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Thomas Fisher
Thomas Fisher is a professor and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Educated at Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, Fisher has been a leader in the public-interest design movement, and a long-time researcher and advocate for using design to tackle the major economic, environmental, and societal challenges facing the world.

Fisher previously served as the regional preservation officer at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, the historical architect of the Connecticut State Historical Commission in Hartford, and the editorial director of Progressive Architecture magazine in Stamford, Connecticut.

Recognized as one of the most published academics in his field, Fisher is the author of six books, 45 book chapters and over 250 major articles. His new book, Designing to Avoid Disaster: The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design, is published by Routledge.

Fisher’s current work revolves around how design can solve problems in areas ranging from public health and childhood obesity, to sustainability, education and government.

More information on Fisher and the College of Design can be found at, or on Twitter at @UofMDesign and @MNDesignDean.

Entries by Thomas Fisher

Tempest in a Tea Party: The Sad Saga of the NAED

(0) Comments | Posted March 28, 2016 | 5:32 PM

With the built environment generating almost half of the world's greenhouse gases, the disciplines responsible for that pollution came together in 2009 to start a new non-profit organization, the National Academy of Environmental Design (NAED) that would look at how the design and planning fields could help us...

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Terrorism and the City

(0) Comments | Posted November 23, 2015 | 9:14 AM

Terrorist networks, especially those associated with Islamic extremism, have targeted Western cities and because of that, cities hold the key to both understanding - and defeating - these terrorists. Like the soldiers in the ancient Trojan Horse, terrorists have infiltrated the cities of their enemy and brought their...

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Michael Graves's Search of Lost Time

(0) Comments | Posted March 17, 2015 | 5:22 PM

The passing of Michael Graves last week brought a lot of well-deserved praise for his architecture and even more so, for his products that many people purchased from retailers like Target and J.C. Penney. However, few people know that Graves was also an accomplished painter, whose...

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Evolution of Complexity in Universities

(0) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 3:04 PM

If you haven't spent much time on campus since graduation, you might not realize this: Universities are dynamic institutions, constantly changing with societal, scholarly, and economic pressures.

Those of us who spend our lives in academia know that some restructuring is done with intent, while other change occurs as...

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The New Space Race

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 9:03 AM

The Obama administration's ConnectED Initiative, which began in 2013 with the goal of bringing every American student into the digital age, has just gotten a whole lot more robust with its announcement of a pledge from ESRI to provide a free ArcGIS...

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Cities in the Third Industrial Revolution

(0) Comments | Posted March 6, 2014 | 11:36 AM

The Great Recession may well represent the start of what the economist, Jeremy Rifkin, has called "The Third Industrial Revolution." If the first industrial revolution of the 19th century ushered in the mechanization of hand labor, with the steam engine as its iconic technology, and the...

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Our Gutenberg Moment

(0) Comments | Posted July 23, 2013 | 5:10 PM

The librarian T. Scott Plutchak has called this "our Gutenberg moment," referring to the impact that digital technology has already had on libraries. But if things happen as they did after Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, the impact of the digital revolution will go far...

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Why We Need Public Boarding Schools

(2) Comments | Posted May 7, 2013 | 7:12 PM

My daughter went to elementary school with a boy named Jerome, one of the brightest kids in the class and now, some 15 years later, sitting in prison serving a long sentence for some sort of violent crime. Jerome lived in a tough neighborhood, had an unstable home, and saw...

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Our Political Battle of the Brands

(0) Comments | Posted April 24, 2013 | 12:17 PM

I recently attended a gathering of diverse leaders in the Twin Cities to envision how we would respond to some of big challenges headed our way: climate change, disruptive technologies, the obesity epidemic, an aging population and so on. Hosted by the Urban Land...

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The Public Health of Higher Education

(1) Comments | Posted February 26, 2013 | 4:40 PM

The health of higher education has received a lot of public discussion of late. The symptoms of the system's ill health have included tuition increases far exceeding the rate of inflation, administrative bloat expanding the waistline of many institutions, declining levels of...

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Our Political Metaphor Problem

(1) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 2:36 PM

We don't have a political problem in the U.S.; we have a metaphor problem. The two dominant political parties have so much difficulty agreeing because each uses a different metaphor, which in turn affects how they see the world and how they want to change it.

Republicans tend to use...

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The Rigor of Creativity

(8) Comments | Posted December 14, 2012 | 9:31 AM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

We have so mystified, romanticized, and idealized creativity, so convinced ourselves that it remains primarily the purview of artists or "geniuses," that far too many people believe that they are not creative. In fact, they have not been allowed,...

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Teach to Each Child's Intelligence

(35) Comments | Posted December 6, 2012 | 5:09 PM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

Colleges and universities teach to their students' intelligence. Those students who have musical intelligence gravitate to the music school, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to the dance department or intercollegiate sports, spatial intelligence to the art school or design college, and so...

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Are Hurricanes Our Next Dust Bowl?

(2) Comments | Posted December 5, 2012 | 11:16 AM

Two nearly simultaneous events -- Hurricane Sandy's devastation along the eastern seaboard and the public broadcast of Ken Burns's documentary on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s -- couldn't seem more different. The Hurricane involved too much water, after all, and the Dust Bowl too little....

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The End of the Academic Exercise

(0) Comments | Posted November 14, 2012 | 10:52 AM

The term "academic exercise" has long had a pejorative meaning, as something with little or no relevance to the world beyond academe. But the current generation of students -- the millennials -- seem to view the academic exercise with even greater disdain, not even worthy of their attention,...

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An Education in Creative Courage

(1) Comments | Posted October 2, 2012 | 11:26 AM

Most conferences have a topic or theme, but the WWW conference, held a couple of weeks ago at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands, California, focused on something else: what it takes to become an "outlier," to use Malcolm Gladwell's term, and have a transformative...

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Mapping Our Future

(1) Comments | Posted August 2, 2012 | 11:26 AM

Why, with more information available to us than ever before, do those in positions of power seem so unconcerned about the facts when making statements or decisions? Has the sheer quantity of information and the increasing pace of life so overwhelmed us that we no longer have the time or...

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They're Paving Paradise

(4) Comments | Posted June 14, 2012 | 11:06 AM

The old Joni Mitchell line, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" applies to public higher education these days. Most states have dramatically cut financial support of their research universities over the last several decades to the point where public funding, as a percentage of most...

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SEEDing a New Kind of STEM

(1) Comments | Posted May 8, 2012 | 2:54 PM

Most agree that the U.S. needs more students studying the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. As U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has stated, "Inspiring all our students to be capable in math and science will help them contribute in an increasingly technology-based economy,...

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Our Political Bridges to Nowhere

(4) Comments | Posted April 4, 2012 | 10:15 AM

Not everything in Washington ends up in gridlock, especially when it comes to expanding roads and bridges in order to, well, prevent gridlock. A case in point: President Obama recently signed a bill authorizing the construction of a large $690 million highway bridge over the scenic St. Croix...

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