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Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University (visited 11/20/19)

EMU YouareWelcome

The massive “You Are Welcome Here” sign; there are other versions of this around campus

Few schools have surprised me as much as EMU did. Although this may feel like it gets lost in UMich’s shadow (they’re only about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor), this vibrant, attractive campus offers students a huge array of academic, athletic, and social opportunities at an amazing price point – and it’s been named as “A Best Campus in the Midwest” for 17 years running by Princeton Review. It’s also one of the most diverse campuses I’ve seen: 1/3 of students self-identify as domestic students of color; many students were wearing hijb; students come from all 50 states and 83 countries; 48% are Pell recipients; and 25% are First-Gen students.

EMU CommonI would absolutely recommend this college to students: it’s accessible (physically, financially, and academically); it has a great vibe; and it has all the academic and social options/ opportunities of a larger school without the crazy cut-throat feeling at some places. “I love the eclectic mix of students here. You learn so much because there are a lot of perspectives,” said one of the tour guides.

EMU student Center

The student center and part of the pond.

One of the most impressive about the college is their cost: starting in 2016, they stopped charging additional tuition for out-of-state students; I’ve seen other colleges provide scholarships to qualified students that can bring the cost down to in-state tuition, but not just a flat price at a state school. The total Cost of Attendance is just under $25,000 for students living on campus! That’s almost unheard of. They base tuition on 26 credit hours per year; it could go up a bit for more credits (that is a little unusual; traditional credit load is 30 per year). On top of that, they provide scholarships (students may qualify for more than one but may only receive one) such as:

  • EMU 54Ward Graduation Scholarship: Students with a 3.0 GPA and a 1030 SAT/20 ACT can apply for this; after successfully completing the first 2 years and paying fixed-rate tuition, EMU will pay the tuition for years 3 and 4. Students must live on campus all 4 years to get this scholarship. They must complete 30 credits a year (aka be on track to graduate on time) and keep a 2.0 GPA while at EMU.
  • The Presidential Scholarship is the only competition-based scholarship with applications due by 11/1. Students need a 3.5+GPA and 25+ACT, must write an additional essay, and interview. Usually about 20 students are selected a year for this.
  • Emerald Scholarships are worth up to $8,000 per year depending on grades and scores.

EMU 3For admissions purposes, the lowest GPA they’ll accept is a 2.0 but “we’re on a sliding scale,” said the rep. “If you have a 2.0, you’ll need a higher test score.” However, they’re still a selective school with under a 50% acceptance rate.

Campus is impressive; while there are still a few buildings with utilitarian 1970s architecture, much of it is updated and attractive. Founded in 1849 as a teachers college (the first in Michigan and the first outside of the original 13 colonies), now it offers over 200 majors. 88% of classes have 35 or fewer students. Interesting things about their programs:

  • EMU elem sci class

    Elementary Science Education classroom

    They have an Elementary Science Education classroom! Students get a feel for what it’s like and they teach real lessons in the community. “It gets them all geeked up. It’s the least antiseptic science class you’ll ever see because we have all the kid stuff,” said the professor we spoke to in the classroom. She’s was incredibly engaging! “We teach them a lot of fun stuff about how we eat – chocolate, spice, etc. Even Chili Day to learn how it affects the body.”

  • “The Rocks in the science building get moved around. We don’t know how,” said one of the tour guides. There are astronomy classes and $5 planetarium shows on Tuesday and Thursday. There’s a specialized Science Writing Center.
  • EMU sci rocks

    The Science Department rocks

    Within the School of Engineering &Tech:

    • Visual and Built Environments department which houses Construction Management, Fashion Marketing Innovation, and Simulation/Animation/Gaming majors, among others.
    • Tech & Professional Services houses Hotel Management (the university owns a hotel), Paralegal, Aviation Flight Management and Management Technology.
  • They have some strong interdisciplinary programs including Data Science & AnalyticsChildren’s Lit and Drama/Theater, EnviSci and Society, and Africology and African-American Studies.
  • They have multiple specialized science programs including Fermentation Science (in Chemistry) and Science Literacy (specialized for different science majors).

