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Faculty & Staff

Faculty Spotlight: James Scalise

Get to know Professor James Scalise, whose career journey from engineering to consulting reflects his passion for innovation, mentoring students and lifelong learning.

What inspired you to pursue a career in management consulting?

I had the opportunity very soon after getting my undergraduate degree in engineering to work in manufacturing and supply chain operations with a company experiencing a lot of change. It was in the early 1980s and at the time many companies were investing (for the first time) in using information technology to dramatically improve performance. I found my way on the project teams that were doing this work for two companies in succession along with my regular job. Everything that we were doing was so new to everyone and the changes were substantial, and I became focused on this type of work – the work that consultants do. 

Gradually, I focused on consulting and the systems that are important in the functions of accounting and finance. All of that experience led me to what I am doing now with the Poole College of Management – teaching students how operations, finance and technology are integrated within a business.

Share a memorable teaching moment or experience that significantly impacted one or more students.

I have had students who were struggling with figuring out what they wanted to do professionally and going through the natural anxiety with that ambiguity. In one case, my student had changed majors a couple of times and wondered what would happen if they couldn’t get through the accounting program. With some basic reassurance, some light counseling and letting the student know that they had the potential to do great things, I noticed the pressure beginning to lessen and soon thereafter they achieved an undergraduate degree, quickly followed by a MAC degree, and then on to one of the big firms.

How do you stay current in your field and bring that knowledge into the classroom?

I have been a regular reader of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times for many years. I like to read and/or listen to books on many genres and have an intense interest in stories about what makes companies great but also when there is business scandal, corruption, and bad actors that cause companies to be the opposite of great. There is a lot to learn from both.

It is okay not to have a clear plan of what you want to do in life.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career in accounting?

My advice would be the same for someone pursuing a degree in accounting as I would for a student pursuing any degree. It is okay not to have a clear plan of what you want to do in life. You want to strive to be the best you can be and over time you will figure out that path. I encourage young professionals in accounting to be students of the business. Be curious and learn how the business functions from different perspectives – not just accounting. You will be a much better accountant as a result. Continue to develop and augment your skill set. Lifetime learning is critical to success in my opinion. And finally, be a good teammate – work hard, respect your team members, be thoughtful and kind to those you work with and be patient with yourself.

Outside of teaching and research, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

My wife Lisa and I have owned a retail business for nearly 30 years here, and I really enjoy helping her in the areas that I can. It is gratifying to see what she has accomplished over time and to continue to play a small part in that. I also enjoy golf, volunteer work and travel.