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Virtual Community

A research study aimed at analyzing and recommending ways to build a sense of community for ArtCenter online.







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How might we build a sense of community for ArtCenter online?


Secondary Research

Super User Interview

Field Site Observation

Expert Interviews

Open Dialogue

Pilot Survey

Secondary Research

The experienced “sense” of

a virtual community

Blanchard, Anita L., & Markus, M. Lynne. (2004). The experienced “sense” of a virtual community: Characteristics and processes. The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems, 35(1), 64-71. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from Google Scholar.

Building Sense of Community

at a Distance

Rovai, Alfred. (2002). Building Sense of Community at a Distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 3. 10.19173/irrodl.v3i1.79. Retrieved June 30, 2020.

College Students and Yik Yak:

Mixed Methods Study

Clark-Gordon, Cathlin V., et al. “College Students and Yik Yak: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study.” Social Media + Society, vol. 3, no. 2, 2017, p. 205630511771569., doi:10.1177/2056305117715696

Field Site Observation


ArtCenterEdu   |   Blackataccd   |   AntiracistClassroom   |   SleepCenter   |   Designmattersca

ArtCenter_alumninetwork   |   ArtCenterProduct   |   ArtCenterPhoto   |   Accd_ixd   |   ArtCenterEnt

ArtrCentergx   |   ArtCenterDei   |   ArtCenter_testlab_Berlin   |   ArtCenter.cpd   |   Accd_acsg  


Got Work Give Work   |   Fix Art Center   |   ArtCenter   |   ArtCenter Product   |   ACBA   

Fix Art Center   |   Art Center Alumni Network   |   Art Center Chinese Student Association


CDX Mentor Event   |   Bold Webinars   |   Anti Racist Classroom   |   Product Townhalls

Hackathon Club   |   CPD Events   |   CSE Events


ArtCenter College Of Design Alumni Group   |   ArtCenter College Of Design Product Design 

DesignMatters at ArtCenter College Of Design

ACCD Alumni Around The World

Open Dialogue


Expert Interviews

robbie Nock.jpeg

Robbie Nock


Director, Entrepreneurship and Professional

Practices at ArtCenter College Of Design

Former Director of Alumni Relations 

Has advised over 500 alumni and students

Celeste Guarneri

Director, Center For Student Experience

at ArtCenter College Of Design

Organized multiple social events digitally

Organized virtual orientation for Summer 2020

Super User Interview


Akshay Agarwal


ArtCenter Alum

Graduated from Interaction Design in 2019

Created a slack group for ArtCenter alumni after noticing the absence of an effective communication channel

Pilot Survey




Admission - First Term

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As students get admitted into ArtCenter, they are highly interested in engaging with other incoming students and seniors to get oriented with the college. However, there isn't much opportunity for interaction with other students until orientation.


Institutions like RISD and SAIC create a Facebook group for all Admits every year. Here, incoming students introduce themselves, find roommates and ask each other questions. A sense of community begins to form before students meet each other at the start of the semester. This group remains active even after students graduate, reminding people that they were all part of the same institution at the same time.


As ArtCenter has been forced to take education online, even Orientation does not leave much room for social activities. Celeste, the Director of Student Experience, mentioned the difficulties faced while conducting Orientation online this Summer:"Students found it awkward to speak into a camera while introducing themselves on Zoom."  In the "Experienced sense of virtual community" Blanchard proves the effectiveness of building a sense of community purely through chat based interactions. Students are likely to feel more comfortable interacting with each other via chat as opposed to zoom.

First Term - Fourth Term

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Once the first semester begins, most students struggle to find time for sleep. In such circumstances, social events are lowest priority. Students are so caught up in completing their own work, that it becomes hard to make friends. This leads to a feeling of isolation and eventually affects the wellbeing of students. 

Weekend Success

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Weekend online events receive higher engagement from students. As compared to all events I attended over the course of this research, the Cross disciplinary Mentorship event, that took place on Saturday at 3:00 pm, received maximum engagement. Over a 170 people attended the event.

The ease of attendance of a webinar, in addition to the chosen time and topic contributed to the success of the event.

Graduation- 1st Job


As students near graduation, their interest in the ACCD community rises. They depend on alumni to land their first job and hence this is the period when they need the ArtCenter community the most. This need keeps rising until graduates land

their job.

