campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “biomedical engineering”

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

 

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University of Rhode Island (Take 2)

University of Rhode Island (visited 4/30/19 … Click HERE to see pictures and notes from my previous visit on 3/21/14)

URI 5One of the Producers on the Ellen Show is a URI alum – so many of URI’s Film & Media majors can intern on Ellen.

“The sense of place here is tremendous. Rhode Island itself is stunning. The state of Rhode Island only has about 10,000 high school graduates each year. What that means for us is that we have a flagship university but a diversity of enrollment. About half of our students come from outside RI,” said one of the admissions rep.

URI 3“We like our size [they have about 14,500 undergraduates]. It allows us to keep resources accessible.” They have also hired 346 new faculty in the past 6 years. This enables them to offer incredible majors and programs, many of which are interdisciplinary. In fact, one of their Core requirements is a Grand Challenge Course, an interdisciplinary class that looks at a modern issue or problem that needs to be solve like coastal resilience, mental health, diversity and inclusion, etc.

I spent about 15 minutes talking to a Classical Studies student who is actually double majoring and double minoring. She said that the advising here is wonderful, and they help her get in everything she needs – and she’s on track to graduate in 4 years. The department is small so she gets a lot of individual time, but she loves all her department and loves that URI allows her to explore all her interests instead of having to choose.

URI 6Since I visited URI several years ago, the university has put over $900 million into their infrastructure. One of the most obvious changes is that the Engineering building is being renovated. They offer a wide array of engineering options including Ocean, Industrial & Systems, Biomedical, a Polymer certificate within Chemical, and their International Engineering Program in which students earn 2 degrees within 5 years: a BS in engineering and a BA in a language (French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Chinese )

URI mascot

The mascot in front of the new welcome center. 

The International Degree programs are impressive. The Chinese Language Flagship Program allows students to earn 2 degrees in 5 years – a BA in Chinese and another degree in the major of their choice. They have three more programs similar to the Engineering option: International Business, International Computer Science, and International Studies and Diplomacy.

Not surprisingly, URI capitalizes on their location near the water with many of their academic offerings, including the Ocean Engineering (We had to ask a rep what that was since we had no idea. I really wish they had spent more of their time emphasizing more of their unusual majors while the Counselors were there on campus). Other majors include Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Geology and Geological Oceanography, Marine Affairs, and Marine Biology. They also do a great job with natural resource management and similar majors like Animal Science and Technology, Plant Science, and Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.

UIR coloring

Stress relief coloring options!

Hands-on majors are also strong, including Landscape Architecture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Medical Lab Science, Textile Marketing and the Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design. Nursing is hugely competitive with a limited number of spots available. Students have to complete the pre-requisites and then apply for a spot in the program. Seats are not guaranteed, so this might not be the best option for students who are sold on nursing.

URI 1A new 500-bed apartment complex will open next year. This will take away some of the parking spots, so they’ll stop allowing freshmen to have cars on campus. They do offer shuttles around campus. Students can also move off campus in the last two years. Many of them can rent beach houses and commute to school since owners often rent these from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The area is very easy to get around, including the Amtrak station that’s a mile away and a public bus that runs to the Providence Airport.

© 2019

Widener University (Take 2)

Widener Old Main 2

Old Main, the original building when this was Pennsylvania Military College

Widener University (visited 2/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)

What makes students a good fit for Widener?

  • “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
  • “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
  • “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
  • “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
Widener mascot

One of the Pride mascots (female, male, and cub)

“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.

Widener 1Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”

Widener hospitality cooking lab

One of the Hospitality lab/classrooms – the top slides back to expose stovetops

Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:

Widener tv studio 1

One of the student-run tv studios in the communications department

Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”

“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”

Widener computer forensics

One of the Computer Forensics labs

We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”

  • “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem
  • “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
  • “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
  • “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
  • “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
  • “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
Widener geology lab

A geology lab

With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”

Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:

  • Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
  • “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
  • Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
  • “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
  • Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
  • Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
Widener nursing 1

The nursing building

The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).

Widener library 1

The library

All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.

Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.

NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.

Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.

© 2019

 

West Chester University of PA

West Chester University(visited 11/13/18)

The Ram mascot in front of the main library. 

