The History and Origins of the Official Mercy College Discord Server

First part of a two-part article laying out the history of Discord and how Mercy College got connected through Discord.

Discord has been around since 2015, but it really got its steam right before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a growing platform regardless, but with everyone indoors for some time, it became a mainstream way to communicate online. The gaming community has always wanted something like this, an online server to chat and share with your friends what you were playing, with other applications serving that role.

This extends to more than just games, however, as it is a social hub for like-minded individuals interested in similar topics that don’t have to be related to gaming. This free app offers something more than most voice and/or video conference applications that are also now popular ways to get networked online, whether it is for a job or for school.

Conference apps like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and even workplace apps like Slack are similar but Discord is way more casual for users. It is a beneficial tool to use as an instant group messaging service and many online communities form over various categories, including streamers and/or content creators on Youtube and Twitch specifically.

Five years after Discord entered the scene in June of 2020, a few Mercy College students decided to make an official server, and even though there was already a server for Mercy E-Sports, this one would be its own thing and be dedicated to Mercy students.

This idea took shape and was initiated by Charlee Henley, a legal studies major who graduated in May of 2022. With the help of Leah Leavy, a psychology major, and Nathan Toro, a film major, Charlee and her friends (co-founders) were able to moderate a new and upcoming server for the school, as the two seniors, Leah and Nathan, are currently or were involved as admins to the server. Other student mods and admins, along with the ones mentioned, also helped run the server and contributed to materializing a great idea for the students, by the students, into reality about two and a half years ago.

When asked about the start of the server, Leah said “Charlee reached out to me, and funny enough, I had the same idea brewing. We decided to divvy up the workload of actually starting the server, deciding that I would handle bot management, role creation, and some recruitment, whereas she would handle channel creation, customization of the server, and the rest of the recruitment.”

Nathan, who is also friends with Leah and Charlee, shared his thoughts on the server’s beginnings: “It was a random idea of my friend Charlee’s (the owner) and she thought of making me an admin since I have experience using discord since 2018. The beginning was very chill and fun – we used to hold gaming events and movie nights but since then, it has grown so much, and now we use it for connecting and endless possibilities go on from there.”

Leah also followed up on the recruiting process of students when the server opened up: “Charlee and I invited all of our friends at the time who we knew were on Discord. At first, we wondered if we could even start something like this without the backing of the college, but we decided it did not matter at the time because the server was so small. Our friends began to invite their friends, and at some point, Charlee and I decided to create QR codes to put up around the Dobbs Ferry campus to broadcast the server.”

Charlee had the same sentiments as what was already said and mentioned “We didn’t have any approval or supervision at first and simply advertised it ourselves by word of mouth/our personal resources, as the server was small in the beginning, but more active since it was new. It was largely incoming freshmen that didn’t have a really good senior year of high school and wanted to finally meet new people.”

To reach more students first, they contacted the Mercy Instagram social media team to verify it so it could gain more reach on official pages, outside their friend groups and classmates. That got some recognition, as well as plugging it in an Instagram interview with Mercy when they first launched the server to the public.

In terms of the original intentions of the server when it began, Leah laid it out in detail: “For all students to be able to ask their peers questions about Mercy College, to give or receive homework help, to look for or find roommates, to make friends, and to recruit or join clubs. The server evolved to incorporate channels containing checklists for all students. Ultimately, the main intent of the Official Mercy College Discord server is to help students help one another.”

Even though Mercy E-Sports had its server with their gaming clubs and teams, this one had a different purpose, as “It was always a way for students to communicate,” according to Charlee, as ” Over the years, it’s largely stayed pretty consistent in its intention, to just help people get answers, find friends, and figure out what the hell is going on.”

Dylan Pirone, a senior at Mercy and a history/education major who helps mod the server, also gave his thoughts on the Mercy server being its own thing: “To me, the main Mercy discord always seems like its intended purpose was a digital hub for Mercy students. It was always a forum of sorts just like the real campus at times.”

Although Discord has gaming origins, servers not related to video games still existed even at the very beginning of the platform, according to Dylan. “Discord was originally marketed towards gamers back in 2016 when I registered on my first account, but even back then there were non-gaming related public discords.”

Even without direct gaming ties and more focus on the student aspect of the server, Nathan mentions that when the server was made, they “just so happened to be a bunch of gamers who wanted a way to connect with other students and it just so happened to attract mostly the gaming and meme-cultured side of Mercy.”

Other colleges and schools could be or have already implemented Discord in one way or another, as there are comparisons to other voice and/or video chat programs but there are some distinct differences to make them unique from one another in terms of the situation.

Leah sees Discord as not that similar to programs like Zoom and Skype, stating that “Personally, I do not believe Discord is comparable to Zoom at all. I do not think it would be hard for someone new to Discord to learn it. It is similar to Skype in that it has group chat, friend, text, voice, and video features – but unlike Skype, it has servers. Once you figure out how to join a server, the rest is cake. I think Discord could be extremely useful for college campuses as a way to share news, organize clubs, and provide online information with proper management.”

Charlee points out that Discord and Slack are more related, saying “Discord is very much like Slack, but better and less disgustingly corporate. I do think school discords are catching on, especially with the new hub feature. I came up with the idea as an inspiration from another school that had a discord server back in the Fall of 2019.”

Nathan mentions Twitter and Discord as being isolated from other platforms, adding that “Discord is pretty unique and has an interesting format that allows for a lot of organizing and modification, but I don’t think it will be another Twitter or anything of the sort since its users more naturally seclude themselves into groups and keep their news and opinions within it.”

Dylan points out the difference between Discord and other conference programs, along with his opinions on its application and his experiences with the other programs.

“I enjoy Discord a lot, and originally when I made the switch from Skype, I did not like it. But, Discord grew on me and I use it practically every day to keep up with high school friends, college friends, and online friends. For a recreational/casual chat platform, Discord is second-to-none. I don’t see Discord as a good replacement for something like Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams in the realm of day-to-day productivity in a corporate or classroom setting (even though Zoom has horrible security, worse than Discord). I have looked to Discord as a potential way to host digital meetings, conversations, and plan club activities. I think Discord has the potential to serve as a forum/bulletin board-type platform for schools to announce things and for students to connect, as well as an advertisement platform for school clubs.”

Now with over 150 million people actively using Discord and over 300 million registered users, according to Business of Apps and Cloudware, it has become a platform that has outgrown its roots but still pays tribute to its origins.

Continues in Part Two.