L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Shruti Syal

Assistant Professor

Raleigh Building Rm. 3019 Phone: (804) 828-1215 Email: syals@vcu.edu


-Systems Research (SES, CAS, SNA)
-Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH)
-Urban informality
-Urban ecology

Shruti Syal is an Assistant Professor at the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. She holds a BSc in Biology from McGill University, a MSc in Environmental Studies from The Energy & Resources Institute, and a PhD in Regional Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. She studies cities as integrated human-environment systems, applying various conceptual and empirical frameworks for complex systems study to examine WaSH infrastructure, stormwater management and green infrastructure, and governance of infrastructure and environmental quality. Her dissertation established environmental remediation of the river Yamuna and “slum” upgradation in Delhi as interdependent goals, challenging the dichotomies that plague planning practice in Indian cities, and received the Gill-Chin Lim Award for Best Dissertation in International Planning (2019)

Urban "Informality," Urban Ecology, Water and Waste Governance and Management, Nature-Based Solutions
Systems Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS), Social-Ecological Systems (SES), Social Network Analysis (SNA)
Mixed methods, SESF, SNA


Research projects apply complex systems study frameworks to strengthen urban planners' and policymakers' understanding of urban resilience. There are two publications on the theoretical and methodological exploration of these frameworks:
One project is mapping the WaSH sector institutional network as a first step to developing a roadmap to link decentralized water remediation agendas to “slum” upgradation in rapidly urbanizing megacities. You can read more about this project in this VCU News articlethis Wilder School article, and this article by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

Research Team: Monali Mal ('23-'24), Michael O'Grady ('22-'23), Adelaide Alexander ('22-'23), Callie Houghland (22-'23), Katy Miller ('22-'23), Elena Johnson (F'22)

Related Publications:
A second project maps current and planned greening projects (representing the city’s natural capital) and their related social networks (representing the city’s social capital) as a first step to apply a systems perspective to coordinate multi-use greening projects for urban resilience. You can read a brief project profile in this VCU News article.
Geographic focus: Richmond, VA.
Research Team: co-PIs: Jennifer Ciminelli and Lillian Lewis, and RAs: Derek Cathcart (F'23), Tiffani Vasco ('23-'24), Katy Miller ('23-'24)
Related Publications:
  • Syal, S., Ciminelli, J. & Lewis, L. (expected 2024). Integrating Actor Network Theory, Social Network Analysis, and Suitability Analysis to map Social and Natural Capital in Cities.


URSP 313: Research Methods in Urban and Regional Planning (S'21, S'22, S'23, S'24)
URSP 332: Environmental Management (F'21, S'22, F'23)
URSP 515: Watersheds Planning and Governance (S'21, F'23)
URSP 650: Natural Resources and Environmental Planning (F'20, F'21, F'22)
URSP 591: Special Topics - Planning in the International Context (S'23, S'24)
She received a VCU Library Affordable Course Content Award to beta test Open Educational Resources (OERs) for URSP 650. These are nine highly scaffolded, applied learning assignments that are the core learning component of the weekly modules. These include skill-building exercises teaching the use of open access databases and web tools for analyses, and the guided exploration and evaluation of selected case studies on the Lincoln Institute Case Study Library and International Planning Case Studies Project