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First Of Its Kind

Syracuse University to Launch a New Degree in Esports Communications and Management
Students are sitting at esports computer consoles in a room

Esports gaming room at The Barnes Center at The Arch.

Syracuse University will soon begin offering a new, first-of-its-kind degree program focused on esports.

The program, Esports Communications and Management, will be offered jointly by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Falk College. It will include three tracks: Esports Business and Management; Esports Communications; and Esports Media and Design. The University will begin enrolling students to the program in fall 2024.

“The esports program is a natural extension of Syracuse University’s leadership in sport-related programs and commitment to 21st century academic excellence,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “This new major is the latest example of Syracuse University innovating, expanding career options in emerging fields and delivering programs students want.”

“This new academic offering is particularly exciting because it leverages the University’s key areas of strength, distinction and excellence to embrace an emerging, fast-growing field and provide our students with the tools to enter that field,” says Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter. “Investment in our sport-related academic disciplines will be one of the keys to our success moving forward.”

A proposal for the Esports Communications and Management degree was passed by Falk College and Newhouse School faculty last fall. It was subsequently passed by the University Senate in December and approved by the New York State Department of Education in February. A search is currently underway for an executive director of esports.

The program, which will be among the first of its kind at a major university, taps into the rapidly growing, multibillion dollar esports industry and builds upon work already happening on campus. The Barnes Center at The Arch, the University’s recreation center, includes a designated esports gaming room outfitted with Omen Obelisk gaming stations; Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo consoles; SIM racing stations; and a virtual reality unit. An active Esports Club has also flourished in recent years.

Jeff Rubin, special advisor to the chancellor on esports and digital transformation, has been leading the effort to bring an esports major to Syracuse. For more than a year, Rubin has been working with faculty and deans from both Falk College and the Newhouse School to develop the program that will span both colleges.

“It has been an extraordinary experience working with some of the smartest minds in communications and sport management to develop a program that will be at the forefront of this burgeoning industry,” says Rubin. “I am especially proud of the collaborative work that is producing the educational opportunities and experiences are students are looking for.”

In 2018, the Newhouse School collaborated with social video service Twitch to launch an innovative new course, Esports and Media, which is still offered through the school’s Sports Media Center (SMC). Rotating industry partners serve as case studies for the students, who develop skills to enhance the company’s social media strategy, distributed content and brand management. Some recent partners include ESL, Microsoft and Super League. The course is co-taught by SMC director Olivia Stomski and Chris Hanson, associate professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, who has taught multiple courses with an esports component over the last several years.

“The Newhouse School has long been known for excellence in sports communications, with roots stretching back to 1939 alumnus Marty Glickman, one of the first great sports broadcasters,” says Newhouse School Dean Mark J. Lodato. “We are excited to build on that foundation with this new degree, which—as we have already seen with our academic programming in esports—will set students up for success in this burgeoning field. Our partnership with Falk College ensures a truly top-notch program that will provide students with the best possible education and training to keep pace with the industry.”

The Falk College has been at the forefront of sport industry education for 20 years. In 2005, Falk launched one of the nation’s earliest undergraduate degrees in sport management, followed by one of the very first undergraduate degrees in sport analytics in 2017.

“The Falk College is an established leader in sport management and sport analytics academic training, preparing future leaders who have found great career success in the sport industry,” says Falk College Dean Diane Lyden Murphy. “With this partnership between the Falk College and the Newhouse School, Syracuse University is well positioned to enter the next era of growth in sport academic programming with a major in esports.”

“This pioneering esports degree will focus on an emerging sector of the global and domestic sport industry,” says Michael Veley, chair of the Department of Sport Management in the Falk College. “It combines the strengths of Falk and Newhouse programs in sport communications, media production, technology, business and event management to offer a cutting-edge degree.”

“This esports major embodies the culture and reputation of both the Newhouse School and the Falk College,” says Stomski. “We have spent countless hours researching the industry and the interests of our students to create a rigorous and dynamic curriculum that will prepare graduates to succeed in this thriving, ever-changing field.”

Stomski, Veley and Hanson—together with Newhouse School Assistant Director of Academic Operations Rachel Francisco, sport management Undergraduate Director Gina Pauline, David B. Falk Endowed Professor Rick Burton and Falk College Senior Associate Dean Eileen Lantier, and Falk Academic Operations Manager Kelly Pettingill—worked to build the new degree as part of a University-wide task force convened last spring. The well-rounded curriculum is designed to provide students with industry-specific competencies in event management and marketing, broadcasting/production, communications, content creation, entrepreneurship, strategic communications and esports experience and design. The three tracks will provide students with the ability to tailor the degree according to their career goals.

  • Esports Business and Management: Covers such topics as sport promotion, sport venue management and finance for emerging enterprises.
  • Esports Communications: Includes coursework in virtual reality storytelling, esports and advertising, public relations principles and sports in the metaverse.
  • Esports Media and Design: Covers 3D animation, game experience design and virtual production.