Drury appoints faculty members to new academic leadership roles

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., June 23, 2015 — Drury University has appointed six faculty members to new leadership roles on campus.

“These talented faculty members understand Drury’s culture and are exceptional teachers and scholars,” said Peter Meidlinger, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. “They are well suited to lead our campus community as we continue to sharpen the distinctiveness of our academic programs.”

Charles DeBerry

Charles DeBerry

Dr. Charles DeBerry has been named director of the Drury University Debate Union and Dr. Craig Titus has been named assistant director. DeBerry is professor of communication; Titus is an assistant professor of philosophy and English. The Debate Union returns to Drury after a long hiatus. The university envisions a strong on-campus and competitive program, high school tournaments and summer camps, as well as academic connections that emphasize public speaking, argumentation and collaborative work.

William Garvin

William Garvin

William W. Garvin has been named the director of the Olin Library. Garvin has been the University Archivist since 1992. During that time, Garvin has established himself as an expert on the history of Drury College/Drury University. An exceptional storyteller, Garvin has written several essays and given many public talks on the personalities, conflicts, and visions that have animated life on campus from its inception. Garvin has led the library on an interim basis for the past year, and will continue to guide Olin as an invaluable resource for students and faculty.

Erin Kenny

Erin Kenny

Dr. Erin Kenny has been named the inaugural director of the Teaching and Learning Center, where she will lead a campus-wide effort to make excellence in teaching a distinctive feature of a Drury education. An associate professor of anthropology, Kenny has earned a reputation as a successful and innovative teacher committed to global and engaged learning. A two-time Fulbright Scholar, she has had a wide range of valuable experiences working with students and faculty in campus-wide programs, including her leadership in Women & Gender Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.

Raymond Patton

Raymond Patton

Dr. Raymond Patton has been named director of the Core Curriculum, Drury’s general education program focused on global learning and student engagement. An assistant professor of history since 2011, Patton has been actively involved in designing, implementing, and assessing the Core Curriculum in addition to teaching Core classes with a focus on immersive learning experiences. In his role as director, Patton will work to make the Core a distinctive element of a liberal arts education at Drury.

Richard Schur

Richard Schur

Dr. Richard Schur, Professor of English, has been named director of the Drury Honors Program. The Honors Program offers students an intense academic experience through hands-on and student-directed approach to learning. As director, Schur brings a wide range of scholarly and teaching interests to this work. He has published widely on African-American literature and culture, and has served in leadership roles in the Interdisciplinary Studies Center and the Law & Society program. His work will make the honors program even more attractive to students who not only excel in academics but who are curious, ambitious and independent.


Westenberg back in Broadway spotlight during “Into the Woods” reunion

Long before he became the Artistic Director of Drury University’s theater programs, Robert Westenberg could boast of a successful career on Broadway, television and film. Today he’s found a new love directing and mentoring students, but he was recently pulled back into the Broadway spotlight in an unusual way – for the reunion of the classic Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical “Into the Woods.” Coincidentally, a film version of “Into the Woods” starring Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep and others opens in theaters nationwide this month.

The Tony Award-winning show is a mash-up of classic Grimm’s fairy tales, interwoven with a plot about a baker and his wife as they wish to have a child. Having previously worked with Sondheim and Lapine in their production of “Sunday in the Park with George,” Westenberg was brought on as an original cast member of “Into the Woods” when it debuted on Broadway in 1987. He had dual roles as both the Wolf and Prince Charming. Other notable cast members included Bernadette Peters as the Witch, Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife and Springfield native Kim Crosby as Cinderella. (In their own version of “happily ever after,” Crosby and Westenberg first met while working on the show and eventually married.)

Original Broadway cast members of "Into the Woods," including Robert Westenberg at left.