I didn’t expect WCU’s main quad to be so beautiful – there are old stone buildings surrounding most of it (there is one glaring exception withfairly hideous ‘70s architecture). Many of the buildings, including Recitation Hall, date back to (or soon after) the university’s 1871 founding. With an undergrad enrollment of just under 14,500 students (total enrollment of 17,500),WCU is the 4th largest college in the Philly metro area and the largest of the 14 PA state-system schools (which doesn’t include Penn State,Temple, or Pitt).

The Frederick Douglass statue in front of one of the oldest buildings on the quad

Campus (ranked as 37th safest in the nation) is a 10-minute walk from downtown West Chester where there are lots of restaurants, shops, etc. It’s been named one of the best college towns in America and as Best Town where grads stay after college. They’re only 30 miles from Philly: “Ideally, it’s 45 minutes, but realistically an hour,” said the rep. Amtrak and SEPTA aren’t far from campus, and they provide shuttle to the Exton train station. They also now run shuttles to shopping centers even though much is walkable off campus.

All classes are taught by faculty, not TAs. They have a 67.3% 6-year graduation rate (almost 10 points above the national average). They offer 120 undergrad majors across 5 colleges plus Exploratory Studies and a School of Music.

  • All Business majors are pre-business: they have to satisfy pre-reqs because of accreditation. Transferring between majors is fairly easy as long as you’ve met the GPA requirements. A new business building went up in 2017, making it the newest on campus. They have a variety of options including Urban and Environmental Planning.
  • Arts and Humanities includes fine arts.
  • College of Sciences and Math:
    • Multiple accelerated programs are available.
    • Overthe past 35 years, 95% of pre-med students who receive Pre-Medical Committee Support got placed into med schools.
    • Two students each year are granted scholarships through the PA Space Grant program.
  • Health Sciences:
    • Nursing is probably their most popular major within this school. Currently, students do their pre-reqs on the main campus and will shuttle to Exton for classes in the major. This will be moved back onto the Main Campus by Fall 2020.
    • Exercise Sciences include concentrations in pre-chiropractic, Pre-OT, and Pre-PT. They have articulation agreements with places like NY Chiropractic College and Arcadia University for the graduate programs.
  • Honors College is by invitation; students are considered after acceptance to WCU. In the past, a 1350/3.5 GPA would put them in initial consideration.
  • The School of Music allows for multiple concentrations including Music History, Composition, Performance, Theory, and even Elective Studies outside the School.
The planetarium

The university is split between North (main) and South Campuses, located about 1.5 miles apart. “It’s definitely walkable, although most people don’t want to.” South campus has all the athletic fields where the DII teams practice and play (there is a fitness center on North campus), dorms, and currently houses the Health Sciences academics. Shuttles run between campuses every 5 minutes, 20 hours a day (basically corresponding to library hours). They have a Philly campus for a few majors (Social Work, Business Management) mostly for adult students or upperclassmen who need to finish up amajor.

Some of the dorms on North Campus

About 90% of freshmen are on campus, usually housed on North Campus; most students don’t want to live on campus after that. There areseveral large (8+ story) dorms on North Campus which mostly are traditional andsuite style. South Campus has traditional dorms and apartments. The food here is fairly good with several options including dining halls, a food court, PODs (like airport kiosks), and food trucks: “we take those very seriously here… Imay have had that for lunch today!”

A few traditions are worth mentioning that students talked about:

One of the main quad buildings
  • Banana Day! “It’s like a big festival day with games around campus. There are competitions to win a Banana T-shirt.” Last year, they won “Best Campus Tradition” because of this.
  • MLK Day: They pair up with the Frederick Douglass Institute (housed on campus) for events that day. Douglass gave his last public lecture on WCU’s campus in 1895.
  • Black and Latino Greek Council Step Show
  • Rams After Hours which happens every Friday night for food and entertainment.

There are multiple support programs at WCU. They have the well-established DUB-C Autism Program (or D-CAP) for students on the Spectrum. They provide a multitude of skill-development and social interaction supports for students needing these. They also have a Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC)

© 2018

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)

VCU 1

One of the dorms; much of campus sits on streets like this

Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.

This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.

VCU ped walkway

The pedestrian walkway part of central campus

Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.

VCU 2

One of the older buildings on campus

VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.

Engineering and the Arts are big here:

  • Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
  • VCU arts 1

    One of the art studios

    The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.

    • Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
    • Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.

VCU plaza

The plaza outside the main dining commons (to the left). The library is the glass building on the right.

Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.

The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).

Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).

VCU LLC 1

An LLC building

There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.

