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Academics | Arts | Activism


To provide innovative, culturally relevant hip-hop art programs to inspire engagement, learning, and activism for diverse communities.

Administered by the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), the First Wave Learning Community is the first university program in the country centered on urban arts, spoken word and hip-hop culture.


  • International tours to: London, England/Manchester, England/Corby, England/Kingston, Jamaica/Panama City, Panama/Cuernavaca, Mexico

  • The 9th cohort has First Wave’s first international student (from China)! 

  • Over 40% of all First Wave students have already studied abroad in a multitude of countries. This includes study of film in Paris and cultural learning activities in Rio de Janeiro.
  • First Wave students are published authors, nationally renowned and internationally ranked poets, rappers making noise on the underground, and community organizers. 

  • First Wave students and Alumni have received jobs and internships from the United States Embassy, The New York Knicks, Teach For America, Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, and many more groundbreaking institutions.



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OMAI Presents

Hip Hop in the Heartland

Each summer, UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) teams up with Urban Word, NYC to offer educators and community leaders a week-long program to learn the best practices in hip hop and spoken word pedagogy. The Institute brings together the leading educators, professors, and activists utilizing the media of spoken word ad hip hop as relevant, dynamic and necessary educational tools to engage students across multi-disciplinary curricula. For more information, visit the program page.

 Hip Hop in the Heartland Flyer

The 11th Cohort