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What with trying to keep up with all that’s happening at Fletcher, and sharing the interesting paths of students, alumni, and faculty, I don’t pause often enough during the academic year to comment on our neighborhood. Today, when I should otherwise be reading applications, seems like the perfect moment to share something I love about this region.
On Tuesday, I meandered over to Harvard Square for a reading by Nick Hornby, an author I like and who has a new book. The organizers of the event reminded the audience to support local independent bookstores. That made me think about how lucky we are to have these treasures in our midst.
There are actually many independents around, but I’m just going to highlight two that are particularly close to Fletcher. One is Harvard Book Store, which organized the event on Tuesday — easily reached by bus from campus or subway from Davis Square. The other is Porter Square Books, an even shorter bus or subway ride from Tufts. Both stores offer a full calendar of events, and I’ve enjoyed talks by Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and others. As someone who writes short things with an even shorter life, it’s inspiring to listen to real authors — whose work is to create something complex and lasting — talk about how they do it.
I’m well aware that Fletcher students don’t have abundant time for leisure reading, but I still think it’s great to live in an area that values books and can sustain independent bookstores.
The next member of the Class of 2009 to update us on her first five years after graduating from Fletcher is Sandy Kreis. In addition to the details she provides below, Sandy told me that she has two new affiliations. First, she is a visiting lecturer this semester at Tufts, teaching a course on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups for the Ex College. And she is also the Entrepreneur in Residence at Blade, a startup foundry that invests in consumer product software and hardware startups.
After graduating from Georgetown cum laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, I found myself working long hours as a lead litigation legal assistant at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York. During my time at Shearman, I started wondering why the thousands of pages I printed each day did not use recycled paper and why the lights were on 24/7 in vacant conference rooms. This rising passion for corporate social responsibility, coupled with my assignment to the Enron litigation and a new-found interest in electricity markets, led me to a job in Los Angeles with Environment America’s VIP outreach campaigns.
While in LA, my main task was to cultivate a network of high net-worth members of the arts and entertainment communities and galvanize interest around climate change advocacy. My work culminated in a fundraiser at the home of movie director Paul Haggis, where the director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim, addressed the crowd of over 100 celebrity activists. Over $30,000 was raised to fight for climate change legislation in Sacramento. Following these two different but extraordinarily useful jobs, I enrolled at Fletcher to better understand how policy impacts the deployment and growth of clean energy markets. I was drawn to Fletcher because it was one of the only esteemed academic institutions that would allow me to pursue my interest in energy policy in an global context.
Once I arrived at Blakeley Hall, I hit the ground running. It was not long before I joined forces with my classmate Jan Havránek, who had a specific interest in energy security, to launch the Fletcher Energy Consortium. I focused on taking all of the core courses of a traditional MBA program while simultaneously learning anything and everything I could about cleantech policy and technology innovation. I benefited deeply from the burgeoning cleantech scene in Boston, driven strongly by the policies created in 2008 on Beacon Hill, including the Green Jobs Act and the Green Communities Act.
Between my first and second years at Fletcher, I interned right down the road in Kendall Square at Emerging Energy Research (EER), a startup-advisory firm that tracks renewable energy markets for wind, solar, geothermal, and storage developers. I joined the North America Renewable Power Team and focused specifically on how state Renewable Portfolio Standards policies impact the demand created for clean energy development. This was my first toe-dip into the innovation and startup ecosystem in Boston, and I was hooked.
At the end of my two years as a MALD, I said goodbye to some of the best friends and contemporaries a woman could ask for and joined EER as a full-time analyst. Within a few months, we were acquired by IHS and joined forces with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, where I had the pleasure of working with fellow Fletcher alums and delving deeper into how oil and gas markets affect the potential advancement of renewable energy deployment. After two years at EER, I left for New York City where I joined the Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (ACRE) to brainstorm ways to diversify the City’s first cleantech-focused incubator into its next phase of development.