VCU dormAdmissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!

VCU stu cntrThe Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.

© 2017

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.

 

As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”

 

MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”

 

Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:

 

  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.

MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.

 

Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.

 

MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:

 

  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!

MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.

 

MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.

 

MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017

 

Duquesne University

Duquesne University (visited 5/26/16)

~Duq Power Plant and downtown

The “Power Plant” which houses the gym and other student services is connected by a walkway to the main campus. Downtown is right behind it.

I can see why students love Duquesne. School pride is high … yes, their athletic teams do well, but the school also looks after its students academically, socially, and spiritually. Although located in downtown Pittsburgh, Duq is a cohesive campus in its own right. “Duquesne feels like it’s own city,” said one student. Once on campus, you feel like you’re completely away from the city, but the views of Pittsburgh from around campus don’t let you forget where you are. “A 15 minute walk will get students almost anywhere they want to go in town,” said one of the reps, and students take advantage of all the city has to offer, from internships to Pens tames (student tickets cost $28), and using the river trails for walking, running, and biking.

~Duq statue 3Founded in 1878 by the Spiritans (Holy Ghost Fathers), Duquesne clearly holds onto its Catholic identity. Twice during the information session, people said that they “serve students so they can serve others” and they “serve God by serving students.” They also said that they are “Catholic by founding, Ecumenical in everything they do.” 50% of the students self-identify as Catholic. However, no one could give me statistics on how many of the other 50% self-identify as non-Christian. An admissions counselor said that they did have students of other faiths, but wasn’t able to quantify anything to give a sense of how many.

~Duq housing for priests

Housing for some of the priests living on campus.

The campus is attractive with some parts prettier than others; some of the larger buildings have an institutional, concrete feel, but other parts are gorgeous with green quads and brick buildings. These older parts of campus have a much stronger sense of the Catholic identity with more sculptures and a large crucifix on the lawn of one quad. Other part of the campus have almost no reminders of the Catholic heritage. Priests still live on campus, but we didn’t see any walking around as we were touring.

~Duq dorms 3

Some of the dorms on campus

Almost 2/3 of the 6,000 undergrads live on campus, including 95% of freshmen. Freshmen and sophomores who live at home with families can commute; they are assigned a Commuter Assistant, an upperclassman who acts as a mentor (sort of like an RA for those living on campus). The Commuter Center in the union offers a study room, lounge, and computer room, and they organize special events to allow the commuters feel connected to each other and the school. Students can move off after sophomore year, but the college sets aside two dorms (1 suite-style, 1 apartments) specifically for upperclassmen.

~Duq rock gardenThe retention rate from 1st to 2nd semester freshman year is well into the 90s; freshman to sophomore year retention is in the high 80s. Students want to be here. The average class size is 28; they made a very big deal about this, seemingly skirting the issue of how that translates into actual class sizes. I did learn from the tour guide that Honors classes are capped at 18. All of her non-Honors classes have been bigger than that. There are plenty of lecture classes, as well, particularly at the intro level. Her largest class had 170 students.

~Duq fountain 3Students had lots of good things to say about the college and had a hard time thinking of anything they’d like to change. One tour guide said that it’s sometimes hard to find gluten-free food options … but did say that the food tends to be great, a fact supported by the fact that the school is ranked as “1 of the best 75 college for food.” Another student said, “Sometimes public transportation can be difficult, but everything is walkable, so it’s really not that big a deal. There’s a bus stop on the corner of campus that goes right to the airport.” Also, the subway (which is limited in Pittsburgh) is free! An admissions rep said, “It goes under the river now. Prepositions are important: you pay to go OVER the river, but you don’t pay to go UNDER.”

Students can choose from 80 majors within the 9 schools, including several interdisciplinary dual degree programs.

  • Biomed Engineering is an undergraduate program.
  • They offer a 5-year Forensic and Law degree, one of the few in the country that’s accredited.
  • The 3+3 law program allows students to major in anything within the Arts & Sciences or the Business schools and then transition into the law school. In order to do this, they must score in the 60th percentile on the LSAT.
  • Students declaring an Education major automatically get a minimum of 50% off their tuition; this could go up if their GPA is good enough.
  • The Music school offers a BA in Music as well as a Bachelor of Music in Performance, Music Technology, Education, Therapy, and Music with Elective Studies in Business.

