Professor Ostrom received a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA in 1965. She came to IU in 1965 as a Visiting Assistant Professor, became Assistant Professor in 1966, became Associate Professor in 1969, Professor in 1974, and Chair of the department from 1980-84. She was the Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis from 1973-2009 and was the Senior Research Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. She also held an appointment as Professor, part-time at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She was the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change at Indiana University and the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University.
She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in spring 1991, and a member of the National Academy of Science in 2001. She served as President of the American Political Science Association,the Public Choice Society, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the International Association for the Study of Common Property. She was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Association for Politics and Life Sciences.
Professor Ostrom received many Honorary Doctorates most recently from TERI University in India (2012), Universite Montpellier in France (2011), Michigan State University (2010), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (2008), McGill University (2008), and Humboldt University (2007). She was awarded the Adam Smith Award from the Association of Private Enterprise Education (2011), the UCLA Medal (2011), the Herman B Wells Visionary Award from the Indiana University Foundation (2010), and The University Medal from Indiana University (2010).
Professor Ostrom served on numerous advisory boards for the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Resilience Alliance.
She authored or co-authored the following books: Property in Land and Other Resources (2012); Improving Irrigation in Asia: Sustainable Performance of an Innovative Intervention in Nepal (2011); Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (2010); Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (2007); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005); The Samaritans' Dilemma (2005); Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons from Experimental Research (2003); Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (1990).
In December 2009, Professor Ostrom received the prestigious Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for decades of research that challenged the belief that common property is always poorly managed and should be regulated by the state or privatized. Dr. Ostrom passed away on June 12, 2012 in Bloomington.