Volition: Proving the Power of the Pen

At Mason, we’re lucky enough to have countless opportunities to raise our voices, have a platform to make an impact and have our words reach a world outside of just our own little circles. Whether you write for the student newspaper, IVth Estate, or Her Campus George Mason, work with broadcasting on Mason Cable, contribute to a radio show on WGMU, or bare your soul and submit poetry or read at an Open Mic Night with the Literary Arts Magazine: Volition, there are endless opportunities for expression and creativity. For one of Volition’s executive editors, senior Karolina Blaziak (pictured below), writing has always provided them “an escape from the troubles of the world, or as a way to develop my voice further. As one of the co-executive editors of the magazine, along with senior Ayleah Hanton (pictured below), -- who also happened to be Karolina’s roommate freshman year!- they’re able to have a profound impact on the culture of Mason and how our emotions can foster creativity.

Via Karolina Blaziak and Aleah Hanton

As college students, it’s important for us to have the freedom to open up to and express ourselves without feeling judged or mocked, and organizations like Volition have worked to ensure that they’re helping to provide a place where students can “form their thoughts soundly and privately, without pressure. Students need that freedom.” All of us are going through a lot of transitions and monumental changes in our life, and especially while on a campus as large as George Mason, the sheer number of voices can be overwhelming. By providing a platform for students to hone their craft -- whether it’s art, poetry, prose, or photography -- Volition has given us all a way to form our own identities on campus and find refuge from what can be a difficult time. “I think it’s super important to have an emotional outlet, especially as a college student,” Karolina says, “You may not be able to share your thoughts or voice in your regular life amongst your peers, but having that venue of escape does so much.”

Related: Redefining Poetry

However, Volition’s work doesn’t just involve facilitating this much-needed escape -- although it remains at the heart of everything they do. They’re also responsible for managing and planning two Open Mic Nights a semester, featuring a selection of pieces from their hundreds of submissions for publication in the magazine or on their website and the design of the aforementioned magazine.

Via Marina Li

When it comes to Open Mic Nights, Karolina says they’re “always thinking about our Open Mic Nights, solidifying the dates early and what we can bring to each one, planning the food and equipment, setting up collaborations with other organizations on campus if we can. These events are key to Volition’s presence on campus, and we don’t take them lightly.” The preparation begins early, sometimes even before the semester has ended to make sure they have dates ironed out for the next event before the coveted campus event space is gone. The team has also worked tirelessly to improve the events as a whole, making small changes to ensure they had a better turnout. From making sure the event is consistent each semester to honing the graphics on their flyers -- courtesy of Design Director Sabrina Huffman, who is in her senior year here at Mason and “is so great at capturing exactly what we want and what Volition needs.”

When making the magazine every semester, the clock is always ticking. After the submission window closes, they have a very short amount of time to work before the magazine must be submitted for printing. This leaves the team around 2 weeks to sort through all the writing and art that is submitted to the magazine before it turns over to the executive editors to set the layouts and inform students of the status of their pieces. They keep a set design every year -- which is tweaked as needed -- that allows for art and writing with similar moods to be paired together and provide a cohesive aesthetic across the magazine without limiting the kinds of pieces that can be accepted into the magazine. “We hope to have the magazine distributed at the end of each semester, hopefully before or during exam week. Sometimes, due to printing, the issues arrive after the semester has ended, but all are available year round, no matter which semester they were published, as long as we have issues to spare. Our magazines are always free. You can find our magazines in the Office of Student Media, or on any of the Journal Racks around campus!”

Related: A Poem a Day

Clearly, joining the Executive Staff is no easy commitment, and every one of the five members chosen has a deep understanding of the work involved and is willing to go “all in.” Karolina gave some insight into the selection process, saying they carefully consider “who we feel can bring the most to the magazine, and also who has shown the most effort and care during their time on staff. Each person considered knows and respects the commitment required of them, and is someone we trust to take on the responsibility.” Outside of the Executive Staff, there are also dozens of staff members who are constantly encouraging classmates to submit work (staff members themselves are not allowed to submit in order to help eliminate bias) and come out to Open Mic Nights, and they’re always willing to welcome more members, “we prefer students to join at the beginning of each semester, but anyone interested after will, of course, be considered. It’s just a matter of what’s best for the magazine, or how far into the submission selection process we are.”

Via Marina Li

For everyone interested in writing, art or design, making the decision to contribute to Volition by submitting or reading at an Open Mic Night -- the next one of which is scheduled for February 28th, so mark your calendars now! -- will be rewarding. Publishing work of any kind in college is a unique experience,  Karolina stating that “you never know who your words can reach, or who will agree with them, or be glad that someone else put into words what they couldn’t. Poems and art tell such beautiful and personal stories, and someone else can almost always relate to them in some way.” Go and share your story with Volition, collegiettes, we know we will!