EMU project centerThey have a Project Center (like a writing center) in library where students can get help for all types of projects including how to put together presentations. Students can get prizes for studying: they check into study centers, writing center, the library, etc. They’ll actually have areas where people will check to see if they’re on social media – “3 strikes and you’re out for the day! You have to give up your study carrel.”

EMU fountain 1About 5,000 students live on campus; about 2/3 of first-years and almost 25% of all undergrads live on campus. There are a lot of off-campus housing options for students who want to move off; the tour guides said that housing was fairly easy to come by. They do encourage people to stay on campus by providing housing stipends for living in the traditional dorms (not the campus apartments).

EMU quad 1Campus life is active. There are movies shown every Friday, they offer great trips like to Zoo Lights, there’s Greek life, and athletics keep athletes and fans busy. They’re NCAA DI except for football which is NAIA.

We got to eat lunch with our tour guides as part of the tour (it was optional – it was placed on purpose at the end if people had to leave, but we stuck around). This was smart on EMU’s part! The food was good, although it was fairly standard dining hall fare. There were enough options to satisfy different dietary styles. This particular dining hall was a bit on the small side for a university this size; it was busy but never packed during our time there (at peak lunch times). There are plenty of other options, as well.

© 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

New England Institute of Technology

New England Institute of Technology (visited 4/29/19)

NEIT acad bldg 2

The interior of the main Academic building with a fountain (complete with goldfish) at the bottom.

If a student wants hands-on, experiential, practical education, this school is worth looking at.

NEIT dorm 3

The large, 400=bed dorm from one of the lounges; the building is in a large U shape with lots of game rooms, kitchens, and other meeting spaces.

NEIT is an interesting place that seems to have sprung suddenly on the college scene in the last decade or so. It’s still very much a regionally known place mostly because it had been a commuter school for so long. However, with the recent addition of a 400-bed dorm (with another one planned to be completed within the next couple years), NEIT is expanding its reach beyond the local and is becoming well known in the New England region. They are now trying to get their name out there beyond the immediate area.

NEIT interior design

Some of the interior design student work

Right now, I’d hesitate a bit before sending a student from too far away simply because there’s not much happening on the weekends. “It’s pretty quiet,” said one of the students. However, they’re really happy here. “You can definitely find things to do.” Providence is only about 15 minutes away with a lively college scene. Boston is about an hour and NYC is about 3 hours on the train which runs through the area. I think once the 2nd dorm goes up and the residential population grows with that, this will become a more vibrant campus and they’ll continue to attract more students who will want to stick around on the weekends.

NEIT mascotThe main campus is located in East Greenwich. Campus is new (they moved to this location in the early 2000s) and has up-to-date technology for the students. There are 2 satellite campuses in Warwick and Providence. This one houses the Automotive center; students can get degrees in Auto Technology (Regular or High Performance), Auto body, Collision Repair, and even Marine Technology!

NEIT lab 5

One of the many labs

They offer an extensive array of Associate’s degrees, many of which lead into a Bachelor’s if students want to continue on. Students who want to go directly into a trade (think electrical, plumbing, HVAC) and health sciences (PT or OT assistant, Respiratory Care, Paramedic, Vet Tech, etc) will be well trained and usually get jobs before graduation. Nursing is also offered as an AA degree, but they recommend staying for the BSN to be more marketable/hirable. Some of their more unusual Bachelor’s degrees include Construction Management, Vet Practice Management, Game Development & Simulation Programming, and Cybersecurity and Network Engineering.

NEIT lab 2

Another lab

This is a great choice for students who are looking for engineering technology, not engineering itself. In addition to the more typical engineering fields (civil, mechanical, etc), they also offer Software, Electrical, and Architectural Building Engineering Tech. The students we talked to are very happy in their classes; one student at my lunch table was in the engineering tech program and said that he had a lot of friends at URI’s engineering. “They’re getting much more of the theory. We’re getting the actual knowledge of how to run things. When they get hired, they often don’t know how to run the machines. We do.”

