ESU Sport Management Graduates Return to Campus for S.C.O.R.E. Symposium         

Earlier this semester, East Stroudsburg University’s department of sport management welcomed eight alumni currently working in the sport industry back to campus for the S.C.O.R.E. (Sport Careers: Opportunities, Recruitment, and Employment) Symposium.

The alumni served on a panel discussion sharing their experiences and insight with current students on diversity and inclusion issues in the industry. Following the discussion, students participated in a networking session with the speakers and representatives from local industry leaders including the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Living Sport, and Pocono Raceway.

The alumni panelist included: Kyle Jimenez ’18, group sales specialist at Madison Square Garden; Victoria Gurdak ’17 M’19, coordinator of athletic facilities at the University of Pennsylvania; Sophie Coy ’16 M’17, academic counselor for softball, volleyball, and men’s tennis at the University of Mississippi; Jenny Owens M’09, assistant dean and associate professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore; Brandon Lawrence ’07, director of business development at Tyson Group; Michael Rucker ’06, senior manager, sales enablement at BSE Global; Brooke Powers ’17, leagues and communications director, Penn Fusion Soccer Academy; and Deanna Repollet ’09, manager of premium sales at the Intuit Dome, Los Angeles Clippers.

To learn more about studying sport management at ESU contact Jaedeock Lee, Ph.D., professor of sport management and department chair by calling 570-422-3340 or email

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ESU Alumni Invited to Pick Up the Poconos

Calling all Warriors! Help keep the Pocono Mountains beautiful by volunteering to Pick Up the Poconos on Saturday, April 23, 2022 from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Registration deadline is Monday, April 18, 2022 at 5 p.m. For more information, call 570-422-7956.

Register to volunteer!

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East Stroudsburg University Alum Serves as Faculty Rep for “Cinderella” Saint Peter’s

Photo: Dr. Jay Garrels M’11 and his wife, Ali, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia during Saint Peter’s win over Purdue in the Sweet 16

Every sport has that inspirational “Cinderella story”—the small (or not-so-small) team with a big work ethic and drive to succeed. In this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness, that team was Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., a Jesuit university of approximately 3,000 students. Underdogs throughout the tournament, the team won three games and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to the University of North Carolina last Sunday.

Dr. Jay Garrels M’11 is the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) at Saint Peter’s and had a front-row seat to the Peacocks’ historic run.

“I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on what occurred,” Garrels said. “It’s brought so many good things for the university, and is very well-deserved for the student-athletes. It’s just been very positive all around.” Most sports fans had never heard of Saint Peter’s — they know them now, thanks to the team’s performance. “My wife said at one point we were the number one thing trending on Twitter. It put our university on the map — for two weeks it was all anyone could talk about,” he said.

A native of New Jersey, Garrels knows what it takes to do well on the court. As a student at ESU pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science, Garrels was a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team from 2009-2011, which included a then-school record 24 wins and the PSAC East regular season championship in 2009-10. One of his best experiences was learning from head coach Jeff Wilson. “He was a great mentor and boss. I learned a tremendous amount — not just about basketball and what goes into running a successful collegiate basketball team and how he engages the student-athletes. My biggest takeaway was on the human side of things. He has the innate ability to get the best out of people. He recognizes things in people they may not recognize. He helped me recognize my strengths and improve my weaknesses. I model who I’m trying to be after him. He’s had a big impact on my life,” he said.

Garrels chairs the health and physical education department at Saint Peter’s. In his role as FAR, Garrels is the liaison for the school and NCAA. He also oversees the college’s faculty mentor program in which a faculty member is matched with an athletic team. “I don’t think you need a background in collegiate athletics, but I think part of why I was chosen was because of my collegiate athletics background. The administration probably felt I knew many of our student-athletes and engaged with them, so I was a good fit for this role,” Garrels explains.

He has many fond memories of his time at ESU, where he obtained his master’s degree in 2011 and taught for several years before pursuing his Ph.D. in movement science at Seton Hall University. He is inspired to be a professor like Dr. Shala Davis, chair of ESU’s exercise science department. “I learned an unbelievable amount of content from Dr. Davis and thought about things from an exercise science perspective. During my first few years as professor [at ESU], she provided a lot of mentorship. She understood it was the beginning of my career, so she helped me with many of the quirks of just being a new educator. She was also the one who pushed me toward earning my doctorate,” he said.

Having been a student, coach, and now professor, Garrels has had the full college experience and he encourages students to make the most of the journey. “Be open-minded. Listen to your coaches—listen to their suggestions. Step outside your comfort zone, and take advantage of all ESU has to offer.”

