Philip Gelsomino can be described in many ways-among them are honest, straightforward, compassionate, boisterous and just plain loud. In fact, the visiting lecturer in the Saunders College of Business says his booming voice and near constant movement in the classroom help to keep his students engaged and interested in the subject material. These qualities, along with 32 years of experience owning several small businesses including a public accounting firm, have earned Gelsomino RIT's Outstanding Teaching Award for Non-Tenure Track Faculty.
"Throughout the years, I've tried to really listen to our students and understand what their needs are," he said. "That has helped me deliver effective and interesting lectures, and I always tie the lesson into how it is relevant to their personal or professional lives. And yes, I do a lot of screaming and yelling in my class. I'm a drama guy-I'm very vocal and expressive. I like to get my students excited."
Gelsomino, who graduated from RIT in 1986, remained connected to the college serving as a mentor and consultant for students. In 2008, he was named the Distinguished Alumnus for the Saunders College of Business. In 2013, he was asked to teach a tax accounting class. "I would say that teaching has actually come naturally to me. I've educated people all my life through my expertise. When it comes to teaching tax accounting, I've never had to open a textbook."
Five years later, Gelsomino not only teaches his students the in's and out's of accounting that will help them save companies jobs and money, he works with them on their communication and soft skills. He has traveled the country with the RIT Honors Program, taught courses at Beijing Jiaotong University in China, and says that one of his greatest achievements is inspiring and motivating his students. Yet, if any are looking for an easy 'A', Gelsomino's classes don't fit the bill. His evaluations from students report "difficult instructor," "expects way too much," "gives too much work." But also, "one of the best courses I've ever taken," "learned a lot," "wants us to learn and grow as individuals."
And what's one piece of advice he gives to all of his students? "Always go to lunch if someone in the working world asks you. I've met some pretty cool people at lunch. Connections are made, business deals are finalized. Put yourselves out there and you'll be surprised about the opportunities that come your way."
Looking ahead, the Avon, N.Y., native, husband and father of two is constantly looking for ways to improve the student experience. He is currently exploring "flipped classrooms," an instructional strategy that focuses on the learner and reverses the traditional in-class learning environment by adding out-of-classroom content. He also regularly reflects on his lessons, determines what worked well and what failed, and looks forward daily to connecting with his students.
"This is a weird spot for me to be in. I'm very humbled. It's cool knowing that you make a difference. It's not what you leave behind when you're gone-it's how people remember how you made them feel when you were around them. That's what's important to me."