Lee Alston named director of Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University

  • Aug. 6, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Lee Alston, professor of economics and environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been appointed director of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University Bloomington.

IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel announced the appointment today. Alston, an IU Bloomington graduate, was selected following an international search led by a committee of senior faculty members and administrators.

“I am delighted to welcome Lee Alston back to Indiana University and to our scholarly community,” Robel said. “Lee’s proven leadership, his important research and his collegiality fit well with the missions of the Ostrom Workshop. I am confident that he will lead the workshop forward, engaging students, faculty and governments in collaborations that positively influence policy.”

Alston earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from IU Bloomington in 1973, the same year IU political scientists Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

At the University of Colorado, he serves as director of the Program on Institutions in the Institute of Behavioral Science, a research center within the university graduate school. He also is co-director of the institute’s Center on the Governance of Natural Resources and is a faculty associate and former director of the Program on Environment and Society.

Before joining the faculty at Colorado, he was a member of the economics faculty at Williams College and a professor of economics and political science at the University of Illinois.

IU faculty members Tom Evans, professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Burney Fischer, clinical professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, have served as co-directors of the Ostrom Workshop since 2012.

Alston will be the first person to hold the endowed Ostrom Chair at IU Bloomington. He was a friend of and collaborator with Elinor Ostrom, and they co-authored research articles.

“It is a great privilege to hold the Ostrom Chair,” Alston said. “I look forward to working with scholars across the university to ensure that the Workshop maintains its status as one of the most prominent research centers in social sciences in the world.  It is a fitting way to honor the legacy of Lin and Vincent Ostrom. My wife and I are excited about moving to Bloomington.” 

Alston’s research interests over the years have focused on the important roles of institutions, beliefs and contracts in shaping economic and political outcomes in multiple domains. Issues examined include the governance and use of natural resources historically and today; the growth of the U.S. welfare system in the U.S. in the 1960s; and the historical trajectory of Brazil from 1964 to present. In a forthcoming book, Alston argues that since 1994, Brazil has been on a virtuous path. The author or co-author of seven books and more than 70 articles, he has been a research associate at the National Bureau for Economic Research since 1995 and is a former president of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics.

"We are excited to have such a distinguished and dynamic scholar joining the IU faculty," said Michael J. Wade, interim associate vice president for research and interim vice provost for research on the IU Bloomington campus. "We look forward to working with Lee to continue the world-renowned programs and traditions of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis."

Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom co-founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis and served as its co-directors for decades. Under their leadership, the workshop built an international reputation for research and scholarship on issues related to self-governance, democratic reform and collective action.

Elinor Ostrom was a co-recipient of the 2009 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, generally known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, for her research on economic governance, especially governance of the commons. Both Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom died in June 2012.

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