Campus News

First Wave Program to take a year off to reevaluate structure

UW-Madison’s First Wave program's announcement that it will not be accepting applications for the 2018-’19 academic year comes amid talk of changes to the program.

Image By: Betsy Osterberger

UW-Madison’s First Wave program, a four-year, full tuition hip-hop scholarship, will not be accepting applications for the 2018-’19 academic year. The decision to put the program on hold—the first time in its 10-year existence—comes amid talk of changes to the program that offers scholarships to artists across the country.

The program may shift to a generalized art scholarship instead of being targeted to young hip-hop artists, according to Mary Carr Lee, the communications director of the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer. She said the one-year break will allow the program’s three staff members to collaborate with students and alumni on how best to shape the program to support developing artists.

“We’re looking to make [the program] stronger and provide more linkages to curricular units that support the development of artists and appreciators of art who and better align the messaging of the program with what actually happens for the students who are in the program,” Lee said. “This will allow students to capitalize on the expertise of the arts faculty and the wrap around support services that is consistent with the rest of the scholarship programs that are in [the division].”

The idea to broaden First Wave into a generalized art scholarship is not welcomed by senior First Wave student Ricardo Cortez de la Cruz II. De la Cruz said the program is already broad, and fears an attempt to expand it will take away opportunities for students who need scholarships.

“People are getting it twisted that we are just hip-hop artists,” de la Cruz said. “We have painters, poets, rappers, the list goes on. I feel like broadening it is going to diminish the fact that we bring in minority students and people who actually need the scholarship.”

Additionally, de la Cruz said broadening the scholarship would detract from its hip-hop focus. He thinks this is especially detrimental in Madison, where bars are removing hip-hop from their music selections.

The Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement is also considering whether to continue allowing students from other colleges to transfer into the First Wave program. According to Lee, the division will examine if accepting transfer students is “congruent with the program’s first-year-interest group model.”

A transfer student himself—like many other First Wave students—De la Cruz said that, hopefully, the university will not make this change. He said without the scholarship opportunity, many students wouldn’t be able to attend a prestigious university like UW-Madison.

“It is always good to take a step back and evaluate things in order to take three steps forward,” de la Cruz said. “I think that a lot of the things that are in discussion are still in discussion, so nothing is a set thing yet.”

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