Monday Minute, August 17, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Years from now, we may come to know this period as one that gave birth to new disciplines barely imagined a few years ago. One example is the interest of John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health, in creating a public health design degree in partnership with us. He sees such a degree addressing a tremendous need for expertise in improving the unsanitary, unsafe, or unhealthy conditions in human settlements around the globe that threaten public health. Were we to develop such a degree, it would be among the first of its kind in the country.

Another example has emerged from conversations I had last week in Redlands, CA with Jack Dangermond, an alumnus of this college and the owner of ESRI, the largest geographical information systems (GIS) company in the world. GIS provides powerful analytical software for mapping geographical information, but Jack sees its untapped potential as a design tool -- which he calls "geodesign" -- that would provide landscape architects, architects, and interior designers a way of evaluating design scenarios linked to data. The first international geodesign conference will occur in Redlands in early January, where I will be giving the opening talk. Whether in public health design or geodesign, the University of Minnesota seems well positioned to help lead in the emergence of these fields.