Center. Kleinerman is the Chair of the American Political Thought section of the American Political Science Association (APSA), and he has published articles in Perspectives on Politics (APSA), American Political Science Review, Texas Law Review, and several edited volumes including Nomos and The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. He has also been invited to give talks at Yale University, the University of Notre Dame, Xavier University, Kenyon College, and the University of Cincinnati. Kleinerman’s first book, The Discretionary President: The Promise and Peril of Executive Power, has been reviewed in The New Republic and Political Science Quarterly. He has also published on other subjects including literature and politics and American political history.

  • Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo

    I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at Texas State University and received my PhD from the University of Notre Dame in 2013. I have held postdoctoral positions at Princeton University, the United States Naval Academy and Furman University. I received the 2021-22 Presidential Distinction Award in the College of Liberal Arts and the 2018-2019 College of Liberal Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching at TXST. I co-edited the volume Augustine in a Time of Crisis: Politics and Religion Contested and have contributed to multiple anthologies and journals, including the European Journal of Political Theory, Perspectives on Political Science, and European Legacy.

  • Randall Smith

    Randall B. Smith is Full Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.  His most recent books include: Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide (Emmaus, 2016); Aquinas, Bonaventure and the Scholastic Culture of Medieval Paris (Cambridge, 2021); and From Here to Eternity: Reflections on Death, Immortality, and the Resurrection of the Body (Emmaus, 2022).  His book Mapping Bonaventure’s Journey Into God is under review with Cambridge University Press.  He is finishing a book on the moral theology of Thomas Aquinas for Emmaus Press.  His wife Tamara Nicholl-Smith is an accomplished, published poet.

  • David Upham

    David R. Upham is Associate Professor of Politics and Director of Legal Studies at the University of Dallas.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Dallas, and a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.  At the University of Dallas he regularly teaches in the fields of political theory, American political thought, American constitutional law and history.  His research and publications have focused on the meaning and history of the Fourteenth Amendment.  During the fellowship year, he will complete the manuscript of a book tentatively entitled “Taking American Citizenship Seriously and the Recovery of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Research Fellows

  • Richard Burkhauser

    In 2017 Richard V. Burkhauser became Emeritus Sarah Gibson Blanding Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Previously Burkhauser held tenured Professor positions in the Economic Department at Vanderbilt University and Syracuse University. Between September 2017 and May 2019, he was a Member of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers. His professional career has focused on how public policies affect the employment and well-being of vulnerable populations. In 2010 he was the President of the Association for Public Policy and Management. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago.

  • Constantine Vassiliou

    Constantine Vassiliou is Visiting Research Fellow of the Civitas Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a political theorist and historian of ideas specializing in Enlightenment political thought. His forthcoming book, Moderate Liberalism and the Scottish Enlightenment (Edinburgh University Press, August 2023) examines how Montesquieu, Hume, Smith, and Ferguson’s foundational liberal theories responded to the moral and civic challenges of early capitalism. Vassiliou also co-edited and contributed chapters to The Spirit of Montesquieu’s Persian Letters (Lexington Press, 2023) and Liberal Education and Citizenship in a Free Society (University of Missouri Press, 2023).

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Joey Barretta

    Joey Barretta is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Civitas Institute at UT-Austin. Prior to joining Civitas, he received his Ph.D. and M.A. in American politics and political philosophy from Hillsdale College and his B.A. in Political Science and History from Ashland University.

    Barretta’s scholarship focuses on the political thought of Frederick Douglass. His research aims to show that Douglass’s political project after the end of slavery deserves greater treatment than it has received. His scholarly work on Douglass’s constitutional thought can be found in the New North Star: A Journal of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

  • Reid Comstock

    Reid Comstock is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Civitas Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in ancient philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of law. He is interested in the nature of human flourishing, and the social, political, and legal institutions which make it possible. He has co-authored a paper on the Socratic Elenchus (Rev. Archai, 2023), and he has written several papers on Aristotle’s activity as a teacher of ethics. He received his PhD at Notre Dame, writing a dissertation on some issues in Aristotle’s ethics and moral psychology under the direction of Sean Kelsey.

  • William Simpson

    William Simpson is a Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and a Research Associate of the University of Cambridge. He has held Visiting Fellowships at Oxford and Durham and a Junior Research Fellowship at Cambridge. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge (2020) and a doctorate in physics from St Andrews (2014). In 2020, he was honoured with the Expanded Reason Award. In 2021, he was awarded the Cardinal Mercier Prize. He is the author of Hylomorphism (CUP, 2023) and has co-edited two volumes on neo-Aristotelian philosophy.

  • Abby Staysa

    Abby Staysa is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Civitas Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Her area of teaching and research is the history of political philosophy, with a particular focus on the thinkers of ancient Hellas. Her current research is a book-length study of Aristotle’s intricate treatment of pleasure and pain in his philosophy of moral and philosophic education. Before coming to the Civitas Institute, Abby was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics and in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. She earned her B.A. from Hiram College (2015) and her Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame (2023).