NEIT motion capture 2

The motion capture area in one of the Game Development labs

Classes are held on the quarter system, and many students are able to finish an AA degree in 18 months by taking classes year-round. Bachelor’s can be finished in 3 years. However, their 6-year graduation rate hovers in the mid-50% range which isn’t spectacular but still slightly above the national average. However, job placements out of here tend to be very high for those who do finish.

© 2019

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (visited 4/27/18)

UMES 2UMES is a land-grant HBCU located in Princess Anne on the lower Eastern Shore, about 15 minutes south of Salisbury. Much of campus is attractive and well-maintained. It’s one of the smaller schools in the UM system with just under 3,000 students. It’s relatively easy to get around, and parking is plentiful; “you definitely need a car here!” said a student. Town is about a mile away; there are a few fast-food restaurants and shops, but students are more likely to go to Salisbury for entertainment. Students are not really impressed with the social life on campus. There’s not a lot going on which may help explain part of the school’s retention and graduation rates.

UMES quadMost freshmen live on campus, but many move off after that. Many live close: driving into campus, I passed several small apartment complexes with signs up advertising space for students. There’s also some student-specific housing in Salisbury just off the SU campus that is open to UMES students (although about 90% of students in that housing do attend SU). Greek Life is an important part of campus life, with each organization given a small area on a quad for benches, signs, and grills. Students seemed to think that the food on campus was mediocre at best. “It gets the job done, but that’s about all I can say about it!”

UMES Scie

Aviation Complex

Surprisingly for a school this size, athletics are DI, mostly typical sports. They do have Women’s bowling and Men’s golf.

The faculty did get rave reviews from students. Classes are relatively small, particularly for a state school. There are a great deal of unusual/specialty majors offered at UMES such as:

UMES Food Sci Tech

Food Science and Tech building

I love that they have more hands-on, career-specific academics that prepare students for the workforce, but I’d be a bit concerned about sending a student here. Enrollment has been going down the last several years, but they are working hard to try to reverse that trend. They also are not graduating students well, although they seem to be on par with many HBCUs. There were not many students around, even though it was a beautiful day. Most students were walking alone or with one other person. The price is right, though – and for students looking for some more specialized majors and who like a quieter life, this might be the perfect place for them.

© 2018

Wentworth Institute of Technology

Wentworth Institute of Technology (visited 9/13/17)

Wentworth student projects

Students doing a class project on the quad

WIT, unfortunately, often gets overlooked when students are looking for the type of education it offers. This is a hidden gem that offers intensive hands-on education and excellent job preparation. This, combined with its location (the Fenway area of Boston) and its membership in the Colleges of the Fenway consortium, provides a plethora of opportunities not available at many other places.

EWentworth hammocksnrollment hovers around 4,000 students, but as a member of the Consortium, there are approximately 12,000 college students in the immediate area. Not surprisingly, the student body at WIT is skewed overwhelming male (a little over 80%) – but Simmons, a women’s college, is literally across the street. A student there said, “We tend to balance each other out!”

Wentworth classroom

One of the many labs

WIT is best known for their Engineering programs, but that is not all they do:

Wentworth signWentworth is one of a handful of universities nationally that offer Co-op placements for their students (keeping company with places like Northeastern, Drexel, and Cincinnati). Co-ops last at least 12 weeks with students working at least 32 hours per week. These can be completed anywhere, but the earliest a student can register for a co-op is the summer sophomore year, a little later than some other schools. Students didn’t seem to mind this, but it does limit the opportunities to explore areas and quickly “reset” the track they’re on if they discover that their major might not be exactly what they want. Students are advised to complete 2 co-ops at different locations, and they tend to get really creative and work at great places. For example, one student majoring in Applied Math did her co-op in Data Analytics at a biomed company.

Wentworth engo bldgWIT’s graduates have a 98% grad placement rate, and the Brookings Institution has ranked them in the top 7 for occupational earnings power with a perfect score of 100, putting them in good company with schools like Harvey Mudd, NJIT, and CalTech! This is far from the only high ranking they’ve earned for job placement and earnings.