If graduates do not receive support from the ArtCenter community here, their interest in staying connected to ArtCenter will quickly decline.

Alumni Frustrations

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Alumni are frustrated by the lack of help provided by the school in terms of networking and connecting alumni. They need a central space where they can ask for advice, collaborate and find jobs.

Need For A Central Forum

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The question "Can I ask for career advice?" shows the need for a place where alumni can ask for advice. It also shows that alumni don't know which platform is appropriate to ask for such advice. On the other hand, the 35 responses to this question highlight that alumni are more than willing to provide advice on a forum. 

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In the instances above, we can see that faculty members are willing to help alumni and alumni are willing to help students. Such interactions are beneficial to all members involved, and lead to a strong sense of community.

The Slack Opportunity

Akshay Agarwal, a recent graduate, found it difficult to connect with ACCD alumni after graduation. This challenge led him to create a slack group, along with Tricia Sada, Gen Hut and Ben Ho. Slack as opposed to other social media platforms, allows the formation of subgroups. These subgroups are necessary to build an organized, central platform for the entire ACCD family. 

With about 112 members, the new group is increasingly proactive. Alumni frequently share job listings in the "jobs" channel. Other channels include : introductions, events, community ideas, critiques, mentorship and many more. 

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Career Stages & Transitions


Before graduation most students focus on building their technical design skills. However, as students graduate and enter the real world, they realize that they need a new set of skills. As they transition through different stages in their career, different skills become more necessary. For instance, as an alum transitions from a Junior Designer to a Senior Designer, he may want to improve his negotiation skills. As an alum transitions from a Senior Designer to a Design Manager, she may want to learn some management skills. 


Alumni are interested in receiving this knowledge from ArtCenter through webinars, seminars and workshops. 

The success of the Bold webinar series is a testament to this. Covering topics like Patterns of creative leadership, Intrapreneurship and New paths for creative entrepreneurs, the series received great engagement from the alumni community.  


During the events, alumni began to network in the chat column of the webinar.  “Hey everyone, Riadh KHEDHIRI from Paris,   

FR. I'm willing to connect with you fellows on LinkedIn or Facebook”  Like the instance here, a number of people exchanged Linkedin contacts during the webinars.

On asking Robbie where he'd like to take the Bold Webinar Series in the future, he mentioned an interest in developing webinars targeted towards different career stages. Alumni have different needs in every career stage. Hence developing a series for each of these stages would provide maximum benefit to alumni and hence receive maximum engagement.

Other Alumni Wishes

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In a short pilot survey with only 17 participants, 11 were willing to share their name and contact in order to contribute to a dialogue about building a sense of community for ArtCenter.  Alumni are willing to engage with ArtCenter, we just need to support them.


1. Slack Central Community

2. Student Led Alumni Comittee

3. Alumni Crash Courses

1. Slack Central Community

The creation of a Slack group with students, faculty and alumni as a single communication channel that allows the entire ArtCenter family to easily connect, ask for advice, collaborate and find jobs.

Subgroups to address different topics and needs for example:

A subgroup with all incoming students every semester, so that they can introduce themselves, find roommates and have conversations before classes begin. Over time, an aggregate of all these incoming students, will form an active community.


And another subgroup that empowers Alumni to share class recommendations with department chairs.

All members should have the ability to create new channels to address their needs. 

2. Student Led Alumni Committee

Hiring a committee of students in their graduating term and recent graduates, that work towards organizing and hosting alumni engagement activities, which may lead them to their first job.


Recent graduates take up-to 3 months to find a job. In this period they are highly motivated to network with alumni. The school can provide them with part time work in this period to develop activities that build a sense of community. Higher term students may also build strong relations with Alumni while organizing and hosting networking activities, which could eventually land them their first job.


This is a win-win situation for the school as well as students and graduates. 

3. Alumni Crash courses

Exclusive crash courses for Alumni that help develop Business and Professional skills needed, in order to transition

from one career stage to another.

These courses will work as great networking opportunities.

The courses should be available online, in order to encourage Alumni from around the world to participate.

Eventually, a small fee can be charged to attend these courses, which can generate additional revenue for ArtCenter. 


The addition of these three recommendations found through research shows that ArtCenter can help support, build and grow the Alumni community from around the world. The students will have a more fulfilling experience through the sense of a tight knit community, that will expand beyond a physical campus.

Get In Touch.

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