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College of Business

CB Faculty Honored as a CWU 2016 Distinguished Professor

Central Washington University has named James Avey and Katharine Whitcomb as this year’s Distinguished Professors. Avey, an associate professor in the Department of Management, is the 2016 Distinguished Research Professor and Whitcomb, a professor of English, is the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Avey has served with the CWU College of Business (CB) since 2007, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in 2000 from CWU in Business Administration. His research has focused on how leadership and human strengths are generated, sustained and contribute to individual and organizational effectiveness. He has also researched and conducted presentations for organizations on returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“For 50 years we’ve tried to figure out what was wrong with people and treat them,” Avey said. “Rather than taking a broken person and try to fix them, what my research focuses on is taking average people, which are most people, and helping them to flourish.”

Avey’s work has been published in more than 45 peer reviewed journals. He has made some 30 conference presentations from Ecuador to Spain, and to a variety of Fortune 500 companies across in the United States. He has also earned 11 national and international research awards, and his work has been cited more than 7,587 times and downloaded in excess of 55,000 times by institutions in 154 countries.

His research has included name-brand organizations, including Boeing, Kellogg’s, Harley-Davidson and the United States Army. It is cutting edge work that also led to him receiving the 2009, 2010, and 2012 CB Excellence in Faculty Research Award, along with the 2009 CWU Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award.

“I think humans have special value,” said Avey. “If we’ve made a scientific discovery that can help people why shouldn’t we share it? People who are more optimistic, who are more positive live longer, have better relationships and do better in their jobs. I want to help develop that.

Whitcomb, who also serves as the associate dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, was honored for her teaching of creative writing. She has been highly involved in designing and coordinating the English department’s degree programs in writing, including the Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Creative Writing and the Online Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Creative Writing, which was nationally ranked after its first year; in addition, she is a key contributor to the department’s new Online Professional and Creative Writing M.A. program, which will begin in the Fall.

“I think it is part of my job to mentor students not only through our programs at Central, but to be there for them as they move into jobs or graduate school, and to listen to them and help them as they need advice along the way,” said Whitcomb. “I’m so proud of my former students in all of their careers—their success demonstrates what is possible with a writing degree—from writing game narratives at Microsoft to publishing books and teaching at university level. They are the inspiration for the next generations.”

An award winning author, she has written extensively, including two full-length collections of poems, The Daughter’s Almanac and Saints of South Dakota & Other Poems. Her work has been widely published including in The Paris Review and The Yale Review. She received a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry from Stanford University and an AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Fellowship in Poetry to the Prague Summer Seminars at Charles University in the Czech Republic.

She is a third generation professor and has been at CWU for 12 years, where she has also been a driving force in the establishment of the Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series as well as establishing classes that give students access to writers from diverse disciplines. Whitcomb has also created both editing and production classes for Manastash, CWU’s acclaimed student literary arts magazine.

Avey and Whitcomb will be the guests of honor at recognition ceremony and reception on May 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union and Recreation Center Ballroom. They each will also receive a $2,500 monetary award for receiving 2016 distinguished professor accolades.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

May 19, 2016

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