New Faculty Interview: Lea Fortmann

Lea Fortmann abroad in Ethiopia
Abroad in Ethiopia

As promised, this week we have an interview with Lea Fortmann, new Assistant Professor for the Economics Department. (If you missed last week’s interview, here is a link to the interview with our department’s other newest member, Peter Sullivan.)

Where did go you go to college?

Most recently I graduated with my Ph D. from Ohio State university so there I was in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics and prior to that I did a Master’s at the University of Washington in the Evans School of Public Affairs. So there I got my PMA and I did my undergrad at Gonzaga in Spokane where I was a Psychology major. Not an Econ major.

And you specialize in environmental and natural resource economics?

I had always kind of originally been interested in the environmental aspect of economics, and so that was my focus. A lot of my dissertation research was looking at community forest groups in Guatemala kind of assessing their preferences for different types of conservations and benefits and also how effective these groups are at deforestation. But I’m also interested in climate change policy and non-market valuation. Right now, I’m teaching Natural Resource and Policy, Econ 326, and eventually I’ll be teaching Environmental Economics.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over, I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I’ve lived in Tennessee and Mississippi and Nebraska. I consider myself a Northwesterner though, I went to high school in Beaverton outside of Portland and then studied Psychology at Gonzaga. And my family is all centered in Washington and Oregon.

What’s one of your favorite places?

Probably just being back here. After being in Columbus Ohio for four or five years, I really liked Columbus, but you know I missed the mountains and the outdoor recreational opportunities. When I was getting my Master’s at UW I got to really experience Seattle for the first time. I went hiking and camping a lot and really appreciated everything.

What is a good book you’ve read recently?

The most recent book I’ve read is Gone Girl, which was good but had a lot of hype so I was expecting different things from it. I have another book that I just ordered on Amazon though. It’s called Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, and I got it because the Mayor of Tacoma has Tacoma reads and is currently promoting it. The author is coming in October. It’s about this woman, she’s a journalist and she tries to see how people survive on minimum wage so she waitresses and does housecleaning and kind of spends a year or two living on minimum wage.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I’m an indie rock kind person. I really like music and used to go to a lot of music festivals like Sasquatch. Columbus actually had a really great music scene just because it’s so close to everything and it’s so cheap. The concerts I went to were $20 or $30 or less and within a mile and a half, so I would usually bike there. These were all kind of your indie rocker type groups. Actually one of the things I’m sad about is all the music is going to be going to Seattle and will be more expensive and farther away so I wont get to see as much.

Do you have any other life experiences you’d like to share?

After Gonzaga I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I planned on joining the Peace Corps my senior year so was in Zambia for two years teaching aquaculture. I was teaching people how to build and maintain fishponds in a stable manner so they’d have enough to eat and enough to make income. That’s actually what got me on the environmental track, where as before I thought I was going to be a public defender or go to law school. After that I realized I wanted to do something environmental based. That was a really great experience, and then I taught English in Korea for a year. After returning from the Peace Corps I had this year where I wasn’t quite ready to apply for grad school, so I went to Korea to teach before applying to grad schools and going to UW.

What is favorite part about Puget Sound so far?

Honestly, I just really love the people here, the faculty, the students, the administration have been so welcoming and so awesome. Part of it is that laidback Northwest feel, but also everyone seems really genuine.

Welcome to the Economics Department and Puget Sound community, Lea Fortmann and Peter Sullivan!


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