U of New Haven establishing esports academic program

Rounding up the latest news on esports and higher ed
By: | October 9, 2019
Photo courtesy of the University of New Haven

The University of New Haven created one of the first accredited sports management programs in the country. Now, it is doing the same with esports.

The university announced Wednesday it will establish a comprehensive academic curriculum in esports management, one of the first to be accredited as part of a business curriculum by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

“The esports industry is one of the fastest growing in the world,” says University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D. “Developing these in-demand, unique academic opportunities will enable the university to maximize the interdisciplinary strengths of our programs in business, technology, engineering, and computer science, creating a pioneering opportunity for our students that will prepare them to be the future leaders of the esports industry.”

The university says it will offer a concentration in esports management, with enrollment starting in the fall of 2020. It is not only is creating an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in esports, but it also will offer a companion master’s program in esports and technology, the first such graduate program in the U.S. The university also says it will look to develop interdisciplinary classes focusing on gambling in esports, gaming, broadcasting and graphic design, and video game development.

“The time is right for the University to take the lead in esports education,” says Gil Fried, J.D., a professor and coordinator of UNH’s sport management bachelor’s and master’s degree programs , who is compiling an esports book that will include texts from 60 different authors, including conference commissioners and pro gamers. “From the management and business side to technology, game development, broadcasting, and media rights to actually competing professionally, students will be able to pursue their passions.”

Those students will be able to do that in the classroom and at the new $35 million Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation, where esports will have a dedicated training and competition center. The building is set to open in the spring. New Haven’s current esports club has more than 200 members.

 ‘Special needs, special gifts’

Kudos to the Times-Herald in Norristown, PA, which recently ran a story on the opening of Pathway School’s $3.5 million Innovation Center, with this lead: “Pathway School students may have special needs, but they also arrive at the Jeffersonville facility with special gifts.”

The Center will serve students with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbances and other neurological impairments through it STEM program offerings. A key part of the center will be esports, according to Jeff Fullem, the STEM coordinator at not-for-profit Pathway.

“Video games are now a teaching tool,” Fullem told the Times-Herald. “Our kids are like their peers in that they love video games, they love technology. And while we’re letting them play, we’re also teaching them social skills, gaming etiquette, maintaining self-control, strategizing.”

And, Fullem says, building self-confidence.

“When they come here, they can be a top esports player or they can design something or grow plants in horticulture or build a cell phone charging station in wood shop or have an on-campus job or be in drama … we just have so many different things for kids to hang their hat on and be proud of.”

Riding high at Southern Arkansas

Southern Arkansas recently opened its Gaming Hub lab, which boasts 18 Alienware computers as well as consoles. As one of the biggest university-level esports programs in the state – 13 teams and 100 athletes – SAU has been able to keep pace with the growing number of kids wanting to join, while providing an enriching and welcoming environment for students. Alex Suiter, a junior and esports captain who is majoring in Game Animation Design, says the camaraderie of being a part of a team sport is immeasurable. “One of my friends got me to sit down and play to get my mind off stress. If you’ve had a bad day, it’s a good release.”

Magic time for Full Sail

In May, Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL, forged a unique partnership with Magic Gaming, the esports team of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Their collaborative work has quickly paid off, for both sides. Magic Gaming recently earned top honors for local marketing (activation) for 2019 at the NBA2K League Team Business Awards in Indianapolis for its work with Full Sail. By partnering with Magic Gaming, Full Sail has not only had its esports-focused curriculum promoted, but also launched “The Fortress,” its new state-of-the-art home. Students also have done live Q&A sessions with Magic Gaming players and built content for a series on other topics.

Good news for Mizzou

Speaking of partnerships, Mizzou Esports (the University of Missouri’s program) is getting big backing from MSI, a leading hardware and gaming company that works with pro esports teams, according to the Mizzou News. MSI has agreed to outfit Mizzou with top-of-the-line gaming systems and provide capital that will help outfit the new MSI Training Facility on campus, including high-end broadcast capabilities and a fan area. “One of our goals is to help nurture and train tomorrow’s athletes by giving them the tools to improve and succeed,” says David Chou, vice president of sales at MSI, which will sponsor the team. Not only will athletes benefit from the new equipment, but all MU students will be able to use the space for gaming on a “pay-to-play” basis.

Shout-outs

Quotes of the week from across esports and academics:

Norman Rice, Extreme Networks Chief Operating Officer: “[Esports] is like high frequency trading on Wall Street. They’re talking about milliseconds speed, you’re competing next to each other, you’re also competing with people that are a far distance away, perhaps another school in a remote location.”

UC-Irvine director Mark Deppe on the connection young gamers have with young expert coaches who teach them: “Kids care about learning because the people teaching them matter.”

Callum Fletcher, Illinois Wesleyan coach: “These are skills that employers are looking for — self-critical, analytical, continuous learning, able to perform under pressure, tech-savvy.”

Noteworthy

LEVELING UP: “Meteoric growth.” That’s how Dan Coonan, the president of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, views the rise of esports. The governing body, celebrating its 82nd year and known for standout programs such as hockey, is embracing competitive gaming, with a robust 57 colleges and more than 250 teams on board. That is nearly double what it had in 2016. The ECAC is also sponsoring women’s leagues, coed leagues and an alumni esports league. Later this year, it plans to crown its first ECAC Esports Grand Champion to honor the school with the “best across-the-board success.”

COLLABORATION IN GREENVILLE: In January, the Greenville (IL) University esports team will move its studio into the state-of-the-art Greenville SMART building, a space off campus that connects the resources of the college with the small town it helps serve. Among the features dedicated to esports will be 24 new gaming PCs, a console area, a virtual reality gaming setup and a third-floor tournament space that has a 16-foot projected wall for broadcasts.

SIEGE AT KENNESAW: For the 13th year, Kennesaw State University will host its Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo (SIEGE) on Oct. 13-15. Among the highlights of the three-day event is a career fair that includes a focus on game development, streaming and how to break into the video gaming industry, as well as demos from IndieCluster, an independent game developers’ association, to show off the best indie games in the South.

THEY’RE IN: Jackson College in Michigan announced it is adding competitive video gaming as its 13th athletic team and will offer Rocket League and League of Legends in its first season. … Potomac State College in West Virginia has added esports to its lineup and has joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). The team will be coached by Joshua Steger, a former college esports player.


Information from wire services and news releases were used in this report. Chris Burt is UB’s esports editor and develops program content for LRP’s esports conferences. 


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