While at ACRE, I joined an incubated company, CB Insights, as the Greentech Program Manager. In the Spring of 2012, I was back in Boston as a judge of the MIT Clean Energy Prize where I met my future boss, mentor, and friend, Jim Bowen, the husband of a Fletcher alum. Jim poached me from New York and brought me back to Boston to work on the business development and international relations team at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), a quasi-government state agency charged with supporting the 5,500 clean energy companies here in the Commonwealth. It was at this time that I was designated an Emerging Leader in Energy & Environmental Policy (ELEEP) by the Atlantic Council and the EcoLogic Institute.
At MassCEC, I conceptualized, managed, and executed multiple innovative, new-growth initiatives designed to drive business for early stage companies in line with our larger strategic goals. This includes managing an annual budget of $2.5M and leading teams of over 20+ employees (from marketing, communications, legal, etc.) by acting as the central manager of the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon and the Global Cleantech Meetup. Perhaps most Fletcher-esque, I had the honor of accompanying Governor Deval Patrick on seven “innovation diplomacy” economic development missions. I successfully identified, pitched, and sold various international collaborations and events with the core goal of creating tangible relationships for the Commonwealth’s cleantech companies. On each trip, from Tokyo to Mexico City, I ran into Fletcher alumni who were either working in the target market or staffing the Embassy as a subject-matter expert. One highlight was meeting Colombian President Juan Santos F81 in Bogota and saying in Spanish, “I too am a proud Fletcher alum.” The alumni network is strong.
My tenure at MassCEC came to an end in August of 2014. These days, I am working on various projects in the innovation ecosystem here in the Commonwealth, from Descience — a startup that matches scientists with fashion designers to bring “research to the runway” — to advising a handful of cleantech and digital technology companies. The global network I have cultivated since I landed at Fletcher in 2007 has been instrumental in advancing my career to where it is today. Never forget, it is the people that make the journey, so cultivate them, and do so wisely.
At the end of the spring semester, Liam, one of our student bloggers, offered an end-of-year post. I eagerly grabbed it, but I’ve held it until now because it reflects both Liam’s first year at Fletcher and also his suggestions for incoming students. I’ll just note that Liam wrote his post when the Red Sox season was looking a little brighter than it is now!
Sitting here, finally having some time to reflect on the blur that is the spring semester, I’m at a loss to describe what an incredible experience my first year at Fletcher has been. A few words come to mind — demanding, challenging, (extremely) busy — but what it really boils down to is one of the most remarkable and rewarding years I’ve had. From making new friends, to learning an incredible amount about the world in which we live, to taking the time to really comprehend my life’s journey to this point, this year at Fletcher was incredible. Taking all that into consideration, I thought about the experiences I’m glad I’ve had both in and out of school, and I wanted to share a few “musts” for students at Fletcher.
1. Go to Fletcher events. From culture nights, to the Blakeley Halloween party, to The Los Fletcheros concerts, to simple gatherings of friends on a Friday, some of the best times to be had at Fletcher are outside the classroom. Taking the time to relax and get to know my classmates has been so incredibly rewarding. Time goes by pretty fast here and it will be over before you know it, so enjoy it while you can.
2. Go to the Boston Marathon. I was blessed with the opportunity to run this year through the Tufts Marathon Team, but if running for four(-ish) hours is not your cup of tea, experiencing the event is still an absolute must. Over a million fans lining the street for over 26 miles, coming together in support of the city and the runners, was just an indescribable thing to see. The Boston Marathon is, in my eyes, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world and it is not to be missed.
3. Go watch the Red Sox. I might be a bit biased as a life-long Sox fan, but anyone who spends time in Boston should experience Fenway Park. Especially after the Sox won the 2013 World Series, taking in an afternoon or evening at “America’s Favorite Ballpark” is a great distraction from school, and singing “Sweet Caroline” with 36,000 friends is pretty great, too.
4. Get to know Boston. Boston is so full of history and culture — it’s critical to get out and see it. Running along the Esplanade on the Charles River, exploring the Freedom Trail, relaxing at Boston Common, going to concerts — there is so much to do year-round in the city, so putting down the books and getting out is something you just have to do.
5. Get out of Boston. New England offers a ton of things to do. Whale watching off Cape Cod, skiing in Maine, hiking in New Hampshire, seeing the foliage in the fall, these are just a few of the awesome things this area of the country offers. Taking a backpacking trip out in the Berkshires during spring break was probably the most relaxing thing I’ve done in the past year, and it was vital to helping me reset to finish the semester strong.
