First woman Nobel laureate encourages Ewha students to shine
First woman Nobel laureate encourages Ewha students to shine
  • Son Min-ji
  • 승인 2009.12.02 22:21
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   It was Monday morning around six o’clock. Elinor Ostrom had been awake for about half an hour when she was surprised by a phone call from Stockholm saying that she had been chosen as a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. “What a way to start a Monday morning,” said Ostrom at a press conference.
   On October 12, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Elinor Ostrom, who is a professor at the Department of Political Science at Indiana University (IU), and fellow American Oliver Williamson of the University of California, were the winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. Ostrom was the first woman to receive the Economics prize since its endowment in 1968.
   Ostrom received both a bachelor’s degree and a doctor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1954 and 1965 respectively.
   She is, in fact, a political scientist, but her outstanding work in the analysis of economic governance of common resources made her the final winner.
   “The award was quite a surprise, and I was very happy to be chosen,” said Ostrom. “I also consider it quite an honor to be the first woman, but I hope that many other women will win in the future.”
  Ostrom’s research is mainly on self-governance of the common pool resources in concern with the well-known idea in economics, “Tragedy of the Commons” maintained by Garrett Harden in 1968. Ostrom’s research work especially challenged the conventional wisdom that efficient management of the commons requires either privatization or government regulation to avoid the tragedy. She brought the third way, the governance of common resources through self-organizing forms of collective action. She showed how common resources such as fish stocks, forests and land can be managed successfully and effectively among groups of people rather than being controlled by private companies or governments.
  She also conducted studies in several fields in different parts of the world, and found out that local groups of people have developed institutional arrangements to manage common resources. For example, through the case of self-governing irrigation systems in Nepal, she discovered that irrigation systems created and managed by the farmers are effective in delivering more water and having higher productivity compared to those provided by central authorities such as a government agency. According to Ostrom, a similar strategy can be also applied to the case in Korea.
   “Korea has some of the best farmer-managed irrigation systems in the contemporary world, and it will be able to generate reliable water to the farmers who grow essential products,” said Ostrom.
Ostrom has a good impression in Korea as well as Ewha since she has taught many Korean students including some Ewha students.
  “At the Department of Political Science at IU, we had a very constructive relationship with Ewha, and we have had several students from Ewha,” said Ostrom.
Ostrom especially remembers Professor Cho Ki-suk (International Studies) who studied political science at IU for her doctoral degree. 
  “Ki-suk was an extraordinary student here, and I assume she is an outstanding member of the current Ewha faculty,” said Ostrom. “We have also had a number of other Korean students at IU and enjoyed good relationships with the academic community in Korea.”
  Cho worked as an assistant worker under Professor Ostrom when she was the editor of Journal of Theoretical Politics.
  “I also conducted the research with her. I was very happy to hear that Professor Ostrom had received the prize,” said Cho.
  Although Ostrom had some difficulties in conducting research throughout her life, she tended to just go further by saying “one just has to keep going.”
   “If you let hardships stand in your way, you miss opportunities,” said Ostrom. “I had very poor advice in high school and in my undergraduate experience regarding taking mathematics. I had to learn on my own.”
  As the last encouraging comment to students at Ewha, she said, “Ewha has students who can outperform me and move to address questions that I did not think about nor could I address. So, let me encourage Ewha students to realize that they do have capabilities and that pursuing research is one of the professions they should take seriously.”

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