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Tom Fisher

College of Design dean Tom Fisher

Preparing for a design economy

Regents hear an update on the new College of Design

by Gayla Marty

Brief, Sept. 13, 2006

College of Design dean Tom Fisher presented a broad vision of design and its implications for the University and society when he gave an update on the new college to the Board of Regents' Educational Planning and Policy Committee Sept. 7.

The College of Design was formed July 1 from the former College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) and the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel in the former College of Human Ecology (CHE). Its goal is to be among the top three design colleges in a public research university in the United States--"A position that we may already be at," Fisher told the committee, "but a worthy goal nevertheless."

Design involves the form and function of everything we use every day, he told the group. It's a way of thinking that envisions alternative futures and things that do not yet exist. And it's also an activity key to the future health and prosperity of Minnesota.


Students (approx. numbers)
* Undergraduates: 1,075
* Graduate students: 310

* Tenure/tenure-track: 56
* Adjunct/term/emeritus: 106

* Civil service/bargaining unit/P&A: 92

Living alumni: 12,530

Fiscal year 2006-07 expenditures: $24.8 million

Endowment: $17.8 million

A driving reason behind creation of the new college now is that we have entered the design economy, Fisher said. It's a world in which consumers have a lot of choice among high performing products and services, and the companies and industries with the best design win. One value-added activity that countries like the United States have to offer is creativity, imagination, and "out of the box" thinking--design.

In addition, many economic, social, and environmental challenges--from global competition to global climate change, transportation, and housing--involve the design of new systems, policies, and ways of living and working.

Fisher gave many examples of ways the College of Design has developed areas of excellence with a global impact: using recycled paper to make furniture, generating hydrogen for fuel cell research from 72 solar panels on the roof of Rapson Hall, helping to rebuild houses in New Orleans, designing infrastructure to transform slums, adopting NASA technology to enable designers and the public to envision products and systems in their actual environments before being built, helping cities manage their world heritage sites, designing culturally appropriate and affordable ways of building, finding ways to measure the health benefits of walkable communities, helping rural communities deal with industrialized agriculture and tourism...and more.

"Finally, we have a growing international reputation in product and innovation design," Fisher said. "Our Design Institute is one of the only design think-tanks in a university anywhere in the world, and a leader in knowledge mapping, which companies of all kinds have begun to embrace as a way of leveraging their own knowledge most effectively."

Fisher, who served as CALA dean since 1996, now heads a college of more than a 1,000 undergraduates, 300 graduate students, and 200 faculty and staff. (See box, above left.)

Education for students at the University is about being part of a coherent but larger intellectual community, said Provost Tom Sullivan.

"The new College of Design shows how we are strengthening the work of our faculty through the new academic synergies created through cross-disciplinary work," Sullivan said, "and these changes will also improve the quality of the student experience."

An expanded version of Fisher's PowerPoint presentation, used at the college's faculty/staff retreat, is available on the Web at News and Publications (scroll down to Faculty and Staff Retreat).

New Regents Professors and leaders introduced

In the meeting of the full board Sept. 8, three new Regents Professors, announced in July, were honored. The title is the highest faculty honor conferred by the University of Minnesota.

"With a faculty of about 3,000 members, only one percent receive this honor," said President Bruininks. "These are great teachers, scholars, and citizens."

Professors Megan Gunnar, Institute of Child Development, and Donald Truhlar, Department of Chemistry, received their awards in person. Kathryn Sikkink, Department of Political Science, beginning a semester of research in Latin America, was honored in absentia. See the related story, "A super computing chemist," in honor of Truhlar, and feature profiles of Gunnar and Sikkink.

Appointments include $50,000 per year in salary augmentation and research stipend as long as they remain at the University. Friday's recipients were presented with medals and received personal congratulations of the board.

President Bruininks then introduced the board to new Morris campus chancellor Jacqueline Johnson and vice president for access and equity Nancy "Rusty" BarcelÓ. Bruininks was joined by Provost Sullivan in introducing the new dean of the Carlson School of Management, Alison Davis-Blake.

Reports and presentations

In his monthly highlights to the board, President Bruininks spoke about a highlight of the summer, attending the ground breaking of the expanded Hormel Institute in Austin, Minn., and surprising its director, Zigang Dong, with an appointment as a McKnight Presidential Professor for Cancer Prevention. The expansion will add about 100 jobs in the region.

"The Hormel Institute is a place that really knows how to build connections," said Bruininks. "It is deeply connected to the purposes and economy of Minnesota."

In other business, Faculty Consultative Committee chair Carol Chomsky reported on the committee's retreat last week and goals for the coming year. President Bruininks then laid out the conceptual framework for the 2008-09 biennial budget within the context of the University's ongoing strategic positioning efforts.

Video of full board meetings is now on the Web

The Sept. 8 meeting was the first time that the board's proceedings were webcast. Video of the full board's meeting can be viewed at Board of Regents--click on "View monthly agendas and minutes."