Initiatives for students to interact online continue

Azusa Pacific University has reached the halfway point in the semester, and more initiatives are being added in an effort to continue student engagement. Together APU was created when students were sent home to help transition to the online format. A newer addition to Together APU is a chat tool called “Discord.” 

Both Student Affairs and IMT are responsible for creating the Discord server. Dante Cordova, Productivity Solutions Project Manager, said the best way to get started with the virtual space is, “make new friends, connect with students, and hangout in between classes.” 

Discord is traditionally used for gaming, but has become a social tool for large groups. The homepage of Discord displays the most popular public servers, some of which include Minecraft, Fortnite, Animal Crossing and more. 

Once a student signs up for the APU discord, the chat page launches, which has a similar layout to the communication tool, Slack. There are different servers for students to join, the main server being “APU Undergraduate Community,” which everyone has received an invitation to via email. Even Freddy Cougar has a server. 

The different chat servers are located on the far left, and have a wide range of topics. If a student’s personal interest isn’t an option, there is an option to make a personal individual server. Some of the most popular channels among students include “politics, theology and memes.” 

Students are already staring at screens all day, so has Discord changed the social aspect in a positive way? Or, are APU students too burnt out to interact online, despite the efforts of APU staff? 

So far, there are conversations taking place on most of the servers. Some conversations are more serious, such as political debates, and others are filled with students chatting about how their weeks have been via the “Introductions” server. Most of the accounts just use the chat tool, but there are voice and video options as well. 

Overall, the student response is mixed. Senior Graphic Design major, Sarah Skolos, claims she hasn’t heard of Together APU or Discord. Senior Business major Courtney Page, said that although she’s seen emails about Together APU, she hasn’t explored the resources available.

Senior Public Relations major, Micah Matsuda said, “My friends actually worked on developing a discord server with Coug walk, club lib and other private groups so that people can chat and feel connected through that.” 

Taylor Mabuni, a senior interdisciplinary major, said “I don’t find myself using it a ton, but I think it’s a cool way for people to build community in this time.” 

Both East and West campuses are represented on separate group chats, including the awkward steps, rose garden and the trolleys. Students can join a library study room, but each room has a limited number of members. 

Together APU has many resources for students and faculty to use. The Campus Food Pantry allows for students who are on campus to get nourishment for the week. The Health and Wellness tab contains access to virtual workshops, letters of encouragement and mental health resources. 

The home page states that Together APU was created to, “provide holistic support and a sense of belonging in this season of remote learning.”