campus encounters

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Archive for the category “College Visits”

Elms College

Elms College (visited 5/28/19)

Elms flowers“The practical education is one of the best parts of an Elms education. Students get a close look at whether or not the major they’ve chosen is really the right field for them.” I think this is one of my favorite things about Elms (in addition to the attractive campus) – it’s small and personal enough that they can really make sure that the students are getting what is most useful for them.

Elms fire pitThe rep I spoke to graduated from Elms (the full name is College of Our Lady of the Elms – but everyone just calls it Elms). “As a senior in high school, I met a faculty member here who already made me feel connected to campus. It seemed like the right place to be.” He was looking for a small campus where he could get involved and do internships and found that here. “I got to explore a lot. I took a Social Work class because it was required and ended up double majoring.”

Elms gateFounded by the Sisters of St. Joseph, this is very clearly a Catholic institution, but they make no assumption that students are Catholic. However, they do expect people to be understanding of others. “We’re pretty reserved when it comes to religious requirements and ideology. Students do have to take one 3-credit course which focuses more on being a good person and helping the community, and there’s a 30-hour community service requirement before graduation.” The Dorothy Day Service program offers the first-year students the chance to come to campus a week before classes start and complete many of these hours.

Elms signThere’s no expectation that students live on campus for any length of time; they currently house about 500 students on campus, but enrollment is more than twice that. The students who live on campus tend to stay, but they also pull a lot of kids from a 20-30 minute radius who commute in. They encourage students to live on campus by offering residents slightly larger scholarships. The rep would like to see another res hall added. “It would be a good step. Res halls are almost always at capacity. It would make it easier to grow. It’s not sorely necessary, but it would bring some new options.”

Elms sealThe Lyons Center for Natural and Health Sciences (built in 2012) is the best change the rep said he has seen since he got here. “It’s a nice improvement. It looks uniform to the rest of campus in terms of the outside, but the inside has the most state-of-the-art nursing, bio, Chem, and Computer Info Tech labs in the area. The simulation labs are modeled after Bay State Medical Center down the street which is the most used place we send students for nursing clinicals. It’s a really robust program.”

Elms library intSome of the academics worth noting include:

  • All majors have some sort of clinical, internship, etc attached to them.
  • Nursing is direct entry (as are all others majors) with a 100% NCLEX pass rate last year.
  • The Education program (including certification in Moderate Special Needs) also has strong outcomes year to year with a 100% job placement rate for the last 7 years.
  • The Accelerated MBA is “really aggressive. Students graduate in May and start the Masters two weeks later.” There’s a Certified Financial Planning program.
  • They have a great 3+3 articulation with Western New England University for law. Students majoring in psych or Criminal Justice with a 3.5+GPA, they can apply.
  • They offer an MSW hybrid with St. Louis University; they get the BSW and complete half of the program at Elms; the other half is online.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders “is enveloped in the Social Sciences division.” There’s also a major for Speech-Language Pathology Assistant.
  • They offer a few unusual minors such as Irish Studies, Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and Coaching.

Elms 2Admissions is moderately selective with incoming students having an average of 3.0 GPA. Currently, applicants need to submit test scores, but Elms will go test-optional in 2020-21. Recommendation letters are optional except for the nursing majors who also will require to submit test scores because of Board licensure (the minimum SAT requirement is a 1000 or it’ll be really difficult), and they must get through Algebra 2.

© 2019

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Bay Path University

Bay Path University (visited 5/28/19)

BPC main sign 2Bay Path is a small, pretty women’s college with some amazing academic programs. I learned from the tour guide that most of the sculptures (mostly by local artists) diplayed around campus were purchased by the President’s husband to donate to the college.

BPC sculpture 2Bay Path operates its traditional residential campus in Longmeadow, just outside of Springfield. Under this umbrella is the American Women’s College, an online, bachelors-granting college for adult women (although they offer a few hybrid classes that will meet occasionally on Saturday, as well). Many of the graduate programs (such as Education, Psych, and health sciences) are held on the Health Science Center campus in East Longmeadow, about 4 miles from main campus, allowing this campus to retain much of an undergraduate, traditional feel.

BPC sculpture 4The admissions building is a converted house with welcoming spaces used by current and perspective students. The President will hold dinners in one of the larger rooms as well as at her house (located by the athletic center), and all students get invited during their time on campus. “She’s very visible. We definitely can voice opinions,” said my tour guide.

BPC 5“Students who want to be a number will not do well here. They won’t make it,” said the rep. Bay Path works well with first-gen students. They recognize and work with several barriers, including cultural and financial. “Sometimes they’re not allowed to separate quite so well.” They offer Finish Line scholarships to help students persist through to graduation. “ If they’re willing to come take a chance, they’ll do great here.”

BPC 3All freshmen are housed in the same dorm; upperclassmen have a chose of 2 other buildings. The tour guide took me into Theinert, the Freshmen dorm. “Rooms are a little smaller here than the others,” she said, but I thought they were decent sizes for doubles. Campus food is an 8. “I’d like more variety especially on weekends. Lots of people go home so there’s less choice then.” She stays on campus because she plays lacrosse. “There’s definitely more going on around campus in the fall.” Residents pay a parking fee but commuters do not. Freshman can have cars on a space-available basis and there are community bikes available.

BPC Commons

The Commons

The university has been working to increase the number of weekend activities as well as participation. They’ve instituted Destination Saturdays, offering local and seasonal trips like apple picking, sledding, goat yoga, ice skating, and Celtics or Bruins games. There are free shuttles to local stores and attractions and students get discounted movie tickets. The closest theaters are in West Springfield or Enfield (20 minutes away).

