Esports has arrived at Pace as our 15th varsity sport. Get your introduction to this booming industry, our new Esports director, and the students who have been passionately dedicated to the program since its days as a student club.
There are few people more qualified than Julia Cardillo ’22 to offer an insider perspective on the journey of Pace’s Esports program.
Julia’s involvement with collegiate Esports began in 2019, back when Esports was a student-run club. In 2021, Pace Esports was formalized into an official program, and Pace’s 15th varsity sport. Now, as the Assistant Director of the program, Julia’s helping guide the program into its bright future.
Considering her unique experience with the program from its roots as a club to her involvement in supporting it as a varsity sport, Julia shares her insights on how Esports at Pace has transformed while maintaining a dedicated commitment to community and inclusivity.
First things first, tell us a bit about your background.
I graduated from Pace in 2022, and I studied computer science and economics. I joined the Esports program back when it was a club in 2019 and was the Vice President of the club’s executive board until my senior year. Now, I’m the assistant director for the Esports program.
We’ve grown so much—not just from last year, our first full year as a program—but since we became a sport.
What role do you play in the program now?
I wear a lot of different hats. Our Director Jesse Bodony (who was just named Esports Director of the Year!) and I tend to tag-team the week-to-week, which is constantly changing. At a baseline, we’re handling leagues and making sure matches run smoothly, and those run Monday through Friday from 7:00 p.m. on, sometimes until midnight. I also do a lot of social media marketing across all of our different channels, spotlighting players and celebrating wins, and other community management.
A big portion of the job is interfacing with and helping handle all our students, from the student helpers, team captains, players, e-boards across two clubs, and so on. We have a lot of different events in addition to our leagues, and I do much of the interfacing on those.
We want to win, at the same time, gaming is for everyone.
You’ve been with the Esports program since it was a club and have seen it become an official sport. How has the program evolved?
It’s honestly wild. We’ve grown so much—not just from last year, our first full year as a program—but since we became a sport. When we first established the Esports team, we had 40 students across 8 teams. During the 2022–2023 academic year, that grew to over 90 students across 18 competitive teams, and now we’re at 130 students and 24 teams! There are over 900 students currently in both our casual and competitive gamer community, we have facilities on both the Westchester and New York City campuses. We’ve had a lot of wins and have been Conference Champions four times to date.
One thing actually that I'm especially proud of is the number of women and nonbinary students that have joined the program. A student from Columbia actually ran the numbers and the percentage of female and nonbinary players has increased from 19% last year to 28% now. We have two all-women and nonbinary teams called our Lavender teams, with even more women and nonbinary students who are on other teams and part of our community.
When we last spoke in 2022, you mentioned that there was a strong community element to Pace Esports and that not everyone in the program was a competitive gamer. Has that changed?
Competitively, we've grown in many different ways since we last spoke. But as we continue to evolve, we still promote the idea that while, yes, we want to be competitive and we want to win, at the same time, gaming is for everyone. And if you want to play and you want to be a part of our program, we want you.
Establishing our two campus facilities has been momentous in how we've evolved. Our community was almost solely online, but now there's this really big in-person community. There are students that classes will just sit and play between classes, even sometimes remotely with students who aren’t even in the program! It's really cool having that place for our student gamers. It's just so important to have a place that they can call home.
When the facility was first opened, one of our students said to us, “I finally have a place to truly call home.” That speaks to how the students are just fully into it. I think that core part of us that says “yes, we want to include you” is why the program has grown so much.
That's one of the best things you could ask for, students that care so much.
What are some of your favorite accomplishments since Esports became an official sport at Pace?
Obviously, I'm extremely proud of our competitive accomplishments, and our growth, but I’m more so proud of the work and dedication that the students are putting in. That's one of the best things you could ask for, students that care so much.
Something else I love is how much we’ve poured into the outside community, especially the next generation of gamers. We’ve worked with a lot of local high schools through the organization EZ Esports. We partnered with them to help with their tournaments, let them use our facilities, stream their matches, and so on. We also hosted a summer camp for ages 13 to 18. Only a few of those students were even from New York, we had students coming from all over the country, Canada, even Taiwan! And it was so great bringing them in to learn about Pace and our program, to give them the chance to play in our facilities, and just see their faces light up. I think it’s so important to give back and we’ve been able to do that.
I’m excited to see that momentum build and to see what we can do.
What does the future of Pace Esports look like to you?
It’s funny because right now it's just Jesse and I, with a bunch of student leaders. So, there’s that question, you know, how much more can we handle? Especially considering how fast we’ve been growing! We’ve had to work out a lot of things systematically, especially on the people management side. We also transitioned from one conference to the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC) so that was a big adjustment.
This year was a lot of learning. Not just from getting the program started, and the growth, but also switching conferences, which always has a learning curve. I think I'm just excited to see where we go without all the noise of these new changes, and seeing what we can do now that we’re established. I’m excited to see that momentum build and to see what we can do.