Prof. Ward Lyles, PhD, AICP

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, School of Public Affairs and Administration - Urban Planning Program
Assistant Professor
Primary office:
215 Snow Hall


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 role of compassion and emotions in enhancing capacity and commitment to tackle vexing problems like climate change; 2) the use of planning to reduce long-term risks from natural hazards and climate change, 3) the use of social network analysis to examine the role of planners in local planning efforts, and 4) applying content analysis methods to evaluate planning documents. In 2018 He received a National Science Foundation CAREER award and the inaugural ACSP/Lincoln Institute Curriculum Innovation Award.

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).


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. I firmly believe – and have experienced in the classroom – that students learn more deeply through active learning in a safe, respectful environment that challenges everyone to engage socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually. Since arriving at KU, I have especially worked on creating an inclusive learning environment. I have participated in the Diversity Scholars Program and help generate a Self Assessment tool for supporting inclusive learning.

Classroom Teaching

All my courses employ active learning approaches. I emphasize concept application and evaluation, structured interactions that simulates 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 American City) strictly available to undergraduates, and two courses (Sustainable Land Use Planning and Environmental Planning Techniques) primarily intended for urban planning graduates students interested in human-environment interactions. I have also taught an online course (Planning for Climate Change and Disasters) that focused on actually writing climate plans for cities in Kansas and Missouri that do not have them currently.

Teaching Interests

  • Environmental Planning
  • Land Use Planning
  • Research Methods
  • Statistics
  • Sustainable
  • Planning
  • Cities
  • Natural Hazards
  • Climate Change
  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation
  • Diversity
  • Equity
  • Inclusion



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 climate change adaptation; 2) compassionate planning; 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.

Research Interests

  • Environmental Planning
  • Land Use Planning
  • Research Methods
  • Statistics
  • Sustainable
  • Planning
  • Cities
  • Natural Hazards
  • Climate Change
  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation
  • Social Networks
  • Network Analysis
  • Plan Quality
  • Plan Implementation


American Institute of Certified Planners
American Planning Association
International Research Committee on Disasters (International Sociological Association)
Planning Evaluation Lab, University of British Columbia
Institute of Policy and Social Research, University of Kansas

Selected Publications

Lyles, W., S.S. White, and B. Lavelle. 2017. “The Prospect of Compassionate Planning” Journal of Planning Literature. 0885412217735525

Lyles, W., P. Berke, and K. Overstreet. 2017. "Where to Begin Municipal Climate Adaptation Planning: Evaluating Two Local Choices." Journal of Environmental Planning and Management DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2017.1379958

Johnson, B. J., & Lyles, W. 2016. The Unexamined Staff Report: Results From an Evaluation of a National Sample. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(1), 22-36.

Lyles, W., P. Berke, and G. Smith. 2015. "Local plan implementation: assessing conformance and influence of local plans in the United States." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 0265813515604071.

Lyles, W. 2015. "Using social network analysis to examine planner involvement in environmentally oriented planning processes led by non-planning professions." Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 58(11): 1961-1987.

Lyles, W. and M. Stevens.  October 9, 2014 (online)  “Plan Quality Evaluation 1994-2012: Growth and Contributions, Limitations, and New Directions.” (Journal of Planning Education and Research)  DOI: 10.1177/0739456X14549752

Lyles, W., P. Berke and G. Smith.  2014.  “Do Planners Matter?  Examining Factors Driving Incorporation of Land Use Approaches into Hazard Mitigation Plans” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 57(5): 792-811.

Lyles, W., P. Berke, and G. Smith. 2014. “A Comparison of Local Hazard Mitigation Plan Quality in Six States, USA”  Landscape and Urban Planning 122: 89-99.

Berke, P., W. Lyles, and G. Smith.  2014.  “Impacts of Federal and State Hazard Mitigation Policies on Local Land Use Policy” Journal of Planning Education and Research 34: 60-76.

Stevens, M.R., W. Lyles and P. Berke.  2014.  “Measuring and Reporting Intercoder Reliability in Plan Quality Evaluation Research.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research 34: 77-93.

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” International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 31(2): 178-203.

Berke, P. and W. Lyles.  2013. “Public Risks and the Challenges to Climate Adaptation: A Proposed Framework for Planning in the Age of Uncertainty” Cityscape 15(1): 181-208

Dempwolf, C.S. and W. Lyles. 2012. “The Uses of Social Network Analysis in Planning: A Review of the Literature” Journal of Planning Literature. 27(1): 3-21.

Berke, P, G. Smith, and W. Lyles.  2012. “Planning for Resiliency: An Evaluation of State Hazard Mitigation Plans under the Disaster Mitigation Act” Natural Hazards Review 13: 139-150.

Horney, J., A. Naimi, W. Lyles, M. Simon, D. Salvesen and P. Berke.  2012. “Assessing the relationship between hazard mitigation plan quality and rural status in a cohort of 59 counties from 3 states in the Southern United States.” Challenges 3: 183-193.

Selected Awards & Honors

National Science Foundation Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researcher Fellow 2015-16

Journal of Planning Education and Research top reviewer 2015 

KU Sustainability Leadership Award 2016

The Commons Symposium on Climate Justice April 2016


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