A few traditions that the tour guide particularly liked include:

  • Campus Awakenings, an event held before dawn on the first day of school. “It’s kind of a way for seniors and faculty to welcome freshmen.”
  • Wacky Wildcats (like Field Day)
  • Curtain Call at the end of the year (kind of the opposite of Awakening)

BPC labNot surprisingly for a school this size, (a little under 1900 students), 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students. My tour guide’s smallest class (a Women in STEM Honors class) had 6 students in it. My tour guide and the rep shared a lot of great academic information with me:

  • Cybersecurity is a newer program with tracks in Digital Forensics and Information Assurance. Bay Path has been selected as 1 of 5 partner school with GOOGLE!
  • All students get iPads.
  • They offer 5 tracks within Forensics including Forensic Psych and Forensic Science. A Forensic Anthropologist from the Medical Examiner’s office and a Special Prosecutor for the FBI teaches here. This was one of the first programs in the area in the area, so they have great outcomes for students. They have a genome sequencing machine on campus, the same as used in the Massachusetts Crime Lab. They also have a ballistics lab.
  • BPC forensicsThey offer a 5-year OT program
  • The Business Program offers 12 specializations, although some like Strategic HR Management, Digital Marketing Management, and Food Industry Management are only offered online.
  • Interior Design: Commercial and Residential majors designed one of the academic buildings.
  • BPC learning commons int

    Part of the Learning Commons

    The Learning Commons has a law floor and an early childhood education floor. This doubles as a community library.

  • An American History class offered every year examines a time or place during the fall semester, then they tour the place in January (this year, they went to Savannah and Charleston). The trips aren’t that expensive, but can also apply for travel scholarship to offset costs. “Students can take it every year and have a different experience.” They save seats for first-year students.
  • “Things are pretty hands-on here,” said the tour guide. In her First Year Seminar, took Monster Madness, “We put Dracula on trial.”
  • WELL (Women as Empowered Leaders and Learners) is built into the core classes; students take several classes around different growth, learning, and leadership themes. The First-Year Read is incorporated into these classes, and there’s a Residential programming component as well.

BPC loungeBay Path participates in the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield Consortium with Elms, American International College, Springfield, Westfield State, WNEU, and the Community College. They don’t have shuttles, but most campuses are relatively close and are on bus lines. Students can take up to 2 classes per semester (usually not the first semester), must be in good academic standing, and register for a class that is not offered at their home campus.

Admission is test-optional. However, if they submit test scores, they do not need an essay or recommendation letters (they can submit if they’d like but they’re not required). Without test score, applicants need both the letters and the essay. They will need to submit test scores for any honors program. Qualified students will be invited to apply to general honors, Women in Stem Honors (WISH) or Women in Business Honors. Regular Honors provides a $1500 scholarship; the others award $2500.

In the past years, they’ve held a Signature Scholarship Competition (the rep isn’t sure it’s happening next year). Interested students write an essay of up to 750 words on the yearly theme (last year’s was Curiosity). 40 students got invited to campus in February to compete for a Full Tuition scholarship, but everyone who came got additional money.

© 2019

University of Saint Joseph (CT)

University of St. Joseph’s (visited 5/30/19)

USJ quad 1I’m glad I took the time to stop at St. Joseph’s on my way to the University of Hartford. In some ways, USJ gets overlooked, but it was a pleasant surprise and will hopefully grow beyond its regional status (it’s about 90% in-state students). Although it’s a smaller school, students at USJ can expand their options through the Greater Hartford Higher Education Consortium (with U Hartford, Trinity, CCSU, and UConn Hartford) to take courses not offered on the home campus as well as to utilize study abroad programs and other resources.

USJ missionOpen since the early 1930s, they just went coed in 2018; they’re already about 1/3 male which is amazing one year into admitting men. “We’re still holding onto the idea of women’s empowerment, though. Just because we went coed doesn’t mean we lost that identity.” This includes a Women’s Leadership Center founded in 2016. They added 5 men’s teams this year (and Jim Calhoun, formerly a UConn coach, is the men’s Basketball coach!) with more to come. “I expect them to mirror the women’s teams.” They’re DIII and compete in the GNAC.

USJ chapel 2This is a Sisters of Mercy (Catholic) institution with 3 Sisters employed on campus. “In many ways, they’re the female version of the Jesuits,” said the rep I spoke to, and the university promotes the values of education and caring for others, tenets of the founding group. A large portion of the student body self-identifies as Catholic and there’s an active campus ministry, but they’re less focused on the practice than on exploring Catholicism and celebrating ethnicity and culture. The two on-campus weekly masses (Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon) are open to the public. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but students must take two religion classes – one on exploring religion and the other is open-ended to explore a particular religion or philosophy].

USJ 3Campus is beautiful with cohesive architecture and a large quad. About half of the 1000 undergrads live on campus in 4 traditional and 2 suite-style dorms reserved for upperclassmen. They have no immediate plans to build more dorms “but not unimaginable if we continue to grow. We’re at 95% capacity in terms of beds.” They’re looking to expand their geographic region now that they’ve gone coed. Housing grants are available to encourage students to live on campus.

The biggest lecture hall on campus seats 40 with average class sizes of 14. Although graduate students outnumber the undergrads (not surprising with their Education, Pharmacy, PA, and other programs), undergrad classes have no grad TAs. “Most grad students are professionals who are taking evening or online classes,” said the rep. They’ve done a great job focusing on providing quality undergraduate education and programs, many of which lead into a grad program if the students want.

  • USJ 1Business is growing;
    • Digital Media and Mass Communication was just started with 2 areas of focus: Spanish Media and Sports Media.
    • The Sports Management and Promotion major looks at both sides and requires 2 internships, one with an on-campus team (management side) and one outside (including ESPN which is right down the street in Bristol, about 25 minutes away).
  • The Math Department has expanded beyond traditional math to include Computer and Data Science and Actuarial Science. “Connecticut is the insurance capital of the world with companies like MassMutual, Traveler’s, Hartford, Cigna, and Aetna. Students get snatched up. They take the CPA exam and are ready to be hired.”
  • USJ athenaeumNursing is Direct Entry (applicants need a 3.0 and 1070 with B+ in Chem and Alg2). If they don’t meet that but are close, they’ll come in as pre-nursing. These students have their grades monitored by the nursing staff but take exactly the same classes. “No one knows who’s who. There’s no difference other than the monitoring.” The labs have 6 automated mannequins, including one that gives birth to twins. Labs are capped at 14. In Sophomore year, they work at the nursing home across the street. In Junior and Senior years, clinicals are completed at the local hospitals. They often offer a Sisters of Mercy trip to Guyana so nursing students can work at the hospital there. Non-nursing majors can join the trip and participate in more of the cultural activities.
  • Education: “I used to teach in town, and if we saw a kid coming out of USJ, we wanted that kid over those from other institutions because we knew the training here was better.” There are 2 on-campus schools: one K-Adult special needs, and the other is more of a day-care (infant-PK). As soon as students start education classes (usually sophomore year), they’re in one of those settings immediately getting experience from day. Special Education is technically the only education degree at the undergrad major – but licensure for Elementary and Secondary levels (reciprocal in almost 40 states) is available.
  • The Pharmacy school opened 10 years ago. They just graduated 52 students. 3+3 program.
  • The Physician Assistant program offers both direct entry (3+2) and a grad-only program. Direct-entry students major in Health Sciences as undergrads. This is popular with athletes because it works well with their practice schedules. USJ students who apply to the PA school get priority (but not guaranteed).

