Skip to main content

Celebration ushers in new center

January 16, 2008

With the opening of its latest center, ASU’s School of Human Evolution & Social Change has added another dimension of cross-disciplinary collaboration to the New American University.

The Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity marked its official launch Jan. 16 with a brief ceremony, an open house and a public lecture by Nobel Memorial Prize winner Douglass C. North, who spoke on “A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History.”

The launch ceremony included remarks from the center’s founding director, anthropology research professor Elinor Ostrom, as well as Sander van der Leeuw, director of the School of Human Evolution & Social Change; Linda Costigan Lederman, dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Rick Shangraw, vice president of research and economic affairs.

“The center is a witness to the pioneering work of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom, who began this line of research many, many years ago,” van der Leeuw says. “In it, mathematicians work side by side with political scientists, anthropologists, economists and others to achieve the intellectual fusion necessary to better understand the important role of institutions in our modern world.”

The Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, which is focused on empirical and theoretical analyses of institutions – or sets of rules – melds laboratory research, field work, archival activities and mathematical and agent-based modeling in ways that are meant to guide policy-making and decision-making toward sustainable development. Linked social-ecological systems related to water, forests, pastures and other resource systems are of prime importance.

Ostrom notes that the center “has already started several path-breaking studies comparing diverse institutions related to scarce resources. Scholars are coming from all over the world this month, for example, to discuss with colleagues in the center how diverse institutional arrangements are succeeding or failing under the heavy pressures that exist today for more water.”

While research is a major component of the center, emphasis also is placed on teaching. A doctorate in environmental science is offered through the School of Human Evolution & Social Change, and the development of teaching materials for high school through graduate-level education is a priority.

For more information about the center, call (480) 965-4193 or visit

Rebecca Howe, (480) 727-6577