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ESU Alumnus Returns to Speak to Political Science Class

Eli Downie, a 2018 criminal justice graduate of East Stroudsburg University, returned to campus on March 23 to speak with a group of students in an American Government class. Downie is currently the acting deputy director in the Office of Advocacy and Reform for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Downie, who minored in political science at ESU, explained his role as a policy specialist and what calculations he makes as he drafts policies. He explained he has to consider who the policy will help, who it will hurt, and who may be impacted but is uninterested.

The class, taught by Kimberly S. Adams, Ph.D., professor of political science, is a freshman level course that includes students from a variety of majors.

Downie encouraged the students to be hard working, patient, and good listeners. He reminded them that he has sat in the same exact seat just a few years ago, and challenged them to seek opportunities to work for the state, even if they were not interested in government work. For those students majoring biology, criminal justice, social work, psychology, and other programs, he talked about opportunities for them to work with the Commonwealth and suggested that they visit

“Eli’s presentation to our students was energetic, engaging, and insightful. The students really enjoyed his energy and I believe that several of them will reach out to him seeking internships and career advice,” Dr. Adams said. “I am so proud of Eli and thrilled that he is so eager to share his time and talents with our current students.”

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ESU Pets with Warrior Spirit 2022 Contest

The ESU Office of Alumni Engagement would like to celebrate all members of our alumni family, even the ones that wag their tails, flap their wings, or swim under water. Although your pet may not have attended East Stroudsburg University, that does not mean they don’t share our Warrior spirit. Submit a picture of your pet showing their ESU pride to to be entered to win the ESU Alumni Pets with Warrior Spirit Contest.

*Winner will be randomly selected*

Submissions may be edited and featured online or in print. We will be updating the website throughout the month. The winner will be announced on March 31, 2022.

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ESU Alum Creates Camp so Foster Kids Can Bond with Siblings

When children are put into foster care, they are often separated not just from their parents but also from their siblings. That can add an extra level of trauma for a child who is already experiencing great upheaval and distress.

With that in mind, Samii Emdur ’08, an East Stroudsburg University graduate with a degree in nursing, founded Camp to Belong River Valley in 2019. The program reunites siblings in foster care for a week of summer camp in Berks County, PA. Emdur, a pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, witnessed how important siblings could be to each other when a family breaks down.

“They have a shared trauma,” she says. “They came from the same household and a lot of times they’re the only ones who know what each other truly experienced.”

Often a foster child’s only contact with siblings is during sporadic visits at places like a McDonald’s or a state office building, Emdur says. The first Camp to Belong River Valley gave 20 siblings a week to reconnect, enjoy the outdoors and each other. Emdur said some children arrived at camp with a tough, guarded demeanor, afraid to be vulnerable.

“Then the second day of camp, you can literally see their guard coming down,” she said. “And they bond with their sibling and they become inseparable. It’s a pretty magical moment.”

Potential campers are referred to her by state agencies and CHOP’s Fostering Health Program. Most of the children come from Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey but the camp will accept kids from any state, especially if they have a local sibling. Biological and foster parents can apply to enroll their kids and Emdur meets each camper ahead of time to make sure they will be safe and benefit from attending the camp.

After its first successful year, Camp to Belong River Valley held a couple of indoor swim parties to reunite more brothers and sisters. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the group had to switch gears. Instead of in-person camping, the nonprofit organization sent “Camp-in-a-Box” activities to 50 foster kids in 2020 and to 100 children in 2021. Emdur, who lives in Mullica Hill, N.J., has high hopes that they will be able to hold a week-long in-person camp this coming summer at Camp Conrad, a YMCA camp near Reading, PA.

“We’re a fully volunteer-run organization and all the kids can attend camp free of charge,” she says. The camp is the local branch of a Camp to Belong network that has 11 locations in the United States and one in Australia. Emdur chose the name Camp to Belong River Valley because it serves children on both sides of the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Emdur’s group is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, responsible for its own fundraising and volunteer recruitment.  To date, most of the funds have been donated by Emdur’s friends and family but the group had a couple of “dine and donate” fundraisers before the pandemic hit. She is learning grant writing. 

It is no surprise to Dr. Laura Waters, ESU associate professor and chair of the Department of Nursing, that her former student has taken on such an innovative, compassionate endeavor. Waters says Emdur was a high-energy student in the nursing program who gravitated toward helping children in need.

“She really is a loving person who wants to put a good, positive light into the world,” Waters said.

Dr. Denise Seigart, dean of the College of Health Sciences, lauded the camp’s mission of reconnecting siblings in foster care.

“This is a really fantastic program that she has developed,” Seigart said. “Her interest in pediatrics and fostering these relationships is really commendable.”

Before launching the nonprofit, Emdur had seen the benefits of summer camp while working at one for children with cancer and one for kids with inflammatory bowel disease. 

Many of the Camp to Belong River Valley activities are typical summer camp fare, such as games and crafts. But it also holds signature events designed especially for foster children. During a single day they celebrate every camper’s birthday, in which siblings bake each other a cake and pick out a gift for their sister or brother at the camp store.

