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Internal Advisory Board

Kamesh SankaraKamesh Sankaran

Kamesh Sankaran is a professor of engineering & physics at Whitworth University, where he is also the head of the interdisciplinary Worldviews in Policy course. He has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Princeton University and has over 20 years of experience as a researcher on advanced spacecraft propulsion systems. Sankaran served for many years as the chair of the board of Partners International, an organization that empowers indigenous Christian ministries in more than 40 of the least-Christian nations in the world. He also serves on the advisory council of the Lausanne Workplace Ministry Network to mobilize Christians around the world to grow in their workplace discipleship and make disciples through their work.

Elizabeth AbbeyElizabeth Abbey

Elizabeth Abbey, Ph.D., RDN is an associate professor and chair of the health sciences department. She is a registered dietitian and teaches courses in nutrition, personal health, sports nutrition and food systems. Her research interests include food security, the meaning of food and social identity and topics in sports nutrition. She enjoys running, cycling, hiking, and just getting outside with her husband and two corgis.

Aaron GriffithAaron Putzke

Aaron Putzke is a professor and chair of biology and honors research faculty fellow at Whitworth University. His research interests focus on cell-cell communication as they relate to both embryology and cancer biology, and more recently has turned into a passion for bioethics, where research, policy, the public and personal faith perspectives interface. Putzke worked in the biotechnology industry prior to receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2003, after which he went on to postdoctoral research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Putzke is the former chair of the Whitworth University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, is on the Institutional Biosafety Committee, and is the President of the Executive Board at the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (Seattle).

Elise LealElise Leal

Elise Leal's research focuses on historical intersections between cultural formation and religious belief and practice, particularly in relation to gender, childhood/youth, and social reform in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century United States. Her current project draws from the interdisciplinary field of childhood studies to explore how the spread of the Sunday school movement from 1790-1860 facilitated the rise of child-centric religious communities, alongside networks of youth religious leadership, that transformed Protestant approaches to faith formation and values transmission. Leal's interest in exploring how belief systems – religious, gender, age, and otherwise – influence social change also shapes her teaching. Her classes are oriented around teaching students to become effective investigators of the historical interplay among ideas, identities, and cultures. By simultaneously providing rigorous training in the historian’s craft, she hopes to enable my students to use the past to contextualize the present, function as informed citizens within diverse communities, and develop the self-awareness required for being agents of positive change.


Mindy SmithMindy Smith

The Rev. Mindy Smith graduated from Whitworth in 1998. She was a theology major, was actively involved in Young Life during her time at Whitworth and served on YL staff in Spokane following her graduation. From there, she went on to Princeton Theological Seminary and earned her M.Div. in 2006. In summer 2008, Smith received a call to serve as campus pastor at Whitworth. For 10 years she developed ministry programs at the university, taught pastoral care and ministry training classes, and preached regularly during weekly community chapel. In May 2018, she graduated with a doctorate in ministry from Portland Seminary and transitioned on to serve as the associate director in the Whitworth Office of Church Engagement. She has since been appointed as the director of the OCE. In addition, Mindy directs the Whitworth Ministry Summit, taking place at the end of June each year, and coordinates the Calling Community program. These communities are distinct groups within the network of partner churches, each focused on different areas in which their church is committed to grow and learn.

Aaron PutzkeAaron Griffith

Aaron Griffith is an assistant professor of modern American history at Whitworth University. He writes and speaks about American religion, politics and criminal justice for academic and popular audiences. His book God's Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America was recently published with Harvard University Press. It recently won the 2022 Best Book Award for History & Biography from Christianity Today. His writing has also appeared in publications such as The Washington PostChristianity TodayReligion News ServiceReligions, and Fides et Historia.

Josh OroczoJosh Orozco

Josh Orozco is a professor of philosophy and interim chief diversity officer at Whitworth University. He has published and presented research in the areas of virtue epistemology and in the philosophy of forgiveness and moral repair. Outside of Whitworth, he loves spending time with his partner and three children, and rooting for all things UCLA (his alma mater).