College ‘questline’ made more affordable with new Fierce Gamer Scholarship


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The scholarship was open to any NIU student who considers themself a gamer, not just varsity athletes like most esports scholarships.

DeKALB – For the first time this year NIU is partnering with Dr. Levi Harrison, the creator of the Fierce Gamer app, and has given two NIU students the chance to receive the Fierce Gamer Scholarship.

Harrison is an orthopedic surgeon, physician, health and fitness coach and author, and is known in the gaming community as ‘the gamers & Esports doctor.’

“Well, over a decade ago while I was taking care of multiple gamers, we had a dialogue about myself, and that is really how I got that title,” Harrison said. “I thought it was unique, and I appreciated it and I thought, ‘OK great, I’ll take that moniker,’ and I even had it trademarked because no one else had!”

The partnership between Harrison and NIU will last five years. Originally, the plan was for Harrison to provide a $1,000 scholarship to one person the first year and he would add an additional scholarship for an additional person each year. Upon reading the top two submissions from the 2022 applicants, Harrison was so impressed that he decided that this year, he would give both applicants a $1,000 scholarship.

Why Harrison chose NIU

Despite being based in California, Harrison chose to partner with NIU. The university first got in contact when Harrison spoke as part of the NIU Esports Career lecture series in 2021. During the meeting, he saw something special here.

“I was really impressed with the student body that was present during that call,” Harrison said. “I wanted to do something special for them because they were so dedicated, and I could tell they were as invested in the gaming community as I am.”

The scholarship was open to any NIU student who considers themself a gamer, not just varsity athletes like most esports scholarships. Harrison chose to do this to increase the inclusiveness of the esports community here at NIU. 

Conner Vagle, NIU’s director of Esports, has been working with Harrison to make the scholarship the best it can be.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for our students,” Vagle said. “It’s open to anybody who considers themself a gamer. It kinda works hand-in-hand, because along with the scholarship, Dr. Levi (Harrison) is giving our students the opportunity to be beta testers for the Fierce Gamer project.”

The Fierce Gamer app

The Fierce Gamer app is currently in development, but alongside the scholarship being provided by Harrison, at least 100 students at NIU are being given the chance to test the app and the Try-Angle, a device for hand conditioning exercises. This has all been done to promote health and inclusivity in the gaming community.

“It (The Fierce Gamer app) will be an app people can download and really join a community of gamers globally,” Harrison said. “You cannot only build community with it but can learn different types of exercises and stretches to help prevent injuries while gaming. It will also be a website that will talk about mental health in the gaming community, suicide prevention and inclusivity.”

Scholarship recipients feel grateful, honored

The two scholarship recipients, senior psychology major Angelica Navarrete and senior management major James Westlund, were honored to be chosen for the scholarship.

“I think any scholarship, no matter how much, will help because the cost of college is super expensive,” Navarrete said. “No matter how much it is, it will cover a book or a class. It’s just nice to have that assistance.”

Both recipients were grateful to have their time as gamers pay off in such a big way.

“I was extremely happy about it. I’ve never received a scholarship like this,” Westlund said. “It was just super cool because I thought about how I’ve been gaming for a long time as a side thing. I never really thought it would go anywhere, but now I’m here receiving a scholarship for it, and that’s huge for me.”

Beyond the five-year plan

The Esports department at NIU hopes to continue their relationship with Harrison past the original five-year plan.

“I can’t speak to what might happen afterward, obviously we would love to continue that partnership,” Vagle said. “Whatever it ends up being, we are really excited to have this partnership, and this is certainly an awesome place to start at.”