Original Broadway cast members of “Into the Woods,” including Robert Westenberg at left.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the show’s final performance, the cast reunited for one night on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in southern California last month. Humorist Mo Rocca moderated interviews with the creators and cast, who performed selected songs and scenes. A second show was added due to demand and the audience included at least a few fans were stars in their own right, including no less than Barbra Streisand. Besides several glowing reviews from the LA Times, Wall Street Journal and others, the raucous reaction from a packed house took everyone involved by surprise – proving that the musical’s cult following remains as strong as ever.

We spoke to Westenberg shortly afterward about the musical, the reunion and the performance.


Q: How was the reunion? What was it like to reconnect with these greats?

Fantastic. I did that show for two years, and I had not seen some of those people for almost the full 25 years since we closed. And it was exactly the same as when we left off – it was as comfortable as you’d be with your family. We know each other like you’d know a brother or sister. We worked for years together day after day after day. It was just a wonderful mix of mutual respect. So the reunion aspect was spectacular.

Q: What about the performance aspect of it all? I know there was no small amount of preparation involved…

It was fun. Rehearsing it was fun. Stressful, but fun. We had two shows. The first show had a certain magic to it for us in the cast. It was extraordinarily scary because we didn’t know how it was going to be received. Mo Rocca was someone we’d just met. He’s incredibly good. Very genial, and does his homework. He’s also quick on his feet – he was just feeding off of everyone.

As we began there was a blackout, and you heard the iconic voice of the narrator from the album, say “Once Upon a Time…” And the audience – it was an explosion that was hard to describe – 3,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs. We thought ‘Oh my God.’ We were rock stars for that moment in time. I thought, ‘You know what, I know I’m not a rock star, but I’m going to eat this up. I’m going to enjoy this.’

The performance itself was stressful for me because I had a cold in the weeks before. So I was nervous as hell, but when the number was over it was like I’d found the cure for cancer. It was insanity. I’m just a Joe Blow who mows his lawn every week and comes to work. I don’t perceive myself in that way in any way shape or form. Then to have people perceive you that way is bizarre. It’s fun and unrealistic, but a kick in the pants.

Westenberg sings and acts with Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker's Wife, during the reunion.

Westenberg sings and acts with Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker’s Wife, during the reunion.

Q: Why do you think “Into the Woods” has had such enduring appeal?

Jim and Steve talked about that during the reunion. They were pleased at its strength and longevity and the fact that it’s one of the most-produced shows in high schools across the country. It’s large enough to be able to contain a variety of different viewpoints. If you ask one particular person what “What Into the Woods” is, their interpretation could be wildly different than somebody else’s.

Q: Stephen Sondheim is a Broadway legend. What is it about his style and his body of work that people have connected with over the years?

I find him utterly compelling. He loves plot-driven, situational writing. Actors love to do Sondheim because his characters are almost always solving a problem, and that’s actable. There’s an action connected to it. As Bernadette put in it at the reunion, with Steve, you just have to go where he takes you and go there fully. He will lead you, ultimately, where the character is supposed to go. One of his main thematic motifs is that he always works from the specific. He believes the universal can only be achieved when you’re coming from the specific because that’s what people recognize. It’s in the details that people see themselves.

Q: What was the biggest surprise for you in all of this?

I’ve worked with Sondheim a long time over a number of years. I love Steve and, man, do I respect him. He’s a bona fide genius, and true artist and a true professional. But he is not warm and fuzzy. But there was a different Steve there. There was a humanity to him that was abundant. A softening. There was a moment at the end of the second show when Mo asked what this has meant. (Sondheim) said, ‘It’s upsetting – I don’t want it to ever end.’ There were three of us who put our hands on his shoulders, and his head went down. It was powerful.

Cast members listen as legendary composer Stephen Sondheim speaks during a panel discussion.

Cast members listen as legendary composer Stephen Sondheim speaks during a panel discussion.

Q: How do experiences like this and your prior career help bring the study of theater to life for your students?

