The companion to the Student Social Media Academy:

Build campus community and lead with actionable, authentic, and data-informed social media strategies and skills

In an era marked with continual challenges — where higher education grapples with mental health concerns, crisis communications, and the constant ebb and flow of change — the need for strategic engagement is more crucial than ever.

As we confront obstacles like the demographic cliff, enrollment gaps, and retaining students in a digitally-driven world, the Digital Community Cohort serves as a source of knowledge and collaboration.

We know how important it is to reach students where they are, but what can we do when “where they are” isn’t always a physical place but a digital space – unlocked and open 24/7.

Social media managers and communicators in higher education are charged with developing and fostering a spirit of community on physical campuses and in digital spaces.

Digital platforms, along with the ways our students use them, are ever-changing. Staying aware of shifting online cultures, features, trends, and best practices is an ongoing effort. It requires frequent research and dedicated time.

Social media management is not an easy task, nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution.

Authentic engagement means having professional staff with advanced skills to use social media with purposeful strategy.

Embracing social media is no longer a choice; it's a necessity.

A time of scarce resources and constantly changing targets calls for us to work together to support our colleagues, share knowledge from reputable sources, and implement data-driven approaches.

To stay relevant and engaging and to best serve our students, higher education professionals must prepare to foster digital connections. That means understanding a variety of social media – but more importantly, it means having skills in digital community-building, no matter the platform.

You don't have to figure it out all on your own.

Participating in the Cohort will significantly and rapidly improve your digital community-building skills, from hands-on learning to practical frameworks and lessons you can implement immediately. In just two months, you’ll learn from our brilliant collective what would likely take two years to piece together on your own.

That's where the

comes in!

Save the date for the 2025 Cohort.

The Cohort uses an online Mastermind format, where the discussion centers around the participants (you) and they determine the group’s agenda. This allows you to experience the benefits of community firsthand as you learn digital engagement skills in a small-group environment.

With guidance and skill-building materials provided by Dr. Josie Ahlquist and a team of expert faculty, you will develop at least one well defined strategy that can be implemented for your own audience and institution.

What past cohort participants have experienced

If social media is in your job description or annual goals, this will take you from "other duties as assigned" to "social media marketer" in two months!
Samantha Armstrong Ash
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Eastern Washington University
This program gives an accessible, well-structured view of how Digital Community Managers can be successful in their roles through knowledgeable faculty, an active online peer group, and strong exercises and templates. The peer learning elements and close faculty support help people doing this work to understand how to do it better.
Troy Wiggins
Director of Marketing, Rhodes College

Who is this program for?

The Digital Community Cohort is an ideal investment in your professional development, especially if you are…

From coordinators to vice presidents, the Digital Community Cohort provides a comprehensive learning experience suitable for individuals at various levels within educational institutions.

Program Curriculum Overview

The Cohort will meet twice weekly – one coaching session with Dr. Josie Ahlquist, and one workshop with expert faculty mentors.

Social Media Goal Setting & Strategy

You’ll set and articulate your goals for building a digital community. This process includes defining and understanding your audience and key performance indicators.

Community & Content Management

With the strategy in place, we will wrap it up in a framework for community management that aligns your goals, audience demographics, team capacity, and frequency of posting.

Digital Community-Evaluation & Metrics

We’ll work on building a system for evaluating your digital strategies, from selecting metrics to tracking analytics and communicating findings to colleagues, supervisors, and senior leaders.

The program is back for the sixth time, and will be offered starting February 2025.

Register for 2025 program with 2024 prices

Here’s what you can expect when you sign up.

2-Month Program

20-30 Members
Per Cohort

One Workshop and One Coaching Session Each Week

8 Online Learning Modules

Digital Community Builder Toolkit


You’ll have access to anyone in the Cohort, Dr. Josie, and the faculty team at any time in the Digital Cohort Discord.

Bonus Content

Social Media Strategy Calendar & Goal Setting System

Digital Evaluation Tracking Tools

Digital Community Certificate of Completion

Meet the Faculty Mentors

Click on a faculty photo to read their bio!

