News & Briefs

News & Briefs

Commencement 2020

Due to safety concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, CWU announced that the 2020 Commencement ceremonies will not be conducted this year.

In a letter to 2020 graduates, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Life Lynn Franken said that she understood the decision is “deeply disappointing” to the graduates and their families but that it was “the only responsible decision we could make at this time.”

“Our priority has always been the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and community,” she wrote. “CWU’s Commencement ceremony brings tens of thousands of guests from all 50 states and several countries each year, and while rescheduling it may sound like a reasonable compromise, the university ultimately decided that having so many people in close proximity to one another—even six months from now—may contribute to a resurgence of the outbreak.”

Franken said all 2019-2020 graduates will be allowed to participate in the 2021 Commencement exercises next June, where they will receive a diploma cover, a copy of the commencement book, and any special honors. Those who do not wish to participate in next year’s ceremony will also be able to receive their diploma cover, a copy of the commencement book, and any special honors in a package that will be mailed to their home.

Additionally, the university plans to conduct a virtual commencement address to recognize the class of 2020 on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Details are still being finalized for that event and will be available later on a dedicated webpage

CWU Names New Provost

Michelle DenBeste is CWU’s Provost/Vice President of Academic and Student Life. A Pacific Northwest native, DenBeste earned a BA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle before completing an MA and PhD in history at Southern Illinois University. She previously served as Dean of the College of Social Sciences at California State University, Fresno.

CWU President James L. 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. “She is a proven, effective administrator who has worked on strategic planning, enrollment management, creation of new degrees, and diversifying faculty.”

Wildcats in Windows

Starting in May, CWU’s popular mascot Wellington P. Wildcat began popping up in windows all over campus and the community as part of a ‘Wildcat in the Window’ hunt.

The hunt was a variation of the phenomena of neighborhood “bear hunts” occurring throughout the country. The hunts began as a result of families abiding by social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders looking for activities for their bored children.

“Numerous employees suggested taking the ‘bear hunt’ idea and make it relatable to the CWU campus as well as our university centers and sites,” noted Staci Sleigh-Layman, executive director of CWU Human Resources. “We thought this might be something fun.”

Participants downloaded images of Wellington from the #CWUTogether website (, printed out the image, colored it, and hung it in their windows. They were also encouraged to take a photo of their Wildcat image to post on social media.

Starbucks Exec Joins CWU Board of Trustees

Governor Jay Inslee has appointed Zabrina Jenkins, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Starbucks to the CWU Board of Trustees. Jenkins graduated from Central in 1992, with a degree in business administration.

Note: In the previous edition of Crimson & Black, Jenkins’s job title was incorrectly stated.

Governor Names Financial Services Executive to BOT

Jeff Hensler, Senior Investment Strategist and Partner with the Bellevue-based financial services firm, Sound Consulting Services, is joining the CWU Board of Trustees. Governor Jay Inslee appointed Hensler, who graduated from CWU in 1998 with a double-major in economics and geography.

CWU Student Wins TVW Music Contest

A musical composition by CWU student Aaron Rausch will be broadcast around the state this year as the state government news network TVW celebrates its 25th anniversary. Rausch’s work was selected as the winning entry in the TVW Music Composition Contest, a partnership between the Olympia-based broadcasting company and CWU.

CWU Prof Named to State Commission on Hispanic Affairs

Governor Jay Inslee appointed Rodrigo Rentería-Valencia, CWU professor in the anthropology and museum studies department, to the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs (WSCHA).

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