Written by Lucero Benitez, COSS Communications Specialist

College of Social Sciences’ Dean Michelle DenBeste has accepted a position as Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Life at Central Washington University (CWU), located in Ellensburg, WA.  

CWU President James L. Gaudino said Dr. DenBeste was the top choice to lead academic and student life at the university because DenBeste displayed a dedication and enthusiasm for higher education that impressed members of the search committee, faculty, and trustees.

“At Fresno, Dr. DenBeste is known for her leadership and for her commitment to engaging with students, faculty, staff, and the community,” Gaudino said. “She is a proven, effective administrator who has worked on strategic planning, enrollment management, creation of new degrees, and diversifying faculty.”

Since 2000, she has contributed significantly to the success of our students at Fresno State. As a Russian historian, she published in 19th century Russian women’s history, and her in-progress research explores the history of a Russian religious group, the Molokans, in California’s Central Valley. DenBeste has been a tenured professor in the Department of History since 2009 and taught as an assistant professor and associate professor with tenure from 2000 to 2009. She served as chair of the History Department before her appointment as the College of Social Sciences interim dean and then dean in 2017.

DenBeste was the principal investigator for several national grants including a $1.7 million REACHABLE grant by the U.S. Department of Education. REACHABLE (Reimagine Educating: American Civics and History Academies for Better Learning and Engagement) seeks to engage Fresno State scholars with local teachers and students around a shared interest in history and civics.  

DenBeste made Fresno her home — this is where she raised her son — and Fresno State provided her the insight and experiences that led to her success. As a Pacific Northwest native, she graduated with a B.A. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Washington before completing an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Southern Illinois University.  

In our community, she was instrumental in promoting acceptance, equity and a sense of belonging. As an avid cyclist, she participated in AIDS/LifeCycle — charting a journey of 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles — raising more than $20,000 for AIDS research and education. For her contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade selected her as a co-Grand Marshall this year.  

“I know that we will miss Michelle. Her contributions to our meetings were always focused and productive, and it was comforting to see her knit while waiting for a meeting to begin,” Fresno State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said.

In consultation with President Castro, Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval will confer with the School of Social Sciences Executive Committee, its chairs, and the Senate’s Executive Committee to select an interim dean. 

We will miss DenBeste but wish her all the best in her new journey. Please join us in congratulating Dean DenBeste on this accomplishment!