My job is to create a truly pre-professional atmosphere here, fully integrated with the liberal arts and fully cross-pollinated with all the other disciplines. But at the same time we are deeply focused on making sure the skills and the craft and the opportunities that are provided here are something that will translate into the real world. What I’ve done is basically cherry picked from my 30-plus years of experience and training to deliver what I think are real world applications. These are things that are doable, that are not so esoteric or so limited to the privileged few who have the talent. It’s a blue-collar approach to acting.

Q: Does that point get driven home a bit more when you’re whisked away for an event like this reunion?

Hopefully it gives me a little more street cred and gives a little more weight to what I say, but also I hope it gives students a role model in terms of what’s achievable. It’s not some pie in the sky level of stardom. It’s not about stardom. It’s about work. It’s about technique. It’s about this whole class of working actors who live in New York or elsewhere and are in show after show and make a living at it.


Interview by Mike Brothers, Director of Media Relations. All photos by Doug Gifford, courtesy of the Segerstrom Center.

Students, faculty gather for lively political discussion

Engaging, intellectual debate is part of the fabric of a college campus. Lively discussion of ideas need not be confined to the formal classroom setting.

A new group on Drury’s campus proves that point. “Pizza & Politics” meets every two weeks with few dozen people, students and faculty alike, discussing and contributing ideas over free food. Each gathering typically has a theme or topic, such as the recent election or Ebola.

Dr. Justin Leinaweaver, assistant professor of political science, begins the discussion, often by asking a broad question.

Once the conversation starts, the environment of the room quickly transforms into an arena for debate as students share their views and rebut others. While the professors begin conversation and ask questions, students are the main contributors.

“My primary hope is that the students take our conversations to the places they are most interested in,” Leinaweaver says.

Students who attend come from a variety of backgrounds and majors including history, philosophy, political science, English, business, and even pre-med.

“It gives me a chance to hear the opinions and ideas of other students, many of whom aren’t in the political science department,” says Laddie Miller, a junior political science major. “The variety of interests helps to diversify discussion and bring up many sides of a single issue. For example, Ebola was discussed with regard to healthcare, ethics, and finances as well as politics.”

Miller says it’s refreshing to be on “an equal playing field” with a cross-section of students and professors, where everyone is comfortable sharing opinions and questioning others.

Leinaweaver agrees, adding: “I love how involving faculty from departments across campus brings fascinating, often non-traditional, perspectives to our discussions of the political world.”

Some good-natured ribbing keeps things from getting too heavy, partly owing to the fact that most students and professors know one another well. Many of the students have had multiple political science classes together.

“The fact that those who attend Pizza & Politics can kid around with each other is a sign of respect and mutual appreciation for discourse,” Miller says.

It’s important for young people to become engaged in civic life, Leinaweaver says, and groups such as Pizza & Politics fuel their passion for involvement. At one point in the conversation, he urges students to voice their opinions by reminding them, “You are ‘The People’ now; you’re all voting age.”


Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Students settle in with dinner at faculty homes

Drury’s four-day new student orientation includes moving into residence halls, keynote speakers, fun competitive games, a day of volunteer service, and even a huge fireworks show the night before classes begin.

It’s an intense introduction. But there are relaxing moments, too. One of the unique aspects of this annual tradition is the Sunday evening dinner and dessert with faculty. Groups of students gather at faculty homes and in some campus locations for food and conversation. It’s moment of personal connection in a time of transition.

New students relax and converse following the annual faculty dinner and dessert, held at various sites on campus and in professor’s nearby homes. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

New students relax and converse following the annual faculty dinner and dessert, held at various sites on campus and in professor’s nearby homes. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

“It was really interesting – it was very casual,” says freshman Trevor Cobb, who is from Springfield. “At a larger university, you wouldn’t necessarily have that kind of close relationship with the teachers.”

Conversations ranged from music and movies to what students should expect once they dig into their coursework. Dr. Charles Taylor, Drury’s vice president for academic affairs and a professor of communication, hosted Cobb’s group. Each group is actually a required class, called CORE 101, which brings new students into the college experience by way of various cultural topics.

