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January 13, 2017

SVSU student wins top honor in national collegiate courtroom competition

A Saginaw Valley State University student’s passionate approach to arguing courtroom cases in a competitive collegiate setting earned him the highest national honor from the American Moot Court Association.

Gabe Klotz, a political science major from Midland, delivered an inspired performance and received the national title in oration at the association’s national championship competition at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida Jan. 6-7. He bested 159 competitors from top universities across the United States who had qualified for the competition.
Klotz earned an invitation to the tournament after performing well with SVSU’s moot court program during a regional competition at SVSU in December. This was Klotz’s first academic year competing in moot court, where students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.
“This is a significant accomplishment,” said Julie Keil, an SVSU assistant professor of political science and Klotz’s moot court program advisor. “That’s a huge thing. One year, we had a student who placed No. 14 in that category, but that’s as high as we reached previously.”
Keil said Klotz received notice he should attend the tournament’s closing banquet, where the American Moot Court Association announces the top winner for the contest’s three categories: the overall team competition award as well as individual awards for oration and brief writing.
“When he was invited to the banquet, he thought he might have placed No. 19 or 20, so earning No. 1 was a surprise to him,” Keil said. “As they were announcing the top three, he assumed someone made a mistake when they told him he placed high. Then they announced his name. That was exciting.”
Klotz earned the ranking — and a trophy — based on a composite score determined by judges observing Klotz’s presentation. The score was based on speaking ability, demeanor and knowledge of the courtroom case being discussed. Klotz won by the narrowest of margins; he earned a 382.5 score, edging the next-closest competitor’s 382.3 score.
Klotz’s moot court teammate was Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland.

SVSU’s moot court program, founded seven years ago by Keil, is ranked No. 20 in the nation. That ranking does not reflect this month’s competition. Keil expects the new rankings will be revealed in July.

Keil said the competition was stiff for the eight SVSU students who earned invitations to the tournament.
Of SVSU’s four tandems, the duo with the highest team competition score placed No. 49 out of the 80 teams. That distinction belonged to teammates Connor Hughes, a political science major from Howell, and Madison Laskowski, a political science major from Bay City. Both earned invitations to the national tournament by placing No. 1 during a regional competition in Chicago last year.
Teams from Patrick Henry College in Virginia and the United States Air Force Academy earned the national competition’s No. 1 and No. 2 team awards, respectively.
“There were some very prestigious universities there,” Keil said. “The competition gets harder every year, as moot court becomes more popular.”
SVSU’s other representatives at the tournament included the teams of Allison Fuller, a political science major from Davison, and Nancy Haddad, a communication major from Saginaw; and political science majors Eric Maul of Lupton, and Joshua Hoebeke of West Branch.

More than 350 colleges and universities field American Moot Court Association teams. Each year, American Moot Court Association organizers create a single fictional U.S. Supreme Court case — often based on actual cases heard in lower courts — that competitors must address when participating in the regional and national tournaments.

This year’s case study concerned voter rights. The case specifically dealt with a citizen who divorced her husband, changed her name but did not update her ID documents in time for the election. As a result, clerk employees did not allow the citizen to vote because her ID did not match the voting registry.

For more information on the American Moot Court Association, visit

January 12, 2017

As her own retirement approaches, founding director reflects on SVSU program dedicated to engaging retirees

Jo Brownlie is in the business of helping others cross items off their bucket lists. It is a source of pride for the founding director of Saginaw Valley State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI.

Brownlie will retire from SVSU in February after 31 years at the university and 16 years overseeing OLLI, a program that offers enlightening educational opportunities and engaging trips for its 50-years-and-older members.

“It has been a pleasure to see so many members cross things off their bucket lists on our trips,” Brownlie said.

“This has included zip-lining and white water rafting in Costa Rica, enjoying the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, marveling over the Colosseum in Rome, touring the Acropolis in Athens, traveling on the Napa Valley wine train and gazing down on the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.”

