Erin Ashley Simon and the University of Kentucky are pairing up for the Erin Ashley Simon Esports Internship Fund to help the next generation of esports professionals.

Erin Ashley Simon, the co-owner of XSET and esports broadcaster, has teamed up with the University of Kentucky for the Erin Ashley Simon Esports Internship Fund. This is her way of paying her success in the esports industry forward to the next generation of talent.

Financial support will be given to recipients with demonstratable financial needs who wish to pursue the University of Kentucky’s esports program. The internship will consist of a multiple-year program, which will offer extensive mentorship and experimental learning opportunities that engage and educate students on the many facets of the esports industry that extend far beyond the classroom.

UK’s esports program looks to bring together academics, community, professional development, collegiate competition, and multidisciplinary research around esports. It was developed in conjunction with Gen. G to create a truly innovative program that is unique to the University of Kentucky.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without UK,” Simon said. “UK was where I really built my journalism skills and had professors and fellow students who believed in me and my future. Now that I’m a broadcaster in gaming and entertainment, as well as a co-owner of the new esports organization XSET, it’s my turn to pay it forward.”

For Erin, this is more about creating experiences at the University of Kentucky that will help others follow in her footsteps with her alma mater.

“I wanted to start this scholarship because accessibility is not only an issue in education but also an issue in esports and gaming,” Simon said. “I want to help create an additional route for the youth to not only gain experiences in esports and get an education but to have an amazing experience at the University of Kentucky, the same way I did when I attended.”

Leadership at the University of Kentucky, such as Heath Price, the university’s associate chief information officer, look to this program to accelerate the growth of their esports program.

“UK wants to be a thought leader in the esports and video game community, building a foundation of technology investment that pushes the envelope in areas of social and competitive gaming and seeks to serve important community values–democratizing access to great career opportunities; respecting people on-and offline; and intentional outreach to interested parties irrespective of race, gender or identity,” Price said.

“Practical experiences are very important in the competitive professional landscape of today and tomorrow,” Price continued. “Opportunities like the Erin Ashley Simon Esports Internship Fund, that provide a combination of experience and mentorship, have the potential to be transformative when you consider the preparation necessary to compete for jobs and pursue careers across the rapidly evolving video game and esports industries.” had a chance to sit down with Erin Ashley Simon to talk about this exciting new initiative in partnership with the University of Kentucky.

Dustin Steiner, Americas Editor, What inspired the initiative to start offering scholarships to young people looking to get into esports?

Erin Ashley Simon: What inspired me to start a scholarship for young people looking to get into esports is the fact that the industry is not as much of a leveled playing field as many people think here in the U.S. Finance, technological equipment, travel, so many variables that make it difficult for low-income youth and those from underserved communities to truly develop a long-term,  successful career in this space and gaming overall. Plus, there’s no clear path to a professional career. I wanted to help address this while creating more access for those who may not have the means to.

Steiner: What are your thoughts on schools that offer esports-specific degrees?

Simon: I personally don’t agree with esports-specific degrees but, I do appreciate those in the collegiate scene who are trying to develop a more efficient and effective path for students to be successful in this industry and in life in general. Doesn’t mean we as an industry will always get it right but, better to try and do it the right way than not. This is why I wanted to set up this scholarship fund with my alma mater, the University of Kentucky. I liked how they integrated an esports program while still allowing students to pursue a traditional university degree – they are working with me to not only set up these students for esports but for life, which is the most important thing.

Steiner: While the initial partnership is with the University of Kentucky, have you talked with other schools about being included?

Simon: I’ve only talked to UK about this because it was important for me to do this with my alma mater. I had so many professors and people who helped me, guided me and believed in me while I attended the university. That same energy is one I want to instill into the scholarship fund for the students, and one I hope to instill further into its esports program. But I’ve had universities reach out about me eventually teaching at their schools. So, you never know what else the future holds!

Steiner: What specifically drew you to partnering with your Alma Mater for this program?

Simon: What drew me to partnering with my alma mater was both based on my experience while attending the university and the university’s relationship with Gen.G. I had overwhelming support from so many faculty members when I started pursuing a journalism and media career. Also, I have a good relationship with Gen.G staff, which makes it easier for all of us to help support the students. Hopefully soon enough I can bring XSET along for the journey with the scholarship fund as well.

Steiner: What can K-12 schools do for kids that are interested in having a career in esports?

Simon: Access and visibility are important at this age. Not only when it comes to the use of computers, programs and technology but, also for them to understand there are career opportunities outside of just being a professional player or content creator.  We need doctors, we need broadcasters, we need business and finance professionals – the ability to allow students to integrate multiple passions into future careers is key. Supporting that through access and visibility is important as well. And it’s our job as an industry to get involved with schools and universities to help increase visibility and access.

Steiner: What’s the biggest gap that isn’t being addressed in education for careers in broadcasting?

Simon: The biggest gap with esports broadcasting is the lack of career and skill development. Something that is a part of career growth in traditional media. And not just that, the essential journalism foundations are lacking a bit in esports as well. Esports has done a great job building it’s broadcast structure, developing unique, compelling and solid products. But, also the industry has a high turnover rate, and doesn’t help set transferable skills that can transfer over into other spaces of broadcasting/traditional media.

And on the traditional broadcasting side, some of the practices and programs need to get with the times and understand that areas like esports have changed the way the youth consume broadcasts and content. Some have yet to adjust to this change, and these changes need to be implemented more into the education systems. 

Steiner: How can the current generation of esports professionals improve the access and road to these careers in your opinion?

Simon: It’s a multilayered situation and answer. But, three core areas professionals should focus on are schools, local communities and non-profit organizations. These are three lanes that have an access level with the next generation and help to establish multiple lanes of opportunities. Because not every kid will take the university route, but they can receive access through other ways. It’s important we understand everyone’s journey is different, why tapping into multiple lanes and spaces is important.

Steiner: What words would you have for young people looking to be more involved in this side of esports?

Simon: If you are looking to come into esports, build skills and experiences outside of it. Not only will it bring more value and growth to the industry, but it will also help set you up for success both in the industry and in life.

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Dustin Steiner - Americas Editor

Dustin Steiner

Americas Editor | Twitter: @GetSteinered

Americas Editor for, Dustin Steiner brings a decade of esports newsroom experience to bring fans what they need to know, helping them keep their finger on the pulse of esports as it happens. When he's not helping run the newsroom, you can find him grinding it out on Smash Ultimate, Final Fantasy 14, or probably binge watching Gundam.