Krista Boniface

Senior Social Media Strategist, University of Toronto

Jenny Li Fowler

Director of Social Media, MIT

Katy Spencer Johnson

Digital Strategist, KSJ Consulting

Danielle Sewell

Director of Digital Marketing, York College of Pennsylvania

Maya Wesby

Social Media Manager, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Josie Ahlquist

Digital Engagement & Leadership Consultant

This cohort helped me realize what I needed to do to really bring my social media strategy into focus. The ideas shared and information presented helped me create a cohesive vision for all digital communities I currently support. Without the support of the cohort and knowing there are those who are in similar structures, I would still be sitting and just second-guessing all of my choices and implementation strategies.
Jamie Arrexi
Communications Manager, Texas A&M University
The Digital CommunityCohort gave me the tools I needed to elevate our social media presence and tell our communities' stories in ways that our students and their families can really use. This program offers invaluable assets for professional communicators in Higher Ed!
Christopher Bogs
Marketing Coordinator, University of Pennsylvania

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Institutional Impact

The Cohort's curriculum ensures that participants understand the dynamics of social media and are equipped to articulate clear, measurable goals and strategies.

By the end of the program, participants will have a comprehensive toolkit of skills and insights, enabling them to demonstrate the impact of their digital community initiatives across their respective institutions.

Key Takeaways

Pricing & Financial Aid

Pricing for the Digital Community Cohort is bundled into one simple, all-inclusive price which includes:

Total Investment:


*Payment plans and institutional discounts are available upon request (minimum of two employees). Payment through invoice available for all.

A limited number of scholarships are available, depending on financial need.

Up to three scholarships have been established to honor a commitment to equity and inclusion.

Priority considerations will include BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), unemployed professionals, those with financial need, or individuals without access to professional development funds from their employer.

Don’t just adapt to change.

Drive it.

What a FUN way to learn. Josie manages to perfectly blend knowledge, expertise, and direct application in her DigiCohort. You'll not only learn from experts and mentors, but have direct access to their expertise in both digital and personal ways. The small cohort space allows you to get to know your fellow participants and a safe space to learn and grow. The sessions are applicable, address hot topics within social media, and allow you to put the knowledge learned into practice almost immediately.
Amy White
Sr. Digital Content Specialist, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science
Josie’s cohort offered me a fresh perspective on social media strategy and management. The course content gets to the essence of what social media is really about: connecting others and building community. I am grateful not only for all of the insights I gained, but also the camaraderie I experienced with faculty and participants.
Cara Fleck Plewinski
Director for Strategic Communications & Marketing, University of Maryland

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Josie has two decades working in higher education, with the last ten years focused on educating, researching, and writing about building digital communities and purpose-driven social media strategy. Learn more about Josie’s experience and passion, as well as her research, consulting, speaking, publications, and much more!

Frequently Asked Questions

While the program is structured for those in Higher Education, the Digital Community Cohort is an ideal investment in your professional development if you are looking to transition into marketing and communications or want to gain additional skills in social media. We have had participants from K-12, non-profits, local governments and small business sectors.

No! In a time when digital environments simultaneously create deep connections and foster incredible divides, we can help one another. Participating in the Cohort will significantly and rapidly improve your digital community-building skills.

We highly encourage you to block out the time in your calendar since the meetups only occur over the course of two months. The Cohort uses a Mastermind format, allowing you to experience the benefits of online community firsthand as you learn digital engagement skills in a small-group environment.

$2,000 for two months of a Mastermind-style curriculum, six workshops, nine coaching sessions, eight online learning modules, eight templates and worksheets and a lifetime access to program modules and materials.

Payment plans and institutional benefit pricing is available upon request. A limited number of scholarships are available, depending on financial need.

Because this is a hands-on experience with weekly coaching sessions, workshops, and learning modules, the program will be offered in real-time, starting in February. However, all materials including recordings, slides and resources will be accessible to participants during and after the program.

This program will be offered the first week of February until the last week of March. The Cohort meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm EST / 1pm PST.

The cohort does include online modules that are slowly released throughout the program. However the other major component is the twice live weekly meet-ups. Once per week is a workshop with a faculty member. The other unique coaching session is a mastermind-style, where cohort members will be able to bring celebrations and challenges in a supportive and constructive environment.

There will be multiple resources and exercises shared throughout the program. None of these are required to be turned in, nor will be graded. What is required is participation, both in the Slack community, as well as attending as many meet-ups as possible.

