Posts by: Jessica Daniels

On the morning after we released our decisions, thank you to everyone for your interest in Fletcher throughout this past year!  Congratulations to those who were admitted!  And for those who were not, please stay in contact with us.  Our door is still open!

Once we had the packets in the mail, yesterday was a day of quiet desk- and inbox-clearing.  We know that today starts a new phase of the admissions cycle, and one of particular frenzy.  We’ll be reaching out to, and hearing from, our admitted students; the emails will fly.

Just as the coming weeks will be hectic for the Admissions Staff, they should also be busy for most of the students who were admitted yesterday.  Doing the research that results in the right decision for graduate school takes time.  You did your preliminary research before applying, of course, but now is when you make doubly sure that the program in which you enroll best matches your academic and career objectives.  Explore the course offerings in detail.  Learn about the student community.  You have a little over five weeks to gather information about Fletcher and other schools, and then to make a well-considered decision.  We’ll do our part to provide you with details by mail and other media, along with opportunities to visit the School, to help in your decision making.  And the Admissions Blog will continue to supply information about our wonderful community and rich intellectual environment.

Speaking for everyone on the Admissions Staff, we encourage you to learn as much as you can before making a final decision.  Of course, we hope you will choose Fletcher, but it’s even more important that September finds you in classes that move you toward your goal.  We welcome your questions!  And, congratulations, once again, on your admission!

 

While we toil away here, putting the finishing touches on our admission decisions, naturally we know that some of our peers are getting out ahead of us with decisions, building the anxiety among our applicants.  Maybe we’d rather be first, but more important, we want to be accurate and thorough, and to provide admitted applicants with all the information they need to make a decision to enroll at Fletcher.  So let me run through what you can expect to learn tonight, when we release decisions.  (All decisions, by which we mean decisions for all degree programs on every complete application that was submitted by the final March 1 deadline.  No trickling of decisions for us.  No releasing of decisions by telephone or email either, so please be patient until 6:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern time.)

First, when your decision is ready, you’ll receive an email to check your Application Status Page.  (Reminder for those who haven’t bookmarked the page:  To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or the application link.  You’ll log in with the email and password you used when you created your application.)

I’ve already described the different decision options on Monday and Tuesday.  In addition to learning the admission decision, when admitted applicants log in, they will be able to find their scholarship award.  If you’re in a two-year program, the award is renewable for the second year.  (So a $10,000 scholarship is worth $20,000 for your full MALD or MIB.)  We make scholarship decisions based on a combination of merit and need.  That is, for any level of merit — as determined through the application review process — the larger awards go to those with greater need.  We hope that all applicants will be happy with their awards, though we know that only Admissions Committee members have the full picture of the breadth of need (and merit, to a lesser extent) among the admitted applicants.  Fletcher’s applicant pool is diverse in every possible way.

Beyond all that, let me just say that it is truly a pleasure to work with our applicants.  On the road, here at Fletcher, and through correspondence, Admissions staff members connect with hundreds of people who submit applications each year.  With some applicants, our connection goes back many years.  At the same time as the Admissions Committee’s mandate is to put together a class that will succeed at, contribute to, and benefit from Fletcher, there are many people who may not be admitted at this time but who we know will ultimately be great students.  I want to thank all of you for your interest in Fletcher and for reading the Admissions Blog throughout the year.

Packets!

Admitted student packets waiting for the post office pick-up!

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My email exchange recently with Sebastián went beyond learning about his Defying Gender Roles initiative.  He also told me about a long-standing tradition for a group of Washington, DC-based Fletcher alums to gather for breakfast every Tuesday.  And he sent a photo of the Very Early Breakfast Club, composed of members of the classes of 2012 and 2013, last week at the Flying Fish Café.  All of the Very Early Breakfast eaters live in the Mt. Pleasant area.  In any neighborhood, DC is thick with Fletcher alums!

Breakfast club

 

Having invited applicants who are not initially offered admission to stay in contact with us, I will now turn to those applicants who are admitted.

As soon as we can wrap up the application review process, many Fletcher applicants will soon learn that they have been admitted, and can join us in September 2015.  Woohoo!  We hope that Fletcher will be the next step you take as you craft your future career!

Some of the offers of admission, however, are accompanied by a condition, and today’s post is to clarify what those conditions entail.  The first thing to remember is that we don’t bother to admit someone conditionally unless we’re very enthusiastic about other aspects of the application; don’t let the condition diminish your sense of accomplishment!

