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NIU Today | NIU Esports offers scholarships, thanks to “the esports doctor”


For the first time, any NIU student gamer can apply for a scholarship in fall 2022, thanks to the generosity of Dr. Levi Harrison. Known as “the esports doctor,” Dr. Harrison is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of hand, arm and shoulder injuries. He’s also an avid video game player, mental health advocate and the creator of both the Try-Angle hand fitness device and Fierce Gamer – an app which provides exercises, meditations, healthy eating advice and other information to promote gamers’ physical and mental well-being.

Dr. Harrison is providing one 1,000-dollar esports scholarship in the first year, while adding an additional scholarship each year for the next five years. At least 100 NIU students will also beta test the Fierce Gamer app and use the Try-Angle for hand conditioning exercises, contributing to the NIU Esports mission to create a healthy and inclusive video gaming community.

“We’re so grateful for Dr. Harrison’s support,” says Jeannine East, director of strategic initiatives in the NIU Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, which is the home of NIU Esports. “Our Esports program has grown from a small off-campus club to a multifaceted organization with an academic minor, a student club, a Gaming for All group, competitive varsity teams and a state-of-the art esports arena. Student scholarships offer a chance to promote the positive aspects of gaming while continuing to welcome all students, from all backgrounds and with all levels of gaming experience.”

It was important to Dr. Harrison to keep the Fierce Gamer scholarships open to all NIU students – not just varsity athletes – as a way to increase the inclusiveness of the esports community and combat negative stereotypes about video gamers.

“This scholarship is important because I look at the global esports and gaming community as a disenfranchised part of society, so it’s a way of increasing the inclusion of our community,” Dr. Harrison says. “People often think that we gamers are alone in our rooms playing games, but we’re really not alone. We’re actually embracing a global, international community. Often, we’re playing with people from different countries. They don’t even speak our language, but they speak the language of gaming, and the language of gaming is about inclusivity, about accepting people for who they are without any judgment about their race, their creed, their gender, their gender identity.”

Dr. Harrison, who lives and works in Los Angeles, first connected with NIU Esports when he spoke as part of the NIU Esports Career lecture series in 2021.

“In the lecture series, NIU students hear from people with a wide range of careers in the esports industry, from coaches to public relations specialists to HR professionals,” says NIU Esports General Manager Conner Vagle. “Sometimes the lecture is more formal, and sometimes it’s a fun, casual conversation. When Dr. Levi spoke to us, we felt an instant connection and had a great conversation. He taught us hand and wrist stretches, talked to us about the importance of healthy diet and exercise, and we all walked away from the conversation energized and wanting to work together.”

Dr. Harrison – who speaks all over the world to different types of audiences – says he felt an instant and unusually strong connection to NIU.

“When I gave the lecture at NIU I was really taken aback by the questions that the students asked, by their engagement, how they embraced me, how they wanted to know more. And I also felt really great about the fact that I can give them what I have and that it may be of use,” he says.

While Dr. Harrison describes the connection to NIU as “ineffable,” that connection rests on a shared sense of mission and values. NIU Esports is built upon three pillars, with a vision to build community, promote healthy gaming, and support new technologies in learning and research.

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