The travel adventures are a small component of the larger OLLI experience, which Brownlie helped found in 2001 when the university recognized and answered a community call for enrichment opportunities that include those approaching retirement or already retired. Prior to receiving an endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2005, SVSU’s program originally was known as the Institute for Learning and Retirement.

“Education for that age group was an unmet need at that time,” Brownlie said. “That population really does enjoy learning new things, and no one in our region was filling the need at that time despite the fact the number of retirees was really starting to grow. So we helped fill the gap.”

About 250 people signed up during the inaugural year. Membership has grown to nearly 2,000 currently.

At first, the institute offered courses on a variety of topics that appealed to the demographic. As membership grew, the institute also offered educational trips both in the United States and abroad. The first trip in 2005 sent members to Spain. In the years since, Costa Rica and Ireland have proven to be popular destinations, as have domestic cities such as New Orleans and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“OLLI has had such a positive impact on many of our members’ lives,” Brownlie said.  “We have actually been told that our program has saved lives. After leaving a full-time job, or after the death of a spouse, OLLI classes and trips can add structure to a member’s day. They also have the opportunity to meet new friends who share their love of learning, fitness, a hobby or travel.”

The experience has proven inspiring for the program’s instructors too.

Katherine Ellison, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor of history at SVSU, began teaching history-based classes for OLLI two years ago.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Ellison, who also serves as school board president for the Hemlock Public School District in Saginaw County.

“A lot of our members have lived through some of the history I’m teaching. They’ve taught me things — things I never would have known from just reading books.”

When teaching a class on former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, one of the OLLI members presented Ellison a photograph.

“It was a picture of him, shaking hands with Richard Nixon (former president as well as vice president to Eisenhower) when Nixon came to Saginaw to campaign for Eisenhower,” Ellison said.

Her experience with OLLI was so inspirational that Ellison applied for the job as Brownlie’s successor. Ellison has begun her work in January, providing some time for a smooth transition.

“I gave my students in my most recent OLLI course a brief survey and asked them what comes to mind when they first think of OLLI,” Ellison said. “Many of them commented ‘friends.’ Not only does OLLI allow seniors to be lifelong learners, but it also allows me an opportunity to be a lifelong learner as well by being a part of the organization.”

While Brownlie soon will step down as director February 1, she won’t be leaving OLLI. She signed up for three classes in 2017, when she hopes to check off a few more items on her personal bucket list.

January 11, 2017

SVSU Foundation board elects officers, adds members

The Saginaw Valley State University Foundation board of directors elected officers for 2017 at its regular December meeting.

Andrew D. Richards of Saginaw will serve as chair; he is an attorney with the law firm Smith Bovill. Donald Bachand, SVSU president, will serve as first vice chair.  Kim Norris of Saginaw will serve as second vice chair; she is vice president of administration for Glastender and an SVSU alumna.

The secretary will be Dave Abbs of Saginaw, an SVSU alumnus; he is a certified financial planner and owner of Abbs Retirement Planning Advisors. Jim Muladore, SVSU executive vice president for administration and business affairs, will serve as treasurer; he also is an SVSU graduate.

Vicki Rupp of Saginaw, a member of SVSU’s Board of Control, will serve on the executive committee; she is an SVSU alumna and recently retired from Dow. Attorney John D.L. Humphreys of Saginaw also remains on the executive committee as immediate past chair.

The SVSU Foundation also welcomed two new members to the board: Sean Hammond of Lansing, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council; and Michael Tribble of Saginaw, a CPA with the accounting firm Yeo & Yeo. Both are SVSU alumni.

“We are fortunate to have so many individuals from our community, and more recently from throughout Michigan, who are deeply committed to advancing SVSU and our goals for the progress of our students, our region and our state,” said Andy Bethune, executive director of the SVSU Foundation. “Their volunteer efforts are vital as we work with donors to increase scholarship opportunities for students, and move forward with strategic priorities, such as raising private funds to support construction of a new facility for the College of Business and Management.”