What is the basis for a conditional offer of admission?  The Admissions Committee looks at the materials in an applicant’s file and makes certain assumptions, some of which lead Committee members to suggest the applicant needs further preparation before enrolling at Fletcher.  We’ll make that preparation a condition of admission.  The most frequently employed conditions require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the student should improve foreign language proficiency, English language proficiency, or quantitative skills (MIB students only).

We tend to be inflexible about the nature of the pre-Fletcher English training, for reasons I hope are obvious.  (In case they’re not as obvious as I think, I’ll spell it out:  No one can succeed in Fletcher classes with weak English skills.)  There’s more flexibility around summer foreign language training for native English speakers.  We’ll ask students to choose the best program for their level and their choice of language — there are too many variables involved for us to dictate any particular option.

Does this mean that, if we haven’t attached a condition, we’re absolutely sure your English skills are strong enough to cope with a heavy load of reading and writing?  Not necessarily, and now’s a good time to work on those skills.  Does it mean we’re sure you’ll pass the foreign language exam?  Definitely not.  Applicants who self-assess as having intermediate-level proficiency might have overestimated or underestimated their ability.  Work on those language skills before enrolling!  Not everyone who needs some practice will be admitted conditionally.

Beyond the conditions, there’s one other complication to the admit category:  Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied.  Most common example:  You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient experience to meet Fletcher’s standard for mid-career.  On the other hand, you look great for the MALD program, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!  (There’s similar thinking behind offering MALD admission to a tiny number of PhD applicants who lack the master’s level study to enter the PhD program directly.)

Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants.  We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up on English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t require pre-Fletcher English study.

The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) ADMISSION!  And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher.  So we’ll maintain our portfolio of admits, sometimes with conditions attached.

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As we edge closer to releasing decisions, I want to take a minute (and two blog posts) to tell readers about potential decision options.  This is an annual theme, but this year, reflecting the views of the Admissions Committee, I’m going to reframe the information.

But first let me interrupt myself to say that we’re still wrapping up the process and some time stands between now and when we release decisions.

THE BASICS

The unfortunate reality is that we cannot admit everyone who applies to Fletcher.  And there are two possible outcomes for those who aren’t admitted right now.  One is that the applicant might be denied admission, and the other is that the applicant could be offered a place on the waitlist (which might result in admission later in the spring/summer).

When we review applications, we’re looking for a combination of academic potential, professional and international experience, and clear goals for study and a post-Fletcher career.  Applicants who are not admitted, or who are offered a place on the waitlist, might be missing one or more of those elements, or they might be just a little weak in all of them, particularly compared to the overall qualifications of admitted students.

THE DETAILS

The waitlist: Each year, we offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of the applicants we’ve admitted.  (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.)  In some years, we admit a significant number of students from the waitlist.  Occasionally, we don’t admit any.  But most years we admit a few.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  For starters, what matters is not how many waitlist offers we make, but rather how many people decide to accept a spot on the list, and we won’t have that number until the end of April.  We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and review our notes.  Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait.  Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.

Those not admitted: We’re always sorry to say goodbye to an applicant.  We’ve read your story and we know how important gaining admission to graduate school is for you.  The fact is that many of the students not admitted this year could be admitted in a future year.  We hope you will continue to develop your experience and that we may read about you again.

Some applicants to the MALD and MIB programs will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we really want them to gain some relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for.  We’ll only use this “work deny” decision for applicants within about a year of their university graduation.  (This year, that means 2014 and 2015 grads.)  We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record), it could take more or less time for them to build their professional experience and become competitive applicants.

MOST IMPORTANT 

Contact us!:  Whether an applicant is denied admission or offered a place on the waitlist, there’s one important thing I want to share, which is that our door is still open for communication, and we hope you will contact us.  Increasingly, the Admissions Committee expects to see a record of correspondence from those who are applying for the second time.

Students who are not offered admission have the opportunity to request feedback on their application.  If you’re planning to reapply, I encourage you to ask for feedback this spring.  (That is, don’t wait until the month before your next application — you may want some time to make improvements.)  We’ll accept feedback requests on May 1 and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.

As for the waitlist, all members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome.  But for some applicants, the waitlist will ultimately result in admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little time to give your application a boost.  For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.

Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone.  Get in touch, and ask us if there is a special piece of information we need.

