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A career path beyond wildest expectations:  from intern to full-time employee at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee

This post originally appeared on Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and University’s (WAICU) Private Colleges Blog as A career path beyond wildest expectations: from intern to full-time employee at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee

Martinson_Zoological_SocietyWhen Samantha Martinson was a student at Marquette University, majoring in Secondary Education and Writing-Intensive English, she happened upon a flyer for the WAICU Nonprofit Internship Program and learned about a paid internship position at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM). Though her major had nothing to do with the natural sciences, she was interested in the opportunity to work in a summer educational program for children.

“They viewed the science aspect as something you could learn on the job,” said Martinson. “And with a biologist for a mom and a chemist for a dad, an appreciation for the sciences rubbed off on me,” she joked.

The internship

Interns are integral to the success of the summer program, and the department takes great care to foster a supportive environment for the growth and professional development of its interns.

An internship at ZSM begins with two weeks of intensive training. Interns receive hands-on training at the Zoo as well as guidance on work-related topics ranging from conflict resolution to child management techniques. Throughout her internship, Martinson received “in-the-moment” tips on her interactions with children as well as bi-weekly feedback on her assigned journal reflections. “Receiving constructive feedback enabled me to feel connected to my supervisors, valued for the work I was doing, and encouraged to improve both personally and professionally,” she recalled.

Putting classroom knowledge into practice

Internships are becoming a staple of a college education. “The rigor of my majors and the planning skills I gained at Marquette definitely prepared me for the high-intensity internship at the Zoo,” said Martinson. In turn, she felt that her practical experience enabled her to contribute more to her classroom discussions when she resumed her classes the fall after her first internship. The experiences complimented each other so well that she continued on with two additional summer internships at the Zoological Society, each with increasing responsibility.

Before her semester of student teaching in the Milwaukee Public School System, Martinson had already been teaching in the classroom at the Zoo for summer camps for three months. Her prior experience set her up for incredible success as a student teacher. Her confidence, student behavior management techniques, and receptiveness to feedback from the lead teacher all positioned her to be able to take the reins in the classroom – something that many new student teachers are not ready to do.

After graduation

Martinson enjoyed teaching in the classroom setting, but she felt drawn to the informal sector of education. As a response to interest from students like Martinson, Marquette has launched a new major in Educational Studies, which is geared toward students pursuing careers in nonprofit organizations rather than K-12 schools.

After graduation, Martinson worked for multiple regional and nationally-known theaters in Milwaukee and on the East Coast. She said that at its core, theater represents humanity and fosters empathy for others. Samantha has taught a range of arts-integrated curricula, ranging from exploring social justice issues to literacy development. Her passion for helping others develop self-awareness and express themselves drives her as an educator.

Martinson remained in touch with Trinko, her supervisor from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. Years later, they reconnected through a mutual hobby:  rock climbing. When a full-time position opened up at the Zoological Society, Trinko immediately thought of Martinson and encouraged her to apply.

The bridge back to the Zoological Society

It was important to Trinko that the role and the timing were a good match not only for ZSM, but also for Martinson. It ended up being an ideal fit for both – Martinson was excited to take on a new challenge and work for an organization that has a positive impact on the Milwaukee community. Martinson now works as a co-coordinator and educational specialist for the Animal Connections Continuum (ACC) program. The goal of the program is for youth to develop empathy for animals and others. Martinson has a talent for bridging the gap between science and the humanities, and she was brought on board full-time to help integrate empathetic tools with science concepts.

“Samantha was one of our first interns and has continued to impress us as a full-time staff person,” said Trinko. “I am so grateful that the WAICU Nonprofit Internship Program helped Samantha find so much success.”


Getting to Know Dr. Melissa Gibson


Dr. Gibson being kissed by a monkey on her recent research trip to Bali.

Dr. Melissa Gibson is  an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL). She teaches Elementary Social Studies Methods and Middle/Secondary Social Studies Methods. All throughout this semester, we’ve been getting to know our faculty a little better by sitting down to see what makes them who they are!

