Esports & Education: How HBCUs are Leveling the Field

Jun. 4, 2021
12:00pm – 4:00pm ET
The Wilson Center’s Serious Games Initiative, with leadership from Johnson C. Smith University, invites you to a virtual program with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) leaders to discuss the state of esports on campuses. The program also includes esports play demonstrations from Cxmmunity’s NBA2K league play and Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition hackathon with HBCU and D.C. Public School students. This event is part of the 2021 and 8th Annual ED Games Expo, a showcase of game-changing innovations in education technology supported by programs across government.


Millions of people worldwide participate in the growing phenomenon of esports, the activity where video games are played competitively, much like traditional sports. Thousands of students nationwide are participating in esports, both in K-12 and the collegiate scene. Yet how esports is fitted into educational environments varies. Esports in education can range from treating it as part of the athletics program, an extracurricular activity, a community-based effort, or aligning it to core curriculums.

What remains consistent is the lack of diversity for both those who play esports and the spaces in which esports occur. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are trying to change this by supporting the growth of clubs and teams on their campuses; creating curriculums around esports and promoting academic success; and reaching beyond their campus to support young K-12 students.

This programming will focus on how HBCUs are engaging with esports: What does it mean to “do” esports today for HBCUs? What is informing the shape of esports programming on HBCU campuses, and what does the future hold for esports? How can we make esports more diverse? In doing so, we hope to highlight ways to build capacity by showing what is needed to launch an esports program.

Learn more and RSVP.


Program Highlights



Ambassador Mark Green

President, Director, & CEO, Wilson Center

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Chair, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology 



Elizabeth M H Newbury

Director of the Serious Games Initiative


Panel: No One Way To Build Esports Programs on HBCU Campuses

Esports is a growing industry projected to be worth $4.28 billion by 2027 and HBCUs are taking a range of approaches on how to bring this industry to campus. In this panel, we will hear from a range HBCU leaders and learn how they are building capacity and launching esports programs. Key questions we will address are: what are the different ways to bring esports programs to campus? What are some of the common barriers to building capacity, and how have panelists mitigated them? What is needed to lay the foundation for a successful esports program?



Kevin James

President, Morris Brown College

Sedika Franklin

Associate Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Laura Colson

Appointed: Vice President of Academic Affairs, Bennett College; Current: Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johnson C. Smith University

Julian Waddell

Assistant Professor, Management Information Systems; Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center, OU Launchpad; Oakwood University



Elizabeth M H Newbury

Director of the Serious Games Initiative


Play Session: NBA2K Presented by Cxmmunity

The NBA2K league play session is presented by Cxmmunity. Cxmmunity is a nonprofit based out of Atlanta, GA that is committed to increasing participation in minority esports through STEAM development. Tournament and league play this year has taken place virtually, connecting students across HBCUs under the flagship of HBCU esports. At the event, participants of the league play and founders of Cxmmunity will talk about this experience and show footage of esports play.

Panel: Crafting Esports and Gaming Programs for Academic Success

One critical way that esports are being leveraged on campuses is to support academic success. Esports can touch every major academic area, from 21st century skills to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). Programs can offer direct opportunities for workforce development, supporting students as they go into the gaming industry and esports; teaching students STEAM skills like coding, or sports and entertainment management skills. But this is just the beginning: programs can also bridge the gap with more “traditional” forms of academic success, applying it across all disciplines. The sky is currently the limit, and this panel will focus on not only where HBCUs are now, but where they hope to go with esports.



BerNadette Lawson-Williams

Professor of Sport Management; Advisor of Esports and Gaming Management Program, Johnson C. Smith University

Robbie Melton

Associate Vice President, SMART Global Technology Innovation Center; Graduate Dean; Tennessee State University

Christopher Turner

General Manager and Head Esports Coach at Southern University and Southern University Laboratory School



John Cash

Associate Professor at Johnson C. Smith University; Chief Business Development & Education Officer at Cxmmunity


Play Session: Minecraft EDU HBCU Esports Hackathon: Building Community Through Connection

For the Minecraft HBCU Esports Hackathon, students from across 20 HBCUs are competing to build their school’s “Yard” as the arena within Minecraft: Education Edition. D.C. Public School students will play on the final arenas as part of the program.


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