Academic Esports Conference showcases featured speakers

Top administrators, faculty and gaming experts who will be at the show are highlighted in a preview of October event.
By: | May 11, 2020

Research leaders, esports faculty members, technologists and gaming-industry leaders will all be featured presenters at the first-ever Academic Esports Conference and Expo in October.

A number of standout speakers will be highlighted throughout the three-day event, which features sessions in five specific learning tracks, as well a trade show that will include additional speaking slots.

“It is truly an All-Star lineup of educators and experts who know esports,” says Chris Burt, the conference’s program chair. “We were amazed by their presentation proposals and even more impressed by their credentials. We are looking forward to hearing from this special group of speakers.”

Beginning with its Starting Up track, the show’s sessions scheduled for the Hilton Chicago will give attendees a chance to learn about how esports has become the latest learning tool to connect with students. The speakers from the track will hit on a number of important topics, including building a successful program, leveraging the positive impacts of esports, the benefits of joining an association and providing equitable remote access to esports:

  • Mike Dahle, president, Wisconsin High School Esports Association
  • Bubba Gaeddert, Executive Director, Varsity Esports Foundation
  • Jay Prescott, Executive Director, National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD)
  • James O’Hagan, Director of Digital and Virtual Learning, Racine (Wis.) Unified School District
  • Joshua Kell, CEO of Horizon AVL and Esports Integration in New Jersey

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Full Academic Esports Conference Agenda: Check out all of the speakers and sessions slated for the inaugural event here.


In addition, the Academic Esports Show is fostering a learning environment for those with already established programs in its Advanced Level track. Among the highlights are sessions on bystander invention, leveraging a public-private partnership to maximize esports on campus and improving an already successful program with these notable presenters:

  • Eric Monday and Kirsten Turner, University of Kentucky
  • Courtney James, Director of Student Involvement and Esports, DePaul University
  • Jonathan Long, Director of Tournament Operations, Midwest Esports in Wichita, Kan.

The conference’s signature track, Academic Development, will look at the application of esports in classrooms as well as professional development opportunities that administrators and faculty can offer to students. These speakers will not only look at implementation-ready curriculum but also share stories from the arena and address the role of connected learning, equity, digital citizenship and esports majors:

  • Mimi Ito, Professor and Cultural Anthropologist, University of California, Irvine
  • Katrina Adkins, Senior Program Director K-12 and Higher Ed, SHI International
  • Kristy Custer, Principal, and Michael Russell, Teacher, Complete High School Maize, Kansas
  • Tom Turner, Director of Instruction, Orange County Department of Education
  • Avis Williams, Superintendent, Selma (Ala.) City Schools
  • David Hanan, Director of Esports, University of Central Oklahoma
  • Ryan Rogers, Professor/Academic Coordinator of Esports Programs, Butler University

“It’s important to not only highlight the work going on in online platforms and in games but also the work going on in classrooms,” Burt says. “The Academic Development track features panels and sessions that serve to teach best practices and strategies to help prepare students for careers in and around the esports field.”

Though the conference will have a heavy lean toward academics, the Technology/Infrastructure track will be geared toward actual implementation of hardware, software and workstations. From outfitting programs to taking arenas from good to great, these sessions will highlight a number of areas necessary for a successful launch, for robustly building out spaces, and for streaming, from these top speakers:

  • Kevin Hoang, Partnership Accounts Manager, Twitch
  • Jason Kirby, COO, Generation Esports (which oversees High School Esports League)
  • Chris Haskell, Director of Varsity Esports, Boise State University
  • Don Soyinthisane, IT Director, Fresno (Calif.) Unified School District
  • Joshua Pann, Education Esports Specialist, HP Inc.

Speakers in the Emerging Trends track plan to touch on a number of topics, including the future of game play; diversity, inclusion and future investment; esports medicine and clinical research; business models driving the growth of the industry; and the growth of recreational esports:

  • Scott Novis, Chief Creative Officer, Bravous Esports
  • William Collis, Co-Founder of Gamer Sensei and Team Genji and Esports Professor, Becker College
  • Hallie Zwibel, Director, Center for Esports Medicine, New York Institute of Technology
  • John Cash, Professor of Marketing and Esports, Johnson C. Smith University, and Board Member, Cxmmunity


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