In summary, it’s been an incredible year — one I wouldn’t trade for the world — and I’m looking forward to a 2014-15 academic year that is just as incredible and memorable.
This is a midweek version of one of my “what I did on my weekend” posts.
I was at Fletcher through the early evening last night, attending a farewell event for 11 high school students and one accompanying mentor teacher from Iraq. They were in the Boston area through the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), and the organization that arranged their Boston home stays also arranged for them to have the World Peace Foundation offices as their home base. When it came time to celebrate, I helped them arrange space and a meal at Fletcher.
My family connected itself to IYLEP in 2010, when my daughter was one of the U.S. students who, that year, participated alongside the Iraqis. We’ve continued as a host family, and Sara, Hiba, and Hadeel, the three students we hosted this month, join our four other Iraqi friends as members of the family. Along the way, I’ve gathered a volume of knowledge on halal butchers and restaurants in the area (as well as the rules for halal) and Iraqi tastes in food (nothing spicy, please). We’ve figured out where some potential host/IYLEPer challenges might exist, and we search for new ways to prevent misunderstandings. The men in my family know to announce themselves before going in the part of the house where women might be relaxing without their hijabs. The exchange of knowledge definitely goes both ways! And we also have fun — the beach, the Boston Harbor, the Museum of Fine Arts, two barbeques, trips to Indian/Pakistani and Italian restaurants, Chinese take-out (and many fortune cookies), three rounds of pasta, quesadillas, and quiche — all shared with our new friends.
At the farewell event last night, we started off by hearing the reflections of each of the participants. If I had to capture the overall theme, I’d say that that they were initially VERY nervous about their home stays, but they quickly found that their fears were misplaced, and now they see the Boston area as their U.S. home. After the speech-making, we shifted to Fletcher’s Mugar Café for a meal. When all had eaten, the group cleared a small space and started dancing. First, traditional Iraqi dancing. And then…a dozen teens dancing to “Gangnam Style” and doing the “Harlem Shake.” One of the boys pogoed around on one arm in a dazzling bit of break dancing. Such random bits of popular culture that have been embraced by Iraqi kids!
And then the event was over, and everyone went home to pack (and for some, repack, if bags were too heavy). We dropped them off this morning for their flight to the final phase of their stay in the U.S., when they will be in Washington, D.C.
It was such a pleasure to welcome the group and their host families to Fletcher. They searched out the Iraqi flag in the Hall of Flags, and I pointed out to some the profile of Farah Pandith F’95 — whose work I thought might interest them — in our new Hallway of Fame. All in all, last night and the two weeks that preceded represent one of those nice times when my work life and my home life fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.
About a month ago, I wondered why I would ever have written about my own weekends during past summers. A week ago, I was reminded of the answer: with students and faculty out and about, by mid-summer, I’m starting to run short of blog topics. So why not highlight the fun things you can do in Our Neighborhood by writing about what I actually do.
The weekend’s July 4 Independence Day holiday in the Boston area started on the 3rd and continued through the 5th. With Hurricane Arthur working its way up the East Coast, organizers of the traditional July 4 celebration in Boston decided that moving the event forward to July 3 gave them the best chance of delivering the Boston Pops performance and fireworks display that locals and tourists would expect. They made a good call, and managed to complete nearly all of the program before the first of the rains arrived. Other towns postponed their celebrations to July 5, with the result that the holiday seemed to last for three days instead of one. (Boston, with its important role in the Revolutionary War, offers plenty of activities for the 4th.)
The hurricane passed well to the east of Massachusetts. It rained and rained on Friday, but that was pretty much the story. We woke up on Saturday to a fantastic day. Paul (my husband) and I were glad that our plan to visit George’s Island was looking good, so off we went to grab the ferry. About 45 minutes after the boat pulled away from the dock, we were in a place that feels both near the city and far away. Here’s the view of Boston from the island, with the buildings of Boston peeking between the sailboats.
Though we always enjoy the ride out to the Harbor Islands, this time we were motivated by a Pretty Things Beer Tasting (Pretty Things being based in Somerville), accompanied by local music. We quite liked “The Sea The Sea.”
