University-Industry Engagement Week

U New Haven breaks new ground with e-sports industry partnership

By David Schwartz
Published: April 21st, 2020

E-sports and gaming are part of a rapidly growing industry. A number of universities have even established their own teams, so it’s perhaps not surprising that The University of New Haven and HyperX have entered into a partnership centered around this space. However, the partners agree there is much that makes this partnership unique.

For one thing, it represents more than a traditional team/sponsor relationship. “We have created the first AACSB-accredited e-sport management program in the country,” asserts Brian T. Kench, PhD, dean of the College of Business. “Our first class has been recruited for fall 2020.”

That’s certainly what impressed Mark Leathem, general manager of HyperX. “What caught my attention was not that they’re a university that has an e-sport club or facility; that’s not really eye-catching,” he says. “What was fascinating to me was that this is the first college that’s going to integrate e-sport management into a business degree. For us as an employer, finding people in the e-sport world is very challenging. We recruit people out of college, and we know what to look for. A new HyperX employee may be great at knowing e-sport and gaming, but we have to teach them about business. Suddenly, there’s a college that says, ‘We take this very seriously.’”

The deal with New Haven, he continues, marks the first university partnership HyperX has engaged in. “Actually, in my 30 years this is my first interface with a university,” says Leatham. In fact, he adds, he’s not aware of any such partnerships that HyperX’s parent company, Kingston Technology Co. (a major independent memory manufacturer), has engaged in either.

So, how did such unlikely partners come together? “It was due to the relationship one of our owners had with Steve Kaplan, president of the university,” Kench shares. “He would regularly come over once or twice a year and he had an interest in this burgeoning field, as well as an interest in e-sport. He found out that one of our divisions, HyperX, was in the business and he was very excited when he heard we were a contributor and participant in the e-sport world. That started some thoughts in his mind as to how they should, as a university, be participating.

“We had seen from the grassroots level universities developing the e-sport clubs, and we are an exemplar of that,” adds Kench. “We had a couple of students; they got the club approved and within a year or two they had 160 members.”

It took a while for the faculty to notice, he continues. “But we said that where we can be different is by providing the academic component where there is none. We are a business college, and Jason Chung [assistant professor of sport management and executive director of e-sports] was already in sport management.”

On the academic side, says Kench, the school decided to take a holistic approach. “We created E-sport and Gaming as an interdisciplinary program involving several schools and colleges — including health sciences, criminal justice, engineering, and arts & sciences.” The master’s program will be fully online and taught nationally by leaders in the e-sports business. “We will be able do it worldwide,” he adds.

With all of this as a background, Kench shares, the ongoing chats between Kaplan and John Tsu, founder of Kingston Technology, led to bringing Leathem into the conversation. “We said, ‘We’re the first, and we’d like to be a partner with you,’” says Kench. “They said they’d love to do it — that they wanted to be part of that ‘first.’ We worked together a couple more days, and off we went.”

A detailed article on U New Haven’s e-sports partnership appears in the April issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. Because of its additional content focused on the response of corporate relations professionals to COVID-19 challenges, we have released the entire issue free to all who wish to receive it. Just click here to get a copy of the April issue. 

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