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Ask an Expert: Ward Lyles


Dr. Ward Lyles, Assistant Professor, Urban Planning Program KU School of Public Affairs and Administration

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Dr. Lyles with a five-year, $500,000 award from the Faculty Early Career Development Program, known as a CAREER grant, to advance natural hazard mitigation by examining decision-making carried out by local networks of stakeholders who are involved in planning and implementing risk reduction.

What if?
Imagine a community that builds “reducing suffering” into its planning process. Dr. Lyles doesn’t just imagine it, he is committed to studying whether we can train ourselves to be more compassionate and incorporate it into how we design our communities. Dr. Lyles’ research team is focused on how communities can use compassion to mitigate the damage and human suffering from natural disasters through the local government planning process. Specifically, they are asking how a community can plan itself to ensure the disasters don’t continue to disproportionately hit traditionally marginalized populations.

In 2014 Dr. Lyles was selected as a National Science Foundation Fellow for the Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Program. Recently, Dr. Lyles was awarded the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program award to advance natural hazard mitigation by examining decision-making of local networks of stakeholders who are involved in planning and risk reduction.

His team of researchers, The Team on Compassionate and Sustainable Communities, will work on the Integrated Modeling of Hazard Mitigation Networks over the next five years with the following objectives:

  1. Develop and test a new Network for Compassionate and Sustainable Hazard Mitigation model focused on the latent power of local stakeholders to promote hazard risk reduction
  2. Prepare students and future practitioners to resolve vexing problems of increasing commitment and action to create more compassionate and sustainable communities through proactive hazard mitigation
  3. Translate and apply the knowledge, tools, and techniques developed through the integrated program of research, interdisciplinary engaged learning modules, and educational outputs

Over time, they will develop interdisciplinary engaged learning modules for classrooms that will increase the understanding of the connections between hazard mitigation stakeholders, planning and policy, compassionate engagement, teaching practices, and professional training.

Dr. Lyles earned his doctorate from the University of North Carolina from the Department of City and Regional Planning in 2012. Previously, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master’s degree in land resources and from Middlebury College with a bachelor’s degree in geology. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).