RIT Esports Continues Quest for Scholarships

Photograph by Jackson Burns Bulmer

RIT's Esports Counter-Strike 2 team won the Varsity Premier division of the National Association of Collegiate Esports last semester, but the club is eyeing a more substantial victory.

With over 2000 community members, RIT Esports have rapidly grown to become one of the most prominent student organizations on campus. Nerd Street, a national network of esports facilities and events, listed RIT’s program in the top 20 collegiate esports programs for 2023. Supporting 19 competitive games, the group has continued its swift ascent.

The club’s administration and faculty have worked diligently to create an environment which fosters growth and success for its members. With teams at varying levels and the chance to compete on a national level, there are options for club members. At the top level, gamers may even face off with other teams around the country for more than five days a week.

RIT Esports has developed a website, aiming to improve their outreach and social media presence. These changes are clearly having an impact, as the various branches of the club, such as graphics and production, have created a more cohesive unit overall.

Ever since 2014, when Robert Morris University became the first school in the United States to offer esports scholarships, other schools have adopted scholarships as well. Currently, over 200 colleges and universities offer esports scholarships for aspiring gamers.

Here at RIT, Esports president Sam Burgoyne and vice president Benjamin Feldstein have worked to bring this monetary aid to club members. Feldstein, a third-year management information systems student, has been especially focused on bringing this idea to fruition. Discussions have been ongoing, as Feldstein has been officially working to implement a scholarship program.

“I’d say that the idea for scholarships came up in my mind when I was a couple weeks into my first semester here at RIT,” said Feldstein. “As soon as I became vice president, I knew I wanted a scholarship program for esports, and Sam was very supportive of that.”

"As soon as I became vice president, I knew I wanted a scholarship program for esports..."

The idea for scholarships has turned into much more than a mere concept; the team's e-board have been able to engage in meaningful discussion with upper faculty and administration. Feldstein describes a meeting between himself and provost Prabu David.

"I literally just went into his office and talked about my passion for esports for the greater half of an hour, and that was really, really cool," said Feldstein. He took notes and it felt like he really heard what I had to say, and he clearly did because we've progressed to where we are now."

Such attention from the campus administration illustrates the growth of the team, giving them more motivation to turn scholarships for their members into a reality. With the club's growth in membership and overall success in competition, more and more people have been convinced to pay attention.

"More and more the faculty are seeing that there's serious grounds here for esports as a whole," said Feldstein. "There's concrete data that supports the fact that a ton of prospective students are interested in Esports, a lot more than I think they had initially thought."

Feldstein and other team members believe there is still more work to be done, and that scholarships are a necessary stepping stone. Esports members are forced to balance schoolwork with their social life and gaming, but do not receive the same benefits as other teams on campus, such as early course registration. However, scholarships, and the prestige that comes with receiving them, could change that.

“I hope that with the positive results that we can get from these scholarships, we’re going to be able to get it to have a snowball effect,” said Feldstein. “Getting those benefits and recognition, I can’t see how having scholarships wouldn’t allow members to be more passionate about the club.”

 “Getting those benefits and recognition, I can’t see how having scholarships wouldn’t allow members to be more passionate about the club.”

For streaming events and other various competitions, viewers can visit Twitch to spectate RIT Esports. (http://twitch.tv/ritesports)