ADRIAN, Mich. – After completing a thorough exploration process, Siena Heights University announced it is starting an eSports program that will begin play in fall 2018.
"We believe that adding eSports would be a good addition to our campus and community," said SHU President Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD. "We must make sure we execute it in a manner to make students successful on the playing field, on campus and in the community. According to our research, we are at the beginning of a movement for small colleges and universities to add eSports to their campus."
A feasibility study for eSports (also known as competitive gaming) was conducted last fall by a cross-disciplinary feasibility committee composed of leaders representing Student Life and Athletics, Academics, Academic Advising, Admissions and Information Technology. This committee gathered extensive information, including how eSports would impact the athletic, academic, financial and student life areas of SHU.
President Albert said the decision was recently made to move forward with eSports based on the findings of the committee.
"We first asked if competitive gaming fit the mission of Siena Heights University, because this is not just about increasing enrollment, but also expanding the mission of this institution," she said. "We believe eSports will not only provide opportunities to a new group of students at Siena Heights, but will help build community, which is what we are all about."
"A couple of area universities have begun similar programs, and we looked at those during our feasibility process," said SHU Athletic Director Fred Smith. "We have identified a few areas on campus where we could house this program, and obviously it would not impact our current athletic facility usage. The definition of 'athletics' is constantly changing with the times, and I know competitive gaming is a growing among college students. I am excited about the possibilities it presents for Siena Heights."
President Albert said the University will invest approximately $180,000 in technology, facility upgrades and personnel to begin the program, and expects to have up to 18 students in the first year. The search for a head coach/coaches will begin immediately.
"We will be very thoughtful on which types of games our students will be playing," said President Albert, who promised that "first-person shooter" games will not be considered. "Like all of our other athletic programs, the competitive experience for eSports must fit the mission of Siena Heights University. And although this is certainly a non-traditional sport, it builds some of the same skills as our other athletic programs, such as teamwork, the ability to think critically and solve problems. The fact that eSports is a coeducational program was another favorable consideration."
Smith said eSports will be a scholarship sport. Siena Heights currently offers 21 men's and women's programs and competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
For more information about eSports at Siena Heights University, please call 517-264-7180. More details can also be found at go.sienaheights.edu/esports or at shusaints.com.
View the full press conference here.