USJ 6The USJ alumni network is broad, and the connections the university has in the region means that the name carries weight. Salaries of USJ graduates are often higher than others in Connecticut. Career center helps alumni as well. A vast majority of the faculty have worked in professional or research fields so they have huge connections. Over 90% of students get involved in research, internships, and service projects. “This is a highly service-oriented community. All clubs are required to participate in a service-based activity, a requirement that was enacted by the student government itself.”

USJ quad 2They’ve seen a large interest in growing the on-campus student activities. They’ve just upped the fee as part of the tuition in order to expand what happens on campus. It’s all student-run with a facilitator. Students who are looking to get off campus utilize the local area of West Hartford, “a destination for restaurants and shopping. You can get around really easily without a car,” said the tour guide. The USJ Student ID doubles as a bus pass. Not only does this get students around town, but “you can hop on a city bus to Hartford and transfer to the New Haven MetroNorth station for free. From there, it’s $6 into NYC.”

Admissions is “Score Alternative” – only students interested in the health sciences or the Honors program need to submit test scores. During admissions, a 3.5 GPA and 1220 SAT will flag applicants to be sent to the Honors Committee who makes the final determination for an offer. This provides a half-tuition scholarship right off the bat. Honors Classes swap out the Gen Ed classes.

There’s plenty of scholarship and grant money available including a Visit Scholarship ($1000 for freshman year) and the Mercy Values Scholarship where students write an essay on one of the 7 values and explain how they embody it and will live that on campus. This ranges from $1000 -10,000.

© 2019

Western New England University

Western New England University (visited 5/29/19)

WNEU fountain“I chose to come here because people here looked happy. Everyone at the other school I was considering looked stressed out. I definitely made the right choice.”

I feel very confident recommending WNEU to students. I love walking away from a college with that feeling, particularly when I knew almost nothing about it to start. First, I love that WNEU made their campus easy to navigate – and particularly that their Welcome Center was so easy to find.

WNEU 2More importantly, I love that WNEU is able to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Because of this, enrollment has been going up despite the declining demographics. I spent over an hour talking to the Dean of Admission: “I love where we’re going. It’s so different from when I was in school. We’re looking to add majors and programs. The only true competition we have in the area is UMass.”

WNEU 9

The Library entrance

It’s no secret that universities face a lot of competition, particularly in the Northeast. Because there are so many institutions to choose from, WNEU has deliberately differentiated themselves. “We tend to sent trends. We get things going, and within a couple years, it seems like other places are starting to pick up on what we’re doing, but that just helps us to keep thinking outside the box.” One way they do this is by the working between the colleges:

  • WNEU sci bldg int

    The atrium of one of the science buildings

    They are one of the few schools this size to have a Law School on campus. They use this to their advantage.

    • They’ve created a BS/JD Engineering and Law program for people who want to go into patent law. “This is a really rigorous program and usually only a few students will do this in any given year.”
    • They offer a 3+3 accelerated law Students essentially finish their major/core requirements in the first 3 years and “save the electives for senior year. The first year of law school basically fills those electives, and then they get the Bachelors degree.”
  • Business:
    • WNEU solar house

      A solar house built by students; they took this to a national competition in California

      Ohio University was the pioneer of the Sports Management, but WNEU has the only other one with double accreditation. “Don’t come here for Kinesiology. Come here for the business side.” They’ve been ranked #1 in this department.

    • They have a strong programs in Arts and Entertainment Management, Sport Leadership and Coaching, and Pharmaceutical Business.
    • Accounting is ranked #2 for recruitment of students by major companies out of Hartford (only UConn beat them and they’re 4 times bigger).
    • They are 1 of only 7 schools offering classes in SAP and the only one to offer its students a chance to gain certification. Students with this often get a $6,000-8000 bump in salary. They also offer SAS certification in Business Analytics. Market Analytics is also getting big, especially for non-profits.
  • WNEU lab 2

    One of the labs

    Engineering puts students into labs immediately as freshman, they complete group projects every year, and every student gets a paid internship before graduation. The university has good relationships with United Technology, Smith & Wesson, and many more. Some freshmen even get internships because the program is so strong, but they can’t earn credit until junior year.

  • WNEU Sci and PharmHealth Sciences has almost doubled in size in the last couple years. It’s their version of pre-med.
    • Pre-Optometry and Pre-Physician Assistant are 4-year tracks that aren’t capped.
    • Pharmacy is a 6-year program (2 in pre-pharm, 4 in pharm). They only take 65 students into the program each year, and the SATs are required. If they’re accepted, it’s early-assurance. If they earn a 3.3 GPA in the first 3 semesters with no grades lower than a C-, they’re guaranteed a seat without the need for rec letters or tests. “This helps the students know that it’s really what they want so they can change their mind and still transfer credits into another major. It also helps the school by not having them transfer out of the professional program.”
  • WNEU psych classes

    A poster helping students navigate the multitude of options within the psychology department

    In the Arts & Sciences, Criminal Justice and Psych are the biggest majors.

    • CJ offers concentrations such as Homeland Security and Terrorism, Victim Studies, Criminal Investigations (like the forensics w/o the science), legal studies.
    • Psych: offers both BA or BS (more research oriented) with more than 15 tracks (not a concentration) such as clinical, sports, forensics, environmental psych, and industrial/organizational.
    • Forensic Bio and Forensic Chem are also popular.

WNEU 6I love that they offer so many accelerated, direct-entry, and 4+1 programs. “Anything we can do to help out the student and maybe save them a bit of money is beneficial.”

It’s amazing how deliberate they are in helping students find the right fit, even if that isn’t WNEU. “The resources and the opportunities make it the right fit. I’d rather lose kids who don’t want to be here than try to convince them to come and then lose them. That doesn’t help anyone. If we can’t support you, if we don’t have the major you want, then I’m going to tell a student to look at another school.” This plays a huge role in retention.

