Rookie Season Is a Rocket Ride

Hawk Owls lead esports development in region

Esports players Jordan Hunt and Kyle Warner Engineering transfer student Jordan Hunt, left, and computer information technology student Kyle Warner, right, play Overwatch in NMC’s esports lab.Esports at NMC is less than a year old, but varsity team advisor Terri Gustafson already has become a sort of regional guru, with regional schools regularly reaching out about how to start their own teams.Though brief, Gustafson and the Hawk Owls’ track record is enviable: In its first semester, one of the two teams, Rocket League, made it into divisional playoffs. All student athletes get $500 scholarships per semester. This semester, Gustafson plans to add a third team, which will share the Esports lab in the West Hall Innovation Center that “blows away” visiting students.

“Not bad for a rookie program,” Gustafson said. “The varsity aspect of it has really taken off.”

Electrical Engineering transfer student Jordan Hunt says being on the Overwatch team benefits his overall well-being.

“The scholarship alleviates the need to work so many hours,” said Hunt, 24. “It’s been a good way to connect with others on campus.”

Kyle Warner, a Computer Information Technology student from Cadillac who takes most of his classes online, agreed. “If not for this program I probably wouldn’t have met a single student,” he said.

NMC Esports team members Overwatch team members from left, back row: Simon Wellington, Jordan Hunt, Garrett Coan, Coach Mike Culp; front row Meg Albu and Kyle Warner.That feeling isn’t simply sentimental. It’s key to students persisting semester to semester, and completing their degree.

“I think it’s really helped them have a sense of belonging and community, and we know how important that is to keeping them here,” Gustafson said.

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