On the ferry ride back to Boston, we saw plenty of other sea travelers, and also noted the last effects of the hurricane — gusty wind and choppy seas.
On the subway ride home, I sat across from someone who looked familiar, and who was carrying a Tufts water bottle. Maybe a Fletcher student, but not one I know. I’m going to try to figure it out, having passed on the opportunity to ask while we were on the train.
Sunday morning found us at our favorite beach in Revere, where the special on the seagulls’ menu was crab. They stood on rocks, waiting for the crabs to walk by, and then grabbed their breakfast. It’s an urban beach, but with no shortage of wildlife.
And that’s the first of my summer weekend reports. In a morning conversation with Dean Stavridis yesterday, I sang the praises of the Boston Harbor Islands, and I hope all current and future students have a chance to ferry on over, as well as to visit Revere Beach, plan for a July 4 on the Esplanade, and explore the local beer and music scene. There’s a lot to do in the Boston area and, given the compact nature of the city, a weekend can include a range of different activities.
There was so much excitement coming out of Brazil this weekend, but I’m still surprised at how caught up I’ve been in World Cup results. If nothing else, it’s a great way to connect with people.
On my way into work this morning, I chatted with Jean-Yves, a 2014 graduate who will be in town for a few more weeks, and we compared notes. He’s been organizing his time around each day’s game schedule. Needless to say, he’ll be watching this afternoon’s match between France and Nigeria.
On Saturday, we were at our favorite beach in Revere, a town that is home to many people who hail from somewhere else, and yellow jerseys were the attire of choice. I didn’t realize initially that the sea of yellow was divided between supporters of Brazil and Colombia — plenty of celebrating going on.
On Sunday, a friend posted a photo from the downtown watering hole where she had joined other former residents of the Netherlands to watch the game against Mexico. She pointed to the typically Dutch collection of bicycles parked outside.
Of course, the Netherlands won, but I was torn in my friendly loyalties, and I also felt the pain of friends (and Fletcher grads) from Mexico.
Around the office, Dan has strong connections to Latin America (where he just returned from a trip to Guatemala) and we chatted this morning about various moments of happiness and heartbreak as he cheered on his teams. Christine is dressed in red, white, and blue to show her dedication to the U.S. squad.
At home, enthusiasm for England’s chances waned quickly, and naturally we’ll all plan to watch the U.S. play Belgium tomorrow. But, between living in an area that draws people from around the world, and working at a graduate school that has a multinational population as an aspect of its core mission, it’s easy to find myself cheering for someone else’s preferred team. It’s a soccer/fútbol tournament, but it’s also an opportunity for each nation’s fans and dual citizens in the local area to share their cheer and sadness following each game.
Last week, my cousin’s husband, Ian, became a U.S. citizen. When I heard that he had finally (after 20+ years) gone through the citizenship test and other processes, and that the ceremony at which he would take the Naturalization Oath would be sometime in the spring, I immediately booked myself in.
My husband, Paul, became a citizen some years back, and I found the ceremony to be really meaningful. Ian’s ceremony had the advantage of being in a special location — Boston’s Faneuil Hall, with a history dating to 1742, and currently a National Historic site that is still used for public events.
The day started off with a round of paperwork for each of the soon-to-be citizens.
Once all of that was complete, a judge turned up and talked about the meaning of citizenship, before he administered the oath for the new citizens.
Visitors were up in the gallery, with good views of the artwork around the Hall.
The 296 new U.S. citizens came from about 80 nations, ranging alphabetically from Albania to Vietnam. The judge had them stand up as he called the name of their home country. From my vantage point, it appeared the largest cluster was from Brazil, but most of the countries were represented by one or two new citizens. There’s a rich international mix in the Boston area.
There’s even a Fletcher angle to this story. As we walked outside after the ceremony, I heard someone calling my name. It was Byron, a Fletcher alum whom I had recently seen at a reunion event. His wife, originally from the Netherlands, was also sworn in on Thursday.
As a native New Yorker and an occasional visitor to Washington, DC, I can appreciate the charms of both places. That said, I’ve lived in the Boston area for a long time now, and I really love it here. But at this time of year, newly admitted students still ask us about Fletcher’s location.
