MELBOURNE, FLA. — Dana Hustedt, who as director of esports at Grand View University helped propel that program to nationwide prominence and national rankings, has been hired to lead Florida Tech’s esports program.
Esports, or electronic sports, are video games “played in a highly organized, competitive environment,” according to an April 2020 report from Harvard International Review. Surveys of Florida Tech students have shown “extraordinary” interest in esports, Hustedt said, so her charge will be to translate that interest into a successful program that will usher Florida Tech into this growing and increasingly popular new facet of the collegiate experience.
“I’ve built a program once, and I know what we should do and shouldn’t do and how we evolve,” Hustedt, 25, said. “I am so excited to get to Florida Tech.”
At least 10 universities in Florida have esports programs, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, including Central Florida institutions Full Sail University and Rollins College in the Orlando area and Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.
Hustedt was hired in May 2018 as director of esports at Grand View, a university of about 2,000 students in Des Moines, Iowa, about 160 miles southeast of her hometown of Galva, Iowa. An alumna of Grand View, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing and played varsity softball, Hustedt was the first woman to lead a collegiate esports program. That distinction and her early success helped generate a lengthy profile in a leading ESPN publication.
During her time at Grand View, Hustedt was named to the Advisory Committee of the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD), a four-year-old group founded by Grand View University esports leaders that is now the primary professional organization for competitive esports coaches and directors at all levels of competitive play.
“We bring much needed professional development and education to administrators, coaches and the general public,” said Hustedt, who has been particularly involved with event content and organization.
She brings all of this experience and insight to Melbourne, but there is a major distinction between Hustedt’s former program and her new one, beyond the weather on campus: She will have a dedicated building to house the Florida Tech program in what is currently the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts.
“A lot of programs are not blessed with a standalone building,” she said.
The conversion of the two-story building will add the power necessary to run 36 advanced gaming stations and overhaul the interior space. In its initial iteration, the top floor will house three areas: a competitive area for the esports team; a recreation area for all students; and a console area where students can bring their own Xboxes and PlayStations and play with friends on large TV screens.
The first floor will house offices, and other space will eventually be converted into the competitive area, allowing the recreational space on the second floor to expand.
With the program’s home set, Husted will focus on building Florida Tech esports. That will first involve a tryout phase to help determine where interested students fit into competitive rankings. Those evaluations will in turn help determine the games the program offers. Potential options include League of Legends and Rocket League, with Super Smash Bros., Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch as possible choices, as well.
“We want to create a really inclusive community on campus that has competitive and leisure players,” Husted said.
The Florida Tech program will likely join several leagues and programs, including the Riot Scholastic Association of America, which offers Overwatch leagues; CSL Esports, which offers online league operations and administrative support, content creation and distribution, on-campus events and more; and Upsurge Esports, which offers leagues in Rocket League, League of Legends and other games.
Bino Campanini, senior vice president for student life and alumni affairs, said Hustedt is a welcome addition to Florida Tech.
“We are very pleased to have someone with Dana’s knowledge and experience joining Florida Tech,” he said. “She is a recognized leader in college esports who, along with our new esports center, will provide our student body with a first-class esports program.”