“Josh is getting about the best scholarship we can offer at KWU.”

For Joshua Hoerner, having a seemingly random set of skills will pay off.

The Smoky Valley High School senior signed last week to study accounting at Kansas Wesleyan University in the fall with a scholarship totaling more than $100,000 over the next four years, based on his abilities in band, choir and playing competitive video games.

“He’s getting an eSports scholarship, band scholarship, choir and he’s also a very bright kid so he’s awarded for his good ACT score as well,” said Ken Hakoda, music department chair at Kansas Wesleyan University. “Josh is getting about the best scholarship we can offer at KWU.”

Hoerner is one of many high school seniors across the nation who are using diverse sets of skills to stack up good scholarships, which Hakoda believes is key to building leaders in the future.

“I think that diversity is the core of a liberal arts education. The mission of that is to educate well-rounded people for the future. Joshua is a textbook example of that,” Hakoda said. “He’s very talented in a lot of disciplines.”

Hoerner is an All-State euphonium player, member of the Smoky Valley High School choir and band, and academically strong student. For Hoerner, this variety of skills could make a difference to a potential employers.

“It definitely helps to show people what I’m good at when I have this list of achievements. Though I probably won’t be a professional gamer or euphonium player, an employer might see those skills and know that I can work well on a team or that I’m reliable,” Hoerner said. “These will definitely perk an interest in a job interview.”

Many students seek a liberal arts education specifically because they can hone several of their abilities at once, rather than feeling pigeon-holed in larger universities.

“At Kansas Wesleyan, we have this theme of ‘The Power of And.’ Josh fits into that perfectly — at small colleges like Kansas Wesleyan, students can do band and choir and eSports,” Hakoda said. “If you go to a big school, you tend to get stuck in one thing. Here, he’ll be a busy kid. Everything he’s doing now, he can do in college and get a scholarship for it.”

One of KWU’s newest activities, eSports, awards scholarships to students who posses strong teamwork and competitive skills in playing League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game. These teams compete around the world, and the sport is gaining recognition.

“They can get scholarships anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000,” said KWU’s eSports Coach Alex Walsh. “We’re the seventh school in the nation to offer scholarships for this, now there’s about 35 other schools offering them as well. I hope it continues growing in the future.”

KWU is part of the National Association of Collegiate eSports, the association of college and university-sponsored eSports programs that promotes the education and development of students through intercollegiate participation. The association creates an institution-approved structure so these video games become opportunities for players to attend college through scholarship opportunities.

Playing team-based competitive video games can offer team-building opportunities outside of athletics.

“I really enjoy being part of a team, but I’ve never been very athletic, so this is a way for me to be part of a team outside of music,” Hoerner explained. “I didn’t think I’d get anything out of joining the team, so getting a scholarship from this is really cool.”

With League of Legends, players are ranked by ability on a leader board, so coaches like Walsh can scout and recruit top players.

“I’m glad that this is gaining some interest on sports channels so people can see how competitive it is. People compete from all over the world,” Walsh explained. “I compare eSports to basketball — we match five of our players against five players from another team. The objective is to use your team strategy to get to the enemy base before they get to ours. There’s a lot of defense strategics and knowing how the map works. We have about 15 players right now and I hope to recruit more.”