As far as I’m concerned, the blog has put to rest all questions about whether students find the internships or post-graduation jobs that they want. And I do my best during slow news stretches to talk about our lovely neighborhood. But I can hardly expect prospective students to depend on my opinion. They will want to hear the opinions of their peers. So I turned to the Social List with a simple question: What do you like about attending graduate school in Medford/Somerville/the Boston area? The answers fell into two broad categories: related to students’ academic work; and related to other aspects of their lives. Here are their answers:
Related to their academic work:
Boston is the hub of American academia! Living within such close proximity to so many students studying anything you can imagine makes for a unique social experience. Not only are there a multitude of schools within Tufts with which we regularly interact, but we are able to make friends with everybody from chemistry PhD candidates at MIT, to Harvard Law students, and everything in between. Furthermore, Fletcher students have the opportunity to cross-register for courses at Harvard and vice versa.
Boston is a student town. You are not going to find any other place that is as intellectually stimulating. On top of the amazing atmosphere at Fletcher, unique opportunities to get involved in events and conferences at Harvard, MIT, and BU, and working with professors and research groups at those universities, come up as a positive consequence of being based so close by.
I love the collaboration between different universities in the area. It increases the opportunities to find events, classes, and people interested in your field of study.
An unmatched intellectual community in the greater area, and the ability to use other schools’ resources, such as libraries. Lots of networking opportunities between classmates and contacts at other schools, and ability to get involved in other groups/institutes connected to those institutions.
When speakers come to campus, the distance from Washington, DC/New York encourages candid thoughtful commentary in a way I didn’t anticipate.
And the other aspects:
With easy access to the Red Line, the entire city of Boston is at your feet. That means plenty of great studying locations around the city (the Boston Public Library is a personal favorite), and an endless list of fun things to do with new Fletcher friends on the weekends. A group of us got together at the Frog Pond for an experiment in skating, something quite new for international students (and a few American students as well). We have museums, fascinating historical neighborhoods, restaurants, and shopping areas nearby if we want to take advantage of them — as a local Bostonian I certainly do — but Medford is quiet enough that you do not get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city. That is a huge advantage when midterms and finals come around. In short, I love it here. Many of us will most likely live in larger cities later on in life, so I am happy to stay in Boston as long as I can.
I’ve found that most employers have been flexible about agreeing to do interviews (both informational and for specific jobs/internships) over the phone or Skype. I’ve done interviews with people in Canada, Mexico, New York, DC, and other locations without having to leave Boston. You just have to be flexible and creative about scheduling them. Also, after taking DC Metro pretty much every single day for the past seven years, not having to take Metro anymore is BLISS! I very much needed a break from the DC bubble, and living in Boston has been a wonderful experience.
Boston has all the benefits of a big city in a small city. The food in the area is fantastic. Lots of industries have sites in Boston, and people are friendly (don’t be scared away by rumors of gruffness!). Shorter flight times to Europe. Road trips to Canada, skiing in Maine, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont, fresh lobster in Maine. You can easily drive to see the fall leaves. Who wouldn’t want to go to Salem around Halloween? Public transportation is good. Can get to the airport on public transport in 45 minutes.
The calm environment in which to focus on studies, with the knowledge that a big city is just minutes away on the T, allowing for great nighttime and weekend fun.
There are so many events, organizations, activities, etc. if leaving campus in the direction of Somerville/Cambridge/Boston, yet it’s easy to go trail running, biking, hiking, and so forth within minutes in the Medford direction.
Access to Boston, while also being in the Davis Square area (similar to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn). There are many unique neighborhoods in this area including Inman Square, Porter Square, Harvard Square, and all of Boston!
A real campus where you can focus and study but with a real city close by.
Easy weekend getaways to New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Cape Cod, Berkshires, etc. –Convenient and relatively inexpensive airport for travel (i.e. frequent flights to DC). –Easy area to bike around. –Close to outdoors/outdoor activities.
Great neighborhood with much happening nearby! It’s a suburb: living costs are comparatively very reasonable and being away from the din of the city is perfect for research/study! Boston has consistently been rated amongst the top cities in the world for students, based on quality of living, employer activity, and affordability.
