2020-2021 Highlights & Recap
Last year was transformative for OU’s esports and gaming developments with three major milestones. First, the departmentalization of the OU Esports Club into “Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation” housed in the Division of Student Affairs through the endorsement and elevation of Dr. David Surratt, the VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. In this elevation, Dr. Surratt also appointed me as the director of the newly formed department.
Second, we announced the first ever scholarships in the topics of esports and gaming with an emphasis of path to industry. This is part of the continued strategy I outlined in my 2019 TEDxOU Talk about the Sooner strategy for development. Thanks to building relationship with supporters of the university, we secured enough funds to launch initial scholarships for the new year. These scholarships are across all six of our development pillars as well as an award focusing on underrepresented and untapped industry demographics. This equates to 43 scholarships across 7 departments in total. For those just tuning in you can see our programs at our OU homepage.
One last notable milestone is our last founding student leadership, Jasmine Graves, graduated and was pivotal in stabilizing who we wanted to be to get these milestones achieved. She remains as one of three founding alumni advisors of our developments alongside Callie Simonton and Kara Brightwell.
2020-2021 Organizational Pulse (June 30, 2021)
- 1800 (+600) members in community (Largest student led org at OU)
- 140 (+20) students in programs
- 10 titles, 12 teams (+2 and 2)
- over $8K raised in charitable contributions for youth in Oklahoma (total 16.7K to date)
- over $110K raised for scholarships and coaching stipends
- overall budget consumption under $10K ($25K to date)
OU's Department of Esports and Co-Curricular Innovation will soon offer scholarships to students who demonstrate leadership and enthusiasm for the fast-growing competitive gaming industry thanks to an anonymous $100,000 donation.— Univ. of Oklahoma (@UofOklahoma) March 3, 2021
Read more ➡️ https://t.co/cw3jwzsli7 pic.twitter.com/cGx6LDRUov
2021-2022 Immediate Changes & Milestones
Since the beginning of our strategic planning in 2016 we knew that community was and has to be the core foundation of everything we do, and it will be something we will not sacrifice or compromise on. However, the word “gaming” often doesn’t inspire new and exciting thoughts with administrations or peers that can elevate and empower. We leveraged the word “esports” to push the agenda forward knowing that it would be off putting to inclusion as it promotes competition over all.
Every July we reset the organization registration for everyone but alumni. We stage big fundamental changes and policy ratification to correlate with fiscal year change over and build up for the upcoming school year. This year the big major change came in the official renaming of our student organization from the “OU Esports Club” to the “OU Gaming Club”. This org is officially sponsored and supported by the very department it birthed from its efforts.
After we announced the change we opened up our application process and initial marketing to all students at OU combining all programs and scholarship workflows into a single process with automation. Immediately, all development recruitment increased and we grew the community by 300 more. This puts us at 2250+ at the time of this article, up from 1800 on July 1, 2021. Our programs are growing from 140 students involved to over 180 with the expansion of 12 titles, and possibly 15-16 teams, up from 10 titles and 12 teams in our Intercollegiate Esports pillar. The most important analytic from my seat is in the topic of inclusion and diversity. The application pool of women and other minority demographics in both community and programs have at least doubled in percentage. Closing this topic out we have the first-ever externally recruited full esports team roster in the game of Overwatch and executed by undergrad student Head Coach, Joshua “Thumper” Riesenberg. This proves the power of recruitment potential to OU as this was only six of the 43 scholarships used. In the process, Coach Thumper also had interests from international students on two other continents.
Community has been everything for our development since 2016. Nothing has changed! The word "esports" was purely used to push the topic forward. MISSION SUCCESSFUL! Now let's reintroduce our foundational org with the correct naming.#ouesports #sooneresports #boomersooner pic.twitter.com/mJz9TioARM— OU Esports (@OUEsports) July 14, 2021
The Next Chapters Are Already Here!
The next immediate milestone I want to highlight is the approval and execution of the first ever official curriculum at The University of Oklahoma out of our developments. Starting this Fall inside the Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication is “JMC 3011 – Live Streaming Production” which is a practicum course for Creative Media Production undergraduate students. This course is being facilitated by me thanks to our growing interest and partnerships inside of Gaylord and our heavy media centric initiatives. We’ve also been in conversation with the Honors College for research and the Price College of Business as well as the Gibbs College of Architecture for more curriculum development.
The last milestone is a teaser. Our first part of our strategic physical space development is now starting. The plans for our venues will result in multiple spaces on campus that cater to all six development pillars with a heavy emphasis on community engagement as extensions of the very core culture we have had since day one. This phased approach will allow us to further build relationships with sponsors, alumni, and supporters of the university and will build facilities up to the needs of our students, our goals, and the strategic mission of OU. We’ll start revealing those plans, locations, and intentions over the course of the Fall 2021 semester. The only teaser I’ll provide for now is that it’s one and a half blocks away from the football stadium.
Goals, Wishes, and Needs for 2021-2022
With so many things now executing and getting off the ground officially the primary focus for this year is building partnerships, sponsorships, and donation relationships through advancement efforts. We have a stellar track record of building this program for less than $30K (before any donations) total since 2016. With five years of OU specific cultural development, strategic planning, and intentional design we have stayed extremely efficient. Now that we’ve proven we can operate, recruit, highlight our champions, and even provide career placement opportunities, the justifications for support are apparent.
In our five years of development we still retain the title of the first and only fully licensed Division I university amongst the Big 12 schools. However, with our upcoming move to the SEC we will no longer be alone. We must stay competitive on all fronts. Over the next couple of months we will be building ad space pricing lists for sooneresports.org, package sponsorship opportunities to also include logo placement on our officially licensed jersey, and much more.
To close this out we would not be here without the constant passion and advocacy of our students to mature and grow our community and program that is intentionally aligned with the strategic plan of the university. After them, comes the supporters of these students whether that is partner, guardian, or parents. Then the supporters of our vision and intent through alumni, businesses, and fans of the Sooner Nation. Community will forever be our strongest asset and we will always retain opportunity for accessibility to all of our networks.
This year will be our most exciting one yet and just like the 2020-2021 year, COVID will not dictate our ability to still be impactful with our ability to function in physical, virtual, or hybrid environments without skipping a beat. We have so much more to showcase and we can’t wait to bring all of it online. Thank you for being here with us on this exciting journey.
– Director, Mike “Moog” Aguilar, M.B.A