Vaswati Chatterjee, PhD

Assistant Professor of Public Administration

Vaswati Chatterjee, PhD

A rising star early in her research career, Vaswati Chatterjee, PhD, is already a highly in-demand scholar, presenter and consultant in the field of emergency management. Her dissertation work literally became textbook research—it was featured in Case Studies of Suburban Sustainability in 2020, just one year after she completed her doctorate in Public Administration and Management at the University of North Texas.

Dr. Chatterjee’s study focused on how urban planning policies adopted by local governments in Florida impact a community’s economic resilience in the face of natural disasters, and it earned her the Emerging Young Scholar award at the Southern Political Science Conference in 2019. “I realize how powerful academic research can be when we integrate our knowledge with real-life challenges that our cities are facing,” she says.

Dr. Chatterjee, an assistant professor of Public Administration, examines local government policies in disaster planning, mitigation and response. By conducting thorough analyses of these policies and their outcomes, she is able to gather empirical evidence that can help leaders prioritize their planning efforts.

“My focus is specifically on city and local governments because they are uniquely suited to devise effective policy solutions that address some of the most pressing challenges of our society,” Dr. Chatterjee says.

The Association for Pennsylvania Municipal Management—an affiliate of the world’s leading association of professional city and county managers and local government employees—invited Dr. Chatterjee to present a workshop on “Leadership During Crisis” at its Executive Development Conference earlier this year. In addition to presenting at numerous professional conferences across the US, she has published findings in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction and the Journal of Emergency Management. Her most recent paper on the role of the private sector in emergency management appeared in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science in September.

“My hope is that this research can advance knowledge to help our community leaders more effectively prepare for disasters and better respond when disasters do strike,” Dr. Chatterjee says.


Lessons in Emergency Management 

Over the past two years, Dr. Chatterjee and Villanova colleague Theodore Arapis, PhD, have been studying local government responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Pennsylvania and Florida.

“By identifying the significant factors that helped local governments to adopt effective comprehensive response policies, we are proposing guidelines for community leaders,” Dr. Chatterjee says. Her research showed those jurisdictions that were led by professional city managers and had a pandemic preparedness plan in place were more likely to adopt comprehensive public health and socioeconomic strategies in response to COVID-19. “The importance of having plans might seem obvious, but this research provides empirical evidence demonstrating which preparedness capabilities led to a more comprehensive COVID-19 response among local governments,” she explains.

This fall, she and Dr. Arapis presented their findings in Washington, D.C., at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Conference, an international meeting of accomplished scholars and practitioners that attracts the highest-quality researchers on current and emerging policy and management issues.