Humphreys and Norris were re-elected to four-year terms on the board, as were Rick Goedert of Saginaw, president and CEO of 1st State Bank; John E. Kessler of Midland, senior trust officer and executive vice president of Chemical Bank Wealth Management.

Departing the board are Terry Moore of Midland and Dr. Debasish Mridha of Saginaw, who each completed eight years of service on the board and were each named honorary directors of the SVSU Foundation.

“I would like to thank John Humphreys for his leadership over the past two years and I welcome the opportunity to work with Andrew Richards as our new chair,” Bethune said. “On behalf of the board, I also express appreciation to Terry Moore and Dr. Mridha for their dedicated support of SVSU students, particularly those planning careers in health care.”

In September 2015, the SVSU Foundation announced the completion of the “Talent. Opportunity. Promise” campaign, which raised more than $28 million, the largest fundraising effort in university history. SVSU benefactors created more than 200 new scholarships for SVSU students to help defray the cost of their education; the campaign also resulted more than $8 million for STEM-related initiatives to enhance opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

January 4, 2017

SVSU home to ‘best dorms’ in Michigan and among top 20 in the nation

Saginaw Valley State University is ringing in the new year having secured — and improved — its reputation as a neighborly and friendly institution for students to live, according to a website grading “Best Dorms” in the nation.

The website, Niche, ranked SVSU’s residential facilities No. 1 in the state and No. 19 nationally. Niche first ranked SVSU No. 1 statewide in 2015. The university was ranked No. 26 nationally at the time.

Niche calculates their rankings using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score came from students’ satisfaction with their housing, as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education. The ranking assesses 1,398 four-year colleges and universities.

News of SVSU’s stellar review was no surprise to Sean Gilmore. The junior accounting major from Oxford, Michigan has lived in SVSU housing since he was a shy freshman.

“The dorms here really helped me break out of my shell that first year,” he said. “It’s a very safe-feeling environment where you feel comfortable walking around and meeting new people. That helped me become the person I am today.”

Gilmore said students are attracted to the on-campus activities and camaraderie felt between neighbors.

“The staff and students are very friendly,” Gilmore said. “It feels like home.”

One of those staff members — Michele Gunkelman, SVSU director of Residential Life — said the university wants residents to feel as if they are part of a community.

“We work with students to create an environment where they are part of the experience, where they are engaged in their community, and where they are empowered to make the most of their experience,” she said.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Gunkelman’s office offered 349 residential life-related programs for the SVSU community. She said about 80 percent of on-campus students participated.

“The Residential Life staff takes great pride in the work they do to make living on campus an enriching experience for students,” she said.

More than 2,400 students currently live on SVSU’s campus. Four the past eight years, at least 70 percent of the freshman class has chosen to live in SVSU’s residence halls.

To view the “Best Dorms” list, go to

To view 360° videos of Freshman Housing go to: First Year Suites. To view 360° videos of Upperclass Housing go to: University Village.

December 22, 2016

SVSU Holiday Video - 2016

Coop the Cardinal spreads holiday joy throughout campus.

Celebrate the tradition of giving, experience the beauty of the season, cherish the joy of family and value the gift of friends. Your SVSU family wishes to extend our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season and a very Happy New Year.

#MerryChristmas #HappyHanukkah #HappyKwanzaa #WeBelieve #WeCelebrate #WeValue #WeCardinal

December 22, 2016

SVSU promotes Peretz to dean of Arts and Behavioral Sciences

Saginaw Valley State University has announced that Marc Peretz has been chosen to serve as dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences. He had been serving as interim dean since July 2015.

Peretz joined the SVSU music faculty in 1989 and served nearly 20 years as department chair. In addition to serving as interim dean, he has held the position of associate provost for international and advanced studies since 2014. During this time, SVSU’s English Language Program earned national accreditation and international enrollment increased.

From 2010 to 2014, Peretz served as SVSU’s accreditation liaison officer, in advance of an eventual successful re-accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.

