Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Burned & Bruised: How to Rebuild as Higher Ed Digital Community Builders

This panel is a must-read/watch for any supervisor evaluating burnout, team morale, and value alignment.

People are experiencing a new type of burnout since the pandemic. In May 2021, a group of supervisors and community leaders came together and discussed ways that we’ve experimented, succeeded, and failed at navigating drastic changes and supporting our team. As digital community builders, what did we learn that we must hold on to, versus what still needs to be thrown away?

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). 

2:00 As a higher ed campus leader and industry community builder, what is one moment, strategy, or program you are especially proud of this spring?


12:36 For you personally, what are the early signs that you are experiencing burnout?


25:18 Direct supervisors and campus leaders can have a huge impact on the positive and negative experiences of employees – even before the pandemic. What have you learned about being a caring supervisor supporting your team?

As people managers, there are two different roles you have to play when you are going through changes. While you are going through the change as an individual, you are also expected to lead your team effectively. Therefore, you are playing the role of a communicator, liaison, advocate, resistance-manager, and sometimes coach. It’s important to keep in mind that change is individual - everyone goes through a process and timeline. As a supervisor, it’s important to know that we are going through the change ourselves, so modeling and mentoring the model of how we want staff to be is going to be very important.

I’m constantly having to come back with the idea “what is our WHY now?”. Based on what we are experiencing now, "how can we support one another?" My goal in leading my team is to provide agency to support and uplift each other. I need to be consistent in my presence, my affect, and in my decision making. I have to consistently bring us back to our WHY because in this time, you may be feeling a sense of restlessness and even purposelessness. And bringing us back to our why helps to lift up people on a team level.


36:20 If you could give the field of higher education a letter grade on handling workload and wellness for campus staff this past year – what would you give them and why?

As we think about what the year of 2021 will look like, which voices, which roles, and which experiences do we center?

Lots of institutions were forced to be flexible due to the pandemic. I’m really curious to see what institutions have learned from this experience as far as employee flexibility goes. For example, letting employees work from home for 2 days per week could help your parking problem and environmental issues.


46:40 In this past year, we’ve seen many colleagues leaving student affairs due to a variety of reasons. In thinking of ways to improve higher education as a whole, what do we have to improve to recruit, retain, and elevate our staff?

We are losing so many good people in higher education. I think this is a combination of recognizing important values and seeking opportunities to create life balance due to the pandemic. Higher education, especially student affairs in this year’s pandemic, there was an over-reliance and under-appreciation of the critical work led by our staff. As people start to align their personal and professional values, we should expect to see people leaving when their value is not reflected in their workplace. It’s important for us to stop and figure out how we can give our people a little more balance and assert that as an expectation.


58:00 What do you want to remind yourself in the Fall about lessons learned in Spring 2021?

“Organizational change happens at an individual level collectively”. Administrators have agency, have great ideas, and are the ones at the frontlines. If we don’t listen and don’t get them on the process for changes, there is going to be a big loss of value and information. If certain folks are always making the decision, you will get the same decision. So in thinking of staff retention during a time of change, how we include marginalized folks who are left out of the conversation is the key that allows us to create inclusive and equitable changes.


Tricia D. Brand, Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of Equity & Inclusion at Portland Community College

Tricia leads college-wide DEI strategies for Portland Community College (PCC). She initially joined PCC in 2014 as the Associate Dean of Student Development at their Southeast Campus. Tricia has also served as a senior-level administrator at small colleges and large research universities–supporting historically underrepresented students and engaging college equity, social justice and diversity strategies. Tricia is the co-chair of the PCC Preferred Future Task Force, a presidentially appointed college-wide response and communications team for local and national issues that blunt the sense of safety and belonging in their community. In May of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, Tricia advised the PCC communications team and supported the creation of a social media task force to bring college values and resources into digital community spaces. Very recently she was also appointed to chair a new task force examining the future of learning and work for PCC. Within the world of service in Student Affairs, she has served as a board member for Region V of NASPA and for OWHE (Oregon Women in Higher Education). She also serves as a member of the Policy Advocacy Council for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and was recently featured in their June 2020 Community Colleges Daily article,

Jon McBride, Associate Athletic Director for Communications and Media Strategy at Brigham Young University

Jon McBride is the associate athletic director for communications and media strategy in BYU Athletics where he combines a background of media relations, influencer relations, social media management and a passion for athletics. He previously was the director of digital communications in BYU’s central communications office. His most unique professional accomplishment was landing a pitch to Beyoncé’s publicist and getting a post out to her 63 million followers, but his most meaningful work has been in using Instagram stories to address hard-hitting and impactful topics on campus such as sexual assault, consent, mental health, racism, conflict management, respect and more.

Joe Sabado, Associate CIO of Student Affairs/Executive Director SIS&T at UC Santa Barbara

Joe Sabado is the Associate Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Student Affairs and the Executive Director for Student Information Systems and Technology (SIS&T) at UC Santa Barbara. He is also a member of the UCSB Student Affairs Executive Group. Joe leads a team of 65 employees in charge of providing information technology support for the 30 units within the Division of Student Affairs and the Graduate Division. Joe has 25 years of IT experience in Silicon Valley start-up, corporate, and higher education environments. The majority of his career has been at UC Santa Barbara. Joe received his BA in Political Science and Asian American Studies from UCSB and MBA from Capella University.

As a first-generation Filipino-American immigrant from the Philippines, Joe has experienced marginalization, including bullying and racism, faced leadership challenges, and has had to learn how to navigate organizational politics, including supervisor expectations and relationships with colleagues. Joe’s personal background and professional experiences influence his leadership, management, and mentoring principles rooted in diversity, equity, inclusion, and authenticity.

Kimberly Stern, Director of Social and Digital Media at Colorado State University

With 15 years of experience in strategic digital communications, Kimberly Stern leads Colorado State University’s award-winning Social and Digital Media team. Her team is responsible for setting the strategy and stewarding Colorado State University’s brand and reputation in the social and digital media space. She helped create a distinct voice for the institution that fans have come to trust and engage. She loves the challenge of blending the art and science of creating dynamic and engaging digital content. Under her leadership, CSU’s social media presence has blossomed into an internationally recognized powerhouse. The CSU Social and Digital Media team won a Webby Award (aka “Oscars of the Internet”) and is a Shorty Awards honoree (honoring the best in social media). Kimberly was recognized as an outstanding young leader and named to BizWest’s 2015 40 Under Forty.

About Josie, Moderator and Community Founder

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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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.

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