LOS ANGELES, CA (August 9, 2021) – Today, USC Games, ranked the #1 North American games program by Princeton Review eleven years running, announced that Microsoft is the latest financial backer for the Gerald A. Lawson Endowment Fund for Black and Indigenous Students, with the goal of increasing those groups’ representation in games and tech industries.
“We’re proud to work with USC Games to empower underrepresented communities to succeed in games,” said Matt Booty, Head of Xbox Game Studios at Microsoft. “We’re excited to see what the future generation of game creators will make.”
The Fund’s namesake, Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson, was responsible for the use of interchangeable ROM cartridges in-game consoles while working on a system called the “Fairchild Channel-F.” That 1970s innovation sparked today’s multi-billion-dollar games industry. One of the few Black engineers in the gaming industry during its inception, Mr. Lawson was also a member of the legendary “Homebrew Computer Club” whose members also included Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In 2018, Microsoft honored Mr. Lawson at that years’ Game Developer’s Conference.
More recently, in February 2021, Xbox celebrated Black voices during Black History Month and has been standing with the Xbox player community in support of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Black Lives Matter Support Fund, and Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
“We are determined that USC Games will be a place where diversity is valued and everyone is invited to create and play,” said Jim Huntley, USC Interactive Media & Games’ Professor and Head of Marketing, who led the Lawson Fund’s creation. “As costs continue to increase at all higher education institutions, one of the most significant challenges for students in underrepresented groups is simply ‘how to afford it.’ That’s why Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion, and Xbox Studios’ support of the Lawson Endowment Fund is so significant to improving their representation in the gaming and tech industries.”
The fund provides student support for Black and Indigenous students who wish to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in game design or computer science from USC's prestigious program. With financial support from additional game and technology companies and donors, USC Games’ vision is to expand the initiative and support other aspects of diversity and equity, including salary support for additional Black and Indigenous faculty as well as labs and projects that address issues that affect these communities. Student recipients of the funds will be known as Lawson Scholars.
Returns from the Endowment will support qualifying graduate and undergraduate games program students in both the School of Cinematic Arts and the Viterbi School of Engineering, beginning in the Fall 2022 semester. Donations to the Fund will be ongoing.
This press release originally appeared on GamesPress and has been edited for length, clarity and grammar.