University offers programs of the future with new esports and VR degrees

University offers programs of the future with new esports and VR degrees

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Shenandoah University has positioned itself as one of the nation’s premiere leaders in esports academia with the creation of its new esports major, which will be rolled out in fall 2019.

Shenandoah will be one of the first universities in the country and the first in Virginia to offer an esports degree. The major not only provides a general esports education, but also uniquely offers not one, but three tracks that students can choose from: esports management, esports coaching, and esports media and communication. Through the major, students can learn about esports consumerism, how to run an esports event, performance and physical training in esports, streaming esports, and coaching esports teams.

“The esports industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of the commercial entertainment industry and stands to become a billion-dollar industry by 2020,” said Joey Gawrysiak, Ph.D., associate professor and director of sport management. “We are working to prepare students to enter this field as highly qualified individuals with a unique bachelor’s degree that will place them ahead of other people wishing to enter the field. Shenandoah has positioned itself at the forefront of the esports industry by offering students an environment to participate in and study esports in a number of different ways.”

In esports, competitors face off in video games, such as Call of Duty, Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch and Madden NFL. Streaming services like Twitch—a live feed service where fans can watch from their home or at live events while their favorite gamers play video games—has five million active daily users. Popular gamers often have millions of fans and can make up to six figures playing the games they love.

The esports industry is growing and is projected to be valued at $1.4 billion by 2020. According to the World Economic Forum, the global audience for esports is expected to reach 380 million this year.

Shenandoah’s esports major will help prepare students and alumni to be an integral part of the action in a field that values quick and strategic thinking, mental agility, intellectual curiosity and creativity.

Students majoring in esports at Shenandoah will earn a Bachelor of Science.

All esports majors will take 30 general education credits, as well as one slate of core courses: Introduction to Esports; Contemporary Issues in Esports; Esports Performance; Esports Ergogenic Aids; Esports Physical Training, Injuries & Rehabilitation; Esports Consumerism; Esports Structure and Governance; Esports Event Management; and Experiential Learning.

Each track requires 120 credits.

Shenandoah will also offer a minor in esports management, along with a minor and an online certificate in esports sports science.

“Esports is a rapidly growing industry that spans business, sport management, exercise science and media and communications,” said Provost Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D. “Shenandoah’s depth and breadth of expertise in each of these areas enable us to offer a strong, multidisciplinary approach to this emerging field.”

Shenandoah currently has a varsity esports team, which started competition this year through the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), with 25 team members playing five esports games. So far, the team has played Penn state and Maryland in Rocket League, Clemson in Paladins and Arizona State in Overwatch.

The Shenandoah esports team also has plans to be the first NACE institution to have a varsity-level virtual reality (VR) esports team. This team will plan on competing in Echo Arena and Onward. With this addition, Shenandoah will compete in Overwatch; League of Legends; Smite; Rocket League; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive; Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege; Echo Arena (VR) and possibly Onward (VR).

The team’s on-campus home is in the Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCIL) in the Health & Life Sciences Building, where university students produce 360-degree videos, along with augmented and virtual reality experiences to enhance learning.

The competitive team and students in the degree program will work hand-in-hand, allowing both groups to have the best esports experience possible, which will help them in both college and their post-graduate careers.

Shenandoah is currently discussing future partnerships with major companies.

For more information, contact Joey Gawrysiak, director and associate professor of Sport Management, at jgawrysi@su.edu, or Becky Layne, media relations coordinator, at rlayne@su.edu or 610-608-6586.

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