Tell us about you! How would you describe yourself?

Thinker. Writer. Mother. Sister. Traveler. Friend. Activist. Creative. Silly. Disorganized. Doubtful. Outspoken. Grounded. Spontaneous. Loyal.

So where did you grow up? And how long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I grew up in the Chicago area, suburbs mostly. I say I’m “from” Elk Grove Village, but I’ve also lived in Skokie, Lake Forest, Harwood Heights, Edgewater in the city—and for many years, I pretended I lived in my older sister’s Lincoln Park and Irving Park apartments. But I have also lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for five years; Madison, Wisconsin, for six years; and Guadalajara, Mexico, for three years. I’ve been in Milwaukee since July 1, 2015.

What was your favorite educational experience?

My most pivotal learning experience was the semester I took off from college to go to Paris. This wasn’t study abroad; this was eighteen-year-old me hopping on a plane to look for work and a place to live and make friends and… When I look back on it now, it doesn’t seem that crazy, but at the time, it was the hardest and most independent thing I’d ever done. In terms of school-based experiences, I don’t know that I can pick a specific one. I’ve been lucky to have phenomenal teachers and mentors throughout my life.

What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I felt kinship with a university and college that expressed a moral imperative to work for equity and justice in our schools. I also loved the collegiality, the smallness, and the need for faculty not to be hyper-specialized. I’m a generalist at heart. Also, Milwaukee is close to my family and my husband’s family.

We’re glad that Marquette is a good fit for you! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am excited to be returning to Peru for our second study abroad program. For me, it is a mix of all the things I love about this work—most especially, that putting it together has been a creative endeavor. Looking forward, I love the openings that the new core and DPI revisions to certification are creating for us to creatively reimagine teacher education. I hope we, as faculty, can imaginatively think about placements, course sequences, and “high-quality” education.

And, what do you do when you are not teaching?

Not counting all the hours I spend doing laundry, cooking dinner, and resolving sibling quibbles (= parenting), I write a blog and I love to work on my house and garden. I’m also a NY Times crossword addict.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to write about you! As a fellow blogger, what does blogging mean to you?

I have always been a writer, since my first-grade award-winning Young Author’s Contest poem about my pets. Writing is how I make sense of the world. It is creative, reflective, expressive. I often can’t express in speaking what I can in writing, and I find I can be more vulnerable in writing than I can in face-to-face situations. While my blog is non-fiction/personal essay/social commentary, I’d love to move into fiction writing at some point—I keep a notebook of novel ideas, and every time I drive to the UP, I work a little more on the details of my future screenplay about unlikely love in the northwoods.

Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in blogging?

Start a blog! They’re free. Read Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Share what you write, even if it’s just with your best friend.

Who is the inspiration for your work?

My own teachers inspire my work, Mrs. Bessey and Mrs. Harper especially. But also all of teachers who saw moments when I was struggling, personally or academically, and they treated me humanely, with mercy, and with patience. I am also inspired by all the K-12 students I’ve worked with, but especially those whom I’ve failed in some way.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: A Bird’s Eye View

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the first of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

view from bush plane

view from the bush plane

By Michelle Fedran

When I first heard about this job opportunity, I knew it would be the experience of a lifetime not only from the location and cultural aspects of the position, but also from the personal adjustment I would have to make for myself. As I slowly learned more details about this opportunity, I went from a state of wonder to a fit of laughter. Sure, Alaska has always been on my list of places to travel to, but I never would have imagined throwing myself into rural Alaska to live and begin my career three months after graduation. Going from being one of the quietest girls in class since kindergarten, never winning that Presidential participation award in gym for completing 10 full push-ups, forcing myself not to cry as my parents dropped me off at my freshman dorm room even though they lived a short 20-minute drive away, I thought there was no way I would be able to survive so far away by myself. Now, I’m a five-plane ride, 24+ hour, six-hour layover (if we land in Seattle) trip away from my family. To make it even more challenging, I now live in a village that I’m sure most people never heard of: Tununak, Alaska.

