Bringing out the best in IU

Honoring a great scientist and internationalist: Elinor Ostrom

On Nov. 12, a rare 2020 in-person ceremony (safely distanced and masked) was held behind Woodburn Hall: the dedication of a commons area for, and centerpiece statue of, internationally renowned social scientist Elinor "Lin" Ostrom, IU Distinguished Professor and the first woman to ever receive the Nobel Prize in economics, in 2009. The statue is the first sculpture for a woman on the IU Bloomington campus. It is part of the Bicentennial “Bridging the Visibility Gap” project, which recognizes some of the women, individuals from underrepresented populations and other individuals whose achievements have not been adequately acknowledged.

I invite you to watch this special video about Lin's legacy and the impact her teaching and research continue to have at IU, nationally and around the world.

With her husband, Vincent, Lin founded what is now called the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, a multidisciplinary research center focused on the ways governance processes can be designed to enhance human well-being while promoting democratic principles and sustainable resource management.

Before her groundbreaking research, economists typically believed that people were doomed to destroy anything they held in common, leading to, for example, over-fishing, over-grazing and over-exploiting water supplies. Ostrom famously demonstrated that under certain circumstances, human societies have successfully valued and protected "the commons." She went on to explore what this means for economics and developed a whole new branch of institutional economics.

I believe her theories translate well to the COVID-19 response, and what must be done for the greater good. We have seen this in action all fall, and we will see it again when we resume on-campus operations in February. As Ostrom said in her Nobel Prize lecture Dec. 8, 2009:

"… a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans."

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