Southern’s Inaugural S-Con Gaming and Pop Culture Convention a Success for the College and Community

On Saturday, July 28, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College let its youth show. The nearly 50-year-old institution hosted its inaugural S-Con gaming and pop culture convention. And, from all indications, it was a success. Early estimates show the college welcomed about 350 people – of all ages, and entire families – who just wanted to be part of the day’s events.

“Really, our only goal was to give our students and our community a fun day, and show them what Southern has to offer,” Joe Nelson, Southern’s Web and Graphics Designer – and one of the driving forces behind S-Con – said. “Quite literally, we were looking to put the ‘community’ back in our ‘community college.’”

The idea for S-Con was nothing new. With the increased popularity of video games like Fortnite, conventions of this sort are branching out at many universities and towns across America. Rick Thompson and Matt Payne, Southern’s IT instructors, and FAA-certified drone pilots, had the idea several years ago. They thought it could be a great event for students and for the college.

“I just kept thinking about how much our students would enjoy something like this,” Thompson said. “The more I heard them talking about it, the more it started taking shape.” There was just one problem: time.

Busy schedules had initially halted the plans, at least temporarily. Further discussions with students – and Joe Nelson – convinced Thompson it could be a go, in spite of some obvious drawbacks. “The timeline was always the issue,” Nelson said. “We were never trying to compete with any other event. We just wanted a good day for our students, something that would draw them to the college and something that would be fun. Essentially, that was what was driving us from the beginning.”

Southern welcomed vendors from the world of comics and art, as well as Marshall University and the Southern Coalition for the Arts.

Payne gave drone demonstrations, and had even set up an obstacle course for visitors. The drones were one of the event’s most popular features, but that’s no surprise. Southern’s Drone Technology Program continues to be among its most sought-after, helping its IT program flourish, cementing itself as one of Southern’s most successful and fun programs.

“I’ve not seen anything like this at Southern since I was a student here about a decade ago,” Leah Clay Stone, Production Manager for the Southern Coalition for the Arts, said. “It’s just incredible.”

In the end, the event really did help the community: all proceeds from on-site vendors went to fund scholarships through Southern’s Foundation, which helps students from the area attend Southern at little to no cost.

“This really has been a great day,” Southern’s President, Dr. Robert Gunter, said. “I can see this becoming an annual event.”

Plans for next year’s S-Con are already in the works. If you’d like to be a part of the planning, you are encouraged to contact Rick Thompson at [email protected].