Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Training and Empowering Students as Digital Community Builders

If you are thinking of recruiting students as social media managers for your team, this conversation will get you thinking strategically on how to hire, train, and empower students to be purposeful digital community builders for your campus.

In September 2020, we got together to share examples of successful leadership programs. From influencer programs t0 marketing teams, come and hear how to enable students to help shape the institutional culture with content creation and leadership development.

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). 

[0:20] Who you are and where you build digital community(s), despite COVID – what is a fall tradition that you look forward to?

[7:05] What are some ways that you have integrated students intentionally in building digital communities?

During a time like COVID, it’s one thing for the university to push institutional messages, but it’s so much more effective when our students share peer-to-peer messages that model these behaviors.

Influencer program; the main objective is just the fact that without the student, what stories can we tell? The main goal is to show other students and prospective students what’s out there for them. I can do this and post all day on social media, but at the end of the day, students know what's going on outside of my four walls. They can tell the stories way better than I can.

Having an authentic space means that we are giving students the freedom to share stories that are positive and critical using our social media platform. This context brings our platform a sense of authenticity where we are willing to take a critical look at ourselves.

[15:55] What are the logistics of tapping into students for a program, philosophy, or administrative process that you’ve integrated into your strategy?


[29:00] – Have there been a commonality that students in these positions need more training on vs. something they actually have more skills than one might realize?

One of the interesting things I’ve learned from student leaders was that they were very nervous when it comes to posting on social media because they felt that the content may not be something that they should post on the branded account, such as them just hanging out with friends at a coffee shop. I had to tell my students that it’s ok to be authentic, be real, and be honest about your life as a student, because not every day will look the same. Once we had that conversation and I showed them that it’s ok to be personal, they then started to feel more comfortable.


[39:19] How can these student positions be transformational experiences?


[46:53] What is an example of something that has worked really well that’s been student-faced and student-run?


Lesley D’Souza, Director of Strategic Storytelling & Digital Engagement at Western University

Lesley D’Souza is a student affairs assessment professional who specializes in storytelling with data. Currently, she is the Director of Strategic Storytelling & Digital Engagement in Western University’s Student Experience division. After focusing on assessment and storytelling in her two previous roles, Lesley is exploring how data-informed stories can be used to intentionally shift the culture in positive directions using digital engagement best practices. Lesley has held leadership roles in the Canadian Association of College & University Student Services and ACPA – College Educators International. She is co-authoring an upcoming book “Design Thinking in Student Affairs” to be published September 2021. She has an MA in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. She’s a mom of two boys and an avid gardener, tea drinker, writer, musician and random fact junkie. Ask her anything! She hopes to write a book someday, get a Ph.D. and inspire others.

Kati Hartwig, Digital Media Specialist at Columbus Regional Airport Authority

After two years of working for a wonderful nonprofit in the Pittsburgh area, Kati returned to Youngstown State University to obtain a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Communication. She has previously served as the university’s Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator. She worked closely with colleges and departments across campus, building and maintaining a positive and brand-centered social footprint. Since June 2021, Kati has started a new adventure working in the Columbus Regional Airport Authority as a Digital Media Specialist.

Jamie Lewis, Social Media Coordinator at The University of Georgia

An avid reader and runner, Jamie Lewis joined UGA’s Division of Marketing and Communications in the role of social media coordinator in April 2018, after nearly four years managing social media and email marketing for Development and Alumni Relations. She speaks fluently in gifs and memes and is always ready to share the latest in pop culture news.

Stephanie Tran, Communications Administrator at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Stephanie graduated with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University and M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University. As the current Communications Administrator for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she develops content and manages social media accounts for MIT’s social media platforms. 

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.

Share this post!

You may also like...

Maintaining Campus Community Amid Crisis

Crises can erupt and spread faster than ever before. A single misstep on social media can snowball into a reputation-damaging PR nightmare. But amidst the chaos, there’s hope. Our institutions are communities, and strong communities can weather even the most turbulent times.

Read More »
REAL TALK HIGHER ED - Has college become uncool? Featuring Kin Sejpal, Dr. Rebecca Ehretsman and Dr. Angel B. Perez.

Has College Become Uncool?

We’ll discuss how Generations Z and Alpha are shifting their interests and address the current reputation challenges faced by institutions. We’ll also explore necessary changes to ensure colleges remain appealing and relevant by adapting to evolving skills and societal dynamics.

Read More »
Person holding a smartphone with both hands, smiling, visible from the nose down, set against a coral background with text overlay reading "SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER SUMMER GUIDE - A Survival Kit for Higher Ed Social Media Managers" and a logo stating "Dr. Josie Ahlquist, purpose-driven digital leadership.

Summer Social Media Manager Guide

Summer’s here, but the pressure to deliver outstanding social media results isn’t taking a break. Whether you’re part of a team or a team of one, I want you to know you’re not in this alone.

Read More »

Subscribe to my newsletter

For the latest on digital engagement and leadership and everywhere they intersect.

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

Spark your mission on social media

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the Digital Leadership Download

The newsletter that brings the latest in digital engagement and leadership right to your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. Read our Privacy Policy.