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Two students to receive groundbreaking hip-hop scholarship

November 28, 2012 By Susannah Brooks

High school students don’t typically win at the Soul Train Music Awards. But on Sunday, Nov. 25, two young artists held their breath for an announcement that could change their lives.

Photo: MC Lyte


The Hip Hop Sisters Network announced Miona Short of Chicago and Hiwot Adilow of Philadelphia as the first recipients of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s First Wave/MC Lyte Scholarship.  Both have been selected as members of the seventh cohort of UW–Madison’s First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community.

Legendary hip-hop artist MC Lyte, founder and board chair of the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, and Lynn Richardson, president of the foundation, took part in the selection.

The decision to offer two four-year, full-tuition scholarships is a tribute to the quality of student artists who prepare for college while developing their artistic potential, says Damon A. Williams, vice provost and chief diversity officer at UW–Madison. Since First Wave’s inception as the nation’s only college-level learning community for hip-hop and spoken word, selection has been highly competitive.

“We’re proud to admit these scholars, who we know have the potential to bloom and develop here at UW–Madison,” says Williams. “Our partnership with the Hip Hop Sisters Network and MC Lyte is off to an amazing start and has taken our efforts to identify tomorrow’s talented leaders to the next level.” 

Both recipients are spoken word artists. Adilow was a part of the Philadelphia team that competed in the finals of the 2012 Brave New Voices competition. Short is a poet who works with YOUMedia @ CPL, an innovative learning outreach program located in Chicago’s Harold Washington Library.  Thirteen additional first-year students will round out First Wave’s seventh cohort, entering UW–Madison in the fall of 2013.

A large pool of candidates from across the United States competed for a slot to win these first scholarships. Students first had to gain admission to UW–Madison through the first-year admissions process. Once accepted, they could then submit artistic samples to compete for the scholarship.

“We’re proud to admit these scholars, who we know have the potential to bloom and develop here at UW–Madison. Our partnership with the Hip Hop Sisters Network and MC Lyte is off to an amazing start…” 

Damon Williams

“The flood of talented student-artists from across the country was impressive,” says Willie Ney, executive director of UW–Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), which administers the First Wave program. “As it turned out, the quality of the scholarly and artistic talent of two of the candidates was so high, it was determined that both should receive the award. The candidates only found this out at the time the scholarships were announced on the red carpet.”

First Wave is an emerging leader on the hip-hop theater scene, pushing the boundaries of poetry, dance and theater. Using the pedagogy of traditional spoken word, movement and performance, this groundbreaking collective of scholars uses these principles as an additional learning framework for their major areas of study across the university. 

Under the artistic direction of Professor Christopher Walker, First Wave’s select touring ensemble has performed in England, Mexico, Panama and Jamaica, as well as across the United States, including featured performances on Broadway. Students and alumni have worked for the State Department, the New York Knicks, Harlem Children’s Zone, Teach For America, and the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam.

More on the program can be found here.