Prof. Ward Lyles
- Assistant Professor
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
- School of Architecture & Design
- SPAA - Urban Planning
- School of Public Affairs & Administration
- Urban Planning
Dr. Lyles' research and teaching interests center on the intersection of people, the built environment, and the natural environment. His current research projects explore 1) the use of planning to reduce long-term risks from natural hazards and climate change, 2) the use of social network analysis to examine the role of planners in local planning efforts, and 3) applying content analysis methods to evaluate planning documents.
Dr. Lyles has published articles in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Cityscape, the Journal of Planning Literature, and Natural Hazards Review, plus other journals. He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also worked as a post-doctoral research associate. Prior to obtaining his Ph.D., he lived in Madison, Wisconsin, where he worked at 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a planning-oriented non-profit organization, co-founded Madison Magnet, a social capital-oriented non-profit organization, and was very engaged in the civic and political life of the city. Dr. Lyles is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Reducing long-term risks to individuals, communities, and nations from disasters and climate change is a grand challenge of the 21st century – perhaps the grand challenge facing humanity. Generating better understanding of risk-reduction planning processes and is essential for creating more sustainable and resilient communities. In my research program I aim to advance theoretical frameworks and conceptual understandings on how to develop policy and planning practices that foster better interactions between human and natural systems.
To date, my research has focused on five main areas: substantively: 1) natural hazards mitigation and 2) climate change adaptation; procedurally: 3) planning processes and implementation; and methodologically: 4) planning evaluation and 5) network analysis. In addition to its direct contributions to knowledge on risk reduction, my hazards and climate-focused research program has broader implications for other areas of environmental management and planning and policy more generally.
Major Accomplishments/Significance of Contributions
As a scholar, I first consider my major research accomplishments through the lens of peer reviewed publications and citations. Since August 2013 when I began at KU, I have published (or have had accepted) nine journal articles and one book chapter. Four of the articles are in the top two planning journals, the Journal of Planning Education and Research and the Journal of the American Planning Association, and three more are in highly regarded environmental planning journals. Many of my 14 total publications address two or more of my five research areas simultaneously, broadening their impact on the body of knowledge and on research and practice. The most direct indication of the significance of my contributions is the growth in my total citation count to over 130 in three years. Much of my scholarship is collaborative and I have published papers with eight different colleagues, who currently work at five different institutions in the United States and Canada. Related to my peer reviewed publications are the papers and posters I regularly present at the annual American Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and Hazards Workshop, two leading conferences in my research areas.
I also look to external acknowledgments of my research program as important indications of my accomplishments. Arguably the largest external acknowledgement of my research success to date was being selected into the highly selective, National Science Foundation-funded Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researcher Fellowship Program for 2015-16. Through this fellowship I receive mentorship, travel to intensive workshops and meetings, and stipends. The most tangible outcome of the fellowship will be an application for an NSF CAREER award application, to be submitted in July 2016, although the benefits in intellectual stimulation and networking are substantial as well. Another external acknowledgement of my scholarship was being selected as a top reviewer for 2014 for the Journal of Planning Education and Research, which I view as confirmation of my ability to critically but supportively improve the process and quality of peer-reviewed planning scholarship.
Another demonstration of my accomplishments as a researcher is the funding support I have secured for my program. I have been awarded individual competitive research support through a New Faculty GRF ($8000 for 2014-2015), a GRF ($7500 for 2015-2016) and collaborative research support through a The Commons Interdisciplinary Starter Grant ($10,000 for 2015-2016 with Uma Outka in Law and Rachel Krause in Public Affairs and Administration). The Institute for Policy and Social Research has also supported my work through two non-competitive awards ($3000 with Bonnie Johnson in UBPL) and ($2700 solo). These awards have allowed me to collect primary datasets, as well as develop at least four manuscripts already, one accepted at the Journal of the American Planning Association, one under review there also, and two that will be presented at the 2015 ACSP conference.
