Welcome to our speaker series! Here you will find our discussion topics along with background information about our speakers. Click the links to register to attend.

From Cradle to Career: Helping ensure the success of children in your community

February 23, 2021 • 6:30pm
Online via Zoom and Facebook Live
Featured Speaker: Ron Ferguson, PHD

Ron Ferguson, PhD

Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who has served on the faculty at Harvard University for more than three decades. His research has applied social science research to economic, social, and educational challenges.

His early research turned towards the study of education and youth development because academic skill disparities were contributing to growing wage disparity. A profile in the New York Times wrote, “there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.”

Parents’ roles in early learning is a special focus of his current work. Eighty (80) percent of brain development occurs between birth and the age of three (3).  Informed parenting in these formative years can ensure that children enter school on a level playing field and help shift resources from remediation toward enrichment. Health care professionals can play a significant part in helping to give parents the information and support they need to enrich their children’s early development.

Dr. Ferguson has founded an initiative known as The Basics. Beginning in 2016, the program has been adopted by coalitions in over 35 U.S. cities. The Basics Strategy depends on broad community collaboration to reach extended families with five principles of advice for parenting infants and toddlers.

His most recent book (2019), co-authored with Tatsha Robertson, is The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Raising Highly Successful Children.

Strong Towns 101

March 23, 2021 • 6:30pm
Online via Zoom and Facebook Live
Featured Speaker: Charles Marohn

Charles Marohn – known as “Chuck” to friends and colleagues – is the Founder and President of Strong Towns and the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity. He is a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota and a land use planner with two decades of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of Minnesota.

Marohn is also the lead author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns — Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 — as well as the author of A World Class Transportation System. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content.

He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America. He is featured in the documentary film Owned: A Tale of Two Americans, and was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen.

Marohn is a long time commentator on KAXE Northern Community Radio. He currently co-hosts KAXE’s Dig Deep program, a monthly examination of public policy issues affecting Minnesotans.

Chuck grew up on a small farm in Central Minnesota. The oldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers, he joined the Minnesota National Guard on his 17th birthday during his junior year of high school and served for nine years. In addition to being passionate about building a stronger America, he loves playing music, is an obsessive reader and religiously follows his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins.

Chuck and his wife live with their two daughters in their hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota.

The Transformation of Travel: The power of sustainable tourism to make the world better

May 18, 2021 • 6:30pm
Online via Zoom and Facebook Live
Featured Speaker: Costas Crist

Costas Cris

With a dynamic career spanning decades, Costas has gained many titles: Ecotourism Pioneer, Sustainable Tourism Visionary, Award-Winning National Geographic Travel Writer – to name a few – and his life’s work has helped shape the world of travel and tourism as we know it today.

As a Harvard University wildlife field researcher when he was a student, long before the concept of ecotourism was established, Costas began to ponder a different model for tourism – one in which the travel industry would help protect nature, preserve cultural heritage and directly support local community development.

In 1991, Costas helped to officially define ecotourism for the first time as “Responsible travel to natural areas that protects nature and sustains the well being of local people.” He then worked to introduce these same principles into the global travel industry, helping to establish sustainable tourism based on three key pillars: Environmentally-friendly practices; Protection of natural and cultural heritage; and Social and economic benefits for local people.

This led to a new vision for tourism that continues to transform the travel industry today. An inspirational thought leader and a dynamic speaker, Costas has appeared onstage at conferences and summits around the world.

His media appearances include Travel Channel, Good Morning America, National Geographic Channel, NatGeo Weekend, BBC World, CNN International, FOX News, National Public Radio and several film documentaries. Costas has served as a senior advisor to CEOs, nonprofit organizations, government officials and heads of state to achieve tourism development success based on a model of doing well by doing good.

He was honored together with Dr. Jane Goodall for his lifelong work to protect the environment and was also recognized as a “Tourism Visionary” by the International Restaurant and Hotel Awards.