Texas Wesleyan University’s recent announcement establishing a new Bachelor of Science in Sports Communication degree illustrates the on-going evolution of esports in academia. To help illustrate and clarify the thinking behind this evolution, Inven Global's Don Marinelli reached out to Eugene Frier, Director of Esports and Gaming at Texas Wesleyan University.
Was the decision to establish this degree the result of leadership vision or was it more of a grassroots initiative, one coming from the students, or both?
Honestly, it benefited directly from some fortuitous timing. Our faculty had been hard at work on a new sports communication degree grounded in theory and pedagogy just like all other degrees on our campus. At the same time, our esports program started shifting our focus towards getting our program members (players, student staff, content creators, volunteers, etc.) as “career ready” as possible.
The natural evolution for that was getting academic classes to deliver this to students. When I approached our faculty about this idea, they loved it as it both fit with what they were working on. but was also innovative and fresh.
What special skills are required of potential faculty in this program?
No special skills are required of potential faculty in this program, since the classes are from existing classes. Only one class is a new class—Sports Communication & Branding.
How would you differentiate this new degree from a more traditional degree in, say, sports management?
There will be some natural overlap in this when you look at some of the major focused classes that students in this program will take, but the advisory board for this degree did a very smart move and included some key esports industry professionals in its membership.
In addition to people working in professional sports, they have representation from the Dallas Morning News, Ronald McDonald House, and some professional sports teams working alongside the Director of Esports for Mavs Gaming, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Twitch, and President of the Esports Stadium in Arlington.
With a cross-section of experience like that, students pursuing this degree have ample opportunity to learn from not only sports communication professionals, but people deeply rooted in the professional esports scene as well via their class assignments as well as hands-on learning.
Do you see students in this program as being active esports athletes as well, members of Texas Wesleyan’s esports teams?
It is hard to say at this point, but I honestly believe it will be a good mix. Something that really excites me about this program is that it can serve as a direct goal for a student who has a high passion for esports and gaming, a desire to work in the field, but who doesn’t play esports titles competitively.
During my experience recruiting, I have met a lot of prospective students that were passionate about esports and gaming with a great work ethic, high level of responsibility and many of the intangibles that I would look for in an employee, but who do not play the titles we have or play games competitively. This degree provides opportunities for students in that group, in addition to students hoping to be collegiate esports athletes.
What kinds of employment opportunities do you envision for graduates with this new degree?
The hope for graduates of this degree is that they will be able to focus on an area of interest while also getting a varied enough experience to step into new roles in the future. Whether the student wants to be on the mic as a reporter, public relations specialist, or broadcaster/shoutcaster, or if they want to work behind the scenes as a producer, editor, or in marketing, there will be opportunities to learn, connect, and grow through a variety of aspects of esports communication.
If students with this degree desired additional education, what do you see as appropriate graduate degree programs?
The feeling of the faculty is that students who want to move beyond this degree might want to look into existing MBA programs – marketing-focused would seem a wise focus. There was also a recommendation about checking out Hubspot’s Certificate Programs associated with marketing.