ESportsU Foundations Project Initiative Helps Students Achieve Real-World Experiences

Three ESU students standing in front of the Wells Fargo Center

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on October 9, 2019, No Comments

Three students from East Stroudsburg University participated in the Esports Overwatch League Grand Finals in Philadelphia in late September as part of the implementation of the University’s National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, The ESportsU Foundations Project, an exploratory project to create culturally relevant learning experiences to generate awareness, interest, and motivation in STEM skill development. The grant is in the early stages of implementation, and is geared to impact and change the course of students’ lives by channeling their passion for esports gaming into a passion for STEM education and beyond.

The ESportsU grant has multiple components, one of them being the Creative Media Factory (CMF), an initiative to build a platform to allow its grant-funded team, comprised of: Mark Van Auken, a graduate student majoring in management and leadership from Brodheadsville, Pa., Monica Wood, a senior majoring in business management from Lehighton, Pa., and Ayanna Totten, a junior majoring in English from Bushkill, Pa., to create digital esports content. The team journeyed to Philadelphia to the Overwatch Grand Final at the Wells Fargo Center. The students used this experience to video interviews with business professionals, which included discussions with Andrew Chen of TAP Esports, Adam Nelson of Philly Esports, and Christopher Kunkle of N3rd St. Gamers among others. This provided opportunities to network with business leaders in the esports industry. The intent was to repurpose and package the video content from the interviews in multiple formats and broadcast it to showcase their professional talents to their peers and potential employers.

According to Richard Otto, Ph.D., the grant’s co-primary investigators and chair of the digital media technologies department at ESU, “It was an amazing experience for our students to interview innovative business leaders in the emerging Esports industry and see the phenomenon of gaming in person. To be in the heart of Philadelphia, at gaming centers and then at the Overwatch League Grand Finals, that is on a scale similar to the NFL or NBA championships exposed our students to the highest level of professional digital media learning. This experience enabled our grant funded research students to take the skills they’ve learned in the classroom at ESU in video production, photography, computer graphics, digital medial marketing into the real world. Through organic STEM learning activities, the CMF team successfully created professional Esports narratives for industry professionals that we hope will ultimately lead to career developing opportunities through Esports.”

Otto and the grant’s primary investigator Jason Engerman, Ph.D., assistant professor of digital media technologies, will continue to develop initiatives for students around the premise of this grant. The core of the grant work planned is to launch a living-learning community sleep-over camp experience in summer 2020, where young participants will engage in Esports-inspired activities with industry professionals, digital media technologies professors, mentors and support staff. According to Engerman and Otto, they hope to broaden interest for STEM learning among a historically underrepresented population while addressing misconceptions about STEM.

For more information about ESU’s NSF grant for digital media technologies at ESU, contact Christina McDonald at or (570) 422-7954.

CAPTION: Students associated with East Stroudsburg University’s ESportsU Foundations Project recently attended the Esports Overwatch Tournament in Philadelphia to network with and interview participants, attendees and sponsors to hone their career skills. ESU students are, from left: and Ayanna Totten, a junior majoring in English from Bushkill, Pa.; Mark Van Auken, graduate student majoring in management and leadership from Brodheadsville, Pa.; and, Monica Wood, a senior majoring in business management from Lehighton, Pa.