Biagio Palese

Assistant professor, Operations Management and Information Systems

Biagio Palese

What year did you start working at NIU?
Fall 2019

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Potenza, Italy. I now live in Aurora, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended the University of Pavia for my undergraduate and master's degrees and Louisiana State University for my Ph.D. in business administration with a concentration in information systems.

What do you like about working at NIU?
When I came to NIU for my campus visit in spring 2019, I fell in love with its collegiality and atmosphere of caring. I think it's extremely important in today's society to sincerely care about all the people you interact with (students, colleagues and staff). I immediately felt at home, and I knew it was the right place to make a difference with my passion for research and teaching.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Put learning first and grades second. College is about enhancing your knowledge. Build a network and challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and look for research opportunities with faculty. I know we're mainly seen as those people who come and talk in your classes, but we also work on some pretty cool research projects. Don't put all your focus on getting straight A's. In the end, what you learn and the effort you put in will always be rewarded.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I'm super-passionate about research, and I'm not afraid to be involved in multiple projects (probably too many at times). Just this past summer, three colleagues and I were awarded the College of Business summer grant. We are focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and how to leverage it to improve the college's stakeholder experience. One of the aims of the project is to design and develop a chatbot that can tutor students 24/7. As I said before, we do some pretty cool projects!

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I mainly teach data analytics courses. In general, I want students to learn practical/technical skills they can easily apply to the workplace. I expose them to software like RStudio and SAS EM and allow them to practice with it and use it on a realistic dataset for a semester project. Many students start the class scared about coding, but most of them end up complaining that the coding part was too short. I think that it's critical to expose students to coding and important for students to learn by doing. Almost all of them overcome the initial intimidation they feel and realize they can do it if they put in the effort.

What is your favorite campus event?
I love our campus, and there are so many cool events every week. However, I might be biased in this answer because my favorite event is one offered by the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems. Just recently, my colleague, Russ Devereaux, and I started cohosting a new podcast-style monthly event series called The Gateway. Its objective is to pick important and timely topics (e.g., AI, cybersecurity) and make them accessible to students with the help of expert guest speakers. It's a fun one-hour informal chat for me, and students seem to learn a lot from it. 

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
In just a few years on campus, I have built some unforgettable memories. I think number one on my list is staying in touch with former students and chatting with them about where they work and how they're using what I taught them. Students are such a big part of our life and seeing them succeed makes me happy and proud.

Who has influenced your professional path?
There are many people who mentored me and made me the person I am today. I can't put all the names of professors, students and staff at LSU or NIU who are still helping me improve and become a better professor and human being. However, I can honestly say that my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Piccoli (known as Gabe by many in the IS community), is still my role model. His passion for teaching and research is what brought me to the United States and convinced me to pursue a Ph.D. in information systems. I hope one day to have a similar impact on my students. That's my career goal!

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I loved basketball when I was a child in Italy, and my goal was to play in the NBA. Unfortunately, while I played for years, I never achieved that dream and don't play much anymore. But I was able to see Kobe Bryant (my childhood hero) play one of his last games in New Orleans. Not too bad! Moreover, I do think I have one of the best jobs in the world and truly hope to have a positive impact every day.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of the Association for Information Systems (AIS). AIS is a leading organization among IS scholars that provides research and teaching resources. They also organize many conferences in the field. Before the pandemic, going to these conferences allowed me to network and learn from professors from all over the world. Those connections made me a better researcher and teacher. I can't wait to go back to attending them in person!

What community organizations are you involved in?
I'm not sure if this counts as a community organization, but I'm a member of the Faculty Senate (FS). I'm also a member of the FS social justice committee. Being part of this committee helped me learn a lot on this topic. Moreover, I think the effort of my colleagues and other campus stakeholders will continue to have a significant impact on the NIU community. We're not where we want to be yet, but with hard work and passion, I'm sure we'll be able to make NIU a special place for everyone!

What do you do to relax or recharge?
Spending time with my 2-year-old daughter is my favorite daily activity. Her energy is contagious. Even if I'm tired after playing with her, I still feel recharged in a way. I also video call my family in Italy every day. Speaking with them always motivates me to work hard and never give up. I also love traveling. Unfortunately, I haven't traveled much lately (only once in the past two years to my lovely Italy), and when I did, it was stressful. So, cooking took over to help me relax. I love cooking Italian food, of course (lasagna is my favorite), and I like to experiment with my dishes. Sometimes it works and sometimes I wish I had just followed my grandma's recipe! I'm also a big fan of college football, basketball and soccer. Lately, I started appreciating golf as well, and I'm trying to learn how to play with the help of my amazing colleague and friend, Dr. Chuck Downing. I find golf to be almost like coding. It takes a lot of trial and error, but you learn by doing, and if you put the effort in, eventually you'll succeed (I'll keep you posted on my progress!).

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I want to genuinely thank all my students, colleagues, staff and NIU for three amazing years and for making my first academic position so enjoyable and gratifying. I'm looking forward to many more years together!

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