First Wave, a full-tuition hip-hop scholarship at the University of Wisconsin, has announced it will not be accepting applications for a new cohort in the 2018-19 school year.
The program, which has welcomed a new cohort of scholars to campus every year since its founding in 2007, will not accept applicants for the 2018-19 school year as staff members look into ways to improve the program, said Mary Carr Lee, UW Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement spokesperson.
“We’re pressing ‘pause’ for one year on recruiting, which will free up First Wave’s three staff members to discuss with current First Wave students and alumni ideas to improve the program,” Carr Lee said.
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Carr Lee emphasized the decision to halt applications is not a halt to the program itself. During the 2018-19 school year, First Wave programming will continue as Patrick Sims, UW vice provost for diversity and climate, and First Wave staff work to prioritize what they can actually accomplish.
The decision came as a part of an ongoing internal review of UW’s diversity-based programs and offices, Carr Lee said. This internal review — which has gone on for the past three years — hopes to improve the efficacy of UW’s diversity-based programs and offices.
The motivating factors behind the decision to halt First Wave applications derived from what has been described as a disparity between what the program promises to deliver and what it has actually been able to deliver in years past, Carr Lee said.
“We felt as though the program needed better alignment between the expressed goals and deliverables compared to what the staff was actually capable of delivering,” Carr Lee explained. “That’s why we are taking this one year pause on recruitment, as it also gives us more time to refine a strong recruitment strategy.”
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Some changes to the program are expected when it resumes recruitment in 2019, Carr Lee said.
Additionally, while no permanent decisions have been made regarding which specific programs within the First Wave scholarship will be discontinued or changed, some programs within First Wave are expected to slowly phase out when the program resumes recruitment in 2019, Carr Lee said.
The DDEEA didn’t specify which programs would be phased out or how they would be changed, Carr Lee said.
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To Solomon Roller, a member of First Wave’s 10th cohort, said the program offers value to him both as a student on campus and as an artist.
“I was never around so much positivity and moving art until I came into this program,” Roller said. “Each day was a chance to flourish in my strengths and to grow heavily in my weaknesses and skills.”
To others, the program is necessary for reasons beyond the personal level.
Nesha Ruther, another member of First Wave’s 10th cohort, said the program not only brings hip-hop and poetry to the Madison community, but also offers an important service in confronting both interpersonal and institutional racism at UW.
“I think First Wave makes Madison a better place even if Madison as a community isn’t always receptive to it,” Ruther said.