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New Faces 2011-12: Faculty hiring hitting a strategic upswing

INSIDE ILLINOIS, Fall 2011   [ Email | Share ]

UI officials are moving forward on a plan designed to reverse a four-year downward faculty-hiring trend caused by financial constraints.

Last year the university hired 46 new tenure-stream faculty members, while in the 2008 and 2009 academic years it hired 75 and 61 respectively.

This year’s numbers won’t be finalized until October, but administrators say the level of hires will surpass recent totals. In addition, 133 tenure-stream faculty searches have been approved for next academic year, a number that exceeds recent search totals.

“It’s going to be a busier recruiting year for us,” said Vice Provost Barb Wilson. “We’ve approved more hires and more searches than we have in a while.”

Wilson said much of the recent decline in faculty numbers was orchestrated, as individuals opted for the retirement-incentive programs offered to faculty and staff members two years ago. The overall goal in the past several years has been to streamline costs and refocus staffing strategies in all of the university’s academic units.

Units have come up with many creative ways to cope with fewer tenure-stream faculty, Wilson said, including increased class size, added online offerings and greater dependence on lecturers and adjunct faculty members.

The current hiring program is made possible because of all the cost-saving efforts across campus, including units thinking more strategically about their needs, Wilson said.

“All our collective hard work has allowed us to be a little more aggressive in filling in gaps that had developed in our faculty,” she said.

Wilson said the jump in approved faculty searches would be bolstered through two campus-level hiring programs.

One, the new Illinois Strategic Excellence Hiring Program, is funded by the Office of the Provost and designed to attract leading scholars in key areas of strength for the campus through national searches.

The program is expected to augment the already existing Faculty Excellence Program, but it focuses more on attracting faculty who can foster multi-disciplinary research teams across campus, rather than just filling needs of a specific college or unit.

“We know we can build on our strategic strengths and there are holes in certain areas we need to fill,” Wilson said in July when the new program was announced.

The Strategic Excellence Hiring Program focuses on hires in four areas:

  • Information, technology and society
  • Human health and wellness
  • Energy and sustainability
  • Culture, communication and global issues

Wilson said that 18 proposals have been submitted from across the campus. She predicts six to eight “strategic and significant” hires each year for the next several years through the effort.

The Office of the Provost also just brought back the Targets of Opportunity Program, which was put on hold last year while it was evaluated for effectiveness. The program provides campus-level funds earmarked for recruiting exceptional faculty members from underrepresented groups.

“The good news is that units across campus have benefited greatly from this program and faculty and administrators were eager to see it continued,” Wilson said.

The recently released program puts even greater emphasis on using the normal search process to recruit talented faculty underrepresented groups.

“We now have an explicit goal to recruit roughly 30 tenure-system faculty a year through this program and we have incentivized such hiring in new ways,” she said. 

Units can still apply for TOP funds by targeting individuals outside of a search, the most common use of the program in the past.

“We want to reward units that are incorporating diversity goals and efforts into their normal search processes,” she said.

Among the newcomers to the Urbana campus are faculty members whose appointments began this summer or fall. Inside Illinois continues its tradition of introducing some of the new faculty members on campus and will feature at least two new colleagues in each fall issue.

Sept. 1, 2011

Ronald L. Jacobs

a professor of human resource development in the department of education policy, organization and leadership and the director of the Office of International Programs in the College of Education

Harriett Green
Ronald L. Jacobs, a professor of human resource development in the department of education policy, organization and leadership and the director of the Office of International Programs in the College of Education | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (instructional systems technology), Indiana University; M.Ed. (educational media and technology), University of Toledo; B.F.A. (film arts), Ohio University.

Research interests: Learning and performance issues in the workplace. He does research and development projects related to a training approach called structured on-the-job training. 

Courses teaching:  Teaching HRE 490, “System Theory Applied to Human Resource Development,” a course on how system theory is applied to the field of human resource development.

Why Illinois? “At this point in my career, I was looking for the next professional challenge,” Jacobs said. “My new position at Illinois provides me the opportunity to join a highly productive group of faculty in human resource education, and also to assume a leadership role in the college as director of the Office of International Programs. The combination of these opportunities, in addition to being at another highly prestigious academic institution, made my decision all the easier.”

“Dr. Ronald L. Jacobs is a top-ranked scholar and international leader in the field of human resource development,” said James Anderson, the head of the department of education policy, organization and leadership. “Under his leadership, the HRD program at Ohio State has been ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report for many years. His appointment greatly enhances our program’s reputation and standing in the field nationally and internationally. His engagement in international workforce education with particular emphasis on Korea, China and the Middle East strengthens the department and college’s international research and development agenda.”

Brad Tober

an assistant professor of graphic design in the School of Art and Design in the College of Fine and Applied Arts

Brad Tober
Brad Tober, an assistant professor of graphic design in the School of Art and Design in the College of Fine and Applied Arts | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: M.Des. (design), York University, Toronto; B.F.A. (graphic design), Savannah College of Art and Design; B.A. (mathematics), University at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.