Proximity to Somerville gems like Highland Kitchen, 3 Little Figs, Backbar, Sarma, and more; the Boston area’s student-friendly nature (especially when it comes to café options and museum/movie/symphony discount pricing); the opportunity to live in a part of the U.S. your career may not otherwise let you experience; proximity and access to courses, speakers, and other opportunities at other Boston area schools.
I love DC, but I know it’s only a matter of time before my career will take me there. Boston, on the other hand, is a wonderful, complex, historic, and culturally rich city where I’ve never before lived and might never get the chance to live again. Location was one of the many reasons I chose Fletcher, and I’ve never regretted it.
I truly had planned to write about admissions related topics today but, like so many local folks, I’m bleary eyed from staying up late watching the Boston Red Sox, our local baseball team, win the World Series, professional baseball’s championship. How could I ignore such an important event in our home town?
Boston (and we often say “Boston” when we mean the city and the surrounding area) is a sports town. People are passionate about their teams and, for the past 15 years or so, there has been a lot (Patriots! Celtics! Bruins!) to be passionate about. In 2004, the Red Sox ended decades of futility and won the World Series for the first time since 1918, and the team repeated as champs in 2007.
In 2012, though, the team was dismal (DISMAL!), crumbling into last place. Big surprise for everyone when the 2013 line-up, composed primarily of good, but not superstar, players, finishes first in the league and then prevails in the playoffs. We love this stuff! And what could be better than having the team led by the inspirational pep-talks and smoking-hot bat of fan favorite David Ortiz. Topping it all off, the Red Sox have a recent tradition of charming the fans (and annoying the rest of the country) with some team-bonding exercise or other, which this year took the form of beards. Crazy beards.
Best of all, the Sox won the championship at home — Boston’s beloved Fenway Park. Tucked into the heart of the city and smaller than most modern ball parks, Fenway is a museum of baseball history where the Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918, the 2004 and 2007 victories having taken place at the opponent’s home field.
Grasping for a Fletcher-friendly international theme to today’s post (beyond the obvious meaninglessness of the “world” in World Series), I’ll add that the Red Sox, like most teams, have an international roster (including the amazing closing pitcher Koji Uehara). It’s a team that’s easy to like, even for a native New Yorker like me.
So, hooray for the Red Sox! Admissions topics will wait one more day.
My first visit to Cape Cod was not auspicious. Paul and I were new to the area (and newly married) and we decided to take a long weekend to visit Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape. Off we went to Hyannis, where we hopped on the ferry. A beautiful day on the Vineyard awaited us, so we rented bicycles, checked into our B&B, and headed out for a ride. Half an our later, the skies opened. Two days later, we gave up and ferried back to Hyannis, toting our bags of rain-soaked clothing. It took us nearly ten years to commit ourselves again to more than a day on the Cape or the islands.
Bad weather still exists, of course, but I have come to love Cape Cod. And earlier this month, I had a week of beautiful days in Eastham, gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore We were accompanied by a flotilla of relatives from the UK, all here in search of warmth and sun, which we managed to provide in abundance.
Fletcher students are busy people, but I still encourage a little Cape Cod exploration while you’re here. Reaching the Cape is easy enough by car or public transportation (ferry to Provincetown or train to Hyannis, with an on-Cape network of buses to take you from town to town). As for what to do when you’re there, you can plan a spring/summer/fall weekend and enjoy a beach and a sunset.
There’s something to do on a nice day in any season. Put it on your mental to-do list for when you’re at Fletcher.
Meanwhile, today marks the end of summer, by at least one definition. The Admissions staff is wrapping up the quiet days of completing projects in the absence of students, and we’re getting ready for the arrival of 250 (more or less) new Fletcherites on Monday! Orientation activities will keep them plenty busy for the week while continuing students trickle back into town. With other offices managing Orientation, we’re needed only for relatively few sessions — a break-in week before we really kick the semester into gear.
Depending on your perspective and your work, summer has several different end dates. Though I’ll continue to fit summery activities in before autumn officially begins in September, the start of Orientation is when Fletcher abandons summer and gets back to the business of an international affairs professional school. Time to wrap up my final projects and get ready!
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