A large majority of students come from Massachusetts, so there are a decent number of commuters. Students not living at home must live on campus for the first two years, and housing is guaranteed for all 4. Just over 75% of first year students live in the dorms with about half of all students living on campus. There are a lot of suites and some single rooms available. The student health center is shared with MassArt and MCPHS and is located on the 2nd floor of one of the new MassArt dorms next door to WIT. Parking is not readily available because of the urban environment, but public transportation, including T stops, are immediately off campus, and there is a lot within walking distance. Because of the location in Boston, there are plenty of things for students to do at a reduced (or no) cost, including free tickets to the MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

© 2017

University of Washington (Seattle)

University of Washington (visited 6/22/17)

UW fountain:mountain 2This is a huge school in both population and physical size, “but a fun fact – you’re never more than 2 minutes away from a cup of coffee!” said one of the tour guides. It’s definitely physically impressive/attractive, including a great view of Mt. Rainier! Students will need to be proactive in seeking out their people and join things to find community which could range from an athletic team to research with faculty.

UW students on quadThere’s hardly a shortage of things to do on campus. Obviously this is a DI school; students can attend most sporting events for free – but they do pay for football and basketball. Outdoorsy students will love this school – mountains and ocean are both close with lots of opportunities to get out on the water: UW even has canoes they can use. There are over 800 clubs on campus, including one dedicated to bagels. The campus bowling alleys are free to use on your birthday! Greek life is popular with 18 sororities and 36 fraternities (many of which provide housing).

UW statue and mountain

Statue of Washington overlooking Mt. Rainier

Over 31,000 undergraduates study at UW’s main campus in the University District of Seattle (the 2 satellite campuses in Bothell and Tacoma have about 5,000 on each campus – see separate entries on them). “You can walk to downtown, but it’s not fun,” said one of the students. “It’s all uphill.” Buses run around campus and to downtown; there’s also theStudents have worked in the legislature on budgets, in offices, and more.

UW towerFor the class applying for the fall of 2018, UW will exclusively use the Coalition App. The deadline is 11/15, but students can send test scores until December 31. They do NOT want recommendation letters; domestic students will self-report grade, but international students will need to send a transcript at the time of application. For fall of 2017, they admitted 20,800 of 45,000 applicants. Approximately 45% of domestic and 37% of international applicants were admitted.

Admissions happens in 2 parts:

  • UW quad 2Academic Prep: They want to see a strong level of achievement in college prep courses, test scores, a strong senior year. GPA is looked at in context of the school. They will look at previous matriculations from the high school. Although they rely heavily on academics, that’s not the whole story.
  • Personal Achievements: community service and leadership, significant responsibility, and the “extras” like cultural awareness, unique perspectives or experiences, or overcoming personal adversity can all play a part in the decision.
UW library int

The reading room in the main library

UW runs classes on the Quarter System (as do all Washington state schools now). They have 10 weeks of classes and a week of finals. Research “is truly is boundless … ok, that’s a cheesy way to tie in the motto ‘Be Boundless’” said one of the reps. Students have even gotten grants from NASA to do research. Classes can be huge – our tour guide had 700 in her Intro to Chem class, but she also had 7 in her Freshman Seminar. The 14 libraries on campus cater to different learning styles with some being more quiet or set up to encourage group work.

There are three main pathways into a major:

  • UW 6Pre-major: Most students enter this way. It might be an open major or have pre-reqs that need to be completed before being formally accepted into the major. They’ll meet with an advisor when they arrive on campus
  • Direct to major: they only accept a small percentage under this plan. If students are not accepted directly, they usually come in as a pre-major and can apply at the end of their 2nd “If you’re committed to a certain major and have an assurance from another school, it’s probably a good idea to take it. There’s no guarantee here. We’re space-constrained. Some are more competitive than others, and the competition changes every year based on who is applying.”
  • UW 10Direct to College: Students start in the college as Undeclared and get advising. From there, they place into a program. “It allows for exploration, but there’s no assurance for your first choice within that college.” For example, students interested in engineering will be guaranteed some engineering major, but may have to settle for something other than their first choice. One of the students on the panel talked about this: “I think I would’ve preferred this over Direct to Major because there were things I didn’t even know existed. I would’ve liked to know what was out there.”

