The Center for American Studies (CAS) was formed in 2007 to respond to the growing lack of civic literacy among college students and citizens. The Center’s goal is to educate the next generation towards becoming enlightened leaders and responsible citizens in order to better secure the U.S. future.


The Center is an interdisciplinary initiative that promotes teaching and scholarship on America’s founding principles and history, economic foundations, and national security. CAS undertakes these tasks in order to promote sensible notions of liberty and a civic responsibility to defend that liberty locally and globally.


As a non-partisan center, the CAS builds upon CNU’s strength as a classical liberal arts institution. CAS’s goals and activities include:

  • Enhancing CNU’s undergraduate curriculum in American Studies, Constitutional Studies, and U.S. National Security Studies;
  • Supporting undergraduate and faculty scholarship that advance understanding of the American Experiment in economic and political liberty;
  • Sponsoring postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars;
  • Holding annual conferences and national security workshops; 
  • Developing student internship programs.

The Center for American Studies has worked to initiate innovative programs exploring America’s foundational principles, economic system, and defense policy. The Center focuses on three areas: American founding principles and history, the Moral Foundations of Capitalism, and U.S. National Security Studies.

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Center Leadership:

Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer-Busch
Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Co-Director of CAS and Associate Professor of American Studies
Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch is founder and Co-Director of CAS, and an Associate Professor of American Studies. She received a Ph.D. in political science from Michigan State University with specializations in modern and American political thought. She played a leading role in designing CNU’s major and minor in American Studies. Prior to coming to CNU, she was an Assistant Professor of Government at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Her research focuses on American political thought, the U.S. governmental system, and the evolution of women's movements in America. She has published articles, book chapters, and scholarly studies on these subjects and is editor of Democracy Revisited (Lexington Press, 2009).
Dr. Nathan BuschDr. Nathan E. Busch, Co-Director of CAS and Professor of Government
Dr. Nathan E. Busch is Co-Director of CAS and a Professor of Government. He received an M.A. in political science from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with specializations in international relations and political philosophy. Prior to coming to CNU, he held positions at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Harvard University, and the University of Georgia. Dr. Busch has published widely in the field of international security and is a specialist in WMD proliferation and terrorism. He is author, co-author or co-editor of many books and articles on these issues, including, most recently, The Business of Counterterrorism: Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security (Peter Lang, 2014) and The Routledge Handbook of Nuclear Proliferation and Policy (Routledge, 2015), No End in Sight: The Continuing Menace of Nuclear Proliferation (University of Kentucky Press, 2004), and editor of Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Future of International Nonproliferation Policy (University of Georgia Press, 2009). 


Dr. Jonathan White, CAS Senior Fellow, Associate Professor of  American Studies

Executive Committee

Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Center Director, Assistant Professor of American Studies

Dr. Nathan E. Busch, Co-Director, Associate Professor of Government

Dr. Jonathan White, Fellow, CAS, Assistant Professor of  American Studies

Dr. Phillip Hamilton, Chair and Associate Professor of History

Dr. Quentin Kidd, Chair of the Department of Government

Dr. David Pollio, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies

Dr. Marsha Sprague, Professor of English and Director of the Master’s in Teaching Program

Dr. Michelle Vachris, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism

Dr. Matthew Mendham, Assistant Professor of Government

Center for American Studies Board of Advisors

  • Co-Chair: Major General David Whaley (US Army, Ret.), Executive VP and COO of The Linc Group
  • Co-Chair: Derek Jenkins, Director, Security and Emergency Management, Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Joe Ambrosio, Owner, Management Resource Group

  • Marcus Boggs, Relationship Manager, Eastern Virginia Commercial Banking, Wells Fargo
  • Robert Conley, Regional Director, Support Services - East, Cox Communications 

  • Robert Fitzgerald, CEO, TBG, LLC
  • Ken Fortune, President, LEO Government Consulting 

  • Dan Jenkins, Director of Corporate Security, Dominion Resources
  • Michael John, Director of Media Outreach, University of North Carolina
  • Major General Jeff Mathis 

    (U.S. Army, Ret.), Managing Partner, Variable 

    Solutions International

  • Elizabeth Mayo, Associate Director, Government Sales, Verizon Wireless
  • Mike Melo, President and CEO, ITA International, LLC
  • Mark Milicich, 

    Vice President for Enterprise Solutions, Elite 

    Contracting Group

  • Jim Smith, 

    Director in the Advisory Practice, KPMG

  • Major General Robert Newman (ret.), former Adjutant General for the State of Virginia
  • Jeff Wassmer, President / CEO Spectrum Comm Inc.
  • Colonel Jerry Wright (USAF, Ret.), Director, Air Force Programs, Nexutech

"The major in American Studies has provided me with a rich, in-depth civic education about America's founding principles. In my classes, close readings and analysis of important political texts have enriched my knowledge about the origins of this country and how we have evolved. In studying works written by some of America's greatest politicians, philosophers, and activists, I have developed enhanced perspectives on the history and evolution of social, political, and economic institutions in this country. It has truly been an invaluable component of my undergraduate experience." 
~ Scott Bledsoe, American Studies and Political Science double major (CAS Junior Fellow Fall 2015-Spring 2016)