As a practitioner and member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, I also consider the impact of my research program through the lens of informing and improving practice. Although I have concentrated heavily on establishing my work in the academic arena to date, I have presented multiple sessions at the Kansas Chapter of the American Planning Association conference (2013 and 2014). Also, the research project that supported many of my hazard mitigation publications also led to the creation and launching of a website based at the University of North Carolina, mitigationguide.org, that provides best practices for federal, state, and local risk reduction policy makers and practitioners.
Goals for the Next Five Years
My main ambition for the next few years is to establish an internationally recognized, externally funded, research program that produces high-quality scholarship with tangible, positive impacts on policy and practice.
In January 2016, with collaborators at Texas A&M, I will submit a proposal to NSF that expands on my past research on hazard mitigation to understand regional approaches to risk reduction. In addition to continuing research in my existing areas of focus, I currently am adding a major new component that I believe holds transformative potential for addressing risk reduction and planning sustainable communities: integrating compassion and mindfulnesses into planning and policy processes. This line of research, already supported by a GRF, will be the thrust of my NSF CAREER award application in June 2016. Additionally, the interdisciplinary work through The Commons award will result in a timely conference on the intersection between social equity, clean energy, and climate adaptation at KU in spring 2016, as well as an interdisciplinary manuscript for publication. I am hopeful that the collaboration may also lead to a grant proposal to a federal funding entity.
My research program aims to advance theoretical frameworks, empirical evidence, and practical applications of knowledge about interactions between humans, natural systems, and the built environment. I am motivated by deep concern about the need to foster more compassionate and sustainable communities from the local to the global scale. I ground my research program in one of the grand challenges of the 21st century – perhaps the grand challenge: reducing long-term risks to individuals, communities, and nations from disasters and climate change. Climate change and disasters are an ideal context for research at the intersection of social and natural science because of their spatial and temporal ubiquity, their inherent demand for interdisciplinary research approaches, and their relevance to policy and planning practice. My research program consists of three interwoven threads: 1) examining policy and planning interventions to reduce risks from natural hazards and climate change; 2) understanding the interplay of thought and emotion and the potential for more compassionate orientations to decision-making; and 3) applying, refining, and extending methods for assessing evaluation, implementation and networks.
Major Accomplishments/Significance of Contributions
First, my research has made contributions in all three of my research areas. My work on hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation has refined our understanding of intergovernmental policy implementation aimed at providing public goods in the face of uncertainty and competing interests. My recent work on compassionate planning aims to reframe broad theoretical discussions about the core purposes of planning, as well as inform planning in more robust ways with current research in neuroscience and psychology. My methodological work in the areas of plan evaluation and network analysis has focused attention on the broader array of tools available to planning scholars and practitioners to understand and analyze the dynamics of our field.
I have 15 articles in peer-reviewed publications, two forthcoming book chapters, and manuscripts in preparation. Most of my scholarship is collaborative and I have published papers with a dozen different colleagues. Collectively, my work has been cited more than 400 times and my H-index is 11, both of which are well above the median and mean of planning professors 10 to 15 years following completion of their doctorates. I have published in the Journal of the American Planning Association and the Journal of Planning Education and Research, which are recognized as the two most prestigious planning journals, as well as in the Journal of Planning Literature, one of the planning journals with the highest impact factors. I also have published in three of the four most highly regarded land use, environmental, and hazards journals, including Environment and Planning B, the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, and Landscape and Urban Planning. I regularly present papers and posters at the annual American Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Natural Hazards Workshop, two leading conferences in my research areas. My research productivity was important for my selection into the National Science Foundation-funded Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researcher Fellowship Program for 2015-16.
