Jordan Olver is the Esports Manager for Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) in downtown Honolulu and a freelance Esports Consultant. Oliver joined HPU after working at Randolph College, establishing and managing the college's Esports program. He also teaches Esports Business foundations and Community/League Development at Vancouver Animation School.
In an interview with NAECAD, Oliver speaks about the program's success and offers leadership philosophy and program advice based on his experience in esports.
This upcoming semester, the Esports Program at HPU focuses on three things. First, their communities are at the center of it all, which means scaling up their presence. Not just within the Hawaii Pacific University network but in the state of Hawaii in general and within their community.
Oliver explains that it's imperative that they provide access to esports, not just events, and participation on teams, but also the esports economy in general. They are also keeping up with current marketing trends and preparing their students and population for the esports industry.
Secondly, Oliver points out that they look forward to their Valorant season and teams. They have coaching set up for Valorant, and they will also support a League of Legends team.
“We're looking forward to a good season of some fresh faces, and we have scholarships, so this season must be handled with intent. We also have to make sure we're building value for our students. We'd like to see a winning record, but the satisfaction of a sense of accomplishment at the end of our semester would be excellent. I want to ensure that every one of our students who comes to the door feels like they got something out of this commitment.”
The last thing Oliver would say for the Fall Semester is the education component. They are developing an esports certificate, curriculum committee, and, hopefully, their Esports Management course. A practicum that will be part of that certificate will also be ready in the spring. They are also establishing how impactful their students will be able to be in their community and working in esports as part of that practicum.
There are two ways that HPU’s esports program approaches this. One is in the now, as they want to ensure that their success is measured in moments and not just in semesters. This is why they take a day-to-day individual approach to esports students and workers.
It's also vital for Oliver to maintain those close relationships and communication with their students. Ensuring that they feel taken care of is a huge thing for him. Success-wise, win or lose, the win condition is different for everybody in esports. Oliver notes that when the students walk in the door, he likes to establish that win condition for today and for the semester.
Secondly, grades, personal satisfaction, mental health, and personal development are things that they take very seriously.
“I would say long term, how I measure success as a director, is it is individual again on a one by one basis. I like to see that change and development in our students. Whether in their portfolio, their actual footprint in the game, or their media footprint. What they're doing or their events that they're helping us iterate through the arena,”
They consider it a success when they see students walk away with some new avenue of interest. A way that they might be able to impact the world, let alone the world of esports. Oliver also wants this to be a diverse and equitable community. However, he tries to ensure that their win conditions are met when everyone walks out the door. They want to make sure that students look back on this time and feel like they are a part of something that mattered. Not just to themselves but also to the HPU, the state of Hawaii, and whatever community they belong to.
When it comes to improving experiences, HPU’s esports program likes to ensure that everyone feels welcome in the room and feels heard. Oliver thinks it's crucial to not only roadmap what they’re doing but also be willing to tack that roadmap. To be able to shift directions based on who they’re trying to reach and who they’re failing to reach.
They like to make sure that everybody has a spot at the table. They also believe anyone invested in esports or its community has a place in the HPU esports arena. Oliver explains that this is important and shows in their community events and interactions with each student.
“There is no demographic that we're targeting here. This is for everybody, and the messaging will always be as such at HPU that it is for everybody. Hawaii exists in a very nuanced position in the world, and we must be true to that message. We're working with local community partners to ensure everyone's needs are heard and met.”
HPU’s esports program is also very inclusive, and they enjoy being in the Asia-pacific market. Koreans, Japanese, Americans, and people from all over the world come in with different languages. They are trying to curate that sort of welcoming experience for their students and get them that diverse International exposure that is the world of gaming.
The esports program is a space for community engagement, but also a space for education and personal development. This is why they try to teach students to help lower toxicity and break down barriers. Oliver notes that improving that overall experience is not just ensuring our students aren't feeling burnout but making sure they feel heard, taken care of, and part of a family.
Higher education's best practices and pillars are a great fit for something like esports. Trying to push that Scholastic effort, hard work, and community service are all fantastic things for sportsmanship. However, Oliver prefers to take a mix of the Laissez-faire Democratic approach.
He wants to hear every voice in the room and build out how they’re going to take an approach to anything. This is because every team and every new class is different. Once he has learned about his students, he can then take a command and control approach and help build on their strengths.
“I think the leadership philosophy is empowering our students again on that one-on-one basis to help them come together to empower each other. They can then work as a team and a community to have a meaningful impact on esports.”
Oliver advises the Coaches and Directors of esports programs to empower their communities and the people around them. It is essential to work with intent and find the people around you that have questions and don't see the legitimacy of esports.
“I think it's important that our coaches and directors work with intent and listen to our community. To make sure we're servicing not the community that necessarily exists on campus but the community around you and the community you want to build. To ensure we're bringing new people in the door and sharing these opportunities.”
Oliver further explains that coaches and directors need to work together. They need to lean on each other to help build the foundation. This ensures they're all working on even ground and coming together to uplift each other. Through this, they can broaden their horizons and continue supporting esports with a holistic approach.