Saint Joseph’s raises its game with esports, academics

The university is looking to the future for students and hopes to capitalize on the enormous growth and popularity of the industry
By: | August 18, 2020

The Philadelphia esports scene just got another new player … and it’s a heavyweight from the college ranks.

Saint Joseph’s University on Tuesday announced it is a launching a “multifaceted” competitive video gaming program that will include an academic component and on-campus esports lab, which had a soft opening in March.

The university also elevated its existing student gaming club on campus to club level, where it will receive unique support from both Campus Recreation and the Department of Athletics. It plans to compete in Super Smash Bros., League of Legends and Overwatch.

“By transitioning to a club sport, our on-campus gamers will have a solid foundation to enter into the intercollegiate competitive gaming world,” said Jill Bodensteiner, director of athletics. “I look forward to seeing our Hawks competing with other universities on platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming.”

Philadelphia is becoming one of the hot spots for esports in the United States, as gamers from the high school, college and the pros compete at high levels. Next year, the city will welcome the opening of the $50 million Fusion Arena near its other pro sporting venues.

In developing the program, Saint Joseph’s wisely turned to those who know the most about esports: its student-gamers. The epicenter for the program will be the lab, which will serve as a hub for gaming, recreation and for technology-driven, “future-proof” education opportunities. The university also hopes to utilize it for camps for younger students during the summer.

“Building our esports lab was a collaborative partnership with our on-campus gamers,” said Francis DiSanti, chief information officer at Saint Joseph’s. “They guided our decisions and gave us the inside information on what matters – best-in-class technology, an ergonomic and health focus, and the need to facilitate teamwork, analysis and coaching.”

Tying it in to academics

Like so many higher education institutions leveraging esports to boost enrollment and to retain its current base of students, Saint Joseph’s is positioning game play alongside learning.

Though the university already has courses in interactive 3D game development and human computer development, the first official academic esports offering – a course in esports marketing – will launch this fall and will be instructed by adjunct faculty member Jim Multari, the vice president of national sales strategy and insights at Comcast Corporation.

The course will providing a sweeping look on the history of the industry as well as insight on sales, marketing and event management strategies.

“Saint Joseph’s has long been known for our specialty business programs,” said David Allan, professor and chair of the marketing department in Saint Joseph’s Haub School of Business. “Esports is a domain where we will be growing a level of expertise and programming to meet the needs of industry and the interests of students. Esports provides pandemic-proof and recession-resistant careers in a variety of industries including sports marketing and computer science.”


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for University Business. He is also the program chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com

 


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