Julia Cardillo ’22 is an exceptional candidate to speak on the progress of Pace’s Esports program from her unique insider perspective.
Julia started her experience with college Esports back in 2019 when it was merely a student-led club. In 2021, it took the form of an official program at Pace, becoming the university’s 15th varsity sport. In her current role as Assistant Director of the program, Julia is instrumental in steering the program towards its promising future.
Given her unique journey with the program, from its roots as a club to her current involvement as a varsity sport, Julia reveals her take on the remarkable transformation of Esports at Pace while simultaneously upholding a strong sense of community and inclusivity.
Firstly, could you give us some insight into your background?
Completing my graduation from Pace in 2022, I majored in computer science and economics. I became part of the Esports program when it was a student club in 2019 and served as the Vice President of the club’s executive board until my senior year. At present, I am the assistant director of the Esports program.
Our growth has been tremendous, not only since last year, which marked our first full year as a recognized program, but also since we morphed into a sport.
Could you elucidate on the role you play in the program now?
In essence, I play multiple roles. Our Director Jesse Bodony (who has been recently acclaimed as Esports Director of the Year!) and I often coordinate on the weekly tasks, which invariably keep changing. We manage leagues and ensure a smooth conduct of matches that run from Monday through Friday, starting at 7:00 p.m. and sometimes extending until midnight. I am also actively involved in social media marketing across various platforms, highlighting players, celebrating wins, and managing community affairs.
A significant part of the job revolves around interacting with and assisting our students, including helpers, team captains, players, e-board members across two clubs, and more. Besides our leagues, we host many other events which I also handle.
While we aim to win, we firmly believe that gaming is inclusive of everyone.
Having been with the Esports program since its inception as a club and witnessed it become an official sport, how would you illustrate the program’s evolution?
It has been a surreal journey. Our growth has been exponential, not only since last year, our inaugural year as a program, but even since we transitioned into a sport. We initially built the Esports team with 40 students across eight teams. During the 2022–2023 academic year, we grew to accommodate over 90 students across 18 competitive teams, and presently, we are at 130 students with 24 teams! With over 900 students involved in both our casual and competitive gamer community, we have facilities on both the Westchester and New York City campuses. We have a checkered record of successes, with four Conference Championships till date.
I am particularly proud of the growing participation of women and nonbinary students in the program. A student survey revealed that the percentage of female and nonbinary players saw an increase of 19% last year to 28% currently. We have two all-women and nonbinary teams, referred to as our Lavender teams, and many more women and nonbinary students are part of our other teams and the wider community.
The last time we spoke in 2022, you pointed out a strong connection to community within Pace Esports, and that not everyone in the program was competitively gaming. Has that changed?
Our competitive growth has been remarkable over the years. However, as we continue to evolve, we continue to reinforce the idea that gaming is for everyone. Winning is of course a priority, but it’s not all about competition. We encourage participation for the feel of the game. If you’re interested in playing and want to be part of our program, we wholeheartedly welcome you.
The inauguration of our facilities in two campuses has made a significant impact in driving our evolution. Earlier our community predominantly existed online, but now there’s a large in-person community. Students often play between classes, even remotely interacting with students not part of the program. It’s amazing to have a place for our student gamers. It matters greatly to them to have a place they can identify as their own.
When we first opened the facility, one of our students expressed eloquently, “I finally have a true place to call home.” That sentiment encapsulates the students’ affection and attachment for the program. It is this core aspect of inclusion and belonging that has literally been the bedrock of our growth.
The best part is watching the dedication and passion put forth by the students.
Could you share some of your favorite accomplishments since Esports officially became a sport at Pace?
Of course, our competitive achievements and growth are noteworthy, but what fills me with pride is the hard work and dedication of our students. That’s the best one could ask for, students who are genuinely passionate and care.
Another aspect I cherish is our substantial contributions to the outside community, focusing on nurturing the future generation of gamers. We’ve collaborated with numerous local high schools through the organization EZ Esports. We partnered to assist them with their tournaments, used our facilities, streamed their matches, among other things. We also conducted a summer camp for youngsters aged 13 to 18. Not confined to students from New York, we had attendees from all over the country, Canada, and even Taiwan! It was an enriching experience to expose them to Pace and our program, give them an opportunity to play in our facilities, and witness their reactions. We believe in giving back, and we’ve been successful in doing that.
I’m eager to see how this momentum builds up and what more we can achieve.
How do you visualize the future of Pace Esports?
It’s amusing that currently, it’s just Jesse and me along with a group of student leaders managing things. So, the question often arises – how much more can we handle? Given our exponential growth, it’s a valid concern! We have had to streamline a number of entities, especially related to people management. We also shifted from one conference to the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC), which was a considerable adjustment.
This year has been a learning curve, with the program’s initiation, growth, and shifting conferences, which always pose a challenge. What excites me is to see where we head now that we’ve waded through the new, unchartered territories. I’m eager to see how this momentum builds up and what more we can achieve.
Join the Pace Esports Discord Server and visit the Esports site for updates on everything Esports-related. Support our teams and watch a match on their Twitch channel.