Two U faculty elected into prestigious honorary society

John Freeman and Stephen Polasky are now members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

When the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary society and center for independent policy research, announced its newly elected members, two University of Minnesota faculty members found themselves on the list. John Freeman, a professor of political science, and Stephen Polasky, a professor of ecological and environmental economics, were elected into the academy, which consists of more than 4,000 of the nationâÄôs arts and sciences leaders. Freeman and Polasky were among 212 individuals elected to become part of the academy this year. The new members represent universities, museums, national laboratories, private research institutes, businesses and foundations. Included in the group are Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, National Medal of Arts recipients and winners of Academy, Grammy and Tony awards. Though honored by the membership, Freeman said he found out about his election only briefly before it was announced to the public. âÄúNo one told me I had been nominated,âÄù Freeman said. âÄúI was taken totally by surprise.âÄù Each year academy members nominate potential candidates. The members review nominations and an election is held, AAAS spokesman Paul Karoff said. Surprise or not, Political Science Department Chair Raymond Duvall said Freeman deserved to become part of the academy, which includes known leaders such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. âÄúOne of the things that I think is most special about John Freeman is that he is not only an internationally esteemed scholar, he is [a] terrific all around academic,âÄù Duvall said. Freeman has held many professional posts, including president of the American Political Science AssociationâÄôs section for political methodology and co-chair of the Midwest Political Science AssociationâÄôs annual meeting. He also has served on many committees, including his current positions on the editorial boards of several major research journals. Presently he is engaged in three major research projects. Polasky, who is away on a yearlong sabbatical at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics in Sweden, could not be reached for a comment. However, the University of Minnesota Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Chair Scott Lanyon said Polasky is qualified for the honor because of his âÄúgroundbreakingâÄù work in a variety of fields. Polasky is a faculty member in the Department of Applied Economics and the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. He is also affiliated with departments in conservation biology, water resources and forest resources, and the Law School. Before coming to the University he was an economist for environment and resources for the PresidentâÄôs Council of Economic Advisers from 1998 to 1999. The academy was established in 1780 by U.S. founders âÄî including John Adams and John Hancock âÄî to undertake studies of complex and emerging problems. In the late 18th century those problems included how to sustain certain agriculture and setting up a judicial system. Today the academyâÄôs members are studying topics ranging from national security and renewable energy to the future of the media, Karoff said. While it is partly an honorary position, academy members also meet to discuss issues, conduct research and work on the academyâÄôs various publications. Out of the academyâÄôs various departments, distinguished higher education leaders are often elected to sections focused on science and law, Karoff said. As of November 2008, 24 University faculty members were active in the academy. A couple of University faculty members had been previously elected to the academy in both the UniversityâÄôs political science and the ecology, evolution and behavior departments.