WNEU 10Another way they help prospective students is to tell them where they stand if they bring a transcript and test scores to their visit. Many programs (particularly business and Arts & Sciences are test-optional). “We can let them know if sending in test scores is a good idea or not in these cases when we look over stuff.”

“We’d rather take the B/B+ students who work hard and have been involved in school life because they’re the ones who will take advantage of more opportunities. The 4.0 kids are often more focused on the books. The others are looking to get involved and do really well here. We’ll have the kids who struggled or didn’t want to come here to give tours. They’re the best ambassadors we have.”

WNEU cupola 2One of the perceived drawbacks of the college is the location, “but this is NOT the same city it was 20 years ago. It’s no longer on the Dangerous City List,” said the rep. Springfield is the 3rd largest city in Massachuetts and the city of Firsts (Basketball, Goodyear tires, and the Webster dictionary to name a few). The casino has come in, people have moved up from Hartford, and there’s quite a bit of revitalization. There are resources available for students, not just in the city but the region.

WNEU mascot 2

The Mascot statue which students ride

Campus is also booming. They have clubs for transfers, vets, and commuters so they look out for all sorts of students. One of the most popular “and one of the most welcoming clubs I’ve ever seen” is Warp, a gaming club. They’re looking into adding E-Sports, potentially starting it as a club. There are a number of popular traditions, including:

  • Students are supposed to ride the Bear statue (the mascot) before they graduate
  • Painting the rock to advertise something
  • Midnight Madness – intro to winter sports
  • Bear Olympics: this part of transitions program in the first 3 weeks. Every dorm and a Commuter Team all compete. I think it’s great that they include commuters in this; they often get left out of dorm competitions.

Sports are also popular, both to play and for students to go watch. They’re starting a Women’s Ice Hockey team in 2020 (this may help balance out the gender imbalance – they’re currently at 60% male which makes sense because of their engineering programs). The rep would love to see an ice hockey rink built on campus. “We’re losing talented players because other places have the rink.” He’d also love to build up the arts a bit more. They have an established theater program but no black box. He’d love to combine Sports Management and Business Analytics. Some Masters programs could be added and increase the offerings – but this just links back to WNEU being on the cutting edge. Everyone is thinking about the next thing there.

© 2019

American International College

American International College (visited 5/29/19)

AIC quad 2

The quad

AIC has a small campus along a couple main roads near downtown Springfield. The brick buildings are in decent shape; most are clearly not new – and while not rundown, some look like they could use a bit of updating. However, there is an attractive main quad area, and while there, it’s easy to forget that there are main streets on the other side of the buildings. There are also several new buildings around campus, including an incredible Exercise Science building located across the street. This houses many of the OT and PT classes, a Human Performance Lab, and more.

AIC 5

The new exercise science building

The admissions rep I spoke with is a fairly recent alum; the best change she’s seen since coming here is the school’s rebrand including renovations of buildings. “It’s like 2 different schools. They’ve redone the library and put up the brand new Exercise Science building. That’s about when they overhauled Student Life, too. That was much needed. “Now there are Thursday movies, nighttime breakfasts, and even a pub in basement of Dining Commons.” They expanded the departments and hired more people to help the students. The Model Congress is housed under that, as well – it’s the oldest running one in the country!”

AIC 3Most colleges will tell you that they have a strong sense of community and family, but few will give examples. “The President will come to the quad and play football with students. He’s on a first-name basis with them. You learn everyone here from the professors to the dining hall staff,” said my tour guide. There are only 1400 undergraduates, but with an additional 2400 graduate students, it feels a little bigger. This is great for students who are looking for more individual attention but want the feel of a slightly larger university.

AIC mascot

Th mascot

School spirit is huge, and not just for athletics although they do have strong sports, competing in the DII division (except men’s ice hockey which is DI). Student Productions are huge including fashion shows (just had their 50th annual show) and theater production. The community comes to them, and the campus allows community members to use the library. “Some areas like residential units might be gated, but otherwise, we try to be good neighbors. Campus is open.” Students spend a lot of time in the community, as well, including tutoring at the local school and working at the MLK Center next door.

AIC flag roomCampus diversity is something to brag about; AIC was founded to educate the immigrant population in Springfield and they were the first (traditionally male) university in New England to admit women in the 1890s, less than 10 years after its founding. They still have a high international population with about 50 countries represented at any given time and 72 flags in the Flag Room representing all the graduates’ home countries. However, they don’t usually recruit abroad much. “It’s not intentional; it just naturally happens. People are just attracted here,” said the admissions rep. In terms of English proficiency, they look for a score of 80 on the TOEFL, but this will often be waived if they’ve graduated from an English-speaking high school.

AIC patioBeyond international diversity, there was an initiative a couple years ago to increase the LGBTQ community. They started hosting events such as an annual drag show and Breaking the Silence dinner. Politically, the campus leans a little more liberal (“This is Massachusetts!”) but there’s a variety of opinions on campus. Religion isn’t a big deal. The admissions rep wears a hijb. “I’m very clearly Muslim, and I’ve never felt like it was an issue or I didn’t have a space here.”

AIC rock

The Rock to advertise events

On the whole, AIC is a good starting point for students who need a bit of maturing. Students have to live on campus with a full meal plan for the first two years unless they live within 30 miles (or are returning students over the age of 24). There are a couple dorms on the main part of campus. First year females can choose to live in an all-female dorm (Pouch) that houses all level of students including grad students, or they can go to an all freshman dorm (coed by floor). Many of the dorms are on the other side of campus, about a 10 minute walk if they don’t take the shuttle.

AIC dorms

Some of the dorms on the main part of campus

They’ve adjusted their core curriculum to include APEX, The AIC Plan for Excellence. Instead of a traditional First Year Experience, they’ve expanded the program to stretch over a student’s four years. It covers topics ranging from adjusting to college and study skills (first year) to “what’s next?” in senior year. In between they cover areas such as cultural competency and Career Development. Part of this is that all students have to complete an internship. “We’ve seen an increase in retention because of the program,” said the rep.

