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Joining the Team

Esports Program Hires Three New Staff Members
Students are sitting at esports computer consoles in a room

Esports gaming room at The Barnes Center at The Arch.

Joey Gawrysiak, executive director of the esports communications and management degree program, has announced the appointment of three new staff members to the program: Nikita Bair, Sean Kelly and Travis Yang”

The new esports communications and management program, which was announced in March 2023, will be offered jointly by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, in addition to new varsity competitive teams under Student Experience. The University will start enrolling students in the fall. These new staff members will help further develop and amplify the offerings of the program.

“We are fortunate enough to bring in some of the top talent, with the most experience in all of collegiate esports, to support the growth and expansion of the esports program here at Syracuse University,” says Gawrysiak. “We will be able to offer a diverse set of programming across different areas of esports and gaming that no other university can offer. I can’t wait to get to work with this group of talented individuals so we can build an exciting and beneficial program for our current and future learners that truly goes beyond gaming.”

Portrait of Nikita Bair
Nikita Bair

Nikita Bair

Bair has been named the esports program manager. Having helped found the first varsity esports program in New England at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, Bair also led one of the oldest esports degree programs at Shenandoah University, where he was a full-time faculty and coordinator of esports. At Syracuse, Bair will focus on academic endeavors, securing partnerships, internships, and travel abroad, while preparing learners for post-graduation by providing ample experiential learning and professional development opportunities for students.

Bair earned a master of business administration in 2023 from Shenandoah University and a bachelor of science in economics and finance in 2021 from Northeastern University. In his studies, Bair specialized in esports and global affairs, earning a concentration in esports from Shenandoah University and a minor in international affairs from Northeastern University.

“The University-wide esports initiative, spearheaded by Chancellor Kent Syverud, speaks volumes to Syracuse’s commitment to becoming a leader in the academic esports landscape,” says Bair. “I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to support the leading esports learners and provide them with the most robust academic esports offerings in the nation. With our team, the students and support from the University, I have no doubt in saying that the space is going to see a lot more Orange very soon.”

Portrait of Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly

Kelly, the newly appointed director of production and outreach, is a leader in the collegiate esports space when it comes to broadcast production. He has led such major projects such as Activision Blizzard’s Calling All Heroes, Behaviour’s Dead by Daylight Mobile: Nights of Terror, and Boost on the Beach, an annual award-winning event. At Syracuse, Kelly will continue pushing the boundaries of what is considered the gold standard in collegiate esports production.

Kelly graduated from Shenandoah University in May 2022 with a bachelor of science in esports management and a bachelor of business administration degree. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to further expand Syracuse University’s esports offerings.

“The holistic approach and ‘all-in’ mentality that Syracuse University has toward the esports program and greater industry is going to lead to amazing developments,” says Kelly. “Syracuse esports is going to be a pivotal player in moving collegiate esports forward and I am excited to be a part of the team from the start. My goal is to take esports production and content creation to a whole new level through student-led projects and industry partners. The sky is the limit for Joey, Nikita, Travis and I!”

Portrait Travis Yang
Travis Yang

Travis Yang

Yang has been named the director of competition. He got his start in collegiate esports as the assistant esports coach for Ashland University, then one of the first 60 esports programs in the country. He transitioned to the head esports coach for Texas A&M University-San Antonio where he developed the first esports program in the Texas A&M system and the city of San Antonio. Prior to Syracuse, Yang served as the director of esports for Wichita State University, providing oversight for a comprehensive esports program focused on academic and competitive outcomes.

Yang received a bachelor of science degree in parks, recreation and tourism from the University of Missouri and is completing a master of education degree in sport management from Wichita State University.

“The commitment from the University toward a comprehensive esports ecosystem speaks volumes to the vision and belief of the institution in the transformative power of this emerging field,” says Yang. “I am honored to join Syracuse and to have the opportunity to build a competitive program that will holistically develop students while competing at a national level I look forward to hitting the ground running and working closely with Joey, Sean and Nikita as we spearhead esports on campus and advance the potential of esports across the country.”

An SU Story by Christine Grabowski originally published on Feb. 7, 2024.