Our Word is a student organization whose mission is to enrich the Columbia University School of the Arts, and the literary community in general, with outreach, advocacy, and inclusion of new and old literary voices.
Our Word’s history is based in activism. In 2000, Victor Cervantes staged a protest to highlight the lack of attention for artists of color on campus. This protest grew into a student organization, with Russell Contreras serving as founding president for the first two years. Our Word supports diverse writers whose identities are traditionally underrepresented, including, but not limited to, persons of color, international students, persons with disabilities, LGBTQIA, and women. Our Word is open to anyone in the School of the Arts who is invested in our mission and communities.
Our Word is committed to championing inclusiveness in literature and organizes events to nurture a community of students within and outside the Writing Program. We work with faculty to sustain an ongoing dialogue in support of diversity within the School of the Arts. Our Word builds community by hosting readings, workshops, social events on and off campus, a Writer-in-Residence, and discussions with special guests. These events, with few exceptions, are open to the public.
Victor LaValle (lead advisor)
2021-2022 Our Word Co-Presidents
Zoe Hardwick and Jesús Ian Kumamoto
2021-2022 Our Word Co-Presidents
Alice Yang & Nafisa Afrin Iqbal
2020-2021 Our Word Co-Presidents
Taylor Michael & Raad Rahman
2019-2020 Our Word Co-Presidents
Celine Aenlle-Rocha & Liza Stewart
2018-2019 Our Word Co-Presidents
Chelsea Roberts & Chenee Daley
2017-2018 Our Word Co-Presidents
Jarrod Harrison & Cyree Johnson
Writers in Residence
Each semester, Our Word hosts a Writer-in-Residence who works with writing students across genres. This program provides meaningful mentorship and connections for our members.
The Writer-in-Residence will facilitate a workshop and provide one-on-one feedback, as well as give a public reading and participate in additional speaking events as time allows. Their tenure may also include a group dinner and other opportunities for mentoring and networking.
Previous guests have included Namwali Serpell, Safiya Sinclair, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Wesley Brown, Marie Mockett, Samantha Thornhill, Victor LaValle, Hari Kunzru, Colson Whitehead, Cynthia Cruz, and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts.
Our Word hosts readings, panels, social gatherings, and workshops, and publishes an annual zine.
In the Spring semester, current Our Word Co-Presidents will collect brief statements of intent from applicants, and candidates will have the opportunity to speak in support of their candidacy at a public meeting.
Eligibility: First year registered, full-time Graduate Writing students, and members of Our Word who have attended at least TWO Our Word events.
2023–2024 Elections will be held in March or April 2023.
Co-Presidents present a proposed budget early in the academic year, based on the previous year’s budget and detailing projected income and expenses, for review and approval by the Writing Program’s Director of Academic Administration. Our Word Co-Presidents will work with Writing Program faculty to sustain an ongoing dialogue in support of diversity within the Program.
Our Word Co-Presidents are also responsible for securing Fall and Spring semester Writers-in-Residence, planning social events, updating and maintaining official bylaws and the website, and serving as a resource for students, especially as needed in liaisons with faculty.