  • Tyler Thomas

    Tyler Thomas approaches the study of politics as fundamentally a philosophical enterprise—a thorough examination of the nature, limits, and purpose of political organization. His primary research interest concerns the intersection of science and politics, particularly the relationship of scientific expertise and political authority. His current project investigates the contributions of the philosopher René Descartes to the emergence of a scientific culture in the West.

    He comes to the Civitas Institute from Emory University, where he taught for the past two years after having completed his graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts (2014) from Hiram College and a PhD (2021) from the University of Notre Dame.

Dissertation Fellows

  • Stella Fillmore-Patrick

    Stella Fillmore-Patrick is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, whose research interests encompass the history and philosophy of science, philosophy of statistics, and formal epistemology. Her previous work has explored topics such as action at a distance, Rudolf Carnap’s contributions to semantic information and inductive logic, and interpretations of probability. Stella’s current research centers on the meaning and logical foundations of statistical inference, the differences between Bayesian and frequentist methodologies in statistics, and the history of the development of hypothesis testing.

    Stella’s academic credentials include a Master of Science degree in Statistics and a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and Central European University, respectively. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College, an institution known for its ‘great books’ curriculum.

  • David Futscher Pereira

    David Futscher Pereira is a PhD candidate in political theory at the University of Texas at Austin. He is writing a dissertation on natural sociality, comparing the iterations of the early modern doctrine of the state of nature with each other and with Aristotle’s Politics. Before coming to UT, David Futscher got a Master of Arts in security and diplomacy at the Tel Aviv University, and a bachelor’s degree in economics and law at the Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University.

  • Candace Terman

    Candace Terman is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Government Department. Her research focuses on legal and political theory, with a particular emphasis on the natural-law tradition. She has been cultivating this research interest since her early days at Hillsdale College and continued to do so in her time as a law student at William & Mary Law School. She is particularly interested in how natural law has influenced Western jurisprudence throughout history and is currently writing a dissertation addressing that subject. Her other writing has focused on Shari‘a law as well as Locke’s and Montesquieu’s theories of religious toleration.

Summer Research Fellows

  • William Farris

    William Farris is a Summer Research Fellow of the Civitas Institute and a PhD student in Classical Languages in the Classics Department at The University of Texas at Austin. Farris is writing a dissertation on the poetry of Hesiod and the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. His recent article, “Sirens, Lions, and Wrestlers in Ring Composition in Lycophron’s Alexandra,” appeared in the Melita Classica in August 2022. Previously, he taught a plethora of subjects in secondary education after earning a BA in Classical Philology and a Masters in Humanities from the University of Dallas.

  • Evan Cree Gee

    Evan Cree Gee is a PhD student in the Government Department, where he focuses on political philosophy and American politics. His current research deals with the character of factious conflict between elites and the masses as it comes to light in classical and early modern political theory. In 2018, he earned his A.B. in political science at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he completed a year-long honors project on Plato’s Laches. After graduating, he went to work for two years at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) before arriving in Austin in 2020.

  • Bridget Wu Isenberg

    Bridget Wu Isenberg is a Ph.D. student in government at the University of Texas at Austin. She researches commerce and its effect on our understanding of the human good and freedom. Bridget is currently working on Montesquieu’s view and use of prejudice in The Spirit of the Laws. She earned her bachelor’s from St. John’s College, Santa Fe.

  • Sam Mead

    Samuel Mead is a PhD candidate in political theory at UT, Austin. His research focuses on the political psychology of mortality in the history of political philosophy, and his dissertation is on this theme in Plato’s Laws. He received a B.A. from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, and a Masters from UT, Austin. His other research interests include the dialogue between political theology and political rationalism  in the history of political thought; Classical political philosophy; early modern political philosophy; and Nietzsch

  • Yul Min Park

    Yul Min Park is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research areas include American politics, political communication, and quantitative methodology, with a particular emphasis on media effects on public opinion and political behavior. She analyzes pressing social policy problems using survey experimentation, textual analysis, and computational methods. Her research focuses on how the media influence the public and policymakers with respect to issue salience, opinion, and behavior. She received her M.A. and B.A. from Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, and is currently a Graduate Research Fellow at the Irma Rangel Public Policy Institute.

  • Sam Selsky

    Sam is a PhD student in the Department of Government. His dissertation explores the role of religion in shaping the integration of refugees in countries of the developing world. More generally, his research uses quantitative methods to study the dynamics of minority exclusion and inclusion in diverse societies, with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa.

  • Allen Sumrall

    Allen is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Allen’s research interests include American political and constitutional development and the separation of powers. His work has appeared in in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Elon Law Review, Texas Law Review, Law & Politics Book Review, NBC News, The Constitutionalist, and House Divided. Allen served as a law clerk to Honorable James O. Browning, US District Judge for the District of New Mexico. Allen holds a J.D. with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law in 2021, where he served as an Articles Editor for the Texas Law Review, and a B.A cum laude with Honors in Politics from Bates College in 2016.