Finally, Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply.  Someone who applies unsuccessfully, smooths up some of the rough points in the application, and reapplies in a subsequent year, has shown determination and a strong interest in the School — two qualities we love in our applicants.

Tomorrow I’ll run through the different categories of admission.

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This post won’t be typical for the Five-Year Updates.  To start, it won’t be written by the featured Class of 2009 graduate.  But today is a good day to recognize Amanda Judge F09, who later this afternoon will receive the second Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award.  The award ceremony is timed to fall on the Friday before the March 8 International Women’s Day.  According to the invitation we received to the event:

Amanda JudgeAmanda Judge is Founder and CEO of Faire Collection, a fair trade accessories brand that brings economic stability to more than 200 rural artisans in Ecuador and Vietnam.  In the seven years since its founding, Faire Collection has grown from just $10,000 in start-up capital to well over $1 million in sales revenue and is committed to providing its artisans with dignified wages and holistic social programs that provide a path out of poverty.  Judge, who received her MALD in 2009, developed Faire’s business plan as an independent study at Fletcher. She holds a degree in finance from Santa Clara University and worked in the private sector before launching Faire Collection.

The award was established in 2014 by the Fletcher Board of Advisors and the School’s executive leadership to honor outstanding women graduates who are making a meaningful impact in the world in the private, public, and NGO sectors.

You can read more about Amanda and her work in the student-published Tufts Daily, in a nice article on the University’s Tufts Now page, and on the Faire Collection website.

Amanda’s post-Fletcher career certainly deserves to be recognized among those of her peers, with a Five-Year Update.  Congratulations, Amanda!

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A 2012 grad, Sebastián Molano, with whom I’ve occasionally been in contact over the past two-plus years, recently wrote to tell me about a new project he has started.  I’m going to let him introduce it.

Defying Gender RolesIn order to contribute to the current struggle for gender equality, last January I created Defying Gender Roles.  This is an initiative that seeks to challenge harmful gender roles by creating a space to share thoughts and views about the nuances of being men and women today, and through it we aim to foster and promote diversity.

Last month, we launched our Facebook group and we have over 800 followers.  With this group we seek:

  • To bring attention to the harmful gender roles that are part of our daily life and to how they affect our ability to be who we want to be.
  • To “de-normalize” practices that perpetuate gender inequality and reinforce harmful traditional gender roles.

In this project, I have the support, ideas, and energy of five Fletcher alums: Joya Taft-Dick F11, Megan Rounseville F12, Sean Lyngaas F12, Amos Irwin F12, and Ana García F13.

I was invited recently to give a TEDx Talk at Colby College, where I spoke about what it means to be a man today and the struggle for achieving gender equality.  (A link to the talk should be available soon.)

With International Women’s Day coming on Sunday, March 8, I’m happy to be able to point to work that Fletcher grads are doing on behalf of gender equality.

 

A quick update for you.  In September, we featured posts from three groups of students who had pursued summer research projects sponsored by Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth.  Yesterday I heard from Trevor Zimmer and Michael Mori, who wrote about their research on Indonesian mobile money.  Since then, their report, “Mobilizing Banking for Indonesia’s Poor,” has been published, and MasterCard has posted it on their website. Congratulations to Michael, Trevor, and IBGC!

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Yesterday, the Faculty Spotlight shone on Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who teaches the series of classes on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME or DM&E).  As Prof. Scharbatke-Church mentioned, she frequently runs into alumni in her travels and work.  I’m delighted that she has shared with me brief introductions to some of those Fletcher graduates who took one or more of her classes.  She developed these introductions to help students understand whether the classes are right for them.  As currently configured, the classes are Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.  For blog readers, there is additional value in noting the careers in which DME concepts can be applied.

Lisa InksLisa Inks F10
Current Position/Organization: Director of Conflict Management Programs, Mercy Corps Nigeria.  I oversee Mercy Corps’ conflict management division in Nigeria, composed of various donor-funded programs integrating peacebuilding, economic development, and governance.  I am responsible for setting our conflict management strategy, ensuring the programs’ success against our objectives, and leading research and M&E initiatives.

