Building Community out of Discord
Building community among graduate engineering students has always been a challenge. The population is diverse, to say the least: some in their early 20s, others reimagining their lives after decades-long careers; some taking classes part-time around an already crammed work schedule, others—new to the United States—learning their field and adapting to a foreign culture full-time. Oddly, though, remote learning and being off campus has presented a unique opportunity for grad students to come together, thanks to Grace Ling.
When the pandemic hit and campus was closed in spring 2020, Ling, master’s student in computer science and engineering and then co-president of SCU’s Association of Graduate Engineering Students (AGES), decided to try “an experiment.” She created a server on Discord, a group-chatting platform similar to Slack, and invited students to join. With channels dedicated to collaborations, course recommendations, job opportunities, events, and much more, members from all around the world, studying in seven different fields of engineering, in their first year or finishing up their degree, are meeting and supporting each other in a friendly, online environment. Join in here.
Around the same time that she started SCU’s Graduate Engineering Discord group, Ling also launched Design Buddies, a place where designers from all backgrounds can connect to share expertise and resources.
“After getting my bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, I made a 180-degree career path change and decided to follow my passion for design. When I was searching for an online community to support this aim, I found there were a number out there, but there was also a lot of gatekeeping and a lot of judgment against those joining without a design major. I’ve always thought the best way to complain is to make things, so I founded Design Buddies. The central theme for getting started was to create a space that is inclusive to everyone and anyone interested in design, and it just blew up,” she said.
She’s not exaggerating. With 8,000 members enlisted in just five months, the group is on fire. Ling now leads a team of 10 admins who help manage the site where mentorship, career advice, and feedback are going on around the clock. Her excitement is palpable as she tells that she recently got an answer to one of her questions at 3 a.m. from someone in Europe.
Through Discord, Ling has built community and has gained confidence. She is currently a UX Design intern at Electronic Arts, runs her own art business, Candyleaf Designs, and is in demand as a speaker on topics relating to design, career growth, networking, and personal branding.
More about Grace Ling here: https://grace-ling.com/about/
More about Design Buddies here: https://designbuddies.community/