AIC art galleryFor students who need it, Learning Support is available. Students have the same advisor for at least 2 years. Students have their first semester schedules built for them but then taught how to do it themselves. If they’re athletes, they also have an athletic advisor who can help make sure they’re on track. Coaches stay on top of them and all athletes attend study hall. Student athletes get a lot of support to make sure they’re staying on top of things. “There’s a 3.0 Club to celebrate when they do what they need to,” said the rep. All students will get 5 week warnings if they are falling through the cracks. If they need weekly check-ins, it’s with a grad student.

AIC nursing 2

One of the infant simulation mannequins in the nursing labs

I was here after graduation but still saw several students around. My tour guide said this was normal since a lot of students on the fast-track or doing graduate work were taking summer classes or doing research. A few of the Health Sciences are direct-entry (PT to DPT and OT to MSOT). Their entire School of Education is basically housed in the graduate program, although they offer an education minor and a 4+1 program. They offer a 4+1 MBA as well as an Accounting and Taxation MSAT. They offer a couple unusual minors such as Fraud and Financial Crimes and Advocacy for Social Change.

My tour guide would like to see additional money spent on the teaching staff, especially in the Business, Arts, and Sciences division. “There are a lot of adjuncts, so seeing more full-time staff to develop the programs to have a more diverse program and curriculum would be really cool!” Her favorite class was Cultivating Creativity, offered jointly through the Communications and Visual Arts department. “It’s like an art class taken a step further. We took a lot of field trips to the art museums downtown, and I felt like we could take risks even if we weren’t artistic.”

© 2019

Stevenson University, Take 2

Stevenson University (visited 4/26/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my first visit on 12/5/17)

Stevenson has come a long way since it changed over from Villa Julie College in 2008. Campus has been transformed even since I last visited a little over a year ago. The biggest change is that they’ve created a large green space in front of their main buildings where there had been a parking lot, making it feel more like a traditional campus rather than a commuter space. They will break ground in July 2019 on a new theater and library complex located across from the School of Design; this should take about 15 months to complete. They’re also putting in a new entrance on the north side of campus.

They’ve done a great job increasing diversity on campus. About 42% of the 3,200 undergrads self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority. I’m a little concerned about their current graduation rate, but they are actively addressing that. Their Office of Student Success provides success coaches, service learning, and more. All majors provide opportunities for internships, research, or capstone experiences (but they don’t seem to be required at this point, only encouraged/ available). My tour guide was in the Fashion Merchandizing program and had worked with Boscov’s for visual merchandising as part of a class. Students have access to professors since the average class size is 17 and there are no lecture halls on campus, so classes can’t ever be large.

There are a lot of international trips associated with classes which is a great opportunity for students. Some examples include an Herbal Remedies trip to Ecuador and Math and Art in Spain.

Academically, they’re being deliberate in helping students get hands-on experience, fast-track/accelerated Masters degrees, or providing majors that keep up with the times. They’re starting CyberSecurity & Digital Forensics and biomedical engineering majors. Many majors have tracks within them to help students focus on interests. There a number of Professional Minors such as Real Estate, Software Design and Coding, and Human Resources: these are designed to be paired with a major or another minor and developed to give student an edge in the job search. Qualified students can do a Bachelor to Masters in as little as 5 years: students can decide if they want to pursue this while at Stevenson and apply during junior year; in senior year, classes double-count for the 2 degrees.

Another way they’re increasing retention and graduation rates are through their multiple Scholars Programs. These are cohort-based programs that blend curricular and co-curricular programming. They are housed in a Living Learning Community, get priority registration for required classes, and have access to tailored curricular and co-curricular programs. Participants meet the qualifications for merit-based aid.

  • Service Scholars: this is geared to students interested in giving back and working with the greater Baltimore community and beyond. This program is only 3 years old but is the oldest of the Scholars Programs. Students become eligible for the President of the US Volunteer Service award.
  • Leadership Scholars help students develop as motivators and leaders. They attend seminars, TedX on campus, and more, including specialized programming through the Office of Career Services.
  • Honors: This is geared towards problem-solving, collaborative learners. They participate in a 4-year curriculum, take only 2 extra classes beyond the traditional GenEd/major requirements. These are smaller-than-average classes with a cross-disciplinary focus specially designed for the honors program. The students are selected by the admissions office and notified upon their acceptance to the university. Typically, students selected for this are in the top 10% of the incoming class with an average SAT of 1300 and unweighted school-reported GPA of 3.8.

Their Presidential Fellowship is an awesome opportunity – they receive about 250 apps. From those, they select 50 finalists to come to campus. Ten are named as Fellows getting full tuition for 4 years. Anyone interested must apply by the11/1 deadline in order to be considered.

© 2019

 

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University (visited 5/1/19)

RWU 2This was the only school (out of 10 on the RI Counselor tour) to have us eat in the dining hall. The food was good and the dining hall was easy to navigate with plenty of space, even with lots of students there.

RWU skyline

One of the peninsula bridges as seen from campus

This is an interesting school. The main campus sits on a peninsula, so there are some beautiful views as we walked around. Downtown Bristol is about a mile away from campus; there’s a bus stop at the school’s main entrance, and the college provides 10 free passes to encourage students to use it. Their downtown campus mostly houses the graduate programs, keeping the main campus centered on undergrads, helping them become versatile and ready for the job market or grad school. They offer a range of programs that work together, and they’re actively creating programs that allow students to add to their skill set and provide employers with obvious skills.

RWU Marine SciThey’ve created majors and minors that make them stand out from other universities such as Aquaculture and Aquarium Science, applied or computational math, Historic Preservation, Security Assurance Studies, eBusiness (minor), digital forensics (minor), construction management, and Professional and Public Writing.

RWU 5

One of the newest buildings on campus

There are plenty of experiential learning opportunities, and RWU encourages students to pursue them, including having an annual $75,000 fund to send students to conferences. They want students to figure out unscripted problems. “That’s what life is about. Dealing with those outside the gates is some of the best experience there is.” Over 650 students will have a semester-long experience solving real-life problems, “and it’s building every year. It’s great to have that on a resume … but it also creates great citizens.” Their Community Partnership Center creates opportunities such as organizing a Women in STEM conference for elementary schools. “This is impactful because I could put things I learned into ways the kids could learn and get excited about,” said one student.