We talked to three students; they said that their favorite classes were:

  • Public Policy: It’s taught by an army 3-Star General. “He’s really well-informed, and he makes the class interesting. It feels like we’re really going work for the Government.”
  • Uncovering Ireland during study abroad. “It’s nothing I ever thought about taking and I learned a lot! It was taught by guy who wrote Irish History for Dummies.
  • Cadaver Lab: “It’s insane to see all the nerves and tendons on a real human.”

~Duq crucifix

One of the quads; this one has a large crucifix on one side.

A lot of students do Study Abroad: Duquesne runs several programs including their Italian Campus in Rome, Duquesne in Dublin, Maymester, summer programs specific to majors, and Spring Breakaway courses. Students have the option of doing other approved programs, as well.

Although technically Duquesne will accept students on a rolling basis, there are a few deadlines to keep in mind:

  • Early Decision has an 11/1 deadline.
  • Students interested in the Biomedical Engineering, OT, PharmD, PA, and PT programs must apply under the Early Action deadline of 12/1.
  • The application fee is waived for all students who apply by 12/15.

~Duq athletic fieldStudents applying for programs in the Liberal Arts, Business, or Music schools do not need to submit test scores, but if they choose to send them in, Duquesne will superscore. Although they like to see recommendation letters and essays, these are optional for most programs except for health sciences which require them. Generally, the university is looking to admit people with at least a 3.0 (although the average tends to be much higher than that), with the Health Sciences needing a higher GPA and scores. Once admitted to Duquesne, students go directly into the program of their choice. Students must audition for the music school, but the university recommends that they apply to the university first. They will get a letter that they’re academically admissible and then will be fully admitted if they pass the audition. If they don’t pass, they can reaudition or talk to the admissions people about transferring to another school.

© 2016

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology (visited 2/10/14)

FIT signFlorida Tech did a great job in showcasing the things that make them who they are, mainly their sciences and their engineering (the 2 schools that enroll 70% of their students). They combine the best of liberal arts with a technical research school: “We do science-based science here!”

FIT 5This is one of the best-kept secrets in physics and space sciences including Astrobiology, Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Planetary Science. “It’s pretty weird hanging out in Buzz Aldren’s house talking about life on Mars,” said a professor.

FIT historyFounded in 1958 by the same people who founded NASA, Florida Tech has kept a close working relationship with them: “If we need help, we have all their resources at our disposal and vice versa. If you have students who want to work for NASA, this is the school.” You can literally walk outside and watch launches. “Drive 45 minutes and you can FEEL the launch,” said a professor.

FIT telescope 2

One of the school’s telescopes

Students and faculty have access to all sorts of amazing telescopes such as the 10.4-meter telescope in the Canary Islands, the Hubble, and they’re helping with James Webb telescope that will launch in 2018. They’re even looking to launch their own space telescope. They work with a ground-based, 1-m telescope network around the world in places like Tucson, Chile, and the Canary Islands. They can log on and use them through the internet “which saves a lot on time and money.” To really study the universe, people need dry, high, and dark conditions; “Florida is wet, low, and near Disney World.”

The telescope on campus is used for ground-based tracking, training purposes, and LEO (Low Earth Orbit). It can laser 10Gigabits per second and can correct for atmosphere “twinkle.” They get a 2-minute warning for satellites that will be crossing its path so they can get it shut off, and they work with the FAA to make sure nothing they do interferes with aircraft.

FIT rooftop classroom

The Rooftop Classroom with attachments for telescopes

All the astro-sciences work closely with the meteorology and aviation meteorology departments. The strip between Melbourne and Tampa is the mostly heavily lightening-hit area in the country. “We’re a rocket school. We build rockets. We launch a rocket into a storm cloud to trigger the lightning and ‘sprites’ so we can take pictures.” They also study space weather.

Another cool thing is that they can use the International Space Station as a lab. They propose research and have it done all the time such as work on Amyloid fiber growth in weightlessness compared to the ground. They have an experimental camera that will soon be attached to the outside of the ISS and remain there for 6 months. Research here can range from the smallest fundamental particles to the large-scale galaxy.

FIT student projects

Student projects in the Engineering Department

There are 14 engineering majors including Ocean Engo. Students who are undecided can start in General Engineering and take an Intro to Engineering class where they can learn a bit about all areas, including research, job opportunities, and other things. The first year for all Engineering programs are almost identical: math, physics, a couple electives, an intro to Engineering class, etc. Kids who do well here tend to have taken Calculus in high school, “even if it’s a C, they’ve at least been exposed to it.” Being behind in math will hold up the whole process. However, they work hard to keep students on track and provide as many opportunities as possibly, including study abroad options.

