Written by Mars Harren, COSS Communications Student Assistant
Fresno State’s College of Social Sciences is lucky to have 40 full-time women faculty members — all of whom are incredibly inspiring. This year for Women’s History Month, we shined the spotlight on four very deserving women. They all have unique stories to tell about the challenges they’ve faced, career highlights and their take on women’s rights advancements.
For Dr. Michelle DenBeste, Dean of the College of Social Sciences, balancing her role as a student, professor, and mother was the biggest challenge she’s faced throughout her career. But as her child and support system grew, she says it got easier to be a good mom and a good professor.
Dr. DenBeste has a myriad of career highlights including planning and traveling to Russia with students, a first-hand sight of the fall of the USSR, and meeting amazing people in Russia.
Her inspiration? Russian poet Anna Akhmatova because “she lived an extraordinary life and was an extraordinarily talented poet at a time when women were not always accepted as poets.”
Women’s Studies Program Coordinator and Professor, Dr. Kathryn Forbes’ biggest career challenge has been finding ways to make academic work accountable to social justice goals while also doing the traditional work of higher education. Because feminist research and teaching are different from other fields of study, feminist scholars struggle to make their work intelligible to academic communities.
Despite the struggles, Forbes says seeing her students practicing feminism and becoming politically engaged are the highlights of her career.
A quote that inspires her? “You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be 100% committed.” by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Dr. Yoshiko Takahashi, Associate Professor in our Criminology department, grew up in Japan where she says social and career development for women is severely delayed. In her first job, she was tasked with serving tea and helping male staff with typing and copying documents. There were no promotion opportunities in the position she held so she decided to pursue higher education. And she says it’s definitely paid off.
One of her dreams was to teach a class with her own book and she recently made it come true. Dr. Takahashi and a colleague published Victimology and Victim Assistance: Advocacy, Intervention, and Restoration, a book which focuses on a victim’s perspective on the criminal justice system.
A quote she finds inspiring? “Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand” – Patti Smith.
For Dr. Katherine Fobear, Assistant Professor in our Women’s Studies Program, the biggest challenge in her career has been bridging divides across areas of research and activism. This challenge, she says, is an ongoing one.
Her work centers on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer lives and a large part of that is bringing LGBTQ+ voices to the center of current issues. Fobear’s work also focuses on immigration, specifically asylum and migration for those escaping violence and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. She has served as an Expert Witness on refugee cases pertaining to that matter. Fobear says every successful case she’s been a part of has been the best day of her life.
In regards to the strides that have been made in women’s rights, Fobear believes it is important to be mindful of them, but also recognize that it’s been fifty years and we’re still fighting key issues around gender inequality as well as fighting to maintain the legislative and social progress that has been hard won. She finds that the amount of young people who identify themselves as feminists and who see feminism as a benefit to everyone, regardless of their gender identity, is really promising.
As for who else inspires her? Audre Lorde: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
These women bring knowledge and expertise not just to the College of Social Sciences but to the entire Fresno State campus. We’re glad they chose to be a part of our Bulldog family!