Pepperdine eSports ‘Super Smash Brother Ultimate Team’ poses at their first official tournament at Dreamhack Anaheim. The team participated in the event just weeks before the cancellation of all in-person classes. Photo courtesy of Grace Ramsey
When President Gash announced the university’s decision to implement remote classes, it left on-campus organizations with the burning question — what’s next?
One effective way on-campus organizations are coordinating virtual meetings is through the app Discord. The app was initially used on campus by the gaming community, particularly Pepperdine eSports. Now, the Pepperdine Community Server on the app includes content such as mental health posts, international program chats, game rooms and prayer walls.
“It’s a hub to get information from all the different departments around campus,” Director of Campus Recreation Robb Bolton said. “There’s no need to scroll through different webpages or all the different social media accounts. It’s all in one place.”
Junior Grace Ramsey, team manager of the Pepperdine eSports Program, built the Pepperdine Community Discord Server, an online community now comprised of nearly 400 students, faculty and staff. While this group has only been around for two weeks, Bolton and Ramsey foresee this platform continuing beyond social distancing. Bolton acknowledged that the current crisis has given Pepperdine the opportunity to create something that otherwise would not have existed.
“This has been a challenge we’ve been looking to solve, since I’ve been at Pepperdine, of how to get students engaged and get them in a centralized community with all the information they need,” Bolton said. “We’ve never had the focus and need to do it before, but this has forced us to do it.”
Ramsey said almost all Student Affairs and related departments have joined Discord.
“Everyone from ICC and the Board to the Student Health Center to Greek Life and on and on has joined, promoted and started hosting informative channels, events and discussions on the platform,” Ramsey said.
Bolton said they are coming up with innovative ways to represent certain divisions on Discord. He said the Coordinator of Fitness and Wellbeing, Amanda Knight, has been online every day, posting engaging updates such as free workouts you can do from home. He added that Outdoor Recreation is posting virtual tours of locations around the world, providing users the opportunity to travel from the comfort of their homes.
Outdoor Recreation is additionally bringing intramural sports online with a variety of virtual sports teams. There is currently an Intramural eSports league for the video game series NBA 2K. Pepperdine Student Activities is currently hosting an intramural competition through April 17, where users can upload their best sports-related trick shots for a chance to win a $50 gift card.
Junior Tiffany Hall, vice president of publicity of Inter-Club Council (ICC), said she thinks it is imperative to conserve on-campus club communities. ICC is one of the many organizations taking part in the interactive program.
“We here at ICC are trying to provide any help necessary to ensure the continuance of these on-campus families,” Hall said.
Student Organizations Coordinator Sabrina Willison said ICC has additionally transitioned their workshops online. While it is valuable to build an online community for clubs, Willison said, not everyone will want to continue club responsibilities remotely.
“Pepperdine staff does realize that not everyone is in a place where they want to continue what they’re doing on campus, but we’re just providing them another platform if they want to get involved,” Willison said.
Senior Emily Tran, a member of the Pepperdine Student Programming Board, said they will continue to stream events via Discord. The Board has hosted several trivia nights with up to 40 participants playing remotely.
“We’re still planning virtual coffeehouses, trivia nights and more,” Tran said. “I believe we’re having trivia night almost every Thursday.”
Bolton said users can check Discord’s bulletin board where monthly events, like the Board’s coffee houses, will be posted. He also hinted at special programming for seniors in the upcoming weeks to acknowledge them, as many did not get the chance to say goodbye.
On April 8 at 6 p.m. PST, Student Activities is hosting a “Chat Night” with two Pepperdine alums. They will be discussing their experience at Pepperdine, life after college and answering questions from students. Check out @PepperdineStuActs on Instagram for more information.
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