New director of campus plans to redefine club sports


Photo courtesy of Sydney Bednar

Beckerman Recreation Center Staff Steven Dradis, Jessica Scibek and Marissa Vittorio.

From early in the morning until late at night, the Beckerman Recreation Center is up and running with new faces, leading activities for everyone.

Jess Scibek has been made the new director of campus recreation. She graduated from Sacred Heart University with a degree in exercise science. She continued her education later at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), where she got her Master’s in exercise physiology and a second Master’s in sports and entertainment management.

She has been working in the field of fitness and recreation management for 20 years and in higher education at SCSU for 15 years.

Scibek says that she has had a warm welcome as “[The University of New Haven] has been a neighbor and a friend for many years.”

As director of campus recreation, Scibek oversees the entire recreation department including taking care of the facility, staffing and organizing events hosted in rec.

“Charger Rec is not just necessarily the four walls,” Scibek said.

Scibek looks forward to taking programs outside and building relationships with existing departments at the university, such as counseling services or working with dieticians in dining services to expand in the campus community.

Sciebek will be working alongside associate director of campus recreation Steve Dradis, who she says is mainly in charge of club sports on campus, originally from the University of Connecticut.

“He’s going to bring a wealth of knowledge and fresh ideas and lots of support for our clubs in their journeys to get back to training, competition, building their rosters back up, and reaching their goals.”

Dradis said, “obviously we want to continue to do what we’re doing well in other programs for our students. I think it’s offering a safe environment where people can come and recreate in various programs and stuff that we have. You know, I think we’re trying to look at doing things right; we’re not trying to go crazy with all the offerings, we’re not offering a million Fitness classes.”

“I think you know we’re not trying to do anything extraordinary but I think once we get a better understanding and hopefully with [COVID-19] restrictions we get to a good spot where we know we’re following policies to be safe and we can we can really kind of look to open things up and kind of try new things or just expand upon the offering,” said Dradis.

Junior finance major Matthew Petrone is a player on the men’s club soccer team. He hopes for the opportunity to build up the roster as “not only does it help with new skills as a player being introduced to the team but it increases the diversity on the team.”

Petrone critiques the ineffectiveness of club sport e-boards as, “The school does not necessarily care for club soccer since there is a varsity team at the school, so most of the benefits that are provided by the school would rather go to the varsity soccer team rather than club soccer.”

Allie Santora, senior psychology major, is a founding member of the women’s ice hockey club. She says that she looks forward to the opportunity for her brand new team to have a chance to reach their full potential on campus.

“With new [COVID-19] updates I’m hoping our team can carry on our legacy of commitment and perseverance starting from myself, Kelly Adkins and others when we founded the club back in 2019,” said Santora. “I know that the safety guidelines are put in place for good reason so we will continue to thrive in our own ways within these fine lines I just wish better for our future.”

“The only thing I would include would be that no matter who our director is or who leads club sports, I know that our team and others will be just as strong. I know change is hard and Alycia will be sincerely missed, but with new professional staff in the [B]eckerman [R]ecreation [C]enter we will still continue to hold our positive reputation on campus,” Santora said.

Scibek has seen so much positivity on campus. She says that she is looking forward to learning and seeing more to know how she can play a role in assisting students to achieve their goals. She intends to ask questions, send out surveys and meet students to gain relationships and knowledge on how to improve recreation.

“COVID led to lots of isolation and preventing togetherness and so I would really like to bring back that feeling of community,” said Sciebek.

She emphasized the importance of finding what the students’ needs are. The university has added group classes, reopened the track and are permitting open events. She explained that it is a slow process, but changes are coming and there will be a fresh start.

Coming to students this May will be a new recreation membership program.

“We are already reviewing our systems and processes to simplify ways for the University community to access fitness, recreation, club sports and wellbeing, and are planning to implement a new membership software this May to enhance the member experience even more. Look for an evolving and expanding offering as we learn more about what our current population of students need and want!”

In addition to a new membership, Scibek hopes to expand employment opportunities to students. She is planning to collaborate with the exercise science program on campus to develop experiential learning and internship opportunities. A new group exercise instructor course may be implemented, too, to allow students to become certified to teach group classes, which will give them the opportunity to be hired as instructors.

“I’m passionate about providing opportunities for University communities to engage in wellbeing through fitness, recreation and sport because in different ways, these contribute to student success. These are habits and skills that can last a lifetime and contribute to social connections, physical health, mental health and more. That’s what motivates me and what I am here to do at New Haven!”