Thinking back to where this started, I never would have been introduced to this job opportunity had it not been for my fellow Golden Eagle friend Danny Smith who already worked for the Lower Kukokwim school district in Alaska. Once he and I began talking about my potentially seeking a job with the district, he eventually became my go-to person for questions. I picked his brain, and he did a wonderful job of preparing me for what I was about to experience. Honestly speaking, if it weren’t for him, my expectations probably would have been silly and slightly embarrassing. For example, a lot of my friends joked that I would be living in an igloo. My expectations weren’t as silly as that; however, they may have been involved riding with sled dogs across the tundra. For those curious, I’ve only used snow machines or hondas (not the car, what they call ATVs) when there is no snow.


Coming into this, I expected to change some of my simple living habits. I remember my friend telling me one of the scariest moments is when the bush plane first drops you off in the village and leaves, and you realize you are stuck there until another bush plane comes back out for you — weather permitting. Going from the luxury of hopping into a car and going anywhere I wanted, you can probably imagine this was a bit soul-gripping realization and something hard to swallow. In addition to accepting the fact that my traveling relied heavily on nature and was not up to me, I had to be prepared to live conservatively. I would no longer be able to drive to Target 10 minutes away from where I lived to pick up shampoo or crackers. Where I live in the village, there are two small stores we can go to should we need anything. However, it comes at a high price – $18 for a case of soda, $8 for lunch cheese…  Our other option is purchasing from Amazon or waiting until we fly into Bethel, the closest main city, to do our shopping. Still, things are pretty pricey there as well and even flying to Bethel would cost me $400 round-trip. As you can imagine, most of the time I find myself making a lot of purchases on Amazon seeing that is usually the cheapest option. And as funny as it is, even though Amazon prime promises 2-3 day shipping, I’m lucky if I get my package within a month of my order placement date. To sum it up: changed expectations and simple living is key out here. Knowing and being well aware of this while preparing for my move, I understood it was crucial for me to pack necessities I would need right away upon arrival.

In terms of my first-year teaching in general, I expected it to be difficult no matter where I went. I actually felt this job opportunity was quite similar to my experience at Marquette given the vast differences there were. For example, in Milwaukee, I was placed in schools with a number of bilingual students who primarily spoke Spanish and English. Up here, I work with Alaskan Natives immersed in the Yup’ik culture. The two languages spoken here are English and Yugtun. The school where I work is a dual-language school in which my students learn different subjects in either English or Yugtun. My students learn Math and English Language Arts with me in English, then they learn Social Studies, Science, and Yugtun Language Arts in Yugtun with my partner teacher, who is an Alaskan Native. I felt my experiences at Marquette helped prepare me to have the mindset of working with bilingual students and what to be mindful of when working with these students. The biggest thing I can say is time and patience are two important skills I believe every teacher should adopt no matter with whom you work.

rock formationWhen it comes to thinking of what I have learned so far, the list is LONG.  I was able to learn so many things not only with the general work of being a teacher, but I was also able to learn more about the culture here. It truly is a unique experience I’m forever grateful for. Looking at the teaching side of things some advice I would give all new teachers is that some days will be rough, but you need to brush the dirt off and keep pushing forward. With this, I encourage new teachers to take advantage of all resources, whether that would be supplies, coworkers, or anything thrown at you. It is important to have an open mind and use every moment as a learning experience. I constantly find myself making daily adjustments on Mondays to improve the flow of things on Tuesdays and the cycle sometimes repeats itself throughout the week. Overall, a lot of my first year felt more like an exploration, and from this year alone I have learned so much that I plan to do differently next year. It’s so easy to get down on yourself, and this is something I have experienced my first-year; you need to remind yourself that you are also still learning (even though yes, you have graduated college and you have a fancy paper to show it). Mentors I have worked with each shared the same piece of advice that I know will stick with me: “if ever in your teaching career should you feel that you are done learning from others, then it is time to leave the profession.” As a student we were learning, as a teacher we are now teaching AND learning. You never stop learning and should never cut yourself off from learning – especially when it comes to improvements you can make in your own practice. So, use what is around you and never be afraid to ask for help! In your classroom, you may be “king” or “queen” but in the school and district, you’re a team player. Teamwork and support are huge pieces that I see in what makes a school successful, and I’m grateful to be working in a school with a staff that demonstrates those qualities.