Second, my work has merited increasing financial support. In 2018, the National Science Foundation awarded funding for my proposal CAREER: Integrated Modeling of Hazard Mitigation Stakeholder Networks for Compassionate, Sustainable Risk Reduction. NSF identifies this five-year, $500,000 integrated research and teaching award as its most prestigious award for early-career scholars. My proposal integrates all three threads of my research program and in the review panel's words, "(T)his proposal was deemed to be transformational." The funding will fully support a doctoral student for five-years and enable me to provide multiple master's students with research experience. Another research proposal at NSF (3 years, $400,000) was the top rated proposal in one of two concurrent panels in the fall of 2017 (per personal communication with the Program Office) and the panel summary indicates that it is "a very strong proposal … addresses an important motivating question with an appropriately focused and detailed research plan … found the intellectual merit to be compelling." The PO is temporarily holding the proposal in order to balance the program's overall portfolio. Also, the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program at the University of Oklahoma has built me in as an expert on planning and networks as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposal (~$120,000 over four years for KU).
Internal to KU, The Commons provided professors Uma Outka (Law) and Rachel Krause (SPAA) and me with a $10,000 grant around the topic of climate justice. Our work culminated in a daylong symposium with national experts from the academy and practice sharing their perspectives alongside local stakeholders. Additionally, the University of Kansas Office of Research and Institute for Policy and Social Research have provided me with multiple smaller grants on the topics of risk reduction and compassion, which helped lay the foundation for my NSF proposals.
Third, as a practitioner, I also consider my impact through the lens of informing and improving applied policy practice. I maintain my membership in the American Institute of Certified Planners and present sessions at the Kansas Chapter of the American Planning Association conference. Multiple forms of media coverage have allowed me to translate my findings for practitioners, policy makers, and the general public. These include the Harvard Business Review, the Congressional Quarterly Researcher, and the American Planning Association blog, as well as local outlets.
Goals for the Next Five Years
My primary aim for the next five years is to strategically establish myself as an internationally recognized member to the community of planning and public affairs scholarship tackling the most critical challenges facing humanity. The NSF award(s) will undoubtedly play an outsized role in shaping this effort. I intend to broaden the scope of my collaborations beyond planning, public policy, and engineering to fields like psychology and neuroscience. I also will explore the possibility of a more extended, book-length work on the topic of compassion and public decision-making. Ideally, in five years, my research program will help create an internationally recognized, externally funded, research entity on compassionate, sustainable communities at KU.
- Environmental Planning
- Land Use Planning
- Research Methods
- Natural Hazards
- Climate Change
- Social Networks
- Network Analysis
- Plan Quality
- Plan Implementation
Engagement. All my teaching and mentoring extends from a desire to engage students. I structure my courses to engage each student with academic content, with their peers, with the experienced world beyond campus, with me as instructor, and with their own personality, values and approach to learning and action. My students learn through active learning in a safe, respectful environment with professional work expectations that challenges everyone to engage socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually. Recognition of my excellence in teaching includes having been nominated for KU's Ned Fleming Teaching Award (2016, 2017).
All my courses employ active learning approaches to engage students with core concepts and practical skills needed to be effective, compassionate professionals and citizens. I emphasize concept application and evaluation, structured interactions that simulate professional settings, and student and instructor accountability. I teach one course (Quantitative Methods) strictly available to graduate students, mostly in Urban Planning, one course (Planning the Sustainable City) strictly available to undergraduates, and two courses (Sustainable Land Use Planning and Environmental Planning Techniques) available to graduates and undergraduates. I have also taught an online course (Planning for Climate Change and Disasters).
Team Based Learning Pedagogy – I follow the principles of Team Based Learning (TBL), a theoretically grounded and empirically tested approach. TBL is highly consistent with the promotion of active learning by the National Academies, the AAU, and learning experts. Research indicates that active learning approaches like TBL enhance learning for all students, but especially for traditionally marginalized populations. The TBL approach to collaborative learning motivates students to hold themselves and each other accountable and involves strategically ordered individual work and teamwork with immediate feedback. TBL shifts the focus of classroom time from the instructor conveying course concepts to the application of course concepts by student learning teams.
