Stockton University became the first public institution in New Jersey to offer an undergraduate degree in esports when the Bachelor of Science in Esports Management program debuted this fall.

Camden County College’s Associate in Applied Science in Esports Production degree is the only one of its kind in the region.

Now the two programs have joined to create the first esports degree pathway program in the state.

Stockton University President Joe Bertolino and Camden County College President Lovell Pugh-Bassett after signing the new agreement.

“This program is a testament to our shared vision of providing high quality education and opportunities for the next generation of esports professionals,” said Stockton President Joe Bertolino during an articulation agreement signing on Nov. 1 at Stockton’s Galloway campus. “We recognize the potential of esports as a growing global phenomenon and the need for qualified professionals to drive its continued success.”

The schools worked closely to align their curricula so that it’s seamless for the students to complete both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in eight semesters, said Bob Heinrich, Stockton’s vice president for Enrollment Management. The university will accept Camden’s classes as course equivalents to satisfy Stockton’s requirements for an undergraduate degree.

“This partnership highlights both Camden County College’s and Stockton’s initiative to be at the forefront of new technology and to prepare students for new and emerging career opportunities — some of which didn’t even exist just a short time ago,” said Lovell Pugh-Bassett, president of Camden County College (CCC). “We are proud to offer this opportunity to students who have found their passion in the fast-growing esports industry.”

This is not a program “that just produces kids who play video games,” said Sarah Iepson, CCC’s dean of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.

“This is a program that produces critical thinkers and students who have really powerful skills of analysis and thought, as well as these great skills in the world of business and marketing,” Iepson said. “It’s just a really phenomenal opportunity for our students.”

The partnership will also help create a “whole new caliber of student” that’s interested in an esports career, said Noel Criscione-Naylor, a Stockton associate professor and program chair of Esports Management. Criscione-Naylor said CCC’s focus on esports production provides students with extremely valuable technical experience on how to stream and broadcast events, and Stockton’s program will build on that.

“Not only are our students going to have the technical ability to maneuver as the industry emerges, but on top of that our students are going to have solid foundations in business, finance, marketing and event management that will allow them to enter the esports ecosystem in a way that no other student can today,” she said.

One of those potential students is Shane Costello who enrolled in CCC’s esports degree program after taking a break from school during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said playing esports at home allowed him to meet new people and push himself out of his normal comfort zone to be able to talk to anyone.

“When the world shut down, esports opened a new world to me,” the Somerdale resident said. “I started to play games and get involved in the community while playing at home. I’ve made friends all over the world and learned so much about their cultures and how they are different from my own.”

Costello said he’s primarily interested in using his associate degree to produce esports events, which is the focus of CCC’s program, along with their state-of-the-art Cougar Esports Arena — a dedicated competition space in Cherry Hill with broadcast facilities built directly into the facility.

Costello said he wants to transfer to a four-year institution, and he’s aware of the success of Stockton’s Rocket League team, which happens to be his favorite game. The Ospreys finished second in the College Rocket League World Championship Tournament in 2022 and returned this spring to compete.

“I chose esports as a career path because of how it brings together so many people of different cultures and backgrounds,” Costello said. “I’ve watched Stockton play the last two years.”

And that feeds into another unique feature of this partnership — the combination of both academics and gaming.

“In addition to coming into our undergraduate esports degree, they are also joining our competitive esports gaming team,” Henrich said. “Camden is an important feeder for Stockton, and we are excited to build on that. This adds to that existing partnership to make it that much stronger.”

Hopefully this agreement will create more esports-related experiences for students, including camps and tournaments, and explore more regional and national partnerships, said David Bruno, CCC’s associate dean of Educational Programming and External Relations.

“We look forward to working with Stockton University, one of our higher education pathways partners, to make South Jersey a regional and national hub for esports collegiate activities,” said Bruno, who also oversees CCC’s esports program.

PHOTOS (Credit: Lizzie Nealis/Stockton University)

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