Getting to Know Dr. Jennifer Cook

Version 2The College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Dr. Jennifer Cook is an Assistant Professor as well as the Coordinator of Practicum/Internship Placements for our Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology (CECP) program. Read on to learn more about Dr. Cook!

Tell us about yourself!

I am a fourth year assistant professor in the department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, and I teach exclusively in our master’s program. I am a licensed professional counselor in Wisconsin and Colorado, a National Certified Counselor, and an Approved Clinical Supervisor. I earned my PhD in counselor education from Virginia Tech in 2014, and I began my position at Marquette a few months later. My research interests include culture and diversity, particularly social class and socioeconomic status, and counselor training and preparation.

Where did you grow up? How long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I was born and raised in Florida, and I spent the first half of my life there. After I finished undergrad, I moved to Colorado for my first master’s degree, and I spent the majority of my adult life there. I’ve lived other great places, too: New York, Ohio, and Virginia, not to mention Milwaukee. I moved to Milwaukee just about four years ago when I began my position at Marquette.

You’ve been to so many places! Do you have a favorite educational experience?

Wow, that’s hard to answer because I’ve had so many, both as a student as an educator. If I were to choose just one time point as a student, my counseling master’s program at University of Colorado Denver in particular offered me so many rewarding experiences. My professors introduced me to research and teaching, allowed me to develop my clinical skills, encouraged me unceasingly, and fostered my creativity in a myriad of ways. Truly, I wouldn’t be in the role I’m in today if it weren’t for the peers, professors, and experiences I had there. Nowadays, I love watching my students learn and grow. Sometimes I get to see it instantly when a light bulb pops on or when a student masters a skill for the first time. Other times, I notice it over time, when I reflect on a students’ progress throughout the program or hear them reflect on their changes and growth.

It sounds like you’ve had many enjoyable experiences at Marquette! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I think it’s almost always an exciting time in our department because we are not the kind of folks who let “grass grow under our feet,” but this year is particularly exciting. We are growing our program and adding a new specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling. This addition will allow us to reach even more underserved populations in our area and train even more counselors. With the addition of this specialization, our faculty will grow with our expanding student population, which means even more vitality for our program and community.

So what drew you to Marquette and the COED?

Marquette, and COED and CECP more specifically, offered me what I was looking for in my career—a commitment to high quality research and teaching with a focus on social justice, advocacy, and providing high quality training. Further, I feel incredibly supported by my colleagues throughout our program and college, making Marquette a sustainable career choice for me.

You do a lot here at the College of Ed! What do you do when you are outside of the office and classroom?

Currently, I’m pre-tenure so that doesn’t leave a lot of leisure time. I travel as much as I can—locally, nationally, and internationally. I love to engage with new places, cultures, food, landscapes—really, anything I’ve never experienced before. Plus, I’m determined to visit all 50 states (I have seven left!) and to visit as many countries as I can, so I get excited when I’m able to add a new place to the list! I’m an avid reader, and I like to read anything in actual print because I spend far too much time on screens. I cook regularly, enjoy crafty things that don’t require too much skill, and being outdoors. I love to be near the water, especially the ocean, and I treasure times when I can take long walks near the water.

Whoa, those sound like amazing experiences! Tell us more about what they mean to you!

My downtime is important to me. It allows me to reboot and focus so I can feel grounded in my life, but particularly in my work.

Who is the inspiration for your passion?

Overall, I think I’m driven by my deeply held belief that counselors have the capacity to change the world. I truly believe counselors have the skills, knowledge, drive, and passion to help people communicate, to give folks space to heal deep wounds, to bridge divides, and to create positive social change. Because I believe this so wholeheartedly, it drives all aspects of my work: how I teach, what I research, and in what service I participate. Work really isn’t work when you believe what you’re doing makes a contribution, however small, to making a better life for others.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Who Cares About the Oxford Comma?