Students in my classes have responded positively to TBL. Graduate and undergraduate students alike appreciate the very hands-on and applied experiences that allow them to engage with the actual practice of planning. Students also appreciate having teammates – teammates who each bring their own deep well of experiences and knowledge – with whom to work and learn. I am convinced that a key reason that the TBL approach works so well is that the students recognize that we are all in a learning partnership together. Additionally, students are provided two structured, but anonymous, opportunities to provide feedback to me on what I can do to improve the course. Through discussion, we arrive at consensus on changes, which are implemented beginning in the earliest relevant class period or time.
Fostering Inclusive Class Climates - I have focused special attention on complementing my application of innovative pedagogy with deliberate efforts to foster a course climate that induces even greater engagement and inclusion. These efforts at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) involve a wide spectrum of techniques to create a climate of understanding, trust, and psychological safety. These approaches range from using course meetings early in the semester to collectively explore and reflect on own our learning styles, personalities, social identities, and life experiences to overtly focusing course materials, exercises, and discussion around topics of social equity and justice. My participation in the inaugural group of Diversity Scholars (DS) through KU's Center of Teaching Excellence (CTE) have informed and enhanced these efforts. I increasingly see these climate-building efforts as foundational for my active-learning pedagogy and the content I deliver because every individual in the classroom can and should be an active contributor to our collective learning.
Professional Development, Innovation, and Leadership
Since I arrived at KU I have actively sought out and participated in numerous opportunities provided by the CTE to learn about and experiment with leading-edge innovations. Opportunities I have participated in include: a Peer Teaching Triad, the Best Practices Institute, Diversity Scholars (DS), attending every annual teaching summit and many one-off sessions. I have drawn on these opportunities to innovate in the classroom and beyond. My Quantitative Methods course has been nominated for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy's Curriculum Innovation Award (2018). With the assistance of a graduate student, I drew on the experience in DS and existing resources to develop a user-friendly Syllabus Audit Tool that instructors at KU and beyond can use to self-assess and improve upon who they engage DEI issues in their courses. Evidence of my leadership in teaching innovation at KU includes leading sessions at CTEs annual teaching summits, conducting graduate and undergraduate training sessions, providing teaching workshops, serving as the mentor for a peer teaching triad of other faculty, participating in discussions/panels on diversity and teaching, and securing multiple internal grants for Urban Planning and SPAA to engage faculty in improving instruction. (See Letter from CTE Director Dea Greenhoot).
Our program does not offer an undergraduate major or minor. Still I frequently interact with undergraduates, discussing their interests in planning or other career trajectories and other issues. I have served as a reference for internships, jobs, and/or graduate programs for more than two dozen undergraduate students and helped students in crisis obtain mental health services.
Graduate Advising and Mentoring
I aim to help students advance along their desired career path by being highly accessible for individual and small-group interaction and by recognizing each student as a unique individual.
Dozens of masters' students have consulted me repeatedly for advice on school, work, and life.
I have served on more than ten doctoral and master's thesis committees. I chaired two masters' committees and both students are continuing in doctoral programs; one is at the University of Utah studying environmental policy and one will join me as my first doctoral advisee in SPAA in the fall of 2018. For multiple students for whom I did not serve as chair, I have served a 'fixer' role when relationships between the student and their chair ceased to function as needed. Additionally I have employed numerous students on projects through which they refine their practical and research skills.
- Environmental Planning
- Land Use Planning
- Research Methods
- Natural Hazards
- Climate Change
Selected Publications —
Lyles, Ward, Philip Berke, and Kelly Overstreet. 2017. “Cities Should Start Small When Adapting to Climate Change.” Other. Harvard Business Review.Smith, G., W. Lyles, and P. Berke. 2013. “The Role of Hazard Mitigation Planning in Building Local Capacity and Commitment: A Tale of Six States.” Journal Articles. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 31 (2): 178–203.
Awards & Honors —
Best Practices Institute
University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence
2017Diversity Scholars Program
University of Kansas
2016 - 2017Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Fellowship
National Science Foundation
2015 - 2016University of Kansas Faculty Leadership in Sustainability
KU Center for Sustainability
2016Journal of Planning Education and Research - Top Reviewer 2014-2015
Journal of Planning Education and Research