Montana State University

Dennis Defa receives national human resources distinguished service award

May 26, 2015

Dennis R. Defa, MSU’s chief human resources officer, will receive the distinguished service award from College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

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Dennis R. Defa, head of human resources at Montana State University, has received the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) 2015 Distinguished Service Award.

CUPA will award $2,000 in Defa’s honor to an MSU endowment or scholarship of Defa’s choice.

The award is given to a CUPA-HR member who has provided outstanding service to the association through constituent activities, such as service in governance or leadership roles, or through professional development contributions in support of the association. The scholarship award is sponsored by Kronos.

Defa came to MSU in 2012 from Central Washington University where he was assistant vice president for human resources and faculty relations. A human resources veteran with more than 35 years in the field, Defa also has served in several CUPA-HR leadership roles, including a term as chair of the former Northwest Region board of directors and as a representative on the association’s national board of directors. He is credited with being instrumental in a smooth transition when the CUPA-HR Northwest Region merged with the Southwest Region to become the Western Region in 2008. In addition to his service to CUPA-HR, Defa encourages his staff at MSU to become involved with the association, providing support for them to attend conferences, serve on chapter and regional boards, and conduct conference sessions and webinars.

“Dennis is constantly inspiring his staff to participate in CUPA-HR and to utilize the association to learn from others and to share their expertise,” said Terry Leist, MSU vice president for administration and finance who nominated Defa for the award. “His positive and affirming approach has made it possible for a number of very talented individuals to lend their skills and their time to CUPA-HR at various levels.”

Defa said he deeply appreciates the honor.

“The nomination and subsequent award is a reflection upon all the people who provided assistance, support and mentoring to me over my career,” Defa said. “It is important for professionals in any field to remain current on issues, trends and recent developments.  For those of us who chose higher education human resources as a career, CUPA-HR provides the information and support, both regionally and nationally, to achieve professional and organizational excellence.” 

CUPA-HR provides knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence to higher education. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., the organization serves more than 18,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 1,900 member organizations around the country and abroad. The association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information.

Dennis Defa (406) 994-3651,

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