Professional interests and passions: Integrated peacebuilding and economic development programming; research on conflict/poverty linkages; governance and peacebuilding; monitoring, evaluation, and learning of conflict mitigation programs.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: This will be your chance to soak up theory.  After Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s classes you will never feel like you have enough time to absorb the great wisdom of the M&E giants.  Read every word and reflect on what you think your personal approach to DME is, and how you see this playing into your work.  If you go into the rest of your career with a clear understanding of how you see yourself in the DME world and what your ideals are, you’ll be more effective.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: What I learned in that class was more than a collection of tools, strategies, and facts: I adopted a completely new mindset for how to implement development and peacebuilding programs.  Constant iteration is absolutely necessary for programming effectiveness.  The way Prof. Scharbatke-Church modeled continuous learning and improvement is the way we should all run our programs.  I think about that often: how I need to stop, evaluate, and reflect after each step of an activity — and always get the direct input of participants.  (This seems obvious, but it wasn’t until I took the class that I truly internalized the importance of direct feedback and closing the feedback loop.)  Also, through the class, I learned how to think logically and precisely to develop a program with a clear and testable theory of change and to monitor its effectiveness.  A year after graduating I was training people throughout my previous organization in how to develop DME systems.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: If you plan to work in development at all, take this course.  This class should be a “must” for anyone who wants to work in an NGO or for a donor.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s class is rigorous, challenging, and humbling, but if you are serious about development — and are serious about doing high-quality development work that responds to the needs of those you are trying to serve, and that is based on evidence and learning — you should take it.

Brian Heilman F10

Brian HeilmanCurrent Position/Organization: Independent M&E Consultant. Prior: Gender and Evaluation Specialist, International Center for Research on Women (2010-2015).

Professional interests and passions: Gender equality; prevention of all forms of violence against women; engaging men and boys in efforts to advance gender quality; utilization-focused evaluation; quantitative data analysis and visualization.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: Honestly, the professional value of these courses is about triple that of the average Fletcher course…with a workload to match!  Also, despite the modules’ titles — and I suppose not all incoming first years are immediately familiar with DM&E concepts — these courses were the most fertile ground at Fletcher for deep discussion and analysis on the ethics and effectiveness of international development and peacebuilding programming.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: These courses taught me:

  • To demand clarity and logic from international development program designs — but not by sacrificing imagination.
  • To demand and uncover evidence of these programs’ relevance, effectiveness, and/or sustainability prior to large-scale investment — but not by allegiance to methodological “rigor” as narrowly understood.
  • To demand that we value usefulness over interestingness in the application of precious program, evaluation and research resources.

These and other insights from the courses — as well as from Professor Scharbatke-Church’s broader mentorship and support — helped me come into my own as a professional evaluator, a career path that honestly I hadn’t imagined for myself prior to attending Fletcher.  I have now collaborated on and led a range of evaluations and M&E collaborations in diverse settings, from the Pacific Islands to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, and I apply principles from these courses throughout.  I am still so grateful that I took a chance on the first DME course in my first semester — it changed everything!

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series:  These courses are fantastic for the Fletcher student with broad interests in international development practice.  If you’re like I was, you’ve got some constellation of interests including: human rights, grassroots programming/activism, data collection and analysis, development/foreign aid policy, and/or others.  You can take many classes at Fletcher that dig into these areas individually but that conveniently ignore the implications of the others — especially the crucial question of how best to ensure that your program/practice/policy continues to learn from itself and improve over time.

These courses bring all of those topics together, but perhaps more importantly, they do so while also taking the notion of the “professional degree” very seriously.  They are designed and taught very thoughtfully as preparatory courses for professionals.  The projects and work you undertake mirror the projects and work you will undertake after graduating:  Teamwork. Project designs and proposals. M&E plans. Data collection guides.

Jessie EvansJessie Evans F10

Current Position/Organization: Conflict Stabilization Specialist, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, U.S. State Department.

I support broader State Department and interagency efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy by applying conflict expertise and supporting embassies in countries and regions affected by conflict.  I design and implement conflict prevention and stabilization programs and advise on U.S. government policy.  I am expected to quickly gain familiarity with specific conflict-impacted countries to identify gaps where my Bureau’s tools, including strategic planning, conflict assessment, financial assistance, and deployable staff, can enable the U.S. government to develop better policy and programs leading to improved outcomes.  I’ve served in Afghanistan, Burma, and Bangladesh.

