Wilmington University is adding an esports program

WILMINGTON, Delaware (AP) — Wilmington University will continue to prioritize science, technology, engineering and math education as the university announced its partnership with Futures First Gaming.

WilmU’s partnership with the FFG will create degree and certificate paths for students in the esports and gaming communities. The partnership, announced on April 11, will provide students with education and training in a variety of areas affecting the esports industry.

“The agreement between WilmU and FFG leverages the capabilities of both to ensure students with and without eSports and game design credentials benefit from academic rigor,” said Scott Shaw, assistant professor and academic chair of WilmU’s game design program, in a press release.

“There is so much more than programming and game design, and this agreement provides avenues for educational credit for skill building and opportunities to gain a broader perspective of the industry.”

FFG was co-founded in February 2020 by CEO Stephen Sye, who said the company’s goal is to expand the reach of esports, short for electronic sports, a form of video game competition, into the state of Delaware. The organization soon partnered with Microsoft’s Christiana Mall location, where FFG would facilitate eSports programming and hold an in-store event. The pandemic prevented the FFG event from being held, but through the organization’s relationship with Microsoft, the FFG was able to lay the foundation for its partnership with WilmU.

“After the pandemic put everything on hold, we continued to work on our Futures First programming. We were able to get in touch with Scott Shaw from WilmU through Microsoft, but nothing materialized given the circumstances. We knew we were missing a big piece of the puzzle to achieve our goals and that was a college relationship.” Mr. Sye said.

Although the pandemic put FFG’s original plans on hold, the organization continued to work toward its goal of partnering with a university. Mr. Sye said he was able to meet with Mr. Shaw and Lindsay Rice, WilmU’s senior director of Academic Partnerships, to discuss the organization’s program, and the two parties ultimately decided that working together was the best move .

As part of the partnership, WilmU and FFG will create a Pathway program that leverages FFG’s Futures First programming. The Pathway program will encourage students to pursue career paths in esports beyond simply competing. WilmU teachers offer students a variety of pathways including coding, gaming design, entrepreneurship in the esports industry, esports training, and skill development.

WilmU’s Game Design and Development program was the first of its kind to provide students with a bachelor’s degree in Delaware, and through the partnership, FFG will help WilmU create a pipeline for students to pursue opportunities in esports-related fields .

The partnership will align with FFG’s current staff development program and provide high school students within the program access to WilmU faculty, facilities and program content for college credit.

FFG’s current staff development program is a partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and is aimed at qualified 14-18 year olds from low-income communities who have an interest in the esports community. As part of the program, students undergo extensive training to study curricula that focus on web development, computer science, cybersecurity, and game design. Students are also taught an esports entrepreneurship curriculum, and at the end of the program, students are tasked with a team-based project where groups host their own esports tournament from start to finish.

Mr. Sye said he has many ideas to complement WilmU’s partnership with the FFG, including a potential competency-based certificate program that would allow students interested in the esports industry to pursue careers should those students choose not to attend college . He said this is just one of many ideas the two parties could use to make the most of their respective assets.

“The possibilities with esports are endless. We could consider developing an eSports degree at WilmU, we could run our own eSports events, tournaments, workshops and camps at WilmU facilities around the country, whatever. I think that’s the perfect fit.” Mr Sye said.

According to Mr. Sye, esports has grown in popularity over the past five to ten years. More than 5,000 high schools across the country have launched esports programs and more than 200 universities are offering scholarships totaling $15 million to esports athletes.

WilmU’s partnership with FFG will provide both high school and college students with opportunities to pursue the diverse careers in the esports industry, and according to Mr. Sye, expanding access to this type of education will be a major benefit for Delaware students be , FFG and the students and employees of WilmU.

“We’re really starting to see how important and meaningful this industry could become,” said Mr. Sye.

“There are so many job opportunities and so much economic potential behind esports, and we’re glad WilmU sees that too.”

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