Divya Achanta ’23 Isn’t Afraid of the First Draft

Divya Achanta sitting in the Writing Center at Babson College.

Most people wait decades after graduation for the honor of having a campus building synonymous with their name. But, if you’re looking for Divya Achanta ’23, people already know where to find her.

“It’s a running joke that I am always at the Writing Center—that I live there and that there’s an air mattress for me in the back,” Achanta says. “I have a specific chair at a specific table.”

It’s also rare to find a Babson College student who is as equally passionate about their business pursuits as their writing. For Achanta, the latter has been a form of self-expression since high school, specifically after she read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life for class.

“It’s a book about writing advice that also translates to life advice for me,” she says. “The idea of having a crappy first draft but still giving it a go has really carried me through my college years.”

It’s a mantra that has her looking back on the last four years and feeling joy at what she has accomplished, despite not feeling like she had much to show at first. She then spent her entire junior year abroad at the London School of Economics, studying philosophy, working on graphic design projects, and even DJing. Suddenly, she had the confidence to start sharing her ideas with people.

“Sophomore year, I had nothing to recount, and now I feel like senior year is a series of wins and hard work paying off,” Achanta says. “I’ve been feeling very happy lately. My Babson experience has been made by my junior and senior years.”

One of those accomplishments is serving as the undergraduate speaker at Babson College’s Commencement ceremonies May 13. For someone who values writing, metaphors, and nostalgia, she’s ready for the opportunity to address the Class of 2023.

Sharing Passions, Sharing Ideas

Achanta describes her beloved Writing Center like someone would describe a cool, older sibling’s bedroom. It’s homey. It has a record player and a TV to Airplay movies. It has great candy and “the best filtered water” on campus.

Most importantly, it’s a place for her and other center consultants to share ideas and mentor students who want to get over that first-draft hump.

“Writing has always been something that has been equally frustrating and gratifying for me,” Achanta says. “Seeing that in other students and helping them through this process is one of my best experiences at Babson.”

A space that allows for personal expression as well as copious pop culture consumption is the ideal muse for Achanta’s other big accomplishments: her honors thesis, Fan, Friend, or Foe: Investigating Parasocial Interactions in the Music Industry; and the senior-led seminar, Bop to the Top: Practicum in Artist Management, which she led in early 2023.

“Writing has always been something that has been equally frustrating and gratifying for me. Seeing that in other students and helping them through this process is one of my best experiences at Babson.”
Divya Achanta ’23

Both dive into pop music and fandom. Achanta’s career aspirations are to enter the entertainment industry.

“I never thought I would teach,” she says. “As a freshman, I would look at the course listing and think ‘what if I did this my senior spring.’ ”

But, that was three years ago. Sitting at home on winter break 2022 looking at her course’s Canvas page, she was amazed at the people who signed up. And, even more amazed that people showed up on dreary, winter Wednesday nights to discuss Britney Spears and Taylor Swift with her once the semester started.

“It was about sharing laughter and opinions across grade levels,” she says.

The Beginning of a New First Draft

To help her get to these points of personal confidence, Achanta leaned on the relationships she has with professors for guidance and comradery. “I’ve spent more time with my professors than my family,” she jokes. “By nature of being at school and away from home.”

Divya Achanta stands in front of a projector while teaching her senior-led seminar.
Achanta, who was one of four seniors who led senior seminars in Spring 2023, taught a class on artist management in pop music. (Photo Credit: Rob Major)

She names writing professors Kristi Girdharry (also the director of the Writing Center) and Weston Miller, her senior seminar advisor Kerry Rourke, and her thesis advisor Mike McGuirk as mentors who have shared life and writing advice with her as she navigated the last four years. That wisdom from faculty, as well as from her college friendships and experiences, will guide Achanta as she takes on the responsibility of class speaker.

As for the next four years, the faculty-to-family ratio may become more balanced. Achanta plans to go home to San Francisco to spend time with loved ones, decompress, and determine her next professional step. The unknown doesn’t scare her anymore though.

“If a younger me heard me say that, she would say, ‘No way.’ But I am. And, I’m proud to be saying it,” Achanta says. “I realized I wanted something that will set me up well for the next five to 10 years. I am excited for the coming weeks.”

She knows there’s nothing wrong with starting with a rough draft.

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