Keith Leavitt, assistant professor of management, jokes that Austin Hall and his College of Business colleagues are almost a form of camouflage for him.
“Sometimes I feel like a psychologist hiding out at a business school,” he says.
Leavitt’s academic background in psychology traces to his undergraduate days at Western State College of Colorado, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts as a psych major. From there he entered a Master of Science program in applied psychology at Montana State, and as graduation neared he had a consulting job lined up in Capetown, South Africa.
“But then 9/11 happened and it fell apart,” Leavitt says.
So he shifted gears and looked west, landing at the University of Washington, where he picked up another master’s, this one in business administration with a focus on organizational behavior. He stayed in Seattle for a Ph.D. in management and organization, concentrating on organizational behavior and human resource management while minoring in research methods and sociology.
After earning his doctorate, Leavitt and his wife, Pauline Schilpzand, spent two years in assistant-professor roles at the Army Center for the Professional Military Ethic at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. As the center’s name suggests, the work involved research, training and policy recommendations for ethical conduct within the Army. It was a fun and fascinating experience, he says, but also intense and occasionally disturbing.
From West Point, Leavitt and Schilpzand headed back to Leavitt’s longtime home region, the Pacific Northwest, and joined the College of Business faculty at OSU.
“This is a great fit,” he says. “The Northwest is a very civil place. People are accepting and respectful.”
Plus, “I’m a big believer in balance. I like to work hard but I also like to play hard, things like mountain biking and surfing. Corvallis is a great location because it’s close to so many things.”
At the College of Business, Leavitt enjoys the freedom to work in “areas of research that have fallen through the cracks” and the overall tone set by Dean Ilene Kleinsorge.
“She wants input from everybody,” Leavitt says. “At a lot of places junior faculty are told, ‘keep your mouth shut till you get tenure.’ We have a lot of capable junior faculty, and everyone’s strengths and inputs are valued – it’s an exciting time to be at OSU. We have everything we need to be successful; there’s a lot of momentum and positive enthusiasm here.”
Leavitt’s research interests include behavioral ethics, identity and situated judgment, social cognition, non-conscious processes, and research methods.
“I’ve got seven or eight irons in the fire all the time,” he says.
Two recent studies he co-authored show that introverted people tend to give lower performance evaluations to extroverts than they do fellow introverts. The findings are set for publication in the Academy of Management Journal.
Other projects include looking at why people lie at work – “Sometimes it’s to protect their identity; it’s not always just to get ahead” – and the costs and tradeoffs of workplace ethics.