FIT engo bldg

The Maker-Space building

They have a huge new “maker-space” where engineering students can work in groups on whatever project they have going. Some classes are held there, but mostly it’s open and available for students to build whatever models or projects they need. One of the interesting things they’ve done recently is making a solar-powered auto-drive luggage delivery system for the Melbourne airport.

The gender imbalance is still seen throughout most of the engineering department with only Biomed being even at 50/50; Chemical is close at about 60/40. Mechanical has the most skewed ratio with the percentage of females in the teens.

FIT marine specimins

Specimens in the Marine Bio lab

Biological Sciences are strong as evidenced in the 75-80% medical school admission rate. (students have the option of majoring in PreMedical Chemistry or Medical Biology but do not need to in order to apply to med school). Marine science, Aquaculture, and Conservation Biology are all heavy hitters and are hands-on, experiential education. “We’re interested in being great teachers and researchers.” They have sea tanks, mollusks, dark rooms, sea horses. “Think of them when you look at the ooky stuff.” They keep samples in all sorts of jars, including a Party Mix jar (the roly-poly they had on display next to a baby King Crab). They’re doing work on the Lion Fish, an invasive, dangerous species that spread during a hurricane. They want to know how they manage to adapt and thrive from NJ to the Caribbean.

FIT acad quad 1

Part of the Science Quad with a marsh in the middle

People tend to forget about the Computer Sciences here, including data mining, software engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Info Systems, mining as well as Cyber-security and Homeland Security. They’ve been named a Center for Excellence, one of only 8 in the country.

About 40% of students go onto grad school; many stay at there to do it. The Fast Track Master’s Programs allows students to get a BS and Master’s in 5 years rather than 6. Students need a 3.4 GPA at 90 credits (mid Junior Year). If accepted, they can start their graduate work by taking 6 credits in their senior year that will count for both undergrad and graduate degrees.

FIT mascot and pool

A mascot statue by the campus pool

Things students particularly like about Florida Tech are:

  • There are a ton of social activities, so there are lots of leadership opportunities. It’s a great campus for ambitious students.
  • You can get right into the major.
  • There are lots of international students.

Thing they would like to change are improve would be a football stadium, more land to grow the university, and more outdoor seating to study.

FIT dorms

Some of the dorms

Campus is not that large, but they do have trolleys that will take kids around campus. There are plenty of housing options including new dorms with suites and two off-campus buildings “which are nice, but people in traditional halls made better friendships,” said one student. Greek housing is located at “Panther Bay;” 13% of the population goes Greek. The dining hall is “great! It’s on a 6-week rotation so you won’t see the same foods for at least 6 weeks. They’ve worked with international students on getting recipes so there’s a lot of international food, too,” said one of our tour guides. The campus is largely residential, surprisingly, the population is almost evenly split with about 1/3 of the students coming from Florida, out-of-state, and international countries with 120 countries represented. Racial and religious diversity is evident as we walked around, including seeing women in hijab and a Burqa.

FIT 747 students are enrolled in the campus Army ROTC program; Florida Tech ranks 2nd highest in the country for 2nd Lieutenants upon graduation. ROTC pays for tuition and fees; RIT kicks in the R&B. Students can get a degree in Interdisciplinary Science: Military Science or Communications: Military Science if they’d like.

© 2016

Case Western Reserve University

CASE WESTERN RESERVE (visited 4/11 and 1/13)

~CWR bikes and quadOne of the admissions reps described Case Western students this way: “Every place says that their kids are nice. . . . it’s bizarre here.” So nice, in fact, that students regularly take up the Million Minute Community Service Challenge.

~CWR 5Students are also very competitive, very smart, and very demanding on themselves. Many double or even triple major. “Our kids are focused but not so set in their one path that they aren’t willing to try other things.” However, about 2/3 do end up graduating in the division in which they entered, although not necessarily the same major. Nursing is the exception to this with about 95% continuing.

CWR students

Students collaborating in a Business School lounge.

Students can be creative and innovative here: they design, fail, break things, and try again. The school isn’t setting kids up to fail. Often, this is the first time they’re with a lot of people who were in the top of their classes in high school but learn quickly that this is ok.

