Alumni (National Fellow)

Shannon Nix

National Fellow
B.S. University of Kansas (1981)
M.A. North Carolina State University (2009)
Ph.D. University of Virginia (2016)
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Dream Mentor:
William Schmidli
Bucknell University
Fields of Interest:
African American History
American Political Development
National Security Policy
Region: Latin America


Shannon Nix earned his doctorate in international history from the University of Virginia in 2017 under the advisement of Dr. Philip Zelikow. ’’The Soul of Our Foreign Policy’: Human Rights, Ecumenical Activism, and the Transnational Struggle for Central America, 1976-1992,’ examines the origins, functioning and impact of transnational human rights activism on U.S. foreign policy toward Central America in the latter Cold War.

Since completing his Miller Center fellowship in 2016 and his dissertation in 2017, Dr. Nix continues to advance his dissertation as an independent scholar, while refining his teaching as an adjunct instructor. He has taught courses in modern U.S., Latin American, world, and human rights history. In 2018, Dr. Nix helped found, and continues to serve, the Triangle Debate League, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing the academic benefits of debate to underserved high school students in his community.

Thesis Description:

‘The Soul of our Foreign Policy’: Human Rights Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the Struggle for Central America, 1976-1984
Shannon Nix’s dissertation, ” ’The Soul of our Foreign Policy’: Human Rights Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the Struggle for Central America, 1976-1984,” examines a series of transnational political struggles waged on the terrain of human rights and their influence on U.S. policy toward overlapping Central American crises during the Carter and Reagan administrations. While recognizing the importance of traditional U.S. policymakers, it draws attention to the contribution of non-governmental organizations in Washington and their transnational advocacy networks. Often staffed by former missionaries, as well as civil rights and antiwar activists, many had close ties to mainstream religious groups. Increasingly disillusioned with U.S. Cold War policy, they sought to change Washington’s policy toward nations tragically riven by intransigent inequality and civil war. Building on longstanding commitments to the Social Gospel, fused with emerging theological commitments to ecumenicism and social justice, they used human rights politics to shape both policy and the domestic political climate. More than a Cold War struggle for Central American hearts and minds, this was, quite literally, one for the “soul of American foreign policy.”

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