Interview with Professor Italo Simonelli: from Perugia to Budapest via Westminster

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by Ming Huang

 

This semester’s guest professor has many more strings to his bow than pure mathematics. Not only did Professor Italo Simonelli play soccer to a semi-professional level, he also pursues an interest in Etruscan civilization, and recently gave a talk on the subject to students at McDaniel College Budapest (see related article). He also recently took a group of students on a tour of central Italy, visiting Pisa, Florence and Bologna. Italo hails from the city of Perugia, Italy; roughly 160 kilometers north of Rome. He got his Phd from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Italo has been a professor for more than 20 years, teaching in the Mathematics & Computer Science departments. Prior to his arrival at McDaniel College, he taught at Texas A&M University-Commerce, in Commerce, Texas. Although he lists traveling as one of his favorite hobbies, he now resides permanently in Westminster, Maryland. Professor Simonelli’s interests range from practicing tai chi to teaching. Read on for further detail…

Q: What made you decide on becoming a professor, was it something you always wanted to do?
A: Teaching is an interest and a passion that I developed through graduate school. Often graduate students in mathematics have the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes as a means of obtaining financial assistance for their studies. It was during these years that I realized how rewarding teaching is and how much I enjoyed it.

Q: How did you end up at McDaniel College Budapest?
A: I have hoped to spend a semester in our Budapest campus since joining McDaniel College. I enjoy traveling, and in particular, I enjoy combining my travel with some other activity that enables me to learn more about the place. Teaching here gives me a more interesting perspective and a richer experience than what I would have as just a tourist.

Q: I heard you have lived quite a few years in the US, could you tell me what your impressions are? Maybe what are the pros and cons in comparison to Italy?
A: It is a difficult question. After many years impressions are replaced by habits. The US has become my place, but I still go back to Italy every year and try to stay connected to my family and my traditions. Incidentally, on April 27th I will give a talk about the Etruscan civilization (a civilization that lived in my region in Italy more than two thousand years ago). I hope you can attend.

Q: How are you enjoying your stay in Budapest? Favorite bars, sights, etc..
A: Budapest is a fascinating city. Besides the obvious tourist attractions, I must say that I have enjoyed walking and exploring, being one of the people going to work, going shopping, etc. In other words, I have enjoyed experiencing the daily life of the city.
No favorite bars yet.

People at the McDaniel College Budapest Campus have been extremely kind, and I sincerely appreciate all they have done for making my stay so enjoyable.

Q: Considering you mainly teach Mathematics related courses, what are you thoughts on the level of understanding when it comes to Mathematics amongst the students here?
A: As is true in Westminster, attitudes and background vary widely between students. I cannot give a definitive answer given my limited experience teaching here.

Q: Please tell me a few things you find the most positive in Hungary? Did you have any specific negative experiences?
A: The public transportation in Budapest is amazing! Rather than sharing any negative experience, I would remark that I am somewhat disappointed in not having devoted more time to learning Hungarian. Not being able to communicate with local people has been the most unpleasant thing for me.

Q: From what I hear, you are quite the football fan yourself. Was there ever a time when you considered playing professionally? Do you have a favorite team and player?
A: Yes of course. I have played soccer since I was very young, and one of my dreams was to become a professional soccer player. It is still my dream! My favorite team is the best Italian team, Juventus.

Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: My favorite hobby is to change my hobbies often. At present, I enjoy playing table tennis and practicing Tai Chi.

Q: Do you have a life motto or favorite quote, by which you live your everyday life?
A: No, sorry!

Q: The road ahead….once the semester is over with. What are your plans? Where will you be? Will you still be teaching?
A: My immediate plans are to go back to the main campus in Westminster, visit my family, and get ready for the Fall semester.