~CWR dorms and track

New residential area surrounding some of the athletic facilities

This is a big campus for 4500 undergraduates (about ¼ of whom are from Ohio); there are actually more graduate and professional students than undergrads, but CWR is actively increasing research opportunities for undergrads who can start as early as the first year. Case actively looks for ways to “expand” campus by encouraging students to utilize all the wonderful things at their doorstep in the city of Cleveland. Campus borders University Circle, a renowned cultural, artistic, medical, and educational center.

Case’s SAGES program (Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship) includes 5 semester-long, writing-intensive seminars. These classes, limited to 17 students, include 3 interdisciplinary classes over the first two years, 1 class in the student’s major, and a capstone project. Students can no longer test out of their writing requirement based on AP scores, and faculty say that this helps with writing skills. The content and sequence is “integrated and intentional. Students are well-coached and well-practiced in skills employers want.”

~CWR 7The first seminar (taken in the first year) focuses on skill building by providing extensive feedback about writing, speaking, engagement, etc. Students have several options meant to engage them in life of the mind. The built-in “Fourth Hour” includes events scheduled in the institutions around the Circle (Art museum, Natural History museum, etc) so that students take advantage of the region’s cultural capital. Before the end of sophomore year, students also complete 2 University Seminars meant to extend knowledge by exploring topics at a more sophisticated level. They produce longer writing projects and oral presentations showing a more advanced analysis. The Seminar in Major allows them to become facile in disciplinary knowledge and the modes of communication in that discipline. Finally, the Capstone allows them to define a problem or ask a question, then find a solution or answer. It could be an experiment, an artistic creation, an extensive research project, etc. Both written and oral presentations are required.

~CWR 6About 2/3 of the students are in the Science and Engineering departments. Biomedical Engineering draws the most students followed by Mechanical Engineering. Systems and Control Eng., Engineering Physics, Civil Engineering, and Polymer Science and Engineering are the “small but mighty” departments. In the Sciences, the Gerontological Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Evolutionary Biology programs are worth noting.

~CWR Applied SSTheir Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences departments are smaller but still strong; these departments will feel much more like a small Liberal Arts college with discussion courses. There are several Collaborative Programs that link CWR with other schools and programs throughout the city. Their music department is a bit unusual in that they teach musicology and music history but not theory or performance: students looking for those can cross-register at the Cleveland Institute of Music and neither can complete degrees without the other. They do the same with the Cleveland Institute of Art: students at either school interested in Art Education complete part of their degrees at the other school. All CWR students can take up to 4 credits per term at either the CIA (Art) or CIM (music).

~CWR business 3

Business School

The Business School is booming and housed in a modern, well-designed building. Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Organizational Leadership, International Business, and Supply Chain Management are particularly worth taking a look at.

~CWR nursing

Nursing building

The nursing program is particularly strong and is named as one of the top 15 in the country. This is a direct-entry program with classes starting in the first semester – and clinicals starting in week 3! Students complete 1600 clinical hours before graduation, almost 2 times the national average. If that weren’t impressive enough, students can also study abroad through articulation agreements with programs in China, Cameroon, and Alaska (yes, they know that this isn’t abroad – but students say that it sometimes feels that way in the small villages they’re placed in!). One student from Pittsburgh did her capstone in Hong Kong where she audited classes and studied increasing obesity in high schoolers. Also unusual is that students in the program can double major. One student from Cincinnati is also getting a degree in PoliSci.

Applications have increased more than 200% in the last 8 years; international apps are up from 500 to over 4000. Applicants get ranked in 22 academic, leadership, and extra-curricular categories. They currently admit about 42% of applicants. Students who visited campus, went to the HS visit, or did an alumni interview are twice as likely to be admitted. “We can still take kids with a 1200 SAT. We don’t want to have it harder to do that.” They have a single-door admission except for music (audition requirement) and art (portfolio requirement).

~CWR north Res VillageFreshmen are housed in 4 residential communities helping Case with their excellent 93% retention rate. There are also residential complexes for 2nd year and for upperclass students. Their Graduating Senior Experience program is one of the few I’ve run into. Almost 1/3 of students are Greek-affiliated (and many live in Greek Housing). 20% of students stay on campus to take classes, do research, or just take advantage of other opportunities during the summer. The college-owned Squire Valleevue Farm is about 8 miles from main campus. Aquatic Biology is offered in May Term so students can go into the streams for hands-on learning. There’s also a ceramics area out there.

