March 29, 2007

Ruhl captures outstanding dissertation award

by Tim Crosby

JB Ruhl

John B. Ruhl

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- John B. Ruhl, a former doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is this year's winner of the $1,000 Richard and Donna Falvo Outstanding Dissertation Award at SIUC.

Ruhl's dissertation is titled "The Law of Policy of Ecosystem Services." It discusses how the U.S. legal system systematically disregards and undervalues ecosystem services, such as oxygen and soil production, as compared to the way it treats other types of public and private property. It analyzes how capitalist societies depreciate their natural assets, which leads to environmental damage.

Ruhl began working at SIUC during 1994 as an assistant professor in the SIU School of Law, teaching courses on environmental law. He also began pursuing his doctorate in geography at SIUC.

Ruhl later moved to George Washington University Law School and subsequently to Florida State University in 1999.

Christopher Lant, professor of geography and environmental resources at SIUC, directed Ruhl's dissertation. He said Ruhl published many scholarly articles on environmental law while pursuing his doctorate in geography and has earned a top reputation among the close-knit writers in that area.

Ruhl simultaneously developed his dissertation as a book proposal for Island Press, a leading publisher on environmental issues. The book, co-authored by Lant and Steven Kraft, chairperson of the agribusiness economics department at SIUC, is set for release in May.

Ruhl defended his dissertation in June and received his doctorate in May 2006.

Lant said he expected Ruhl's extensive academic background would yield a superior dissertation, but its high quality still surprised him.

"What he has written is beyond these expectations — it is a powerful interdisciplinary analysis of some of society's most difficult and pressing dilemmas," Lant said.

In a nominating letter, Leslie A. Duram, professor and chair of the geography and environmental resources department at SIUC and a member of Ruhl's dissertation committee, said the dissertation and book have a large potential audience.

"Students, academics, government employees and non-governmental groups, to name a few, will find this work highly relevant," Duram said.

The award is named for Richard E. and Donna T. Falvo, both retired SIUC faculty members and sponsors of the 19-year-old annual competition. The couple now lives in North Carolina.

Ruhl will receive his prize during commencement ceremonies, May 11-12.

Runners-up for the competition were:

• Daron W. Olson, of the Department of History, whose dissertation titled "Building Greater Norway: Emigration and the Creation of National Identities in America and Norway, 1860-1945," examined the process of ethnogenesis throughout the period of great migration and Norwegian-Americans efforts to create their own identity. James S. Allen, director of the University Core Curriculum, directed his dissertation. Olson received his doctorate in historical studies in 2006. Olson is currently an adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University Moorhead in Fargo, N.D., his hometown.

• Lucian W. Stone Jr., of the Department of Philosophy, for his dissertation titled, "Blessed Perplexity: Hayrat in Attar's Mantiqual-Tayr (Conference of the Birds)." Stone's dissertation explores the Persian mystic Farid al-Din Attar and the theme of "blessed perplexity" or hayarat within that context. Anthony J. Steinbock, professor of philosophy, directed his dissertation. Stone received his doctorate in philosophy in 2005. Stone, of St. Louis, is currently an assistant professor of philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.