Michael Joseph Smith

Michael Joseph Smith is the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought and program director; he also is an Associate Professor of Politics. He has had a long connection with the Program. From 1996 to 1999, he served with the late Professor William Lee Miller as Associate Director of PST, before taking over the Directorship in 1999.  Apart from a two-year hiatus from 2012-14, he has directed the program since then. He came to PST with extensive experience teaching in interdisciplinary programs, including the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program at Oxford University and the Social Studies program at Harvard University. Prof. Smith focuses his research interests on human rights and the ethical dilemmas of modern international politics.

Former Directors


Allan Megill

Allan Megill directed the Program for two academic years, 2012-2014. Professor Megill is a Professor of History  His main areas of research interest are Modern Europe, Modern European History of Ideas, and Historical Theory/Philosophy of History. He written extensively on continental thought, and on Karl Marx. He continues to teach courses that are foundational to PST.


William Lee Miller

William Lee Miller, a writer and teacher about ethics and American politics, served as Director of the Program in Political and Social Thought from 1996 to 1999. Professor Miller exemplified in his life the combination of scholarship with engagement in public affairs that the program hopes to encourage in its students. His many books, written for a well-informed general audience, include historical studies that focus on James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, always with an eye to their moral significance. He wrote articles for a number of national publications, including The New York Times Magazine and The New Republic, and was a staff writer for The Reporter magazine. His involvement in politics included service as a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson during Stevenson’s second presidential campaign, and three terms as an alderman in New Haven, Connecticut. He recounted his many experiences in New Haven politics in The Fifteenth Ward and the Great Society. After teaching at Smith College, Yale, and Indiana University, he came to the University of Virginia in 1982, retiring in 1999 as Commonwealth Professor and Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought. He subsequently was Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs. In 2012, his widow created the William Lee Miller Prize in his honor.


William Wilson

Professor Wilson earned his BA and PhD at UVa and holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard. He is Professor of Religious Studies and for twenty-five years served as an Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. In his last seven years, he was the dean for Echols Scholars. Appointed by Dean Raymond Nelson, Prof. Wilson directed the Program in Political and Social Thought from 1993 to 1996.  His fields of interest include Philosophical Theology and Religion and Literature, and he has published widely in both areas. Prof. Wilson remains on the Religious Studies Faculty but left the College Deans’ Office in 2012 to become Director of Graduate Studies at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation.


Michael E. Brint

Professor Brint was an Assistant Professor of Government at UVa and served as Program Director from 1990 to 1993. He left the University in 1994.


A. John Simmons

A. John Simmons (PhD, Cornell) is Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Law; Editor, Philosophy and Public Affairs; Editorial Board member, Social Theory and Practice. He specializes in political philosophy, ethics, history of moral and political theory, and philosophy of law, and he is best known for his books and articles on authority and political obligation and on John Locke’s political philosophy. Most recently, he is the author of Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2008). Professor Simmons served as Program Director from 1985 to 1990.


H. C. Erik Midelfort

Professor Midelfort is C. Julian Bishko Professor Emeritus of History and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is a specialist of the German Reformation and the history of Christianity in Early Modern Europe. His work has concentrated on the history of witch hunting (1500-1700), the history of madness and psychiatry, and the history of demonic possession. He has regularly sought out the reciprocal relations between social conditions and mentalities. Professor Midelfort has also translated several seminal works in early modern German history, works dealing with the Reformation, the German Peasants’ War of 1525, German witchcraft, and the early Enlightenment in Germany. He served as the Program Director from 1982 to 1985. After retiring from the University of Virginia in 2009 he has been working on the history of dissent (both religious and irreligious) in Germany, 1650-1740.


Dante Germino, Founding Director

Dante Germino taught political theory and worked at UVa for over 30 years, joining the UVa faculty in 1968 as a member of the Center for Advanced Studies and later serving as an assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences. Influenced by his teaching experience at Harvard’s Social Studies program, Germino initiated in the late 1970s the creation of similarly interdisciplinary program at the University. Germino worked closely with two historians, Alec Sedgwick and Robert Cross, as well as English professor Robert Kellogg, and the program was officially launched in 1980, aided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prof. Germino served as the Program Director from 1980 to 1982. The program graduated its first majors (six) in 1981. Prof. Germino resigned from the deanship in 1984 and continued teaching until 1997. After his retirement from UVa, he taught at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands and at the University of Bangkok in Thailand. During his career, he also lived and taught in the Philippines, Italy, Germany and Great Britain. Professor Germino was killed in a train accident in Amsterdam in May 2002.