RWU int design 3

Some of the architecture lab spaces

More than 95% of students graduate with at least a minor in addition to the major. “It’s almost limitless in terms of what they can overlap. Because of the sequence in Engineering and the studio hours in Architecture, those might be outliers to that, but they can still do it.” They recommend that students interested in one of those major declare it if they want to graduate on time (and during the admission process, they’re looking to see that the students have taken at least Pre-Calc). It’s much harder to transfer in later. With other majors, students can declare in sophomore year without worrying about finishing on time. Architecture offers a 4+2 accelerated MArch program (in addition to a major and a minor in Arch), and these students can study abroad in Barcelona or Florence.

RWU 8

The engineering building on the left with the new construction for more engineering space on the right.

Engineering is the fastest growing major, and the school is taking quick strides to get all those classes on campus. There’s a great deal of building happening which should be happening in the next year or so. Students major in Engineering, receiving a strong liberal arts base and then specializing in one of four options: computer, mechanical, civil, or electrical. Students who are not majoring in engineering can choose to minor in engineering with a focus in environmental, robotics, biomechanics, or structural engineering.

RWU statue

The Roger Williams statue.

The university has incorporated some interdisciplinary work into their Core, including a senior-level capstone; there’s also a class on Williams and his ideals. “The Core is supposed to be more philosophical and reflective but it doesn’t really happen,” said the tour guide. He went on to say that he learned what it should’ve been afterwards – “but the theory definitely wasn’t what happened in reality. I’d like them to tweak this so people have to think outside the box more.”

RWU flowers“We don’t have to adhere to specific metrics during the admission process. A holistic review is the reality. If students are likely to be successful, we say yes,” said one of the admissions reps. RWU has gone test-optional without putting students at any disadvantage; students are fully admissible to any major and can qualify for scholarships. They also recognize that retention is as much a product of affordability as about student involvement. They currently have an 82% freshman-sophomore retention rate and have instituted a scholarship for enrolled students: they earn an extra $1000 for each year they’re on Dean’s List. They have a strong academic program to engage students with learning; “learning isn’t always innate,” said one of the reps. They offer tutoring programs, and they teach professors how to engage students in active learning. Professors give out cell numbers and often come in on Saturdays to reteach or practice with students.

RWU dorms

The view of one dorm building from the porch of another. 

Almost all freshmen and about ¾ of all undergraduates live on campus. Sophomores can live in Baypoint across the bridge where there is a dining hall and a fitness center. Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus. One of the students said that the LGBTQ community is strong, and people are highly accepting of students identifying in this group. There’s an LLC option on campus for students wanting to live in this (in addition to several other LLC options). “Racial diversity needs some help, though. Same with general geographic diversity,” said a student.

RWU 7Our tour guide seemed fairly shocked that RWU had a reputation as being a party school. “There was a football team for awhile, but that was shut down,” she said. “People here are pretty bright. That’s not to say that there’s no social life, because there is. Long weekends can be kind of dead, but regular weekends are active.” There are Honor Societies but no traditional Greek life. Campus is safe and students will walk around at all hours with many buildings open 24/7. “The Blue lights haven’t been activated other than for testing,” said one of the reps.

© 2019

Salve Regina University

Salve Regina University (visited 4/29/19)

Salve gate

The entry arch to campus leading up to Ochre Court, the original college building

“I’ve never been as happy as when I’m here. It’s a special place.”

You will find very few schools in such a stunning location (I’m going to go on a ledge and say that Salve is like a smaller, East Coast Pepperdine): campus sits among the Newport Mansions on 80 ocean-front acres (not surprisingly, it’s ranked as a Top-10 School for Surfers). The original college building, Ochre Court, is itself a mansion that the owner couldn’t afford to keep up. It was offered to the Episcopalians who declined (oops); it was then sold to the Sisters of Mercy for $1. Campus has an eclectic mix of buildings ranging from historic mansions or other buildings (many of which were donated; the historical society will work with the college to restore them) to more modern places. Several films have been made on campus including True Lies (the tour guide pointed out the building that people rappelled down in the movie).

Salve 7“Salve is not our campus. It’s terrific and we love it and are glad to have it, but Salve is our mission: ‘To work for a world that is harmonious, Just, and Merciful.’ When students are fortunate enough to receive an education, they should use it for the benefit of others,” said one of the admission reps. The founding Sisters were known as the Walking Nuns of Dublin because they weren’t cloistered. They talk about mercy rather than charity, and about a responsibility to lift up/help others around them.

Salve 1“This place is magical, but if we had an airplane hanger with these kids in it, we’d be happy,” said the President. “There’s a transformation here. This senior said she wanted to come here to be anonymous, but she’s a tour guide, and she just got up to give a recital in front of 50 people. Sister Jane showed up to her recital. That’s really rare.” If this student is any indication, it’s not a surprise that Salve was ranked #18 most transformative college in the country. One students we spoke to transferred in. “I was here visiting a friend, and we sat around talking to the guy who sold spell check to Bill Gates. I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and here’s this multi-millionaire hanging out and talking to two random kids on a Saturday, one of whom didn’t even go to school here. Who wouldn’t want to study here?”

Salve statue 1As a Catholic institution, they embrace that “the Liberal Arts is the foundation of what we do.” Corporations value a value an ethical foundations. They want to know that they’re bringing in people who will represent the organization. Students complete a 23-credit core with a broad liberal arts foundation providing a basis for academic growth and that empowers innovation and discovery. Part of the core includes 2 consecutive semesters of a language and 4 religion/ philosophy classes: 2 of these are religion classes of the student’s choice plus Quest for the Good Life (philosophy) and one upper level philosophy class. Our tour guide was taking “Saints, Superheroes, and Sinners” as her upper level class. Masses are offered on campus but never required (Although the dog in the chapel is a big draw!).

Salve chapel

The chapel

In First Year Experience, students take 2 conjoined classes: a 1-credit seminar on the transition to college and a full seminar class. The admission rep, an alum, took one about refugees. “The point of the FYE is to exercise the mental stuff to make it stronger. We began to see refugees as real people with real issues who might be our neighbors. The choices people made to emigrate from their home was informed less on the idea that they wanted to take something than on the idea that they wanted to give their family something. We’re now informed about how to implement policy.”

