Last Updated on June 15, 2021
Interview with Dr. BerNadette Lawson-Williams
Dr. Lawson-Williams is a Full Professor at Johnson C. Smith University and is the Founder/Advisor for Johnson C. Smith University’s Esports and Gaming Trifecta, which consists of academic/Certificate programs in Esports and Gaming Management, Esports Lab, and Game Development Club/Esports Club. She took some time to share her insights, experience, and perspective on Esports with John from SportsDegreesOnline.org.
About Dr. BerNadette Lawson-Williams
Dr. Lawson-Williams is a Full professor at Johnson C. Smith University and worked to create the first HBCU online sport management program. She also is the Founder/Advisor for Johnson C. Smith University’s Esports and Gaming Trifecta, which consists of academic/Certificate programs in Esports and Gaming Management, Esports Lab, and Game Development Club/Esports Club.
John: Can you talk a bit about your career and how you have gotten to this point?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: My journey in sport began during my undergraduate studies when I became interested in athletic training. This experience led me to acquire practical experiences working as a student trainer for my university’s volleyball team, which ultimately led to my interest in athletic administration and sport management. I was so intrigued with these industries that I acquired my master’s degree with a concentration in Sport Administration while interning in the Marketing Dept. with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Thereafter, I entered into the realm of higher education and began developing undergraduate sport and physical activity academic programs, including the State of South Carolina’s first Sport Communication and Physical Activity Management programs. When I joined Johnson C. Smith University, I continued this legacy of curriculum development aimed at providing scholars with sport-related career paths by assisting in developing its Sport Management major, as well as minor programs in Sports Coaching, Fitness and Wellness Management, etc.
John: How long has Johnson C. Smith had an Esports program and what was the impetus for creating the program?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: Johnson C. Smith University implemented its Esports and Gaming Management minor program in February 2020 and launched its Esports and Gaming Trifecta, the first at an HBCU, which consists of Esports and Gaming Management academic programs (minor and Certificate), Esports lab, and Game Development Club/Esports Club in May 2020. The Trifecta’s impetus is based on the paucity of African Americans employed in the esports and gaming industries, which is currently only 2%. As an HBCU, it is our duty to work passionately and deliberately to increase this statistic by preparing our scholars for successful careers in these industries.
John: How do you see the sport growing, and what sorts of positions or jobs do you see opening up in the next few years?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: With close to 3 billion gamers worldwide, the growth of Esports will continue to augment. This growth will continue creating job positions that respond to the industry’s needs and demands, including those that deal with esports athletes’ health and wellness, e.g. esports massage therapists, esports nutritionists, esports physio-therapists, etc.
John: How has covid affected esports compared to more traditional sports?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: In comparison to traditional sports, Esports continued to thrive throughout the COVID pandemic. Although large esports events, which have in the past garnered crowds of over 50,000 spectators were canceled, the versatility of esports enabled tournaments and gameplay to continue virtually.
John: For someone who may not have the most expansive knowledge of Esports, what is something about the field that is a bit more nuanced or complex that most people may not realize?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: Esports are similar to traditional sports. However, the primary nuances are the versatility of gameplay, which can occur in person or virtually and via PC, mobile gaming, or console.
John: What is something that sets apart Johnson C. Smith University’s Sport Management and Esports and Gaming Management program?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: Our programs focus on providing students with theoretical knowledge and experiential learning experiences working with Sport/Esports industry organizations. Also, as the first HBCU with an Esports and Gaming Trifecta and online Sport Management, our focus is on creating a pipeline of scholars who will excel in all of their endeavors whether sport management or esports and gaming management. Most notably, our program’s partnerships and affiliations with leading esports organizations such as: Riot Games, EA, Nacon Gaming, Epic Games, etc. provides our scholars with firsthand connectivity with industry internships and contacts.
John: What can a student graduating from an Esports program like the one offered by Johnson C. Smith University be prepared to accomplish? By that I mean what sorts of jobs would they be a good fit for, or what kind of soft skills, or more tangible skills do they gain?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: A student graduating from Johnson C. Smith University’s Esports and Gaming Trifecta will be prepared to succeed in any type of industry position whether in marketing, public relations, software engineering, etc. We emphasize soft skills such as communication skills, creativity, team cooperation, etc. all of which are second nature to gamers.
John: Are there any books or podcasts that you enjoy related to the field? Or are there any that you would recommend to someone looking to get into this industry?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: The Esports Observer is one of the best sources for all-encompassing esports content.
John: Any last words of advice for someone looking to make a career out of Esports?
Dr. Lawson-Williams: Be sure to connect with esports and gaming organizations locally for volunteer opportunities. Also, research colleges and universities for coursework/curriculum in esports and gaming