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Office of the President, Michael A. McRobbie

President's Update: December 2009

As I write to you today, all of us at Indiana University are feeling a tremendous sense of excitement and pride. This month, IU Professor Elinor Ostrom will receive the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, jointly with Professor Oliver Williamson of the University of California at Berkeley. This truly is a magnificent moment for Elinor and for the university that she and her husband, Emeritus Professor Vincent Ostrom, have called home since 1965.

The eighth Nobel Laureate affiliated with IU, Elinor is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington and a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington. In 1973, she co-founded with her husband the internationally known Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and she served for many years as the workshop’s co-director.

Elinor is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics since the award’s inception more than 40 years ago. The award, given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, recognizes her analysis of economic governance, especially the management of common pool resources, and it marks a crowning achievement in a career defined by groundbreaking research, teaching and scholarship.

The award also is a testament to the remarkable impact Elinor has had in her chosen field of study and on her colleagues, students and other scholars. Not surprisingly, her selection as Nobel Laureate was met with resounding praise from her peers and leading economic pundits from around the world. Said Alex Tabarrok, professor of economics at George Mason University, “Elinor Ostrom may arguably be considered the mother of field work in development economics.”

Elinor’s victory was reported by virtually every major national and international media outlet—making it, without a doubt, the largest single media “hit” for IU in the university’s history. Among the larger international community, this vast media attention has not only raised Elinor’s profile, but it also has dramatically increased IU’s visibility as a top-flight institution where Nobel Prize-winning work can take place.

On a personal note, I would like to add that this prize could not have gone to a nicer—or more academically accomplished—individual, and I greatly encourage you to learn more about Elinor’s outstanding career at www.iu.edu/nobel.


A Remarkable Legacy
Professor Ostrom exemplifies the strength of IU’s remarkable legacy in teaching and research.
Over the years, IU’s magnificent community of scholars has included or been associated with 8 Nobel Laureates, 7 Pulitzer Prize winners, 5 MacArthur Fellows, and currently includes more than 30 active and
emeritus members of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. We have also been home to at least 127 winners of the Guggenheim Fellowship, dating back to 1939 when microbiologist Leland McClung was recognized for his contributions to the study of anaerobic bacteria.

This history of accomplishment continues to this day. During fiscal year 2009, IU researchers submitted nearly 5,000 proposals for sponsored research worth well over a billion dollars. This marked the first time our proposals broke the one billion dollar mark. IU faculty members were awarded $469 million, the third-highest total in university history, which is especially impressive in the face of increasingly fierce competition for such funding.

This is also testimony to the tremendous quality of the research taking place across the university—research that is especially vital during these difficult economic times. We recently announced a $15 million grant to lead the development of FutureGrid, a nationwide supercomputer research network. In addition, to date IU researchers have received more than $38 million of awards through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government’s stimulus plan that is providing colleges and universities across the nation with increases in research funding.


A Commitment to Students
Such numbers only tell part of the story, though. What makes our faculty truly special is its unwavering commitment to our students.

As highly regarded as she is for her brilliant research, Elinor Ostrom is equally well known for developing close mentoring relationships with her students. Since joining IU as a visiting assistant professor 44 years ago, she has influenced generations of students by helping them navigate critical and complex issues such as resource management and others that intersect the fields of economics, political science, and sociology. Indeed, she has been one of IU’s leading proponents of interdisciplinary study and, through her own landmark research, she has demonstrated for students the value and importance of challenging commonly held beliefs and assumptions.

Elinor represents exactly what IU strives to do on a daily basis: provide a rigorous, yet supportive, academic environment that encourages students to pursue their highest intellectual aspirations and prepares them to be active participants in today’s global society.


An Inspiration to All of Us
We could not be prouder of Elinor and all of our other outstanding faculty, who are committed to our students’ success in the classroom and in life.

Their work is an inspiration to all of us as we work together to further IU’s traditions of excellence in teaching and research and continue to build a world-class university.