“Marc brought a great deal of administrative experience to his appointment as interim dean and has been effective in that role for nearly 18 months,” said Deb Huntley, SVSU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “After conducting an extensive national search, we concluded we had the right person serving in that role. Marc enjoys the support of his colleagues within the college and that will be important as we work to enhance student success through innovative teaching in the arts, humanities and social sciences.”

Students in SVSU’s College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences have enjoyed a banner fall in academic competition.

The SVSU moot court program is sending four teams to the American Moot Court Association national tournament in Gulfport, Florida January 6-7. Only two colleges or universities – out of more than 350 nationally – qualified more students to attend the contest. In all, 80 teams with 160 students will compete.

A total of nine SVSU students have qualified for the national forensics tournament that will be held April 13-17 at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire.

Student Erik Breidinger earned top honors for presenting his community-minded research on the Kawkawlin River. A communication and geography double major from Auburn, he won first place in the undergraduate paper presentation category at the American Association of Geographers East Lakes/West Lakes conference in October.

Prior to SVSU, Peretz taught at Ball State University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.  He completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Temple University.

A resident of Midland, Peretz has administrative experience outside of his college, as well. While serving in the provost’s office, he filled temporary appointments as associate dean for the colleges of Education, and Health and Human Services. He officially begins his new duties January 1.

December 22, 2016

SVSU promotes Bowrin to business dean

Saginaw Valley State University has announced that Anthony Bowrin has been chosen to serve as dean of the College of Business and Management. He had been serving as interim dean since June.

Bowrin joined the SVSU accounting faculty in 2009. He served as associate dean of the College of Business and Management from 2013 until his appointment as interim dean. Bowrin also previously chaired the College’s Graduate Committee, which has responsibility for activities related to SVSU’s M.B.A. program.

In 2013, Bowrin co-authored the College’s self-evaluation report for AACSB accreditation, which was ultimately successful. This places SVSU among the top 5 percent of all business schools worldwide.

“We conducted a national search and ultimately decided that Tony was the right person to lead our business programs,” said Deb Huntley, SVSU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “He is highly respected by faculty within his college, and he has been an enthusiastic leader as associate and interim dean. Under Tony’s experienced leadership we will continue to innovate our curriculum and strengthen ties to regional businesses.”

Among other tasks, Bowrin will oversee adapting the M.B.A. curriculum to a fully online program, starting in 2017.

In addition to academic programs, SVSU’s College of Business and Management serves as a valuable resource to the regional business community.  It is home to the Stevens Center for Family Business, which supports family businesses through education, collaboration and networking opportunities, and the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, which stimulates the creation of new business ventures, serves as a resource for research activities aimed at business innovation, and provides internship opportunities with area businesses for student entrepreneurs.

Prior to SVSU, Bowrin served nine years on the faculty and held leadership positions at the University of the West Indies, where he had completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He completed a Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University.

As executive director of the University of the West Indies School of Business and Applied Studies, Bowrin led a team of 25 permanent administrative staff and over 60 part-time faculty members. The school achieved profitability and cash flow stability by initiating strategies that strengthened the institution’s focus on excellence in academic programs and customer service. These initiatives included flexible scheduling of classes, the development of customized assistance activities to facilitate student success, and finding creative ways of resolving students’ challenges, while maintaining the integrity of program requirements and objectives.

A resident of Midland, Bowrin will be responsible for providing strategic and academic leadership for the college, and for maintaining continuous improvement to meet AACSB standards. He officially begins his new duties January 1.

December 19, 2016

SVSU Board approves room and board rates for 2018-19

The Saginaw Valley State University Board of Control set room and board rates for the 2018-19 academic year during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Dec. 16. The rates are part of SVSU’s nearly $31 million auxiliary operations budget, which covers self-sustaining operations such as housing, dining, and conferencing.

Room and board rates will increase by an average of 3.7 percent for the 2019 fiscal year, including planned technology improvements. Students living in the First Year Suites will pay $8,874 for their housing and meal plan for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year; that will rise to $9,096 in 2018-19. Students residing in M.J. Brandimore House or a Living Center residence hall will pay $9,378 for their housing and meal plan for the upcoming academic year; that will increase to $9,986 for the 2018-19 academic year.

