Dr. Marc Williams
Dr. Marc Williams is a master of networking. His LinkedIn profile is in the top one percent of all profiles worldwide, and his posts receive approximately 7.3 million views each month. Williams’ networking prowess is due, in part, to his successful sports marketing career for major brands such as Champs Sports, Reebok and Footaction. But Williams’ is more than a businessman – he is also an educator who uses his connections to help students.
Legacy Miami Magazine recently named Williams as one of 25 of Miami’s Top Black Educators of 2021 in recognition of his work at Florida Memorial University. For the past year, Williams has served in the Provost’s Office with the task of finding an innovative way to attract students with an interest in music, sports, fashion, and film to the university.
As part of his role at Florida Memorial University, Williams led groups of students through a monthly masterclass, during which students worked in groups to create innovative business plans that they proposed in 10-minute, Shark Tank-style presentations to top executives in the gaming industry. Students on the team with the top presentation received paid internships.
“For the entire year, I wondered if I was getting through to my students and making an impact,” Williams said. “When I received the award from Legacy Magazine, some of my students reached out to congratulate me and tell me that I did make an impact in their lives. It really means something when a student says that.”
The result of Williams’ work at Florida Memorial University was a certificate program in innovation, technology and entertainment with a concentration in the esports industry. Esports, short for electronic sports, is a rapidly growing field of organized video game tournaments that allow professional video game players to compete for large cash prizes.
Esports is a spectator sport where fans support specific teams or players and crowd into arenas to watch them compete. Much like other professional athletics competitions, esports presents opportunities for corporate partnerships, sponsorships, promotions, merchandising and ticket sales.
In fact, Williams’ experience with the video game industry dates back to his tenure with Champs Sports and Footaction, where he negotiated sports retail’s first video game product placement deal with video game publisher Activision/Blizzard in 2003. Today, the esports field represents approximately six percent of the nearly $200 billion video game industry, and continued growth is projected through 2026.
“I have worked closely with the video game industry and the sports industry to create internship opportunities for my students,” Williams said. “We were able to offer 25 internships this spring, and I’m very proud of that.”
Florida Memorial University’s program is one of just two of its kind among the 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States, and one of only 86 esports programs available in all U.S. colleges and universities.
Williams’ journey as an educator began when he chose to come to West Virginia University to earn his doctorate in curriculum and leadership. Though he had a strong background in sports marketing and entertainment, he wanted to further his knowledge in a field where he could positively impact the lives of others.
“Everything starts with education,” Williams said. “And I thought that no matter what I did in education, I could make a bigger difference because of my versatile background.”
During his time as a doctoral student, Williams conducted a mixed methods study on student athlete development with an emphasis on how to prepare athletes with the life skills they would need after their college careers. The study inspired Williams to include what he learned about student professional development in the subsequent positions he’s held in higher education.
“I incorporate what I did with student athletes on a daily basis,” Williams said. “I teach students professional development skills like how to market themselves, network, draft resumes and write proper emails."
Now, Williams will take on a new role as assistant vice president of innovation and technology and associate athletics director at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas. For Williams, the role encompasses much of the expertise he has gained throughout his career in sports, entertainment, and education.
“I will have the chance to create innovative programs and apply what I learned from my dissertation to create leadership programs for college athletes,” Williams said.
Williams, who now also serves as a member of the CEHS Visiting Committee, credits much of his success as an educator to his experiences as a WVU student. While studying in Morgantown, Williams was mentored by former College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences Dean Dana Brooks, former WVU President Jim Clements, and faculty members Sam Stack, Jay Cole, Constinia Charbonnette and Dan Hursh.
“I developed some amazing lifelong friendships at WVU, and it has a very special place in my heart,” Williams said.