“The faculty dinner and dessert experience underscores the inclusive, personalized and supportive environment that defines the Drury community,” says Taylor, whose CORE class is titled Politics of Rock and Roll.

Dr. Charles Taylor, left, talks to incoming freshman during the annual faculty dinner and dessert. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

Dr. Charles Taylor, left, talks to incoming freshman during the annual faculty dinner and dessert. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

Megan Henson, a freshman elementary and secondary education major, appreciated the dinner as a great way to get to know her new peers.

“We played outdoor games and just relaxed,” she says. “Truly an awesome time. Drury did a fantastic job of welcoming us and integrating us into the Drury community.”

The personal touch provided by the dinners was important to Vikas Jagwani when he was a new student. Now the junior seeking a bachelor’s degree in accounting is an orientation leader who helped guide the four-day experience.

“It’s always a great way to introduce you to professors that are you taking a class from now, or potentially in the future,” Jagwani says. “This could have not been possible if Drury was a huge school, but the ability to have this opportunity during orientation – that is what makes Drury different.


Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Drury welcomes new faculty to campus

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Aug. 15, 2012 — Drury University welcomes 14 new faculty members to campus for the 2012-13 academic year. The new teaching talent adds a breadth of experience from a wide range of universities and professional backgrounds.

Dr. Charles Taylor

“We’re excited to welcome this remarkable group of teacher-scholars to Drury and to the Ozarks,” said Dr. Charles Taylor, vice president of academic affairs. “Their credentials and experience are impressive.  Most importantly, though, is that each is absolutely committed to providing the challenging, personalized education experience for which Drury is known and to being engaged citizens of our community.”

The new faculty members are:

Heidi Backes, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Heidi joins Drury from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She holds a Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin­ – Stevens Point.

Molly Carter, Instructor of Exercise Sport Science, Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach
Molly returns to Drury from the Springfield Neurological and Spine Institute, where she served as Marketing Director. She holds an M.B.A. and a B.A. from Drury.

Karen Craigo, Instructor of English/English for Academic Purposes
Karen comes to Drury from Bowling Green State University. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Bowling Green, and a B.A. from Morehead State University.

Susan Davis, Assistant Professor of Education
Susan joins Drury from Arkansas State University. She completed her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas, and holds an M.S. and B.S. in Education from Arkansas State.

Holli Henslee, Sr.Assistant Librarian & Technical Services Coordinator
Holli previously served as Director/Assistant Professor of the Nursing Library at the St. John’s/Southwest Baptist University Springfield campus. She holds an M.A. in Information Science and Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri–Columbia, and a B.S. from Drury.

Jason Hite, Instructor of Exercise Sport Science, Assistant Swimming Coach
Jason returns to Drury from Springfield Public Schools where he served as a teacher and swim coach. He holds a M.Ed. and a B.A. from Drury.

Yong Huang, Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture
Huang joins Drury from Davis Brody Bond, LLP. He received a M.Des. from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and holds a M.S. from Pratt Institute and a B.Arch. from Beijing Polytechnic University. He taught previously at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Justin Leinaweaver, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Justin recently completed his Ph.D. in Political Science at Trinity College, Dublin. He holds a M.Sc. from University College, Dublin, and a B.S. from Florida State University.

Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Daniel comes to Drury from The College of William and Mary, where he recently completed an NEH Postdoctoral Fellowship. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan, and holds a B.A. from the University of Colorado.

Madhuri Manpadi, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Madhuri joins Drury from Ohio Northern University, where she served as a Teacher-Scholar Postdoctoral Associate. She was a postdoctoral research associate at Rutgers, and received her Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and technology. She holds a M.Sc. and B.Sc. from Osmania University in India.

Sun-Young Park, Assistant Professor of Communication
Sun-Young recently completed her Ph.D. in Mass Communication at the University of Florida. She received a M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and also holds a B.A. from Sogang University in Seoul.