SVSU’s student housing is rated as No. 1 in Michigan and No. 19 in the nation out of 1,398 U.S.  colleges and universities evaluated by the website Niche. The rankings were calculated using a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score came from students’ satisfaction with their housing. (

The Board also approved a new accelerated certification program in the College of Education. The program was developed in response to a request SVSU received from the Michigan Department of Education to provide an expedited path for displaced workers and others seeking to start a new career as an educator. There is a teacher shortage across the United States and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts nearly 700,000 new jobs in the education field through 2024.

Under SVSU’s new program, students who have completed a bachelor’s degree previously will be able to complete their teacher certification in one year. The program features a classroom residency, meaning these students will be teaching in K-12 classrooms as they complete their course work.

The Board granted emeritus status to Jo Brownlie and Eric Gilbertson. Brownlie has worked at SVSU since 1985, and for the past 15 years, she has served as director of SVSU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which has grown from a few hundred members in its inaugural year (2001) to nearly 2,000 members in the current year. Gilbertson served as SVSU’s president from 1989 to 2014, and currently serves as an executive-in-residence. During his presidency, he oversaw enrollment growth and the addition of numerous campus buildings, while also implementing a number of new programs to serve students.

In other action, the Board:
•    Passed a resolution congratulating the SVSU Student Association for their leadership in this year's “Battle of the Valleys” fundraising competition. In one week, SVSU raised more than $26,000 for Hidden Harvest, a non-profit organizations the helps the hungry in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
•    Passed a resolution to congratulate the 2016 SVSU men's soccer team which qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament for the fifth time in six years.
•    Passed a resolution to congratulate the 2016 SVSU men’s cross country team, which ran to 10th place finish at the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championships.
•    Passed a resolution to congratulate the 2016 SVSU women's volleyball team which qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament for the second consecutive year.
•    Passed a resolution to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees, as 685 students are expected to complete degree requirements at the end of the fall semester.
•    Approved the confirmation of board members for previously authorized charter schools.
•    Appointed Kate Nigro to the board of directors for the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum.
•    Approved sabbatical proposals for 11 faculty: Sherrin Frances, English; Jules Gehrke, history; Brandon Haskett, music; James Hitt, philosophy; Ken Jolly, history; Jeff Koperski, philosophy; David Nichols, philosophy; Patrick Pan, mathematics; Evelyn Ravuri, geography; Danilo Sirias, management; and Jennifer Stinson, history.
•    Granted an honorary degree in canine support to Roxie Rose Reno, a service dog that has accompanied graduating student Alan Reno throughout his years at SVSU.
•    Affirmed the Board’s establishment of a police department oversight committee.
•    Reappointed the accounting firm of Andrews Hooper Pavlik to serve as SVSU’s auditors for the 2017 fiscal year.
•    Approved 2 percent raises for the 2017 calendar year for executive staff. President Donald Bachand’s salary was set at $280,500; Bachand earned $275,000 in 2016. Deb Huntley, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will receive a salary of $224,400 and James G. Muladore, executive vice president for administration and business affairs, will receive a salary of $214,200.

December 14, 2016

SVSU students empowered to explore journeys of expression through Odyssey

By Kayla Eisenlord

‌Saginaw Valley State University has a new resource for a community of student writers creating content for Odyssey. Aiming to shine a spotlight on millennial voices, Odyssey gives student writers a platform to discuss what matters most to them.

Local communities of Odyssey are popping up on many collegiate campuses across the nation and many of the posts written on the platform have gone viral. The SVSU community was established back in March and has grown quickly to be among the nation’s most prolific.

Abby Engel, a communications major from Birch Run and editor-in-chief of SVSU's community of Odyssey, explained that the site is “an open platform. They don't tell you what you can and can't write. Writers have the freedom to cover any topic they choose.”

In just a few short months as editor-in-chief, Engel has taken the Odyssey community — comprised of fewer than 10 content creators when she took the reins — and turned it into a staff of more than 30 content creators that is now a registered student organization at SVSU.

