EWU Mourns Loss of Professor Vandana Asthana

Political science and public policy professor was an internationally respected scholar on water policy.

January 22, 2024

Eastern Washington University is saddened to share the news of the recent passing of Vandana Asthana, PhD, professor of political science and public policy at EWU.

Asthana started at Eastern in 2006. She was an internationally recognized authority on water policy, an amazing student advocate, and loved by her colleagues and many on our campus. Asthana was considered by her peers as a “scholar’s scholar” with two doctoral degrees — one in political science from the University of Kanpur, and one in natural resources and environmental science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

“Vandana was always positive, cheerful and well-liked by everyone,” says her colleague James Headley, himself a professor in EWU’s Department of Political Science and Public Policy. “She was a pleasure to be around with a warm and charming personality. Vandana cared about her students, her friends and colleagues, and she cared about the community and the Earth. She loved her family and enjoyed traveling to India and around the world.”

EWU profiled Asthana’s inspiring work on global water issues in a 2010-11 DiscoverE research magazine story (See the story starting on pages 14-15). She had a deep concern for populations steeped in poverty and believed that access to water and sanitation were critical ways to address hunger and illiteracy.

She conducted transformative research by combining her scientific and social science knowledge to help communities understand the cultural and economic impacts of water rights and policies. Asthana published multiple books with many of them focusing on water security and policy in India.

“She was also a dedicated teacher who shared her expertise with her students while pushing them to do their best work,” says Kristin Edquist, professor and chair of political science and public policy at Eastern. “Her colleagues will miss her intellect, her deep sense of fairness, her compassion and thoughtfulness, and her dedication to her students’ education. This is a loss for all of us at EWU.”

The Eastern family sends its condolences to her loved ones and friends.

At the request of the family, services will be private.