Director Edella Schlager Receives Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award

Aug. 9, 2022

University of Arizona Professor Edella Schlager recently received the Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association in recognition of her lifetime contribution to the study of science, technology, and environmental politics. Schlager Is the director of the School of Government and Public Policy in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and is the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Leadership Chair.  It is fitting that Schlager receive an award named after Elinor Ostrom, who was her Ph.D. advisor and academic mentor. Ostrom, who passed away in 2012, was the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.
Please read the full interview here


Given your strong personal connection to Elinor, what is one piece of advice you received from her that has guided you in your profession?

Just one piece of advice? That’s hard. I would say how she treated people, no matter who they were, the King of Sweden, or an undergraduate who happened to wander into her office. A commitment to human dignity motivated all her relationships. She treated everyone with respect, making them feel that they belonged and that they had valuable contributions to make. In addition, she lived her life with joy and that joy was contagious. I had fun as a graduate student because my work was valued and I worked collaboratively within a research team whose worked was valued.   

Has your approach to mentoring students been shaped by your relationship with Elinor?

Yes, definitely. She treated her students as peers and colleagues. We were all important contributors to the research enterprise.  That treatment motivated us to work hard, and it gave us lots of confidence that we could accomplish our goals. I seek to treat students who work with me in the same manner, mentoring them into doing their very best work.  

What are your future plans for research? 

I’ve long been interested in how people solve shared problems they face, such as water shortages or environmental pollution, by experimenting with different types of public policies that encourage collaboration, even if the people who need to collaborate don’t like each other very much. This next part is a bit esoteric, but I’m currently working with a global network of scholars on developing robust methods for consistently identifying and measuring the key features of public policies and how they motivate people to collaborate and cooperate ( We are developing measures of different forms of legitimacy, monitoring, oversight, and conflict resolution, among others. I plan to take this work and apply it to several different settings involving transboundary watersheds governed by multiple governments, from intra-state collaborations among local and regional governments and organizations, to inter-state collaborations among states and regional governments and organizations, to inter-national collaborations among countries. I’m interested in identifying how the design and operation of key features of policies, such as monitoring or conflict resolution, vary by the type of governments involved and the scale of the collaboration. I hope to conduct this research when I’m on sabbatical in a couple of years.