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The First Wave Spoken Word and Hip Hop Arts Learning Community was founded in 2007 by the UW’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI). On top of being the country’s first university program to focus on spoken-word and hip-hop culture, it was also the first program to fully fund its scholars. To be admitted, incoming freshman and sophomore students go through quite the application process: first they must fill out a general inquiry form, then apply and be accepted to the UW, then apply and be accepted to the First Wave program itself. (The program’s application includes two or three art samples and four essays, among other things.) Once in the program, students take specific classes and have opportunities for special internships. They can also participate in the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble, which travels and performs around the world. Upholding OMAI’s three pillars of academics, arts, and activism, First Wave students work to become leaders in higher education, the arts, and social justice. Needless to say, First Wave scholars make school cool.

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