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Central Washington University President Jim Gaudino appointed Michelle DenBeste as the Provost/Vice President of Academic and Student Life, according to a news release.

DenBeste currently serves as Dean of the College of Social Sciences at California State University, Fresno. There she is the chief academic, fiscal, accreditation, and administrative officer overseeing a college with a $12 million budget with 3,000 students, 90 tenure/tenure track faculty, more than 100 lecturers, 18 staff members, and the College of Social Science Advising Center.

In the release, Gaudino said DenBeste displayed a dedication and enthusiasm for higher education that impressed members of the search committee, faculty and trustees.

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

Prior to becoming dean, DenBeste was chair of the Department of History at Fresno and principal investigator on several national grants. A Pacific Northwest native, she earned a bachelor of arts in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle before completing an Master’s and Ph.D. in history at Southern Illinois University.

DenBeste said she was honored to join the CWU community and working with the dedicated faculty, students, and staff that have helped to make Central one of the region’s top institutions of higher education.

“During my interview and visit, I learned about Central’s strong commitment to its students and to student success not only during college but in the years after,” she said. “Throughout my career, I have focused on those same values. I look forward to working with my new colleagues to build on that foundation and engage in the innovative thinking and strategic development that will help define the future of this amazing institution.”

She begins her new position on May 18, 2020.

DenBeste has been a tenured professor in Fresno’s Department of History since 2009. She taught as an assistant professor and as an associate professor with tenure from 2000 to 2009.

Her published research focuses on 19th century Russian women doctors and her research in progress explores the history of a Russian religious group, the Molokans, in California’s Central Valley.


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