Kevin Preuss, Assistant Professor of Biology
Kevin comes to Drury from Indiana University, where he served as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. He received a Ph.D. in Biology from Duke University, and holds a B.S. from Kansas State University.

Maurizio Sabini, Professor of Architecture and Director, Hammons School of Architecture
Maurizio joins Drury from Kent State University, where he served as International Studies Coordinator for the College of Architecture & Environmental Design. He holds a Ph.D. inArchitecture from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice, Italy, where he also received the Laurea In Architettura, the First Professional Degree in Architecture. He also holds a M.Arch. from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

Anthony Smith, Instructor of Spanish
Anthony is completing a Ph.D. in Medieval and Golden Age Spanish Literature at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He received an M.A. from the University of Oklahoma, and a B.A. from the University of Central Oklahoma.


An opportunity to network and honor a long-time Drury economics professor

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 12, 2012 — Dr. Bill Rohlf began teaching at Drury in 1972 and he still begins each class with his signature question, “Is everybody happy?” Dr. Rohlf will be honored on Thursday, April 19 from 5-6:30 p.m. at a Breech School networking event hosted at Springfield Brewing Company. Current Breech School of Business students, alumni and local business people are invited to attend. Please RSVP to Dr. Robin Sronce at rsronce@drury.edu.

Dr. Bill Rohlf

Dr. Rohlf came to Drury in 1972 straight out of graduate school at Kansas State. He literally wrote the book on economics that his students use. “My basic  economics text started with a few chapters and it gradually grew into a spiral-bound volume that my students purchased in the bookstore. It took me about ten years to finish the book and find a publisher for it. The first edition came out in 1988, and it’s now in its eighth edition,” Dr. Rohlf said.

Dr. Rohlf will speak at the event. Breech students and alumni are encouraged to use the event to network. There is no charge to participate and free appetizers will be provided.


A long-time Drury professor says “auf wiedersehen” after nearly four decades

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 6, 2011 —Drury University congratulates Dr. Eltjen Flikkema on his retirement after 39 years of service at Drury.

After earning his Ph.D. at Michigan State, Flikkema joined Drury’s faculty in 1972, expecting to stay for one year as a professor of German. He soon found that Drury suited him well. “You have to like people here,” he says, “You have to like students.”

He has held several positions, including: Director of Admission, Assistant Dean, and Chair of the Languages Department. He was the first Director of the Drury Honors Program, but it’s clear that teaching is the role of which he is most proud.

Dr. Eltjen Flikkema

Flikkema’s German students, including many graduating seniors, gave him a surprise send-off today at the completion of his last class. Students remember Flikkema’s storytelling in the classroom and the life-lessons he imparted beyond his German instruction. “There were wonderful students 39 years ago,” he says, “but no more wonderful than these.”

When he was three years old, his parents immigrated to the U.S. along with his older brother. His parents spoke no English, and he credits this bilingual upbringing for his lifelong fascination with languages. A native of The Netherlands, Flikkema and his wife Jerri have two daughters. The 66-year-old gets up before dawn every morning to swim before heading to work at Drury. Upon retirement Flikkema plans to stay active and has plans to travel, including a summer trip to China with his wife to celebrate their upcoming 45th anniversary. He also hopes to volunteer with community organizations that address hunger in the Ozarks.


Drury professors to work and study abroad as Fulbright fellows

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 26, 2011 — Drury professors Dr. Erin Kenny and Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols have been awarded Fulbright Fellowships for the 2011-2012 academic year.

A talented anthropologist and professor of interdisciplinary studies, Kenny will be teaching for 10 months in Tanzania at the Morogoro campus of Mzumbe University. This school is located in the far west of the country near Malawi. Kenny will be housed within the Institute of Development and teach graduate level courses for the Center for Gender Development during her stay.

Dr. Erin Kenny

Additionally, Kenny plans to conduct research with Nyakusa women commodity farmers. This study will serve as an expansion on her previous ethnographic work with women wage earners and household heads in Mali, Guinea and Jamaica.