Michael Nocella, who works out of Odyssey's New York City headquarters and serves as a content strategist for various local communities, including SVSU, called the university's 32-articles-per-week pace “very impressive.”

“Out of 1,200 local communities, only a handful of communities are producing that much content on a weekly basis,” he said, adding Engel has excelled in her role as editor-in-chief.

Topics range from sweetly sentimental pieces dedicated to a pet thanking them for teaching us what it means to love someone with your whole heart, to "life hacks" and tips on how to survive your freshman year of college.

Nocella explained, "Odyssey is about reflecting what people really feel, not selling more media…what you see represents nothing other than authentic ideas that the community deems important."

Miah Cooper is a secondary education major from Bay City and one of the content creators for SVSU's community of Odyssey.

“It makes my writing feel valued and I'm happy to have the opportunity to reach so many people through my writing,” Cooper said.

Cooper reached tens of thousands of people with her article titled, “This Shooting Does Not Define Our SVSU Family.” In the aftermath of a shooting in September at an off-campus apartment complex where many students reside and where Cooper was present, she took to Odyssey in order to comfort and unify her fellow Cardinals as well as parents, community members and prospective students.

“I hoped that it would reach people who needed to hear it,” she said. “I hoped it would help some people find comfort.”

Nearly 8,000 people have shared Cooper's essay on social media. Local TV and newspaper reporters interviewed her about the story. Strangers thanked her for sharing her feelings.

Upon hearing of Cooper's experience at the party that night, Engel explained that she was in full support of Cooper's decision to write the article.

“She needed to share her story,” Engel said.

In the article, Cooper wrote, “As a Cardinal, my Red Pride is school is my safe place. My school is not dangerous. My school is not violent, but the world is. So on this day – and every day – I stand with my Saginaw Valley State University — because we are Cardinal strong.”

But Odyssey isn't just a place for SVSU students to express their thoughts, feelings, concerns and values. It gives them a home on SVSU's campus. In an article written by Engel, titled “Thank You Odyssey for Giving Me a Home,” she addressed the online community directly.

“You gave me a chance to change the lives of the people who read my articles, the people who join my team, the people who ask what Odyssey is,” Engel wrote. “You changed my life. Without you, I don’t know where I would be.”

To read SVSU's Odyssey essays, click here:

December 13, 2016

SVSU College of Education earns 7-year accreditation stamp of approval

The endorsement of a new accrediting agency will empower Saginaw Valley State University graduates with a powerful résumé boost when they seek jobs in an expanding K-12 education workforce.

The SVSU College of Education recently earned accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for a 7-year period. SVSU is one of the early adopters of the relatively new agency, said Craig Douglas, dean of the SVSU College of Education.

“The reason we decided to pursue this accreditation was because we embrace the idea of continuous improvement,” he said. “Education is changing so fast, and in order to prepare teacher candidates, colleges of education have to be able to change too, and to improve with the changes.”

SVSU is one of only 17 schools in the nation to have passed the new, tougher standards, according to Education Week. 

Douglas, who spent nearly 40 years working in public education before joining SVSU in 2014, said the accreditation is a powerful endorsement of the support students receive from SVSU faculty, and for SVSU graduates as they enter a work force ripe for qualified candidates — in Michigan, especially.

After years of decline, openings for K-12 teachers in the state have swelled. For example, there were 546 K-12 teaching openings reported in 2012 compared to 849 openings in 2015, according to SVSU Career Services, which tracks job opportunities for students and alumni. That’s a 35.6 percent hike in opportunities within a 3-year span, and districts have been active posting jobs this year, too.

Some education experts estimate nearly one-third of the teaching jobs in Michigan will turn over in the next few years.

“This accreditation breeds confidence in our students’ abilities,” Douglas said. “For schools looking for candidates, this means they can be assured our students meet the expectations of an accrediting body. Once you attain accreditation, you have achieved a benchmark that is of value and importance to your students and employers that will hire them one day.”

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