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Smart City - Smart North. Session 1: Getting Back To Better


Tom Fisher
College of Design, University of MN, Professor

Tom Fisher is a Professor in the College of Design and Director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota. He focuses on urban and systems redesign and has been involved in a year-long research project on the post-pandemic world. He is a graduate of Cornell and Case Western Reserve, and was, for 19 years, the dean of the College of Design.

Virajita Singh
Unversity of Minnesota, Associate Vice Provost/Senior Research Fellow

Virajita Singh is Associate Vice Provost in the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota, where she brings her expertise in design thinking, public interest design, and partnership studies to catalyze and support equity and diversity work of colleges and other academic units across the University. Trained as an architect, Virajita is also Senior Research Fellow and faculty in the College of Design where she leads the Design for Community Resilience program she founded at the Center for Sustainable Building Research working with rural and urban communities to meet their needs using regenerative design. Her current academic work is focused on exploring the applied intersections of cultural transformation theory, partnership models, and design thinking as a strategy particularly as it applies to higher education context and on applying participatory design to “Back to Indigenous Futures,” a Grand Challenges Research project working with her interdisciplinary university colleagues in collaboration with Dakota and Micronesian community members in western Minnesota.

Mary Rick
City of St. Paul, Director of Business Development, Planning & Economic Development
Jason Barnett
Flarean, Founder/CEO

Known as an Innovator, Leader, and Disruptor, Jason Barnett – Founder and CEO of Flarean takes pride in founding companies that will change the world and improve people’s lives.His background in the arts, technology, media and social organizing along with his expertise in forging new paths and opportunities have previously lead to the founding of TheUpTake.org, a nonprofit online video news gathering and broadcasting organization.His passion for finding and building new concepts lead him to establish Flarean.com.


During this pandemic, we hear the refrain over and over “I can’t wait to get back to normal.”  There is an honest and earnest feeling behind that sentiment, however, we have been asking ourselves - is “normal” what we want to get back to? In many ways our past “normal” was not nearly good enough and even exasperated many of the problems we are facing during this pandemic.  In this session we’ll outline some of those not-so-good “normals,” how they put us in a worse situation relative to an international crisis and how we have the opportunity to “get back to better” through acknowledging the bad, identify technology and non-technological solutions to address a better tomorrow by making our cities smarter and more responsive to our communities. “Smart North” is a collaboration of people working in and around smart city development thinking deeply around how our cities and communities can better work together and more efficient in building a better normal.