2022 Best Undergraduate Professors: Ludovica Cesareo, Lehigh University College of Business

Ludovica Cesareo
Lehigh University College of Business

“Professor Cesareo is the best professor I’ve had throughout my entire college experience. She manages to keep class engaging by including relevant current events, while also teaching us the fundamentals to be successful in the field. She continues to go out of her way if she knows a student is having a problem and overall creates a welcoming atmosphere. Her ability to want to help out professionally, even after finishing her class, is something that makes her stand out in the department. I am so happy I had the privilege to be her student.” – Sadie Stein

Ludovica Cesareo, 34, is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Lehigh University College of Business.

She was a post-doctoral research fellow at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She currently teaches Principles of Marketing, and Advertising and Sales Promotion Strategy.

She is an expert in consumer behavior with luxury and counterfeit luxury goods, ethical decision-making, aesthetics, and emotions. Her research has been published in prominent journals, such as the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, and Business Horizons. Her work has been featured in prominent media, from The Wall Street Journal to the BBC, from Forbes to Philadelphia Magazine.


At current institution since what year? 2018
Education: PhD in Business Management – Marketing Track, Sapienza University of Rome; Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Principles of Marketing, Advertising and Sales Promotion Strategy


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… In 11th grade, my math and physics teacher asked me to learn the inverse functions of trigonometry and then teach a class about it. It was my first time standing in front of students, my peers at the time, and I remember the rush of adrenaline and excitement I felt, as I explained to them something I had just learned about myself. Fast forward to my college and master years, I remember sitting in my marketing, marketing research, and integrated marketing communications classes thinking how fascinating and practical those topics were, wanting to learn more, and be on the other side of the room teaching students about them. That’s basically when I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD and be a business school professor.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My latest research (accepted at at the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science) looks at why distinctively ugly luxury products are successfully being sold. Across seven studies (field, lab, market pricing analysis) incorporating a variety of fashion products, brands, aesthetic manipulations, and audiences, we discover that when products are from a non-luxury brand, consumers choose the attractive option and avoid the ugly (as one would except). However, when from a luxury brand, consumers surprisingly choose distinctively ugly products as often as attractive ones, not despite their ugliness but due to their ugliness and resulting ability to signal luxury. As such, brand prominence offers a boundary condition, as both a loud logo and distinctive ugliness serve to signal.

Article: “Hideous but Worth It? Distinctive Ugliness as a Signal of Luxury,” with Claudia Townsend and Eugene Pavlov.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… a travel agent, helping people plan the vacations of their dreams, or an advertiser for a brand of a global CPG company (e.g., Unilever, P&G).

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? My teaching style – I always enter the room with a smile, and I try my best to be incredibly high energy and engaging. As a student once said to me: “There is no time for boredom in your lectures!” I also like to vary my class structure constantly, switching from lecturing to group discussions, from podcasts to videos, from exercises to games. Finally, to link class concepts to real-life examples, I have prestigious guest speakers discuss the managerial and operational aspects of running a brand, and I always try to work with a company or non-profit for students’ projects, making their work more tangible and practical.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Goosebumps!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That it is hard work! Balancing high-profile research with high-level teaching and committed service is not an easy task. You need to always update your teaching materials as the business world, advertising in particular, is continuously evolving. From a research perspective, I wish I would’ve known the number of journal rejections one gets, and the persistence needed to get something published – it never gets easier!

Professor I most admire and why: At every stage of my career, I have been fortunate to find incredible professors and mentors who have inspired me and whom I deeply admire. Alberto Pastore, my PhD advisor, who is a high-profile Italian professor, for allowing me the freedom and encouraging me to make my own career choices, even if that meant leaving my alma mater to pursue them. Peggy Chaudhry, who is a world-class expert on counterfeit goods, for accepting me as a visiting scholar, for sharing her immense knowledge with me, and allowing me to do research with her in this fascinating field. Patti Williams, my post-doc advisor, who is the best professor I have ever seen teach, a brilliant researcher, and a resilient, tenacious woman, for her continuous support and encouragement, and for teaching me to stand up for myself and know my self-worth. Finally, I admire my co-authors, Claudia Townsend, Silvia Bellezza, and Vanessa Patrick: strong, smart women, who through their work are leaving a mark on the field.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The discussions and interactions we have in class. They are incredibly smart, and they ask tough, interesting questions. They also want to know how any concept they are learning applies to the real world.

What is most challenging? Trying to motivate students who have little to no interest in what you are teaching, and are taking the class only because it’s a requirement. That is incredibly challenging, as their demeanor changes the class environment.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Unprepared

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Tough but fair. I expect a lot of them, and they know it.


What are your hobbies? I love dancing (which I’ve been doing since I was 3), running, and baking.

How will you spend your summer? Researching, traveling, spending time with my amazing husband and kids.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Italy – Rome is home, my family and friends are there, and we have the most amazing food and sights!

Favorite book(s): With two little kids and a full-time job I don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading these days, but a recent favorite is “Untamed”, by Glennon Doyle. The book really resonated with me, and there are some quotes I won’t forget: “When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.” “We can do hard things.” “A woman becomes a responsible parent when she stops being an obedient daughter.” Highly recommend it!

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I love baking, so I thoroughly enjoy the Great British Baking Show – it makes me dream I could do all those amazing signature and showstopper bakes they do, and it’s a show even my husband is willing to watch!

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I think I know every Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5 song, but play some Pitbull, and I’m the first on the dance floor!


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Experiential learning and industry partnerships. Giving students the possibility to learn about business, especially marketing, by working with a real company makes the learning experience so much for impactful and memorable.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Understanding what their true ‘purpose’ is. Simon Sinek calls it the ‘why’ of the golden circle, a company’s higher-order mission, the reason why a company or a brand even exists. Purpose is something that few companies truly know, but that guides business and inspires consumers, Gen Zs especially, to form long-lasting bonds with the company.

I’m grateful for… so many things! My job, which allows me the flexibility to work from almost anywhere, anytime. My students, who every semester keep me young and in touch with popular culture. My co-authors, colleagues, and friends, who make this journey so much more fun and shared. My extended family, near and far, for being the roots and branches that remind me where I come from (“il ceppo ed i rami”). My husband, for his love, continuous encouragement and support, and my children, that make everything worthwhile and for whom I want to be a role model (“gli innesti”). And, finally, my mother, who as a single, Italian, working parent brought my brother and I to New York when we were just kids, changing our life course for the better. She showed us that through hard work, dedication, and a little bit of serendipity, amazing opportunities open up. Much of where I am is because of her sacrifices and choices, and for that I am forever grateful.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.