The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

Long-time OSU professor of geography receives APLU award for international work

Jules Wood
CEAOS Professor Aaron Wolf poses in the courtyard of Burt Hall on July 21. Wolf recently won an award for international education leadership, assisting in advancing international education in public universities.

Aaron Wolf knew water was important when he started school, thanks to a childhood split between California and the Middle East.

“In both places, water and politics are deeply intertwined,” Wolf said. “It was just seeing that water was a way to talk about really difficult politics in a way that people, even on opposite sides of really difficult conflicts, could work towards some commonality.”

Having been in the field for over three decades, and having done such extensive work, Wolf has been named the 2023 recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award by The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

According to the APLU website, “Dr. Wolf is being recognized for his efforts to make curriculum more inclusive, advance internationally engaged scholarship, and engage communities to prevent or solve complex issues over access to water resources.”

Now a professor of geography and director of water conflict management and transformation at OSU, Wolf said he initially worked on the technical side of groundwater science, but eventually went back to school to learn about conflict and conflict resolution.

“It was really merging those two that really resonated with me,” Wolf explained, “and that then led to what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years.”

According to Wolf, water conflict has a lot of levels; in Oregon, the tension between the Native Tribes of the area, such as the Klamath, local ranchers, and environmentalists can lead to some “difficult conversations” about water usage and rights.

On an international scale, Wolf gave the example of Israelis and Arabs, or Pakistanis and Indians.

“A lot of the countries where there are real tensions, they also share rivers,” Wolf said, “so they have to be able to talk to each other.”

Wolf said that, while he started at the University of Alabama, OSU is a great place to work in this field and it has allowed him to focus on what he is most interested in, which is why he has been here for over 25 years.

“Disciplinary walls are low, the water community all knows each other and gets along with each other, the students are amazing,” Wolf said, “the land grant mission encourages us to do this kind of applied work.”

Wolf has also consulted for government agencies such as The US Department of State via lectures and presentations, and The US Department of Interior to help their lawyers better understand water conflicts, among others.

Wolf is not sure exactly how he was chosen as the award winner; but he has spent his entire career at public and land-grant universities, and so qualifies for this award through the APLU.

“I’ve led a couple of student trips abroad, I have tons of international work, I do a lot of teaching overseas and have brought lots of international people here,” Wolf explained, “so keeping Corvallis connected to the world at large is something I’ve really been excited to do my whole career.”

State universities have excellent international connections, Wolf added, and OSU “encourages” it in particular. As for the future, Wolf hopes to continue doing more of the same work, including working overseas and bringing students along with him.

“(The award) is nice recognition that this kind of work is valued,” Wolf said.

According to APLU’s press release, Wolf headed up the development of the Transboundary Freshwater Diplomacy Database, detailing over 800 River Basin Organizations and water treaties, intended to “advance the state of knowledge around water resource cooperation and conflict around the globe.” Wolf’s database has been referenced in over 1,500 publications worldwide.

“Congratulations to Dr. Aaron Wolf on winning the 2023 Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award,” said APLU President Mark Becker in the press release. “His more than 30 years of work to advance the frontiers of knowledge and help prevent or resolve conflicts over water resources around the globe exemplifies high-impact international scholarship, leadership, and engagement.”

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