Writing Program faculty (left to right): Sonya Chung, Lecturer; Victor LaValle, Assistant Professor; Ed Park, Adjunct Faculty
Who We Are: Our Word is a student organization open to any MFA student in the Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program. Our goal is to promote diversity within the Writing Program and the literary community in general. We hold meetings the second Wednesday of each month on campus in Dodge Hall; it’s nothing formal, just a good chance to support each other and our current projects.
Our History: In 2000, a group of students wanted to promote cultural diversity and decided to organize. In order to make a convincing appeal, artist Victor Cerbantes staged a campus protest. He locked himself in a mock jail cell and fasted for five days in order to demonstrate the lack of attention for artists of color on campus. Since that time, OW has grown into a leading voice in the advancement of cultural diversity. We take our name from Nuestra Palabra, a Houston-based nonprofit dedicated to expanding literary territories.
Our Mission: OW supports writing students in their artistic development through various events and projects, such as our annual student reading, our author residency series, and working with faculty to develop culturally diverse curricula. We try to keep in touch with past members, to make sure that our community continues long past graduation. With these initiatives, OW attempts to provide artists with opportunities to engage in meaningful cultural dialogue and take an active role in enriching education at the School of the Arts.
Some of Our Goals:
o Foster an inclusive and all encompassing move towards more diversity in the MFA Program
o Connect students and faculty in a discursive setting outside, in the interest of promoting growth and engagement through our Student-Faculty Discussions
o Increase the number and range of permanent and adjunct faculty of color
o Develop curricula that explore the diverse artwork of writers outside the canon
o Expose students to a wide range of multicultural writers by providing reading material and resources
o Encourage mentorship between students of color and OW Authors in Residence