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Discord: the New Campus Quad

Discord is showing higher ed how to meet your students where they’re at digitally, and with its “Discord for College” and university tag program, Discord is also here to stay as a part of campus life.

If Slack is for business, then Discord is for social – in growing numbers, our students are “at” Discord engaging and interacting with their peers. Once a predominantly gaming platform, Discord has broadened its horizons and people are hopping on board. In April 2021, the higher ed digital builders came together to discuss and learn about the force that connected 300 million users with 6.7 million. unique communities on Discord. More importantly, we asked the question: where would our campus communities fit in this relatively new platform? And how to support and facilitate engagements without taking over their spaces?

About Higher Ed Digital Community Builders

Organized by Dr. Josie Ahlquist, this Facebook group is a clubhouse for higher education professionals to connect, reimagine and transform how we build genuine campus digital communities and strategic online engagement experiences. Every week, community members share resources, discussions, and opportunities to further develop digital communities that serve our students, families, and partners in timely, innovative, and supportive ways.

Highlighted Content from Panelists

Links to what was mentioned during the panel (Click on the Image for Links). 

[5:32] When did you first discover Discord the platform? How would you describe Discord to a non-user?

[12:18] What is the difference between a server and a channel?

[14:02] What are the common cultures and norms that the students are following when entering the discord space?

[17:37] How have you been using discord? What are some of the learned lessons or proud moments?

Find the person who is doing the moderation for your institution already, and build a partnership with them. The lesson is to pay attention to what students are saying and forming on other platforms, so try to work with the moderator and establish an official presence in these spaces.


[28:25] What are some things that higher education needs to consider if they want to become a moderator? Or a participant?


[39:00] How do you ensure that the joining members are reliable and affiliates of the community?

[41:55] What are the types of programming or possibilities that work in Discord?


[46:16] How do you define “success” using Discord in the context of higher education? How should one set realistic goals for the community and get leadership approval for it?

Discord is like a play yard or quad since students can’t go to a physical campus anymore. As long as they are talking, respecting, and having fun in the space, that’d be a success.


[53:30] Are there any servers that you’d recommend for others to join for development purposes?

[56:07] What is one takeaway that higher education should know if they want to build a digital community using Discord?


Benny Balderrama, Program Manager of Student Life, Bakersfield College

Benny Balderrama is a West Covina native in the Los Angeles area. He attended the University of La Verne where he majored in Psychology. He earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs. In his free time, he is a moderator for content creators on Twitch and Discord.

Shauna Brunea, Program Coordinator of Student Life, Lake Tahoe Community College

Shauna Brunea is the Progam Coordinator of Student Life at Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC). Shauna created different media platforms including Discord to engage the student body when she took the office she holds now. She then used those platforms to host events when the world transitioned to digital education at the onset of COVID. Shauna has a team of student ambassadors who are in direct contact with prospective and current students to answer their questions. Her favorite part of her department is interacting with the amazing student body both in-person and digitally (even if it is over Zoom).

Dayana Kibilds, Acting Director of Undergraduate Recruitment & Admissions, Western University

Dayana Kibilds is the Acting Director of Undergraduate Recruitment & Admissions at Western University. Previously, she served as a program manager of undergraduate recruitment at Western, and she was a digital strategist at Cornell University and a business analyst at Penn State. Her favorite work happens when she can combine the analytical and the creative, and her strength is creating strategy-based both on data and intuition. Day spends her evenings answering prospective student questions on Reddit and Discord.

Moderator & Community Founder, Josie

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building community online.

Josie absolutely loves fostering and educating about digital community building. So, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she created a Facebook group called the Higher Ed Digital Community Builders, which has grown to nearly 2,000 members. She also created and manages the Digital Community Building Cohort, a mastermind educational program for higher education social media managers to improve online community building strategies.

As a researcher and writer, Josie is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast, which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World was listed as an Amazon #1 new release for college and university student life.

She also serves as a teaching faculty at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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