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NACE Membership Makes History with Board of Directors
| Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 |

NACE Membership Makes History with Board of Directors

60% of NACE’s board of directors represent these marginalized voices, with a groundbreaking four women serving on the 10 person board

Kansas City - NACE is the largest collegiate esports organization in North America. A non-profit membership association, through the partnership with PlayFly esports they organize and facilitate competition for nearly 14,000 students from almost 700 colleges. As a true thought leader in collegiate esports, NACE helps guide the buildout of new programs while also providing existing programs with support for students in leadership, broadcasting and production, competitive development and career preparation. Most notably, they lead with an inclusive mindset, fostering and promoting diversity throughout the collegiate esports space.

“We put a heavy emphasis on inclusivity throughout the collegiate esports community. Having diverse representation at the leadership level allows for all voices to be expressed throughout the organization,” said Michael Brooks, Executive Director of NACE. “We are fortunate to have so many strong leaders representing colleges from all around North America, and are proud to continue to build and promote inclusivity in esports competition.”

As of July 2022, 60% of NACE’s board of directors represent these marginalized voices, with a groundbreaking four women serving on the 10 person board. Nominated by and then voted on by member institutions, the NACE Board of Directors is responsible for representing members’ interests while navigating the growth and continued development of the competitive collegiate esports space.

Ashley “AJ” Jones was the first woman to be elected to the board, launching a pivotal moment that really started showing diversity in leadership. Jones built and launched the varsity esports program at Park University in 2019, before joining NACE as their membership director in 2021. 

“Becoming the first woman to sit on the NACE Board of Directors back in the summer of 2019 was an honor.” says AJ. “Being able to witness the growth and see that the diversity within NACE membership is beginning to be reflected in our leadership groups is more rewarding and uplifting than I ever could have imagined. Inclusivity within our organization will continue to drive positive outcomes for our institutions, our directors and coaches, and our students.”

The NACE Board of Directors is composed of representatives from member institutions - Shaun Byrne (St. Clair College), Eugene Frier (Texas Wesleyan University), Joey Gawrysiak (Shenandoah University), Michael Jones (Drury University), Sari Kitelyn (Full Sail University), Jacquie Lamm (Minnesota State University, Mankato), Kaitlyn Roose (Michigan Technological University), Danielle Sirekis (Lawrence Technological University), Travis Yang (Wichita State University) as well as Jim Carr, (president of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.)

“I'm delighted to see three remarkably talented women appointed to the Board of Directors by our peers”, says Jacquie Lamm, who was appointed to the board in 2021. “The BoD (Board of Directors) had some strong leaders already and with the addition of the new appointees, it will be even more diverse and inclusive. I was always a bit apprehensive to speak up, being the only woman, and now I’m excited to not be the only woman in the room now.”

Lamm’s experience isn’t unique, and tackling the roadblocks that can hold women back is something the members of NACE are addressing head on. In 2021, they launched Women of NACE, which provides a space for all identifying women to lend resources and support to each other so they can better navigate the nuances of being in such a male dominated space. 

“Our goal with Women of NACE is to continue to make the collegiate esports space a truly inclusive and equitable community. By leaning on each other, sharing our own experiences and taking them forward into the industry, we’re helping pave the way for women who are coming up behind us”, Danielle Sirekis, Head Esports Coach at Lawrence Technological University and NACE board member.

While we celebrate the growth of women leaders and representatives in esports, we also stay focused on the long road we have ahead. Women are still often looked to only as experts at being women in this space, as opposed to being esports experts, despite tremendous growth and success. 

“As women in esports, we don’t want to be the checkmark for a diversity box. We want to be respected for our knowledge, experience, and successes, and thanks to NACE and the fact that they have inclusivity baked into their foundation, we have that opportunity.” says Sari Kitelyn, Executive Director of Esports at Full Sail University. ”It’s an honor to serve on the board of directors alongside so many women and men that I’ve admired for years, and to have been voted in by my peers is really the icing on the cake” 

We know that continued evolution starts with appropriate representation. As collegiate leaders, these women have the next generation of students watching, learning from them as they start to shape their own future careers

Kaitlyn Roose, NACE board member and Director/Head Coach of Esports at Michigan Technological University, emphasizes the importance of this representation- "Sometimes seeing someone like you in a leadership position gives people courage and I'm hoping that my position on the BoD (Board of Directors) will have that effect. Seeing Dana Hustedt as the first female collegiate Esports director and meeting her made me realize that you CAN be a leader, enact change, and command the attention of others as a female. Women tend to have to "justify" their credentials and go above and beyond to show their worth. Esports knows no bounds and that's why, as a field, we are so unique. We have opportunities to celebrate multiple perspectives, backgrounds, and philosophies while all supporting our students."

Sirekis always connects what she’s doing back to the students she’s leading. “Our students are the future of this industry, and the ability to have such strong women representation in leadership positions will continue to have impact both at the collegiate level and the esports industry as a whole. I am proud to keep paving these roads alongside such incredible, diverse leaders and am honored to have been selected to lead. Together, we stay focused on the commitment to an inclusivity community ”

Jones, Kitelyn, Lamm, Roose and Sirekis are launching a platform on October 4, 2022 called Esports & Coffee. To find the community and contribute to continued conversation, follow them on twitter at twitter.com/esports_coffee.