2000px-Virgola.svgBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

My high school administration, in the midst of crafting a new vision and mission, asked for teacher input during an in-service day. We sat at cafeteria tables, divided by birthday months. My table represented the music, math, science and English departments.

Before providing feedback, we read the proposed new vision, mission and enduring goals. But grammatical inconsistencies clouded my focus and I couldn’t analyze how the vision “embraced the opportunities of tomorrow” or “created paths for students.” The Oxford comma glared at me.

To our group-assigned recorder, I said, “Write down ‘grammatical inconsistencies.’”

“Which?” the math teacher asked.

“The Oxford comma. Here…” I pointed to the vision. “They’re using it sometimes but not others.”

“The what?”

“It’s the comma—the series comma—that separates the last two items in a list.”

“But is it right or is it wrong?” the math teacher asked.

Who says we should use the Oxford comma? APA, MLA, Chicago Style and AMA. Who says forget it? The New York Times, The Economist, The AP Stylebook and European writers.

Look at what you’re reading in magazines, newspapers, blogs and emails. You’re probably not seeing the Oxford comma. As a journalism major, my writing avoids it. I tell my students the Oxford comma has disappeared—just like two spaces after a period. (What? You didn’t know about that? More to come in a future blog.) I tell my students modern writing demands brevity and consistency.

To answer the math teacher, I said, “If your writing is clear without the Oxford comma, why use it? Why waste the space or time…yours or your reader’s? But if you’re writing for a publication that requires MLA or APA—or if your list would be unclear or have a different meaning without it—use it.”

The math teacher scrunched his forehead. “This is why I teach math. One plus one is always two.”

The science teacher, equally as confused, said, “Why would there be two ways to do one thing?”

“English is an art. There isn’t always one right or wrong way. And English is evolving. Take ginormous. It wasn’t a word a few years, but now it is in the Webster Dictionary. Writing is about clarity and about making purposeful choices.”

“So should I use the Oxford comma or not?”

“I would say it’s up to you. But whatever you decide, be consistent.”


Getting to Know Janet Cleary

image1Ms. Janet Cleary is the Field Placement Coordinator here in the College. This spring semester, we’ve been interviewing our faculty and staff to learn more about them— get to know Janet today!

Tell us about yourself! Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Milwaukee? 

I am from Schenectady, New York, and attended undergraduate school at Cornell University. My degree is in Nutritional Sciences. I moved to Milwaukee in 1977 for a one-year internship with the Milwaukee Public Schools. After the internship ended, I spend a year working in Highland Falls, New York (a town on the border with West Point Academy). I was thrilled to move back to Milwaukee in 1979 to work at MPS for what I thought would be three years—and I have now lived in Milwaukee for 39 years! I earned my MS in Industrial and Labor Relations at UW-M.

It sounds like MPS really made an impact on your life! What is your favorite educational experience?

While I am not an educator, all of my professional work experience has been in the educational setting.  While at MPS, I enjoyed going out to the schools and seeing the students in the classroom and cafeteria settings.  I loved the idea that what I did in School Nutrition impacted a student’s success in the classroom.

You’ve made quite the impact at MPS! So what drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I retired from MPS in June 2013, with the intention to not work again.  I spent that fall pursuing volunteer activities that I could be passionate about.  But, then in December, I had a phone call from Dr. Cynthia Ellwood, a former colleague from MPS, asking if she could give my name to Dr. Joan Whipp, who was looking for a one semester replacement for an ill staff member.  After much soul searching and re-visioning my retirement, I came to the College for what was to be four months.

I have now been here for 4+ years, and I LOVE it here.  After the public school setting, where I was forced to be a “secular” person, I was now able to both publicly express my faith and was supported in my faith journey by the Faber Center, located right here on our floor in Schroeder Complex!