Salve BLM rally

Part of the Black Lives Matter rally

During the reception, I had a fairly in-depth conversation with one of the seniors. He feels that the non-visual diversity is fairly solid. There’s good religious diversity for a Catholic school. He started a group called Diversity to bring up ideas of discussion and mutual understanding around issues of religion and politics. “Artists fit in very well here.” Students who are looking for a philosophical community and who are maybe religiously minded (but also open minded about it) will do well here. “We’re on the liberal side of Catholic institutions.” He did say that racial diversity needs some work. Only about 15% of domestic students self-identify as students of color. “They’re working on it, but it’s slow.” However, there was a fairly vocal Black Lives Matter rally on campus when we got there with a lot of white faces in the crowd for support.

Salve 6“It hurts my heart to say that a lot of the jocks aren’t on a steep learning curve,” said one of the seniors I talked to. “Over 50% of our males are athletes (they have 3 nationally ranked DIII teams; the only 2 teams not in this division are Sailing – DI – and equestrian which is its own thing) and they don’t catch on as quickly that they shouldn’t be making snarky comments. I came in as a rugby player. As a freshman, I definitely did the swaggery thing, but I figured it out. A lot of people do not.” I asked the Dean of Admissions about this later. “We’ve developed Green Dot, a program targeted to athletes to help them understand language and bystander training. We have a responsibility to stand up. There’s been a huge decline in problems.” I asked how this decline showed itself around campus; he said that far fewer students were being brought up for issues and there was uptake in activity participation.

Salve loungeStudents must live on campus for 2 years (freshmen live in LLCs), but then are allowed to move off. Some upperclassmen stay, but it’s not guaranteed after the 2nd year. There are places to rent within a few minutes of campus. Although there are a lot of ritzy places in Newport, “It’s also one of the most diverse areas in the state. There’s abject poverty. You see that in the elementary schools and other areas,” said one of the reps. Parking isn’t really an issue, according to the students, but freshman can’t have cars. They all get free RIPTA access and there are campus shuttles. They also have an agreement with Uber. Our tour guide gave the food on campus a 7: “It’s not home-cooked, but there’s always something to eat.”

Salve 11There are 2100 undergrads with classes averaging 19 students. My tour guide said classes ranged from 10 – 30. There are lecture halls that are used for events but not for classes. They’re probably best known for nursing or education:

  • Students have to apply directly to the nursing program; transfers into the program aren’t allowed. NCLEX pass rates are high. The tour guide told us that a lot of the tests during the last year reflect the questions for their Boards to help them review, and the author of one of the review books teaches on campus.
  • Our tour guide would like to see more variety in majors offered on campus. There are a lot of unusual minors and certificates/concentrations (like Cybersecurity and Health Care Administration, Administration of Justice, and Spanish for Health and Service Professions) but it would be great to see these as majors as well.
  • Salve runs the PELL CENTER for international relations and public policy which approaches these from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.

Salve 8Salve is test-optional (Except for nursing and education). Students who are awarded a merit scholarship are invited to apply for Honors. Those in the program take 2 additional classes, usually in sophomore year. “There’s work; there’s more rigor but it’s more about the fit.” Honors students must do an internship and study abroad. There are 200 study abroad programs in 45 countries open to any Salve student.

Salve 9

Some of the newer dorms

The admission committee reads need-blind, but it’s rare that they can meet 100%. “We do what we can as a tuition-driven institution. A lot is driven by the application. The better the fit, the more we can do.” I asked a couple students about this, and they were happy with their scholarships and financial aid. “We’ll support DACA as well as we can. We’re a Sanctuary campus. It’s obvious fairly obvious when they don’t do FAFSA. We have the Mercy Fund since they can’t receive federal aid. We can’t get a student all the way there, but we work with other foundations to connect them to other sources of income. Of course, not all Dreamers have full need. Once they’re here, we think it’s our job to protect them and we use FERPA to do that since we don’t share information with the government.”

© 2019

Bryant University

Bryant University (visited 4/30/19)

Bryant pondBryant pleasantly surprised me. The people are great, there’s a good vibe, and the campus is attractive with lots of green spaces and a pond (complete with fountain) in the middle. Buildings are new and well kept up, and facilities align with the current educational trends they’re making available for students. Almost ¼ of their population is first-gen, and they make a great deal of resources available to accommodate for an array of diversity, including a large interfaith center where Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish services are offered every weekend. They have a full-time priest and rabbi on campus, and they have a kosher kitchen available to students.

Bryant 3“This is not a static university,” said the VP for enrollment. The university is particularly known for its business program for good reason. Most programs are highly ranked, including International Business in the top 25. They have extensive options, including Marketing Analytics, Global Supply Chain Management, and Advertising & PR in addition to more traditional offerings in undergraduate business schools. “One area we’ve moved into is Data Science.”

Bryant 5“We also have strong pre-Health Sciences (they guarantee an interview at the PA school) and a strong college of Arts & Sciences.” Students can take an EMT class to satisfy their science requirement! They have an array of traditional majors/minors as well as more unusual ones such as Chinese, Applied Psych, and Biotechnology.

Bryant gate

The arch – like most schools, tradition says that students can’t walk through before graduation.

Students must have both a major and a minor chosen from different schools. This dynamic helps to round out skill sets “and is a key towards our 99% job placement rate,” said one rep. This is the 3rd highest job placement rate in the country. “College costs too much money to not have something at the end – and that something is a job.” One of the students told us that a lot of students will major in Business (its own school) and a minor in Economics, Actuarial Math, or Applied Stats (in Arts & Sciences). He said that that’s an easy way to “kind of work the system.”

Bryant 7All first-year students participate in the IDEA Program, a 3-day, 1-credit design-based program in which teams solve a real world problem. “It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. They work around the clock. Campus is buzzing.” Students learn how to observe people, how to identify what the issues are, identify a challenge (usually this is given to them), brainstorm multiple ways of looking at the problem, break down ways to solve it, set up an experiment to see if a solution would work, and finally present it to others. The go into malls, the zoo, classrooms, etc. Some of the projects included how to make malls more accessible, box stores more efficient, and a children’s museum more interactive.

Bryant quad 4Over half of Bryant students go abroad at some point for internships, a semester/year, or for a study-trip. They created a Sophomore international Experience, a 2-week study-travel trip, to help get “students’ feet wet” – and many of the students who do this will then elect to go abroad for a semester or year as juniors. Bryant runs a campus in China and offer opportunities in 65 other countries around the world.

