Randy Hitz has retired as dean of the GSE after a decade of leading the largest education school in the state. Since 2006, he administered more than 50 programs and five research centers while working toward continuous improvement strategies for Oregon’s education system. He was the longest serving of his contemporary deans at PSU and the second-longest-serving dean of the GSE, behind Robert Everhart (1986–98).
“Students in Oregon will benefit from Randy’s leadership long after he retires,” said Wim Wiewel, PSU president. “He leaves a legacy of stronger schools, better teachers, and a community united behind its children.”
In addition to the deep professional respect Hitz garnered from colleagues, students, and faculty inside and outside the University, his many accomplishments are noteworthy and will likely influence education in Oregon for many years to come.
Colleagues describe Hitz as a nationally connected professional who led new initiatives at the University, across the metro area, Oregon, and the United States, where he was well-known for his service on the boards of several national professional organizations.
In 2015, Hitz presided over a new accreditation process for the GSE by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which was in its initial year of implementation. The GSE was the first to receive this accreditation on the West Coast. Only 10 schools nationwide achieved full accreditation by CAEP that year. “Randy thought it would be important for the GSE to be the first—rather than one of the last—to seek accreditation by CAEP,” said Micki Caskey, associate dean of the GSE. “We had the choice to seek accreditation with the newly adopted CAEP standards or seek accreditation under the former standards; Randy encouraged us to move forward and adopt the CAEP standards, so the GSE became an early adopter Educator Preparation Provider (EPP).”
Under Hitz, the GSE also achieved and holds three other national accreditations: the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Oregon requires that all teacher preparation programs be nationally accredited by July 1, 2022. The GSE has been nationally accredited since 1977.
During Hitz’s tenure, external funding to the GSE increased significantly, from $2.2 to $7.4 million. Since 2010, fundraising escalated by 700 percent and continues to grow as a result of the relationships Hitz built.
Hitz was adept at finding new opportunities within the University that could benefit the GSE. He combined the Continuing Education (CEED) department into the GSE, which included three centers, a marketing office, and more than 40 professional development workshops, certificate programs, endorsements, and degree programs. CEED programs were innovative and frequently received national acclaim.
“Randy’s support and understanding of the importance of integrating CEED into the GSE led to greater ownership and involvement of faculty in providing high-quality, accessible preservice, inservice, and professional development programs,” said Cheryl Livneh, who served as director of CEED and the GSE’s associate dean for outreach with Hitz. “These programs impacted preK–12 educators, adult educators, and human-service providers throughout the metro area, state, region, nation, and in some cases, the world. I greatly appreciated Randy’s collaborative leadership and his willingness to take risks that would provide new opportunities for students and the people they served.”
Hitz incorporated the Oregon Center for Career Development (OCCD) into the GSE. The OCCD provides leadership in the development and operation of integrated statewide professional development standards and systems for early education and school-age care professionals and maintains the State of Oregon Registry of daycare trainings for 24,761 licensed individuals.
Hitz served as a driving force behind the implementation of Collective Impact strategies in the Portland area that link local initiatives to national efforts, resulting in the regional Cradle to Career program. Cradle to Career brings together business and industry, higher education, community-based programs, school districts, and local political partners to strengthen the education continuum from birth to employment. This work resulted in more seamless connections between educational entities and services so that every child can get a better chance for a successful future.
“Randy brought the idea of building the Cradle to Career system to our market,” said Dan Ryan, CEO of All Hands Raised, which administers the program. “The calm and clear vision he had in 2009 birthed what today is a flourishing community-wide effort: the All Hands Raised Partnership. It was never about him or about Portland State; it was about helping to build what our kids deserve.”
“Randy saw an opportunity to link the local work with his friend, Nancy Zimpher, at the University of Cincinnati, and their pioneering work in the Strive Together Network,” said Professor Pat Burk, who also helped launch Cradle to Career. “That connection clicked for local leadership. Collective Impact thinking and planning became a core part of school improvement in our region.”
Hitz played a major role in creating and leading the Oregon Coalition for Quality Teaching and Learning that led to the Oregon Legislature’s formation of the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning. The network acts as a state umbrella of support for teachers, funding key educator development initiatives in an effort to improve educational outcomes.
Burk explained, “For the first time, we saw the legislature and the education community come together around a strategy embodied in a statute that provided more stable funding for innovative practices focused on diversity, teacher recruitment and preparation, and ongoing professional development. It demonstrated that innovation did not always have to be the last thing we think about in school funding.”
Hitz supported school-university partnerships by providing staff and funding for projects important to area school districts, including active recruitment of a diverse population of educators and better practicum and internship experiences for aspiring teachers, administrators, and school counselors.
During his 11 years at PSU, Hitz also initiated major changes in the doctoral program that significantly improved completion. Now, EdD students have more opportunities for support after completing the initial classroom portion of the program, and apply their doctoral studies to address complex problems of practice in their communities.
“Leading change efforts in higher education are notoriously challenging; however, Dean Hitz’s transformational leadership style made all the difference,” said ELP faculty member Deborah Peterson. “I admire Dean Hitz for how he leads, for posing a compelling question, providing support as we grapple with a complex question, offering encouragement to stay engaged when dissent arises, planting small seed-of-change ideas at meetings, and trusting the faculty to emerge with improvement ideas, the ability to implement change, and compassion when we face unexpected obstacles. He never takes credit for our collaborative work; rather, he humbly passes the credit on to others, inspiring us to work harder, longer, and with more dedication.”
One of Hitz’s biggest challenges was an inadequate, aging GSE building with GSE personnel spread across five different floors and in other buildings across campus. An initial effort to solicit funding from the 20014–15 legislature failed just as the School of Business Administration took over the GSE’s former building for their expansion. In 2015, Hitz supervised the buildout and relocation of GSE faculty and staff to temporary quarters in the Fourth Avenue Building.
Not to be dissuaded, Hitz continued his campaign to find support for a GSE building and in July of 2017, at last secured approval for funding from the state legislature—this time with partners. The new $100-million nine-story PSU Education and Health building will be shared with the OHSU/PSU School of Community Health and Portland Community College and is the first to house components of all three of Portland’s higher education institutions under one roof. The new building on Montgomery Street will include offices for GSE faculty and staff, modern classrooms, retail space, a dental clinic, and the GSE Community Mental Health Clinic. It is slated to open in 2020.
“I am deeply grateful for Randy’s contributions to the school, the university, and the profession,” said Marvin Lynn, who was appointed dean July 1. “Randy has left a lasting impression on the field that will shape many future generations. It is with deep humility that I take his place in the GSE with the promise to continue this work with the same quality, integrity, and commitment that he demonstrated.”