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Auditorium fills for Nobel Lecture speech


McRobbie awards University Medal to Ostrom couple

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By Alycin Bektesh



Elinor and Vincent Ostrom stood side by side, hands held tightly as they became recipients of the University Medal, IU’s highest honor.

The medal, awarded by IU President Michael McRobbie, was presented prior to Professor Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize lecture Tuesday at the IU
Auditorium.

McRobbie said the distinction has only been awarded 10 times.

Vincent Ostrom joined his wife on stage for her presentation, as he has for more than 40 years of research and collaboration.

“The prize did come to me personally,” Ostrom said, “but it would never have come but for the work I did with Vincent Ostrom all these years and the Workshop.”

McRobbie told the packed auditorium that Ostrom had received her Nobel Prize in Economics “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons,” and that she was the first woman to have won the prize.

“These are the facts,” he said.

But according to McRobbie, the facts alone do not convey the outlying story of the honor Ostrom’s award has brought to the University.

“She epitomizes what it means to be a scholar and colleague who shares her success along with her generosity,” he said.

Ostrom presented to the audience the same slide show she used during her acceptance speech in Sweden.

She spoke of some of her early work and how it led to her research that ultimately won her the prize.

“When I went to graduate school the world was very simple,” she joked, but she went on to stress that “complexity is not the same as chaos.”

Ostrom touched on ideas such as game theory and the tragedy of the commons, but also related her research to such diverse applications as communal fisheries and the mafia. 

“It was very informative, very detailed,” said freshman Karissa Miller. “She spoke in a way that I could understand, which I was worried about because I am not an economist.”

Miller said she skipped her Spanish class to attend the speech.

“This is a once in a lifetime chance to see a Nobel Laureate discuss her research, I want to take advantage of it,” she said.

In addition to their teaching and their research, the Ostroms also started the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis located on IU-Bloomington’s campus.

“It’s like a lab, but it is a social science lab,” Ostrom explained.

The Workshop offers a colloquium on Mondays open to the entire IU community.

“Vincent wanted to be sure that we organized a way that students at multiple levels and visiting scholars and faculty could work effectively together.”

Ostrom’s current studies include analysis of three local community owned forests.

“It speaks a lot of the University,” Miller said. “Their professors are of a higher standard.”

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