Benedict College, first HBCU to offer esports degree, leads students into billion-dollar gaming industry

Benedict, like many colleges, is taking notice of esports' growing popularity worldwide and preparing students for opportunities in the field.

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Last year, Benedict College became the first historically Black college to offer an esports undergraduate degree, WIS-TV reported. Now the South Carolina school has launched its gaming room, which is expected to host esports competitions.

“It is a billion-dollar industry, it’s growing every year, and there is more opportunities, especially for African Americans and people of color in esports,” Dr. Paula Shelby, head of Benedict College’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, said on WACH Fox 57 News

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“What people don’t understand is how big esports actually is,” said a student at Benedict College, where courses can lead to an esports degree and a new gaming room is expected to host competitions of the popular genre. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Riot Games)

Shelby spearheaded the effort to get esports on campus, Best Colleges reports.

“How can we get a degree and then how can our students become employable and apply for some of the positions and career options within esports?” Shelby asked, per the report. She said she wants students to “be a part of the working industry, part of esports.”

According to a news release posted to its official website, Benedict is the first HBCU to have undergraduate degrees in esports and certifications in partnership with Blaze Fire Games. As reported by Yahoo Sports, Blaze offers students over 250 esports micro-credentialing certificates. Credentialing opportunities are available in all esports and sport management classes.

Benedict partnered with Blaze Fire Games in 2020 to launch an esports club and host its first Madden NFL and NCAA College Football tournaments, per the school’s news release. With worldwide viewership via social media and sponsorships akin to those of live sports teams, Best Colleges reports, Benedict and other colleges are offering students an opportunity to get an edge in the competitive video game industry.

The esports administration curriculum “is designed to prepare students to create new applications and to engage in all facets of the industry,” Dr. Janeen Witty, Benedict College’s vice president of academic affairs, told WIS News 10.

Student-athlete Mitch Romig said he is excited for Benedict’s new esports opportunity.

“I think it’s a little of an adrenaline rush,” Romig said, WACH reports. “It takes me to another place, and I get to relax when I play video games.”

“What people don’t understand is how big esports actually is, it’s taking the nation over,” Romig added.

Matthew Drapeau, an esports professor at the college, is preparing students for careers in esports marketing, broadcasting and program development.

“You’re learning emotional control, problem-solving skills, as you come up with things, building things, and critical thinking skills, you can learn cybersecurity skills,” noted Drapeau.

With esports gaining popularity among gamers worldwide, including the 2024 Olympics, many colleges are taking notice and following suit academically, Best Colleges reports.

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