UF masterclass opens pipeline for students interested in esports careers
For students interested in careers in the business side of esports, the path has been murky, at best. On Sept. 21, the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications teamed with sports marketing pioneer Dr. Marc Williams and Collegiate Starleague (CSL), the world's first and largest collegiate esports organization, to develop a pipeline for students interested in this rapidly growing field.
Williams, CEO and founder of Williams Communications, LLC, and Neil Duffy, vice president of the Collegiate Starleague, collaborated to develop an esports masterclass at UFCJC that resulted in an internship for six students at CSL next summer. This is the first time that CSL has offered internships to students.
Williams spent a week at the College as a Hearst Visiting Professional, teaching, meeting with students and faculty, and culminating in the masterclass.
"I am honored to have been selected as the Hearst Visiting Professional," Williams said. "The College's sterling reputation as one of the elite journalism and communications schools in the nation along with the UF's number 8 ranking as one of the top public universities played a major role in launching the esports masterclass in Gainesville."
Williams also cited the University's commitment to increasing diversity as a factor in the decision to hold the masterclass at UF. "Esports is a relatively new phenomenon in higher education and the gaming industries' desire to increase diversity is very high," he said. "It was amazing to teach the masterclass with Neil. CSL, who also prides themselves in pursuing diversity in their mission statement, made this partnership with UF a perfect fit."
During the masterclass, two teams of six students each competed for the internships by proposing marketing strategies for CSL. The class and competition were streamed live on gaming platform Twitch.
Students awarded internships include:
- Alejandro D'Agostino, senior, advertising major
- Britney Jenkins, senior, advertising major
- Mitchell Nichols, junior, sports management major
- Dillon Skelley, senior, advertising major
- Emily Stevenson, senior, advertising major
- Jaret White, junior, advertising major
The students will be working in marketing, public relations, branding, content and production at CSL during the summer of 2019.
"It was such an honor for myself and CSL to be able to co-host the masterclass with Dr. Marc Williams," said Duffy. "Esports is such a fast-growing industry that it needs to be focused on with the same attention as sports, media and entertainment. The enthusiasm and passion of these students was so inspiring and we couldn't be more excited to have our intern class of 2019 exclusively from the University of Florida. The administration has embraced innovation through experiences like this, so we knew we needed to invest in UF students as the leaders of tomorrow."
Judges for the competition included: UFCJC senior journalism major Christopher Cantrell, who was selected as the eighth overall pick by the Orlando Magic's gaming team in last year's NBA 2K inaugural draft; sports marketing lecturer at University of Houston and founder of LVRG Sports Ashley Dewalt; Dr. Sandra Doman, spine specialist and owner of Miami Sports Chiropractic & Yoga Center, who also lectured on how to improve posture and brain health in the gaming industry; Serena Lamar, director of operations for UF women's basketball; AnaLee Rodriguez, a market specialist at UF who previously helped develop marketing campaigns for the National Basketball Association, The Walt Disney Company, ESPN other notable firms; and integrated marketing and music industry executive Charles Whitfield, who co-founded Hidden Beach Recordings, a leading independent recording label.
"The whole world of esports has really taken off, which means that there are – and will be – many opportunities for our students in so many different areas of media and communications," said UFCJC Journalism Department Chair Ted Spiker. "For the students in the masterclass, it gave them a great chance to take a dive into this world."