Although Dr. Jason Engerman casually dismisses his office as four walls and a desk, the space provides an in-depth look into his multifaceted personality.
Star Wars bobbleheads sit on the edge of his cherry wood desk, and an antiquated computer hides in a W.B. Mason office supply box. His bookshelf is lined with various titles, including “Converging Media,” “Understanding Poverty,” “How the Brain Learns” and “The Art of Game Design.”
More importantly, Dr. Engerman’s brain is splashed onto a whiteboard, a collection of lists and arrows that outline his business, research and curriculum plans.
He’s a digital media technologies professor. He’s an entrepreneur and social scientist, a man with a mission. However, he’s also a dedicated father and husband who understands the value of family.
Born in 1984, Dr. Engerman grew up in Bronx, N.Y. He lived across the street from a shelter, which attracted drunks, drug addicts and homeless people to the neighborhood.
Fortunately, his parents were hard workers who were determined to provide the best for him and his brother.
His mother was a Marvel staff accountant, and his father was a union electrician, one of the best opportunities during that time.
Despite their unwavering work ethics, Dr. Engerman’s parents were always together and deeply rooted in a love for God.
As a result, spending time with his family and maintaining a strong presence in his own home is both a value and priority.
Dr. Engerman and his parents moved to Pennsylvania in 2000, and he remained in the area throughout his academic and professional career.
He began studying computer science and engineering at Penn State University, later transferring to ESU to acquire a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 2008.
Dr. Engerman then received his Master of Education in teaching and learning in the twenty-first century from Wilkes University in 2010.
After reflecting on his life direction, he realized he wanted a stronger background and more clout. Therefore, he returned to Penn State on a four-year scholarship in 2012 to complete his PhD in learning, design and technology.
The decision forced him to juggle a three-hour commute and newborn child. While the obstacles were significant, Dr. Engerman adhered to a greater purpose.
“I still don’t feel that public education is doing its promise, which is to help build sustainable and empowered individuals for career development,” he said.
During his time at Penn State, Dr. Engerman was president of the Graduate Student Association, a member of the American Journal of Education Student Council and the director of Designers for Learning.
Designers for Learning helped “second-career adults” engage in instructional design, a program that offered Dr. Engerman his first experience in entrepreneurship and international platforms.
“Entrepreneurship isn’t just something you do; it’s a lifestyle,” he said.
Throughout the remainder of his career, Dr. Engerman focused on converting his degrees to entities that could generate value. As a former math instructor and football coach at Wallenpaupack Area School District from 2008 to 2017, he later conducted interactive video game research with the football players.
His credibility as a coach and teacher allowed him to connect with students and their families at home. Dr. Engerman’s research proved that video games help players develop skills that are valuable in the new digital frontier.
Furthermore, he gained the opportunity to follow his students for four to five years and watch young men grow into adults.
Along with CEO Brad Mitchell, a former employee of George H.W. Bush’s White House staff, Dr. Engerman is one of the founding members of NAPSA (the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy).
NAPSA helps professional athletes transition from the field or court to success in their post-playing days. Although NAPSA’s partnership with the NFL is a clear indication of its success, Dr. Engerman expressed that the biggest highlights are the transformed identities.
He’s particularly interested in underrepresented populations (i.e., African-Americans) who are preyed upon in athletic systems. Prior to the NAPSA experience, many athletes viewed themselves as “dumb jocks.”
“We’re in the confidence-building business,” said Dr. Engerman.
Understanding the importance of diversity, Dr. Engerman uses diverse and playful approaches to connect with students and overcome boundaries of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
He keeps crayons, Legos, UNO cards, fidget spinners and coloring books in his office, and students are free to explore as they wish.
“We’ve lost the art of doing simple things,” he explained. “The digital world is so incredibly addictive and seductive that we’ve lost our ability to connect at the very basic levels of not only humanity, but more importantly of ourselves.”
Media directs society but also reflects its larger conversations. People seek authentic experiences that can be captured, a concept Dr. Engerman views as an attempt to defy mortality.
His latest endeavor, Lightening Legenz, focuses on culture, diversity and innovation in eSports, a project he refers to as the “YMCA of digital media technologies.”
“We focus on drawing out and building the STEM connections between the eSports industry and students of color and women, the voices that are…unheard,” said Dr. Engerman.
An assistant professor at ESU since 2017, Dr. Engerman returned to his alma matter to stay close to family and give back to the community.
He believes education should allow students to manipulate information to serve their needs. In turn, they’ll be able to select which skills they acquire and invest their energy into, an important choice even in adolescence.
With a resume as extensive as his, one would expect Dr. Engerman to have a clear vision of his legacy, but that isn’t the case.
Taking a page out of Maya Angelou’s book, he stated, “You don’t know what your legacy will be…I know that my focus right now is family wealth…and I’m interested in my kids being independent, financially independent.”
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