A small all-women's college located in the American Midwest has made waves after offering up a varsity esports program. This makes Stephen's College, in Missouri, the first women's college to offer up a competitive gaming scholarship.
Stephen's College is planning to form an Overwatch team for the Fall season of the TESPA Cup. TESPA are perhaps best known for their Heroes of the Dorm Heroes of the Storm tournament which was broadcast on one of ESPN's digital channels.
"Our mission is to ensure that woman can succeed and make choices about anything they do in any environment and in any profession," said Dianne Lynch, the college's president, to ESPN.
Stephan's College isn't the first college to offer esports scholarships, and all-women's esports teams aren't anything new, but this is a positive step forward, providing a structured path for those interested in the area. The Overwatch scholarship is a partial scholarship and those enrolled in it will be given access to all perks, benefits and resources afforded to those training with any of the school's eight other athletics programs.
"Our hope is that we will be able to create a culture on campus where the only people in the room who are gaming are women, so you have this dynamic that eliminates that other, sort of negative culture out of their immediate space," Lynch said.
The staff and students at the college have reportedly been drawn to Overwatch due to its diversity and positive representation, and the high regard with which it has been held on campus encouraged staff, who had wanted to support esports for a year or so, to take the plunge.