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Spelman College Receives $1 Million Gift from Zynga to Establish Gaming Program and Provide Scholarships For Students

Spelman College Receives $1 Million Gift from Zynga to Establish Gaming Program and Provide Scholarships For Students
Posted By: Kennedy Williams on November 17, 2021

Zynga, a global leader in interactive entertainment, recently announced a $1 million gift to establish scholarships and implement a pilot gaming program for Spelman College students.

“Spelman has a long tradition of expanding the pipeline of talent into areas where Black women have been most underrepresented. To continue this trend for our current and future students, we all must work collaboratively to provide real-world, educational, and hands-on experiences,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “Through our partnership with Zynga, Spelman will continue to make a global impact by shortening the gender and racial divide present in gaming and tech.”

The gift will support students like Madeleine Brown, a computer science major, and Anetha Evans, an art major and Japan studies minor. Brown and Evans will be the first recipients of the Zynga Scholarship, which was developed to help students complete college with less debt.

“Video games have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and my studies here at Spelman helped me gain the skills to better traverse the world of game development,” Brown said. “To be named one of the first recipients of this scholarship means that I am paving the way for other women who are interested in STEM and gaming.”

In addition to scholarships, the gift will also fund the Zynga Gaming Lab, housed within the Spelman Innovation Lab.



The Gaming Lab will guide students through the process of creating game theory, design and development through immersive storytelling, 3D modeling and other aspects of interactive media.

Evans and Brown will join a group of STEM and non-STEM students in the Lab as they explore game design, virtual reality, 3D simulation, immersive storytelling and other game-related concepts and their application in the social, educational, storytelling, research and entertainment fields.

“Students in the Lab were beginning to request a more formal treatment of the topic of game development and immersive storytelling,” said Jerry Volcy, Ph.D., Brown-Simmons professor and co-director of the Innovation Lab. “With support from Zynga, game development can grow from a budding student interest to a study that can be integrated into the formal curriculum.”

Through Spelman’s Innovation Lab, students are introduced to new technologies that can be leveraged to articulate the African American experience through the eyes of Black women. Whether the story is in the form of an artistic expression, a dance, a narrative film or a game, the Lab provides a forum for ideation.

"This opportunity means that I will be able to focus more on my studies and my artistic endeavors, which include creating a graphic novel, animation, YouTube video production, and other forms of digital art,” said Evans.

The gift will also help encourage the growth of diversity in the gaming industry through internships and career mentoring programs that will pair students with current Zynga employees.

“We are proud to work with Spelman College in a collaborative effort to increase Black, female representation in the gaming industry”, said Vijay Pendakur, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer of Zynga. “Through this investment from Zynga's Social Impact Fund we are creating new pathways for Black students that will inevitably shape a more diverse and inclusive gaming industry.”
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