Apr 20 2022

Collegiate Esports as an Entryway to a Fulfilling Career

Full Sail University uses esports to launch student careers, and other higher ed institutions can do the same.

Having run gaming programs for over 30 years — long before collegiate esports had any sort of mainstream visibility — Full Sail University has been a leader when it comes to esports in higher education. The school’s competitive esports team, the Full Sail Armada, is a testament to that. But winning tournaments isn’t what continues to set the university apart in the gaming landscape. It’s the integration of its esports program with the campus, community and academics at large.

There’s a reason Full Sail’s esports arena, the Orlando Health Fortress, doubles as a classroom. While competition is a vital part of the school’s esports culture, Full Sail has successfully turned its program into a launching pad for careers in and outside of gaming — even for students who aren’t part of the Armada.

FIND OUT: How to build and expand esports programs in higher ed.

Esports Programs Can Help Launch Careers Beyond Gaming

Every college campus is bound to have more gamers than you see on the school’s organized or even intramural esports teams. Even if other students don’t play video games with as much frequency as their actively competing peers, XboxPlayStation, desktop and mobile games abound. The football and basketball teams build camaraderie through gaming while traveling and when in the dorms. Some students use online gaming as a way to maintain bonds with friends and family back home. And still others will pull out a mobile game when going to and from class.

“There’s a ton of students who want to be involved in esports, but not necessarily from a competitive standpoint,” says Bennett Newsome, esports strategist at Full Sail. “They love watching esports or they love gaming, and they just want to be involved in that community.”

Full Sail esports leaders sit down with EdTech to discuss a cutting-edge esports advantage.

By making its esports program accessible to amateur gamers, Full Sail enables students to work with and learn about cutting-edge technology — a valuable asset for students who don’t intend to have a career in gaming.

“There’s a direct connection between what esports programs provide and STEM education,” says Sari Kitelyn, director of esports and project development at Full Sail. “Esports is a really good introduction into having more STEM education and STEM programming within facilities.”

Whether it’s a career in animation, engineering, film, 3D modeling, architecture or something else, a robust esports programs can help all students. And it all starts with campuswide integration.

EXPLORE: How Southern University's head coach convinced leadership to see the value of esports.

Career Pathways Multiply with Campuswide Integration

“Community is really our main focus,” says Kitelyn. “We have a huge gaming community here and a huge esports community, far bigger than any competitive scene ever will. So, most of our focus really goes into supporting that community, continuing to bring engaging content and opportunities for them.”

One way Full Sail supports its gaming community is by integrating esports into academics.

“The Full Sail University Orlando Health Fortress is much more than just an esports arena,” Newsome says. “It’s a classroom. Students are coming in there to work through their programs that they’re going to school for. Whether that’s film, production or something else, there’s a lot of ways that we’ve incorporated the educational aspect into a space like that.”

RELATED: Transforming higher education for the hybrid future.

Learning inside the Orlando Health Fortress is just one many opportunities Full Sail provides for its students.

“We have our annual Hall of Fame,” Kitelyn says, “which is like our version of Homecoming. Alumni come back. We do a week of panels and presentations and have a whole ceremony where alumni are getting inducted into the Hall of Fame for their contributions to the industry, and for giving back. And we kick off the whole week with a huge gaming event that usually features multiple different types of game aspects in one super megaevent.”

Full Sail is also intentional about helping students identify their interests outside of gaming, determining what reflects those interests in the esports industry, and providing them with unique and personal opportunities with industry professionals.

“I think the career side, for us, is really the biggest area,” Newsome says.

Headshot of Sari Kitelyn
We have a huge gaming community here and a huge esports community, far bigger than any competitive scene ever will. So, most of our focus really goes into supporting that community, continuing to bring engaging content and opportunities for them.”

Sari Kitelyn Director of Esports and Project Development, Full Sail University

Updated Technology Is a Must for Career Preparedness

With esports programs influencing the career trajectories of students, updated technology is a requirement, and Full Sail knows it.

“If we’re using our Orlando Health Fortress as a classroom and we’re teaching students how to produce live events from that space — or to even set up any sort of LAN format or any sort of computers, consoles or gaming systems from that space — to reflect what the industry would, the most up-to-date technology is required,” Kitelyn says. “If we have outdated or archaic technologies when we’re having graphic designers come in and learn how to do show graphics for industry shows, they’re not necessarily as prepared for when they go into the industry.”

Esports technology is continuously evolving, and it’s ideal for students to evolve along with it. Not just for the sake of competition but for the sake of career preparedness.

“What they’re learning is reflective of what’s happening in real time in the industry,” says Kitelyn. “So, staying on the front end of all up-to-date technology from an educational standpoint is a must for us. If we’re not doing that, the students wouldn’t be as prepared as they are.”

LEARN MORE: Quality peripherals elevate the collegiate esports experience.

fpphotobank/Getty Images

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.