But it’s also the small interactions that matter to the kids.

“I think a lot of the kids feel that people take for granted being able to sit around a dinner table and share a meal,” Emdur said.  “People take for granted being able to give your sibling a hug at night and say ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’ What these kids have learned through their life experience is to not take that for granted.”

Emdur’s work caught the attention of “The Drew Barrymore Show,” which filmed a segment on Emdur in early February; she was one of Barrymore’s “Drew-Gooders.” The host surprised Emdur with a five-day beach vacation in Fort Myers, FL for Emdur, her four-year-old adopted daughter Jordan, and her six-month-old foster child. She is taking Jordan to meet her two biological brothers there.

Emdur grew up in a tight-knit family in Cherry Hill, N.J., the oldest of four siblings all born within five years.

“I knew from second grade on that I wanted to be a pediatric nurse, specifically at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” she says. “Once I made my mind up in second grade, I never wavered from that plan.”

“I applied to multiple schools but was drawn to ESU for multiple reasons,” she says. “I felt like it was a big enough campus where I would have diverse experiences in meeting people and experiencing different things. But it was still small enough that I didn’t feel like I was just going to be a number at the university.”

She embraced her classes and plunged into campus activities including the Outings Club, women’s rugby and recreational soccer, teambuilding and leadership events, as well as SNAP, the Student Nurses Association. 

ESU’s nursing program was tough but her class was tight-knit with students spending many hours together in clinical rotations and studying.

“I felt like I really knew my peers and my professors on a pretty intimate level,” she said. The professors “were very approachable and they went above and beyond to help us study.”

Emdur says she loves her work at CHOP and being a parent and foster parent. And her motto?

She laughs, then says: “Live life to the fullest now and I’ll sleep when I’m old.”

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1947 Alumna Makes Surprise Visit Back to Campus

The ESU Office of Alumni Engagement welcomed Marjorie Fairchild Gunster ’47 back to her alma mater on October 11, 2021.

Fairchild Gunster, 96, was surprised by her daughter Carolyn Gunster, who planned the visit. Carolyn was joined by her sister Doreen, and Marjorie’s great granddaughter Connie, who is a current student at ESU.

Marjorie was a Physical Education major, and was involved in many clubs and sports, including the women’s basketball team. She was delighted to meet Dr. Gary Gray, ESU’s director of Intercollegiate Athletics, and see the basketball facility. Along her tour she visited familiar buildings and saw how much the campus has changed over the years.

With tears in her eyes, she reminisced and told stories of her time at ESU and how they were “the four best years of her life.” She said she formed many lifelong friendships and created wonderful memories she will never forget.

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Just Released: Fall-Winter 2021 Alumni Herald

Brimming with alumni news, Class Notes, campus happenings and Warrior athletic updates, the Alumni Herald keeps every Warrior in touch with their alma mater. READ THE ALUMNI HERALD.

We are always looking for stories from ESU alumni about their career, travels, and success. If you have a story to share, whether it be about yourself or a fellow alumni, consider sharing it with us! Submit your story idea. 

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Holiday Happy Hour with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Alumni Chapter

The ESU Wilkes Barre/Scranton Chapter is ready to celebrate the holiday season with their fellow ESU alumni, friends, and family. Join the celebration at Porkiez Bar and Grill on Friday, December 17, 2021, from 6 p.m.–8 p.m.

ESU Wilkes Barre/Scranton Alumni Holiday Happy Hour
December 17, 2021
6 p.m.–8 p.m.


Porkiez Bar and Grill
731 Dunmore St.
Throop, PA 18512  

Free appetizers, cash bar

This event is planned by the ESU Office of Alumni Engagement, Elizabeth Luchansky O’Brien ’01, Corey Hair Wimmer ’03 and all members of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Alumni Chapter. For more information on how to get involved and to help with the chapter, contact Corey Hair Wimmer at

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ESU Lehigh Valley Alumni and Friends 5th Annual Holidays in Bethlehem

Celebrate the holidays in downtown Bethlehem by joining the ESU Lehigh Valley Chapter for the annual Holidays in Bethlehem event. Prior to the event, the ESU Music Theater Organization student group will be performing nearby at the Downtown Bethlehem Association’s Annual Live Advent Calendar at 5:30 p.m. at the 1810 Goundie House.


ESU Lehigh Valley Alumni Annual Holidays in Bethlehem
December 2, 2021
6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Historic Hotel Bethlehem
437 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018

$15 per person includes soft drinks and light hors d’oeuvres.

This event is planned by the ESU Office of Alumni Engagement and the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the ESU Alumni Association. For more information about the chapter and ways to get involved, please contact Rhonda Miller ’16 at


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