Interim dean faced with times of transformation

Dan Fortmiller has a long history at Portland State but says he has a lot to learn from his new job as interim dean of students.

Fortmiller took over for Dean of Students Wendy Endress when she went on maternity leave in March.

Endress went into to labor unexpectedly early, and since then Fortmiller has been faced with a steep learning curve in many areas of the dean of students position, he said. Endress is expected to return to the post in September. In the meantime, Fortmiller said he wants to be more than a placeholder during his time as dean.

“I have the utmost respect for Wendy,” Fortmiller said. “What I really want to do is keep the momentum going forward.”

Momentum is something that the dean of students, underneath the Office of Student Affairs, has been dealing with a lot lately.

The dean of students oversees several areas of the university that are undergoing some big changes. The residence life program is working toward offering more services to on-campus students, part of the university’s push to become a more traditional, residential university. Campus Recreation is developing a $34 million rec center, slated to open in fall of 2007, even as the center faces a myriad of funding issues.

Also, a new student government will be taking in office in June. Several members of the new administration have had a contentious relationship with Student Activities and Leadership Programs, the organization that advises student government and most student groups on campus.

Fortmiller, a tall, thin, bespectacled man who turns 48 this month, has been a fixture of the Portland State community for over 20 years. The last 12 of them were spent as director of the Information and Academic Support Center, one of the primary academic advising centers on campus. He plans to return to the support center when his interim contract expires.

He says he hopes his time as dean will give him “well rounded experience” about how academics work at PSU, knowledge that he plans to take back to advising. Fortmiller also hopes that he can lend his 20 years of experience at PSU to provide a historical perspective on developing issues.

Before coming to PSU, Fortmiller, an Ashland native, received his bachelor’s degree from Lewis and Clark, where he became interested in social justice issues. In particular, he was fascinated by socio-economic inequalities in education, something that has continued to influence him at Portland State.

“I come at this job from a social justice perspective,” he said.

Although he originally trained to be a social studies teacher, after college Fortmiller got a job with an “upward bound” program at Pacific University. The program assisted low-income high school students to prepare for college. After five years at Pacific University, he landed a job as a coordinator of the Academic Support Program at PSU. He has remained at PSU ever since, eventually developing the Information and Academic Support Center and becoming its director. He also received a master’s degree in education from PSU.

In his free time, Fortmiller enjoys spending time with his eight-year-old daughter and listening to music.

“I would be a happy man if I could play drums for Carlos Santana in just one concert,” Fortmiller shared.

He also likes to commute to work by bicycle and said he is looking forward to the sunny spring weather so he can ride more often.