Monday Minute, April 16, 2012: Spatial University


Some of the many events of the past week seem to have had a common theme that bodes well for our college. Jack Dangermond, an alumnus and CEO of the largest Geographical Information Systems company in the world (ESRI), visited the University on Tuesday and told President Kaler at breakfast the next day that we have the potential of becoming the world's leading "Spatial University" because of the breadth of our disciplines and research mission, and the number of faculty involved in geospatial and geodesign activities. I am working with colleagues across the university to develop this idea further for discussion with the president and provost, and it promises to have a key roll for our college, in which every one of our disciplines thinks spatially about knowledge, information, and ideas.

The Twin Cities community also seems to value this aspect of what we do. On Wednesday, I took part in a conversation that the Urban Land Institute convened with leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to think about the changing nature of our economy and community and the impact that this will have on where and how people will live and work. As I talked about the research we have underway in this college, it became clear to others in the room that, as one representative from the Met Council put it, "The University and its college of design may be one of our region's greatest assets."

And then, this weekend, I attended the Digital Provocations symposium and a design session for the community around the new 29th street light rail station, and I saw at both how much our way of thinking makes connections among disparate ideas and opens up possibilities for others in ways that they clearly value. Jack Dangermond predicted that, in the future, we'll see "maps, not apps," and the events of this week seem to bear that out: in our increasingly digital and global community, the ability to think, act, and communicate visually and spatially may become a core skill - and one that we, among all the colleges in this university, know how to apply and convey.