Texas Wesleyan University’s nickname is the “Rams"; the horned sheep is an appropriate logo considering how far this university’s esports program has come in such a short time. In overcoming the mantra that everything in Texas needs to be big, bigger, and biggest, Texas Wesleyan University promotes academic intimacy in its student body, class size, teacher/student ratio and academic rigor. One area, though, where its aim is big, is esports.
Located on a 75-acre campus in Ft. Worth, Texas, Texas Wesleyan University’s (a.k.a. TXWES) esports program began as a charge from the Vice President of Student Affairs to then Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Eugene Frier, contemplating new ways to recruit, engage, and retain students. A look into emerging trends in higher education revealed the groundswell in competitive video gaming.
After contemplating whether esports should be a division of Athletics, the decision was made to factor esports into Student Affairs — a wise choice, indeed. In two short years, TXWES has recruited 27 esports players and watched esports interest blossom to almost 60 active participants in a school of 2,000 students.
In doing so, Eugene Frier found himself transitioning from Assistant Dean of Students to Director of Esports and Gaming. This transition made sense on myriad levels. Finding ways of engaging digital natives, recruiting potential TXWES applicants for whom esports is an important aspect of student life, and embracing the challenge of discerning life skills embedded in esports, are all part of higher education.
TXWES esports is based on the '4 Cs': competition creation, community, and career. For competition, it has 7 competitive divisions in Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Rocket League, FIFA, Madden, and Smash Ultimate. Structurally akin to an athletics program, TXWES gamers undertake team stretches before practice and matches, as well as team workouts and study halls.
Another area where Texas Wesleyan can think big is in its dedicated esports facilities. The Rams have two dedicated rooms for practice and competition spaces. In addition, there is a combo office/lounge area housing the community managers, the content creation team, as well student organizational meetings, board games, and general hanging out.
As was demonstrated during the recent hosting of the NFL Pro Day Experience, Texas Wesleyan University is a school with a commitment to the development and measure of critical thinking skills, analytical reasoning, and creative problem-solving skills based on academic proficiency and assessment metrics. Within that important purview, esports is a natural fit.