"The Center for American Studies has provided me with opportunities I never could have hoped for if I had gone to a different school. Not only does the Center bring in interesting and engaging speakers, but it gives students the opportunity to network at events like their Annual Conference on America's Founding Principles and History and the Symposium for Homeland Security and Defense. I also have had the opportunity to work as a Junior Fellow with the Center. In doing this I have received both practical and research experience that most undergrads do not have the chance to get." 
~ Elizabeth (Lili) Samios, AMST and Economics Double Majors and Leadership and Political Science minor (CAS Junior Fellow, Fall 2015-Spring 2016)

"The Center for American Studies has been an amazing resource on key issues concerning the United States. Whether it be Constitution Day debates or The Symposium for Homeland Security and Defense, the Center has hosted events that really help to inform students on current issues. Before I even became a Junior Fellow for the Center I went to virtually all of the Center's events, as I saw them a crucial outside-of-the-classroom learning opportunities. Now that I am a Junior Fellow, I appreciate them even more, as I not only get to learn from our many speakers, but also get first hand contact with them before and after the event. These are wonderful networking opportunities, and my career will benefit enormously from it."
~ Nathan Sieminski, English and Political Science Double-Major, with minors in Leadership and US National Security Studies (Junior Fellow, Fall 2015-2016)

Our Current Junior Fellows:

  • Cameron Baxter, American Studies and Political Science Major
  • Sarah Hopkins, American Studies and Political Science Major
  • Ryan LaRochelle, American Studies and Political Science Major
  • Courtney Leistensnider, American Studies and History Major, Senior
  • Lilly Samios, American Studies and Economics Major
  • Dagney Palmer, American Studies and Economics Major

Center for American Studies: Publications

Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman by Dr. Jonathan White

Jonathan White Book Cover On May 25, 1861, Union military authorities arrested a Maryland farmer named John Merryman on charges of treason against the United States.  Merryman was suspected of burning railroad bridges around Baltimore in April 1861 in an effort to prevent northern soldiers from reaching the endangered national capital.  From his prison cell at Fort McHenry, in Baltimore harbor, Merryman attempted to secure his own release by petitioning Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for a writ of habeas corpus.  Taney issued the writ, but President Abraham Lincoln ignored it and continued to hold Merryman in close confinement.  Upon his release from the fort in mid-July, Merryman was indicted for treason in a federal court in Baltimore, but his case never went to trial.  Federal prosecutors finally dismissed the case in 1867, two years after the close of the war.

Historians traditionally portray the story of John Merryman’s arrest as a conflict between President Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney over the nature of executive power and individual rights in wartime.  In Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War, Jonathan W. White reveals how the arrest and prosecution of this little-known Baltimore farmer had a lasting impact on the Lincoln administration and Congress as they struggled to develop policies to restore the Union.  This engagingly written book sheds significant new light on several perennially controversial legal and constitutional issues in American history, including the nature and extent of presidential war powers, the development of national policies for dealing with disloyalty and treason, and the protection of civil liberties in wartime.  Indeed, the historical issues Dr. White raises have tremendous relevance for 21st-century Americans who are concerned about civil liberties in wartime, the unchecked expansion of executive power, the privacy of passengers during airport screenings, or the legality of detaining enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay.

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Democracy Reconsidered by Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch and Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler

Democracy Reconsidered Book CoverIn 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Associate Professor of American Studies and Co-Director of the Center for American Studies, along with Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler, published Democracy Reconsidered. The book focuses on the study of democracy in America's post-modern context. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch and Peter Augustine Lawler explore some of the foundational principles of democracy as they have been borne out in American society. The essays included in this volume examine the lessons that novelists, philosophers, and political theorists have for democratic societies as they progress towards postmodern skepticism or even disbelief in the absolute principles that form the foundation of democracies.

Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Future of International Nonproliferation Policy by Dr. Nathan Busch and Dr. Daniel Joyner

busch_joynerThe spread of weapons of mass destruction poses one of the greatest threats to international peace and security in modern times—the specter of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons looms over relations among many countries. The September 11 tragedy and other terrorist attacks have been painful warnings about gaps in nonproliferation policies and regimes, specifically with regard to nonstate actors.

In this volume, experts in nonproliferation studies examine challenges faced by the international community and propose directions for national and international policy making and lawmaking. The first group of essays outlines the primary threats posed by WMD proliferation and terrorism. Essays in the second section analyze existing treaties and other normative regimes, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons and Biological Weapons Conventions, and recommend ways to address the challenges to their effectiveness. Essays in part three examine the shift some states have made away from nonproliferation treaties and regimes toward more forceful and proactive policies of counterproliferation, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, which coordinates efforts to search and seize suspect shipments of WMD-relatedmaterials.

Nathan E. Busch and Daniel H. Joyner have gathered together many leading scholars in the field to provide their insights on nonproliferation—an issue that has only grown in importance since the end of the cold war.

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