© 2015

Widener University

Widener signWidener University (visited 11/20/15)

(Click HERE to see information from my 2nd visit on 3/25/19)

~Widener 1Widener is a gem hidden in plain sight. Located blocks off of Route 95 in Chester, this is a surprisingly attractive campus with modern buildings and lots of green space. Students are energetic and seem to enjoy being together. Campus had a vibrant feel even at 8:30 am when I arrived on campus: people were out and about, congregating in the student center, and otherwise utilizing spaces around campus. Even the security guard helping visiting counselors with parking was smiling and talkative. I got the feeling that people really wanted to be here.

Widener NursingOne of my former students is currently a freshman in the 3+3 Physical Therapy Guaranteed-Seat program (they also have 4+3 Guaranteed Seat and the traditional 4+3 route) and couldn’t be happier. She raves about the activities on campus ranging from sports to clubs to the typical weekend events. Off-campus, there’s a mall 1 exit down the highway and plenty of other things around town. “Shuttles and public transportation are super easy to use, and my roommate also has a car.” Parking is generally pretty easy, but can be more difficult during the school day because of the number of commuters (about 20% of students), “but after about 2pm and on weekends, there’s never a problem.”

~Widener dorm quad

The Freshman dorm quad: “which is weird since it has 6 buildings,” said our guide.

They’ve brought in their largest freshman class this year of almost 850 students but will probably try to keep this closer to 800 for the next couple years. Freshmen and sophomores are expected to live on campus (unless they’re living at home). Housing is guaranteed for four years; juniors and seniors can move off only but about 20% end up leaving. Dorms generally get good reviews from students. “My room this year is pretty small, but I’m in the dorm with the most kids in it, so rooms are smaller. It’s still livable, though, and the dorm I’m going into next year is AMAZING,” said one student. Options include all the usual styles: traditional, suites, apartments, and Greek housing.

~Widener mascot 2

The Mascot Statue (the male lion is to the right). The baby’s name is Legacy.

Greek life is fairly popular here as are varsity sports, but “there’s no pressure to join. There are lots of options. Everyone finds their own niche.” Rush happens in the spring because students need a 2.5 GPA to qualify; athletes also need to maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain eligible to play. Widener changed their mascot to the Pride Pack recently (the tour guides couldn’t remember exactly, but said within the last 10 years or so).

~Widener library 2

Library

Campus is set up well and with the students in mind. The commuters have a large lounge in the student center with lockers. The library has a lounge on the 2nd floor with a fridge and microwave for students; “this is really convenient for commuters and during exams when you don’t necessary want to leave to go eat.” There’s an interfaith chapel located right in the student center, integrating it into the rest of student activities.

~Widener benchThe largest classes are capped at 60 (the capacity of the largest lecture hall on campus) and are usually for introductory engineering and nursing classes. Most of the Gen Ed classes are capped around 30. The 2 tour guides’ smallest classes were both 12 (Criminal Justice and Public Speaking).

Widener engo car

Student-built in the Engineering department

The engineering department is extensive for a school this size, offering Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Biomedical degrees. Dual degrees are offered, combining biomedical with chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering; chemical engineering and chemistry; or electrical or mechanical engineering and physics.

Widener communications bldg

Communications Building

Almost all majors require some sort of internship, co-op, or clinical hours. With downtown Philadelphia less than 20 minutes away, there’s no shortage of opportunities, but students don’t necessarily even have to leave campus: for example, there’s a Marriott-owned Restaurant on campus that is run by the Hospitality Management students.

The on-campus observatory includes a telescope that runs through the science building is 5 stories tall and structured in such a way that it never actually touches the floor – there’s a minimum of a couple inches all around it: “if the building happened to fall, the telescope would still be structurally intact.” They open this to students and the public for sessions run by a professor with student help.

~Widener Old Main 2

Memorial Field and Old Main

The large quad is called Memorial Field (and the original building sits on one side). The Eagles used to practice here, 6 US Presidents have walked across it, and the tour guide said that the movie Invincible was filmed here, but according to IMDB, “The summer training camp scenes were filmed at Central High School in North Philadelphia. The surrounding buildings and field were fixed up to give the appearance of the Eagles real training camp location in 1976, Widener University” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0445990/?ref_=nv_sr_1) … you can decide which source you believe!

© 2015

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