In this edition of faculty spotlight, we sit down with Dr. Keith Leavitt, Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business at Oregon State University. Dr. Leavitt talks about his research and an exciting new career fair concept coming to the College during Winter Term.

Can you share a little about your background and experience?

Immediately prior to joining OSU, I was a dually appointed as a Professor at WestPoint and within the research Arm of the U.S. Army’s Ethics think tank.  Prior to graduate school, I actually worked as a manager in outdoor retail for two different mid-sized (50-100 employee) family businesses in Montana, and I wore many different hats in that context.

Can you tell us about your current research?

A lot of my research falls in to one of two broad areas: behavioral ethics (predicting when people will lie, cheat and steal at work), and recently, work and home life spillover (when events at work or home lead to consequences in the other domain, as a function of stress, emotions, obligations, etc.). Although my research in this area hasn’t specifically focused on family business, it’s likely especially relevant in that context, as many family business employees have less clear separation between their work and home lives.

Are there insights from your research that you think might be of interest to family business owners or family members?

A lot of my research has focused on how specific identities (how I view myself in various aspects of my life, including my profession, groups I belong to, and family roles) influence our decisions (even outside of conscious awareness). A lot of this has been within an ethics domain (e.g., how Army Medics make their ethical decisions based on whether subtle cues provoke their soldier or medical identity), but it’s not a great stretch to think about how people primarily identify with their work roles (e.g., with the business or the family) could have critical implications for how they treat others, which priorities they emphasize, or how they use resources. 

The Management Program is working with the Austin Family Business Program to host the “Work Local, Live Local” career fair on February 16. Can you tell us a little more about the concept behind it?

Many of our undergraduate students are committed to remaining in the state or region following college, and many smaller/local businesses do not actively access OSU when looking to fill one or two positions. Many of these same companies may be interested in giving an OSU student an opportunity for hands-on learning via an internship, but don’t know how to get started. The Work Local, Live Local Career Fair is intended to partner with the Austin Family Business Program in the OSU College of Business to create a career and internship fair matching students with a local preference or passion with companies that can’t justify the resources for fancy booths, gimmicky giveaways, and dedicated college recruiters found in the typical career fair environment.

Our management students are also generalists with broad business skill sets and training in working closely with others, making them an excellent choice for companies that need to hire individuals capable of critical thinking, collaboration, and taking on multiple or less-structured roles. We can also reduce the barrier to entry for these businesses by providing them with straightforward handouts on how to make internships maximally beneficial, and preparing them with the sorts of questions students are likely to ask. By having a career fair focused exclusively on local (and family) businesses and startups, we remove the typical career fair barriers by providing a relaxed and standardized space for companies that may be interested in hiring our students (even in the future) within a more leveled playing field.


Dr. Keith Leavitt is an Associate Professor and Betty S. Henry Amundson Faculty Scholar in Ethics in the College of Business at Oregon State University. Dr. Leavitt received his Ph.D. in Management and Organization from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Leavitt's research interests include behavioral ethics, identity and situated judgment, social judgments, and research methods. His research has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (OBHDP), the Journal of Management, Organizational Research Methods, the Journal of Organizational Behavior, and the Journal of Business Ethics. His work has been featured in outlets including the New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Globe & Mail (Canada), and prominently on the front of his mother's refrigerator.