Our Word

A Student Group Devoted to Artists of Color


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. For information on our events and meetings, please email columbia.ourword@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list. You can also join us on Facebook.


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 Cervantes 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


  • Foster an inclusive and all encompassing move towards more diversity in the MFA Program


  • Connect students and faculty in a discursive setting outside, in the interest of promoting growth and engagement through our Student-Faculty Discussions


  • Expose students to a wide range of multicultural writers by providing reading material and resources


  • Encourage mentorship between students of color and OW Authors in Residence


Writers in Residence


One of the cornerstones of Our Word’s mission is to provide opportunities for students to have mentorship with writers of color currently working in fiction, poetry or creative nonfiction. In an effort to bring a more diverse perspective to the MFA Program, we invite one artist to be our Writer-in-Residence (WiR) each semester. Copies of the WiR’s books and articles are made readily available to students. The WiR offers feedback to student work in a one-on-one conference setting, providing not only an additional source of feedback, but personal experience and understanding of the unique challenges of writers of minority backgrounds. Our Word and its members also host a dinner with each Writer-in-Residence where we engage in further discussions of the artist’s work.


Students also receive opportunities to ask more general questions about publishing and race, the writer’s life, academia and teaching during a one-hour Q&A. This is a chance for us to engage with the artist as someone on the path that we hope to travel. One of the most memorable experiences of being an Our Word member is the privilege of meeting with our Writers-in-Residence.