Bryant 8All incoming students receive an HP Elitebook laptop, and then they trade that in for a new one as a junior (or they can buy out the old one and keep it).

Bryant indoor farmers market

One of the periodic Farmer’s Markets held in the Student Center

They’re still skewed more heavily male because of the business programs. During the admissions process, they’re looking that applicants have 4 years of math with 1 beyond Algebra 2 (they prefer pre-calc and calc). Students do not need to submit test scores – but if they don’t, they need to do 3 supplemental essay questions. To be eligible for the Honors Program, students should have a 1270 SAT and about a 3.6 GPA. There’s a very little bit of wiggle room, and students must interview if they’re on the bubble. They can sometimes come in on probation for a year: under this, they’ll take 1 class first semester, and if that goes well, they take another in the 2nd semester. At that point, if they meet the criteria, they move fully into the Honors Program without probation.

Bryant fountain 3Campus is active and the students we spoke to are happy with their experiences. Every weekend has at least one big event which ranges from a trip to a major league game or an on-campus event to help people get engaged in the community or beyond. There are 4 special big weekends a year: right after students return to campus from summer, then Fall-, Winter-, and Spring-fests. The majority of seniors live in 5-7 person townhouses, allowing for a bit more independence before leaving campus. Students seem happy enough with clubs and activities (including their a cappella group that was ranked #32 in the nation).

© 2019

Rhode Island School of Design (Take 2)

 

RISD (visited 5/2/19 — click HERE for the pictures and notes from my visit on 3/21/14)

RISD sculptureThis was my second visit to RISD. This visit was with a large group of counselors on tour of all the RI schools; several years ago I visited (with another counselor) when we participated in the regular info session and tour offered to families. It was like visiting an entirely different campus, and not because they had done massive renovations. They just chose to highlight/showcase totally different things. This time, we saw much more of the “downtown” part of campus along the river and we got to go into some of the studios and other spaces that we did not see on the tour – but didn’t go up the hill to see the dorm quad or other pretty areas on campus (check out the blog post from 2014 to see that stuff).  I’m very glad to have gotten both perspectives because I feel like I have a more complete picture of what the campus, the education, and the students are like.

RISD river walk 2

RISD flags along the river with some of the college buildings alongside.

All first-year students admitted to RISD take Experimental and Foundation Studies which includes two semesters each of Drawing (very traditional, 2D work), Spatial Dynamics (3D), Design, and Theory & History of Art & Design. They take a humanities class each semester (usually a literature seminar and another of their choice). During Wintersession, they choose a non-major studio elective. One student chose Digital Embroidery,

RISD studio 1

One of the “still life labs” with a huge array of specimens for students to use during their Studio classes. 

Student declare a major in February of their Foundation year. Students on the panel very much liked the program, and it was split about 50-50 for those who stuck with their original plan and those who decided to change their mind about the major during the year. They all agree that it’s an intensely rigorous first year, but RIDS boasts an impressive 93% retention rate which is not surprising given the level of commitment – academic and artistic – shown by those who are offered admission.

RISD bio studio 2

A bio-life lab for students to draw from nature – and the lamps are made by students!

Last year, RISD admitted 19% of the 4750 applicants; they are bringing in 480 students this year, one of the largest classes. Admitted students averaged 670 per section on the SAT or a 30 on the ACT. During admission, they recalculate GPA looking at core classes from the last 2 full years. They do NOT look at grades in their art classes – but instead evaluate the portfolio. They are more interested in the portfolio itself to look at the talent, effort, and creativity. The student sitting with us at breakfast said that talent alone is not the end-all. “Even if your technical work isn’t quite there yet but you’re putting in the work and the effort, the professors recognize that and see that your technical skills will get there.”

RISD Sculpture areaStudents who would like some feedback before the admission process can use http://www.aicad.slideroom.com where they can upload up to 5 images and get feedback from up to 10 people for free.

I love the Dual Degree program that’s offered jointly with Brown. Students must apply and be admitted to both schools; RISD releases decisions first and then will send the list to Brown where it goes to committee. Last year, they received 730 apps for the program and admitted 19 to yield a cohort of 15. Everyone evaluated for that program must be admitted to both schools. They live on the RISD campus for the 1st year, at Brown for the 2nd year, and then can choose for the 3rd and 4th.

RISD downtown bldgsRegardless of whether or not they’re in the joint program, students can cross-register at Brown. (There’s also a lot of club cross-over with Brown, and they can join some of the sports teams there). They can take classes at Brown as long as it fits into the schedule and gets okayed by the registrar. Despite the fact that RISD grants only BFA degrees (with the exception of the BArch degree), they also teach students the business aspect of art (legalities of copyrights, contracts, etc) and they offer the Liberal Arts through Literary Arts and Studies, History/Philosophy/Social Sciences classes, electives, and concentrations. One of the student panelists said that she came here because there was more flexibility within the majors – “I was pretty much married to the illustration major, but I got to customize it.” Another student said that she was surprised at how interdisciplinary it is and how things can cross over. She wants to go into publishing and has to deal with typeface, so she’s taken a lot of graphic design classes. Students said that they like the flexibility to try classes in other majors like Furniture, Apparel, or Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, or Film/Animation/Video in addition to more of the fine arts type of majors.

RISD library interior

The library which takes up the first two floors of this building also has a cafe, and the top floors are a dorm.

“It’s great to be in a community of people who are so interested in the same things, who are willing to help out. We’re not just doing art in class. A lot of people get overwhelmed by the workload, but you aren’t alone in that. You’re in the same group for the first semester, another for 2nd semester. You build a lot of relationships. You know people all over campus.” Students get card access to all buildings so they can (and do) work at all hours. “Campus safety will often check in if they see lights on,” said our tour guide.

RISD 1In terms of finances, RISD does not offer merit scholarships. They do offer need-based scholarships and grants which they keep in line with the cost of attendance – if the COA goes up, the scholarship goes up by the same percentage. They are also reducing hidden costs (deposits, fees, etc.). “It’s not fair to students to get hit with deposits for keys or to be told ‘surprise, you have to pay a fee up front for supplies.’ Families have to be able to plan, and if they’ve crunch numbers and tightened their belts to make this a reality for the students, they may not have the other additional money at the beginning of the semester.” Students in the Architecture program can carry their financial aid into their 5th year since that is a 5-year program.

© 2019

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