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From the Program Director

Picture of Volta Mentoring Program Director Kalani PickhartWhen I was an undergraduate at ASU many moons ago, I struggled in navigating the university and how to use my voice. I was a first-generation college student and had limited understanding of what college life meant. Luckily, I found myself in a course with a professor who helped me, championed for me, and illuminated the path. It was because of her advocacy that I returned to ASU years later as a staff person, where I worked in student services at Barrett, the Honors College. I wanted to do work to support students along their journey at the university, just as my professor had done for me. Though it’s been years since my own students graduated, they still communicate with me often, I still write letters of recommendation for them, and celebrate their wins and accomplishments alongside them. 

Yet, the thing is: I didn’t just help my students—they helped me. If it weren’t for the students I mentored at Barrett who asked me tough, reflective questions, I wouldn’t have applied to an MFA program, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. Mentorship goes both ways.

When I began my work at the Piper Center, I recognized the capacity for a mentorship program in the Creative Writing Program at ASU. Both our BA and MFA programs are highly selective, competitive, small programs, and have cultivated a number of successful writers who have been winners of numerous awards and prizes. As a TA for an undergraduate Intermediate Fiction course and an undergraduate Capstone Poetry course, I was struck not only by the talent of our undergraduates, but their dedication, kindness, positivity, and warmth. Many of these students have aspirations to apply to MFA programs, and so it occurred to me that it might be possible to build a bridge between our student populations: how can our MFA students cultivate their own leadership skills, while also supporting the goals of our undergraduate students? And so the Volta Mentoring Program was born.

Phillis Levin, an American poet, calls the volta in poetry, “the 'turn' that introduces into the poem a possibility for transformation.” I believe, and hope, that this mentorship program will unlock new pathways for our students, both undergraduate and graduate, and that they will find support systems through this program as writers and as human beings that will last and grow over a lifetime.


With gratitude,

Kalani Pickhart

Volta Mentoring Programs Founder and Director