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U Kentucky Launches Major Esports Program

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The University of Kentucky is launching a three-pronged esports program that will span academic, community and professional development. The university partnered with global esports company Gen.G with the goal to become the region's leading institution to open access to career paths in the gaming industry, according to a news announcement. Jointly led by UK's Student and Academic Life and Information Technology Services offices, the collaboration will "develop wholly new pathways for student recruitment, classroom and internship opportunities; research avenues for scholars across a variety of colleges; and professional development for alumni." The formal partnership was developed through UK's multimedia rights holder JMI Sports.

Among the initiatives underway:

  • A periodic speaker series, hosted by the university and Gen.G and streamed globally, will feature "leading gaming and esports executives, athletes and content creators.
  • The university will run an open call with faculty to discuss an esports academic program and the possibility of a gaming-focused certificate program.
  • Gaming-related programming at events such as the university's Big Blue Open House will engage students from local high schools, giving them a "head start on careers in the global gaming ecosystems."
  • Other programs will develop gaming and esports content for public service and philanthropic efforts such as UK's student-run philanthropy DanceBlue and Gen.G's Player Wellness Campaign.
  • An Innovation Lab, scheduled to open in fall 2020, will serve as a hub for creativity, technology and entrepreneurship.
  • In spring 2020, the university will launch a conference on industry issues in gaming and esports.
  • A Wildcat Alumni Gaming and New Media Series will connect UK alumni with "thought and business leaders from the gaming and esports worlds." The series will put on events in major cities around the United States, beginning with New York City the week of Nov. 4.

In addition, UK and Gen.G will develop a research portfolio to "address and probe issues such as repetitive injury motion and societal concerns around gaming and violence."

"We plan to be a leader not only in exploring the vast potential opportunities associated with esports and technology more broadly, but also the challenges posed to society," said University of Kentucky Provost David Blackwell, in a statement. "Indeed, a primary benefit of a partnership between a global leader and national research university is you can explore in depth issues such as gender and racial equity as well as the need for more research around concerns that there are connections between gaming and societal violence."

The partnership with Gen.G is part of a larger Smart Campus Initiative at the university, which is focused on the use of innovative technologies across UK's teaching, research, services and health missions. The Smart Campus program's first project, announced last spring, was to provide all first-year students and many faculty with an iPad Air, Apple keyboard and Apple Pencil.

"We view technology, not as an end, but as a tool to help us maximize the success of our students — in their educations and as they pursue all that's possible at the University of Kentucky," said Blackwell. "We want to provide them tools and learning opportunities that will help them succeed at UK, but also as they pursue jobs and careers that will help them succeed throughout life."

For more information about UK's new esports program, visit the university website.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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