Professional interests and passions: Countries transitioning from conflict to peace, conflict prevention, reconciliation mechanisms, trust-building, civil-military relations, gender.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: I wish I had known the DM&E classes I took at Fletcher would be by far the most practical, relevant courses I would take in graduate school.  I also wish I knew more M&E vocabulary before starting the course.  I had only been in the workforce for a few years before Fletcher, with limited program design experience, so much of the lingo was new to me.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: I am more strategic, always asking myself what changes I would need to see, in individuals and societies I work in, to determine whether the money, time, and effort we spent was “worth it.”  The course also taught me the importance of going beyond calling an intervention a success solely because it met its originally stated objectives and goal.  I learned to ask the even tougher question, like … was it the right intervention in the first place?  Did it have the intended outcomes and do those outcomes amount to something greater, a larger impact?  Could it have been done more efficiently?  Will it be sustainable?  I just wrote an evaluation scope of work for one of our projects and I relied heavily on what I learned in DM&E class – looking back at course material as I drafted it!

Jennifer Catalano F11

Jennifer CatalanoCurrent Position/Organization: Director, Youth Economic Participation Initiative at the Talloires Network (Tufts University).

I oversee a 4.5-year demonstration grant program at the Talloires Network, an international association of universities committed to civic engagement.  This program provides sub-grants to eight universities in the global south in order to expand and learn from their efforts to prepare students for entrepreneurship and employment.  Additional program elements include a learning partnership with the University of Minnesota and a global community of practice around the topic of higher education and youth employment/entrepreneurship.

Professional interests and passions: Gender, youth, ethics, the aid system, higher education.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: It’s rather intense, and has a significant workload, but I had heard that through the grapevine.  Actually the intensity set me up well for the rest of grad school.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: So many things…I drew on Program Design skills during the first phase of my post-Fletcher work, which involved coordinating the process of designing the program I now work for.

The M&E knowledge has been extraordinarily helpful during the past year.  The program I work on includes a significant multi-year monitoring/learning effort.  My M&E studies helped with the process of selecting an evaluation team and working with them to set up the collaboration.  The whole process would have been daunting if I hadn’t known how to create a TOR, the right language to use, what to look for in evaluators, etc.  Knowing this process so well also helped me to advocate for decisions that were in line with my values.

Now as we move into a phase of active collaboration with our learning partners, my M&E skills enable me to contribute in a far more substantive and meaningful way to the process.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: This is one of the most practical and useful courses you could take at Fletcher if you intend to work anywhere in the aid chain. I highly recommend it.

 

Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, lecturer in Human Security.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church teaches a series of intensive short-term classes, including Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.

Cheyanne ChurchColleagues sometimes ask me why I stopped working in peacebuilding to be an evaluator.  I respond by asking: how is determining the dynamics of a conflict and its actors, and the ability of an intervention to catalyze change, anything but peacebuilding?  Understanding how change happens in complex conflict and fragile affected states, be it on issues related to corruption, rule of law, or conflict, has been the focus of my career as a practitioner-scholar.  In my opinion, this is the crux of all forms of international development and peacebuilding.

As a practitioner-scholar I purposefully straddle the theory and practice communities.  The issues, challenges, or questions I identify on the ground when working with partners such as the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), or the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) directly feed my research and, by extension, my teaching.  Real cases are always part of class discussions to bring to light the complexity of issues.  In addition, through my organization Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, students have the opportunity to engage in projects that are committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues.

Equally, my academic work influences my practice as it enables me to not only stay current, but to critically assess the potential value of theory against real challenges.  For instance, I am leading a project, funded by the Department of State, that seeks to operationalize new approaches to corruption in the justice sector in conflict affected states.  The impetus for the project came from teaching a course on Corruption and Conflict where it was clear that the proposed solutions in academia were not bounded by the practical realities of the contexts in which these responses need to be implemented.

The courses that I teach at the School are unique in a number of ways, primarily because they emphasize skills development and are offered in a three-part series taught in an intensive format.  Working daily with students who are exclusively committed to the course creates a unique classroom experience characterized by camaraderie and a dedication to understanding how and why change happens.  This camaraderie and engagement often lead to long-term relationships with students.

As a result I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with and learn from the alumni of my classes.  Fletcher alumni now include a growing cadre of professionals who call the discipline of evaluation their profession.  At the 2013 American Evaluation Association conference, over 30 alumni were in attendance in their professional capacity.  They are found working throughout implementing actors and donors in the international community.  I am proud to say they are advancing the practice of evaluation, from which the School in turn benefits, as they act as guest speakers, offer topics for capstones, and establish internships.

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