There are few regions of the country more fanatical about sports than Southwestern Pennsylvania. It bills itself as the birthplace of NFL quarterbacks and boasts a rich tradition of sports excellence. Robert Morris University (RMU) is, in fact, home to one of the oldest and most prestigious sport management degree programs in the USA.
It seemed more than fitting then that RMU become the first regional university to establish a varsity esports program.
Driven by a desire to respond to the requests and desire of a student body who see competitive video gaming as the new norm, RMU recognized esports as an excellent opportunity to recruit and retain students in a fun and exciting environment.
Spurred on by a Presidential initiative to its Vice President of Student Life, and supported by academic administrators, RMU was given proper funding to provide a quality esports facility for its students. In addition to the capital required to outfit our esports center, the university equipped its operating budget to include scholarship dollars for incoming recruits.
RMU’s facility is within its newly constructed Student Recreation and Fitness Center and features ten gaming stations equipped with brand new HP Omen desktop computers, Respawn gaming chairs, and individual Arozzi desks. In addition, RMU made sure to become a member of NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).
One of the prime benefits of joining NACE was access to the GYO analytic and recruitment tools.
NACE also provided guidance on setting up a university account on Twitch and has been helpful with basic questions any new program might have. As stated by Armand Buzzelli, Director of Campus Recreation, “We're hoping becoming a member of NACE will help us gain visibility in a growing and competitive field. Potential recruits are familiar with NACE and the brand helps legitimize a new team.”
RMU sees esports as a continuation of its educational mission. Buzzelli continued, “We provide students with a professionally focused, nationally ranked education at an institution that offers NCAA Division I athletics, a vibrant campus with first class facilities, including new academic centers, suite-style residence halls, the UPMC Events Center, and a brand new student recreation center that is home to our brand new esports lab. Located just minutes from the city of Pittsburgh, our students have countless opportunities for professional development and internships in fields such as finance, technology, education, nursing, health science, and engineering.”
Connecting esports with academics is an essential component according to Buzzelli. “We are uniquely positioned to provide our esports teams with a top-notch experience through collaborations with our academic programs in sport management, software engineering, media arts and our academic media center, where our faculty have already integrated esports into the curriculum in interesting ways. Most importantly for prospective gamers, we are student focused and our students enjoy high levels of individual attention both academically and in the gaming arena.”
RMU-Pittsburgh might be late to the esports arena when compared to its Chicago namesake counterpart but is more than making up for lost time by this stellar commitment to esports.