Some note-worthy programs include:

They offer 2 different Honors programs: students can apply through their major or to Interdisciplinary Honors.

© 2017

Michigan State University

Michigan State University (visited 1/30/15)

MSU bus

One of the buses circulating around campus

~MSU tree and bldgAlthough there’s a lot of traffic around this 2-mile x 2-mile campus, the middle of MSU is lovely and feels cohesive. They boast about their 10,000 feet of sidewalk (portions of which are heated). “Walking from place to place is a good call-home time!” said one guide, but if they don’t feel like walking, there are plenty of buses circulating around campus and through town. A bus pass costs $50 a semester or 80c a ride. Freshmen cannot have cars “which is just as well – parking is located a 15-minute walk away. You aren’t using cars for quick trips anywhere.” Both guides agreed that cars just weren’t necessary. Even getting to the Detroit airport is easy: the university runs shuttles there at breaks.

MSU sculpture 3The tour guides (a junior from Denver and a freshman from Philly) were some of the best I’ve had. They both came from small high schools and were looking for the larger, Big-10, rah-rah sort of school. They clearly loved MSU and used personal anecdotes to illustrate what life was like for them rather than spouting statistics or generalities. I walked away with a good sense of who would thrive here: smart, independent students who are willing to ask questions (not just in class) and get involved in something; it seems like students here have found a really good balance between the academic and the extra-curricular.

A freshman dorm lounge

A freshman dorm lounge

Although campus can seem overwhelming, the guides said that participating in Orientation was key in figuring out how to get around but it’s also on them to make the effort; someone suggested to them that they “walk their schedule” before classes to really learn where they were going. One guide didn’t do that and panicked the first morning – but was able to pick up a map and get directions from the service desk in the res hall. All freshmen are required to live on campus; the dorms are attractive and comfortable. The only complaint is that many rooms don’t have wifi yet (but all common areas have it). They are working on this. Currently, students can request which “Neighborhood” or dorm they want; next year, they’ll be able to pick their exact room.

One of the many dining halls

One of the many dining halls

Each neighborhood has at least one dining hall for a total of 10 around campus. They’re open at different hours (some opens at 7am, some are open until midnight, etc). Students get unlimited swipes so they can grab a coffee or snack between classes. There are also grab-and-go places, coffee shops, etc on campus; many fast-food places directly off campus; and a food truck comes on campus (which only serves food sourced from within 2 miles of campus!). There’s also a bakery in town that provides baked goods to the dining halls.

Even students living off campus often buy a partial meal plan for the convenience and because the food is good. One guide lives in an apartment about a 15-minute walk from campus. “It’s so easy to find a place! There are housing fairs, advertising, stuff like that.” She’s on her own lease even though she shares the apartment with others. “It’s a nice piece of security because I don’t have to count on anyone else if they leave or whatever before the year is up.”

The River

The River

The Art Museum

The Art Museum

It’s hard to get bored on campus with 650 clubs available (which includes Greek life and a Squirrel Watching club). Sports are popular, of course. Students do have to pay for tickets to men’s hockey, basketball, and football games, but all other sports are free. The Red Cedar River, which cuts the campus in half, also provides recreation: students play hockey on it in the winter and can raft down it in the summer. They have an excellent museum designed by a world-class architect. They movie Batman vs. Robin was filmed here; the students are really excited about seeing the final product after seeing the filming!

MSU bikesStudents can take traditional, online, and “hybrid” classes (usually 1 class a week in a lecture hall and the discussions and homework online). One of the guides took a 600-person hybrid business class; her microeconomics class was also huge. However, they also had classes of 17 (writing) and 8 (hospitality/cooking class). Their “Engagement Centers” (there are several around campus) provide tutoring, writing centers, and more for students needing extra help with academics.

MSU began as Michigan’s land-grant institution; not surprisingly, the agricultural programs got mentioned several times, and the Agricultural College is popular and strong. Notable majors include: Fisheries and Wildlife; Construction Management; Landscape Architecture; Sustainable Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and Entomology. The James Madison College offers 4 interesting majors including Comparative Cultures and Politics, Social Relations and Policy, and Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.

(c) 2015

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