We’re glad to hear that you’re enjoying your time here at Marquette! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am very excited that we have found a few new schools with which to partner for the next school year!  I am also excited that each year we have a few more grads as cooperating teachers.  They understand the rigor of the coursework, and the importance of an exceptional field/student teaching experience.


We’ve heard quite a bit about Janet the Field Placement Coordinator, but we would also like to know about what you do when you are outside of the office!

I love to bake and cook and enjoy hosting friends at my home.  I also enjoy reading and have recently been binge watching British TV series—Victoria, the Crown, Call the Midwife….  A guilty pleasure of mine is watching the Real Housewives of New York.

Those hobbies must mean a lot to you! Can you tell us more about how they impact you?

I love to nurture friendships, and feeding people is such a good way to let others know I care about them.  I used to prepare food for and serve at the St. Ben’s Meal Program.  That was a great way to put my desire to serve and care for the other into action.

That’s amazing! Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in doing similar hobbies?

I would encourage readers to explore their own interests, and sometimes there is an intersection between our interests and a need in the community.  If I hadn’t come to Marquette, one of the volunteer activities on my retirement list was working in a literacy program.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate program that Janet helps out with by visiting us online!

Catching Up with Dr. derria byrd

Dr. derria byrd joined the College of Education in the Fall of 2016 as an Assistant Professor in the Educational Policy and Leadership Department. Dr. byrd’s research interests include higher education, race, class and educational (in)equity, organizational culture and change, and Critical Theory. Read on to learn more about one of our newer faculty members!

derria byrd (db): I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and have moved around the U.S. quite bit since then, living in Boston, Oakland, and Madison, where I completed my doctoral degree. My husband, Roland, and I moved to Milwaukee from Missoula, MT, in August of 2016, and had a little one, Sula, join our family in January of this year. Although, I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, I am an avid fiction lover and fan of Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer’s work.

COED: What’s your favorite book?

db: My favorite novels include Song of Solomon, Invisible ManOne Hundred Years of Solitude,and Bel Canto. I am also eager to learn more about the history of (education in) Milwaukee. I recently read Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, and I’m eager to start Barbara Miner’s Lessons’ from the Heartland: A Turbulent Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.

What is your favorite educational experience?

One of my most powerful educational experiences was as a graduate student in an Issues in Urban Education course taught by Dr. Michael Fultz at UW-Madison. Although I’d long had an interest in and commitment to education — I worked in educational nonprofits for nearly 10 years before graduate school — and had been thankful for the broad educational opportunities I’d had, it wasn’t until that course that I discovered how much educational policy, in particular, had shaped my educational trajectory and opportunities. Having been tracked, bused, labeled as “gifted and talented,” and graduating from a magnet school, the issues we discussed in that course made it clear to me not only that I had been an “ed policy baby” but also how the opportunities this afforded me were mirrored by the lack of opportunity faced by other students, including friends from my neighborhood growing up.

What do you see as an opportunity for the College of Education?

I am foremost excited about the College of Education’s work with future counselors, educators, administrators, and (higher) education professionals. Through our work with these students, we can have a significant impact on their commitment and preparation to work toward educational justice in a range of contexts. As such, the applied work being done across the College of Education can serve as models for the ways in which the resources of the academy can be brought to bear, through partnership and real-world awareness, on the most pressing problems of the wider community.

What drew you to Marquette and the College of Ed?

db: During my interview visit to Marquette, I was struck by the collegiality of the department, their shared committed to teaching and student development, and the opportunity to work in an environment that would support my efforts as a researcher, educator, and social justice advocate. In addition, Marquette’s stated commitment to social justice was an important factor in my decision to join the faculty here — and, in particular, my departmental colleagues’ attention to equity, which goes beyond a service orientation toward those who are less fortunate to questioning and changing the structures that continue to generate differential access, success and life chances. Finally, I was drawn to Milwaukee, a city with a dynamic and at-times troubling history, in which a range of community members and activists are committed to speaking up and creating positive change for the city.

Want to learn more about the College of Education? Visit us online today! And be sure to check out our ongoing series “Getting to Know…” all about our faculty and staff!

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