A gifted linguist, professor and chair of Spanish, Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols will spend the spring semester of 2012 at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where she will continue her research in literature and popular culture. Her project’s overarching goal is to investigate the complex interrelationship between the visual and written images of westernized European beauty with which Venezuelans are bombarded on a daily basis.

Her research will also examine the extremely high rates of spending on beauty products and the long history of strained racial and economic class relations in the nation. Nichols will also investigate and explore how women in Venezuela are both molded by the beauty machine and use the beauty machine to achieve their professional goals.

Dr. Elizabeth Nichols

Sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program provides funding for scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research and university teaching. Through this program, more than 800 U.S. faculty and professionals taught or conducted research abroad during the 2009-2010 academic year.

Media Contact:
Erin Kenny
Director, Women’s Studies Program
Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Office: (417) 873-7226
: ekenny@drury.edu

Elizabeth Nichols
Chair, Department of Languages
Professor, Spanish
Office: (417) 873-6925


A Drury Christmas tradition is now a book

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Dec. 1, 2010 — Every holiday season, artist Jacqueline Warren gifts her colleagues at Drury with a lovely, hand-drawn portrait of angels. A tradition for over 25 years, this inspired an enchanting new book.

Annual Angels: Sharing the Good News was written by Dr. Jim Murrow, a retired professor at Drury University. Warren’s annual Christmas Angels from the past years have been collected and printed into the pages of this book.

Annual Angels is a testimony to these celestial beings, bringing their message of hope, love, and interpretation of God’s love for humanity.” Warren says. “Angels watch over us and inspire us to become better people. Enjoy the beautiful illustrations and the stirring narration of this timeless book at Christmas time and all year round.”

Annual Angels: Sharing the Good News
is available for $15 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website or through amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

Drury’s Amy Lewis graduates from the 2010 HERS Denver Institute


Dr. Amy Lewis, Drury University Associate Prof. of Management

Denver, Co., Nov. 11, 2010— Dr. Amy Lewis, associate professor of management at Drury University, recently graduated from the 2010 Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Denver Institute, held Aug. 1-7, Sept. 9-11 and Oct. 21-23 at the University of Denver in Colorado.

Since 2007, the HERS Institute for Women in Higher Education at the University of Denver has annually offered women faculty and administrators the opportunity to participate in an intensive program that prepares them to be leaders in higher education.

The 55 participants selected for this year’s Institute represented 46 institutions across the U.S. Responding to the current environment for higher education globally, the Institute had a special focus this year on “Women’s Leadership in Times of Crisis: Leveraging Our Responses for Institutional Renewal.” Topics studied included “Understanding Our New Economic Environment,” “Planning Our Strategies beyond Recovery,” “Empowering and Sustaining Leadership,” and more.

Amy Lewis has been at Drury since 2004, serving as an associate professor since 2010. Her recent achievements include receiving the 2009 Faculty Award for Leadership, recognizing her efforts in helping to establish a scholarship to honor the memory of Marcia Cooper, an MBA student who succumbed to cancer in her final semester at Drury, as well as her efforts to help bring the S.A.F.E. rape-prevention program to the Drury Community.

Drury’s President’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs jointly sponsored Lewis’s participation in the HERS Denver Institute. Lewis is the first woman from Drury to have been sponsored to participate in HERS Institutes at Bryn Mawr College, Wellesley College or the University of Denver.

Dr. Amy Lewis
Drury Associate Professor of Management
Office: (417) 873-6962
E-mail: aclewis@drury.edu


Drury is an independent University, church related, grounded in the liberal arts tradition and committed to personalized education in a community of scholars who value the arts of teaching and learning. Education at Drury seeks to cultivate spiritual sensibilities and imaginative faculties as well as ethical insight and critical thought; to foster the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge; and to liberate persons to participate responsibly in and contribute to a global community. For more information, visit www.drury.edu/strategicplan.

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