Yes! We’ve put together this document that provides a quick explanation of the Cohort, how the Cohort will help your staff member, how it will help your overall team, and last but not least, what the investment structure and cost is for the program.

Build campus community and lead with actionable, authentic, and data-informed social media strategies and skills

More from Dr. Josie

Digital Communities

Book: Digital Leadership in Higher Education (2020)

Podcast Episode: The Students’ VP with Gourjoine M. Wade
Blog: Supporting Students Who Run Campus Social

Group Program: Student Social Media Academy

Get in Touch

Still have questions about the #DigiCohort? Josie would be happy to chat so you feel ready for this transformational program!

Krista Boniface

Senior Social Media Strategist, University of Toronto


Krista Boniface is a Senior Social Media Strategist overseeing the central social media presence for Canada’s top university, the University of Toronto at @UofT. She has 8 years of marketing communications experience in higher education, non-profits and start-up environments. Krista has created strategy, social media activations, video and web content for the central U of T communications team, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, the Canadian Screen Awards, Toronto International Film Festival as well as a Canada 150 Signature Project for the Canada’s sesquicentennial. At the University of Toronto, Krista loves interacting with brilliant students, the endless possibilities of social engagement and making a real impact on the experience of the U of T community. Talk to her about social media strategy, creating an authentic story on social or how to avoid burnout when you’re at the helm of social channels and poutine.

Connect with Krista

Jenny Li Fowler

Director of Social Media Strategy at MIT

Jenny Li Fowler is the director of social media strategy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of “Organic Social Media, How to Build Flourishing Online Communities”. She is also host of the podcast, “Confessions of a Higher Ed Social Media Manager”. Jenny heads the development and execution of Institute-wide social media initiatives and campaigns and provides consultation for crisis communications.

She provides guidance and direction for more than 260 departments, labs, and centers, and manages MIT’s flagship social media accounts. Prior to MIT, she served as Social Media Manager and Web Editor for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Jenny is a trusted voice in higher ed social media and across the social media marketing space.

Connect with Jenny

Katy Spencer Johnson

Digital Strategist, KSJ Consulting and Dr. Josie Ahlquist Inc.


Katy Spencer Johnson, SMS (she, her, hers) is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Educator, & Marketing Consultant. Passionate about digital literacy and social media best practices, Katy teaches marketing, goal setting, and digital community building.

Katy has worked in various marketing roles across the higher education, non-profit, finance, healthcare, and publishing industries and now supports clients as the owner of KSJ Consulting.

Katy shares her passion for content and community for higher education and the advancement of marketing best practices as a National Institute for Social Media Board Member and former Social Media Track Chair and Community Ambassador for the Eduweb Digital Summit.

Katy has appeared as a guest on the Why I Social, Talks with Thompson, and NIche Enrollment Insights podcasts and co-authored “ Social media advocacy framework in action: Focusing on the student journey to inspire real world engagement at Quincy College” for the Journal of Educational Advancement in Marketing. She has also presented at industry leading conferences on social media community building and crisis management.

She still wields a fairly mean editorial red pen and can be found with odd grammatically incorrect social media on LinkedIn.

Connect with Katy

Danielle Sewell

Director of Digital Communications and Marketing at York College of Pennsylvania


Danielle Sewell has over 12 years of experience in strategic marketing and communications, in industries ranging from academic publishing to private business and consulting. She has been working in higher education since 2014, where she specializes in content strategy, digital media, brand development, and organizational storytelling.

Danielle completed her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, followed by an M.A. and M.F.A. from Wilkes University. She is an active member of the higher education marketing community, serving on the Annual Conference Committee for the Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb) as well as the Marketing Committee for the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA).

She lives in York, PA with her husband, Scott, and their dog, Cosmo.

Connect with Danielle

Maya Wesby

Social Media Manager, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Maya Wesby is the Social Media Manager for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she handles the ideation, execution, and analysis of content across channels. She curates the school’s social presence by engaging with the campus community, promoting school-wide events, and adapting editorial posts and announcements into social-first content. She supports the school’s brand as a leading institution in the education field and as a welcoming community for those who want to Learn to Change the World.

Connect with Maya

Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

Connect with Rebekah

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