Courses teaching: ARTF 103, “Art – Foundation, Design I” and ART 299, “Special Topics in Art”

Research interests: Interactive visual communication technologies, data visualization, information design, algorithmic abstraction and experimental design approaches. His recent work on an interactive and experiential form-creation tool explores both computational graphic design processes and the role of emerging technology in design practice.

“We were struck by the way he bridges the gap between design and programming,” said Nan Goggin, the director of the School of Art and Design. “During his interviews, our students really responded to his discerning comments on their work at their critique session with him. I think we’ll see some really interesting research from him.”

Why Illinois? “Not only was I attracted to the diverse and extensive resources of the university as a whole, I was very excited about the chance to accept a position where I would have the opportunity to contribute something unique to and desired by my department,” Tober said. “The hiring process also afforded me insight into the cordiality of my new colleagues – something that I anticipate will play a role in Illinois being a productive work environment for myself.”

Sept. 15, 2011

Brian G. Ogolsky

a professor of human and community development in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Brian Ogolsky
Brian G. Ogolsky, a professor of human and community development in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (family studies and human development), M.S. (family studies and human development), University of Arizona; B.A. (psychology), Western Washington University.

Research interests: Commitment in relationships.

“Dr. Ogolsky studies how commitment to intimate relationships changes over time and the developmental processes underlying these changes,” said Robert Hughes Jr., the head of the department of human and community development. “He is particularly interested in the cognitive and behavioral mechanisms that contribute to commitment in close relationships, and the sources of variability in commitment to relationships. In his work, he has studied both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

“At the UI, he plans to extend his exploration of commitment in relationships by exploring the commitment process during stressful situations in relationships, such as the transition to parenting and coping with chronic illness,” Hughes said.

Courses teaching:  HCD 590, “Advanced Research Methods”

Why Illinois? “I was excited by the opportunity to take advantage of the multitude of resources available at this cutting-edge research institution and to join the world-renowned faculty that make this institution great.” Ogolsky said. “I was also struck by the collegiality of the faculty in my department and their genuine interest in collaborative efforts to understand and improve the lives of children, couples and families.”

Sarah C. Williams

life sciences data services librarian and a professor of library administration

Sarah C. WIlliams
Sarah C. Williams, life sciences data services librarian and a professor of library administration

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: M.S. (information systems), Illinois State University; M.L.S. (library science), Indiana University; and B.S. (soil and crop science), Purdue University.

Research interests: User-centered approaches to federated search systems and discovery tools. “Given my new position, my research will likely shift more to data management and data services, but I plan to maintain the user-centered focus,” Williams said.

“Sarah Williams comes to us with excellent data skills and a deep understanding of the life sciences. We have high expectations that I’m confident she will meet,” said Paula Kaufman, the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian. “She will help position the library to meet the increasingly technology- and informatics-dependent needs of our users. This includes current needs in the areas of data curation, digital repository, website development and database development. She will serve as the Content Management System liaison for the Life Sciences Division of the University Library and will be responsible for Funk ACES Library Web development.”

Why Illinois? ”Data management is a rapidly evolving and expanding service for academic libraries,” Williams said. “The University Library and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science are at the forefront of significant research and initiatives in this field, so I was drawn by that. I look forward to collaborating with colleagues in library science and the life sciences to make contributions in this exciting field.”

Oct. 6, 2011

Aron K. Barbey

an assistant professor of speech and hearing science in the College of Applied Health Sciences

Aron K. Barbey
Aron K. Barbey, an assistant professor of speech and hearing science in the College of Applied Health Sciences

Photo courtesy Aron K. Barbey

Education: Ph.D. (psychology), Emory University; B.A. (psychology), University of Texas at Dallas.

Research Interests: Barbey investigates the principles of brain organization that underlie executive control, reasoning and decision making. An important motivation for his work is the development of a theoretically sound foundation for research on the relationship between disturbances of brain function and their manifestation as disorders of thought and behavior in psychiatric illness and neurological disease. His research examines several major themes, which collectively fall under the emerging field of decision neuroscience.

“Barbey comes to the UI from (the National Institutes of Health) where he was a research fellow from 2007-2011 and an adjunct investigator in 2011 at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,” said Adrienne L. Perlman, a professor and the head of speech and hearing science. “He comes to us with an impressive history of the study of brain function with and without injury.  He will be contributing to the department and college research mission as it relates to aspects of behavior and communication following brain injury.”

Courses: SHS 593, “Traumatic Brain Injury and Associated Communication Disorders” and SHS 390 “Cognitive Neuroscience.”

Why Illinois? “The vibrant community of scholarship and learning in the College of Applied Health Sciences and the commitment to clinically directed research that helps people with disabilities to live full and independent lives motivated my choice to come to the University of Illinois,” Barbey said.


Elizabeth Driskell

a clinical assistant professor of pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine

Elizabeth Driskell
Elizabeth Driskell, a clinical assistant professor of pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (veterinary pathology), University of Georgia, Athens; D.V.M., Iowa State University; B.S. (biology), Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo.

Research Interests: The field of molecular virology and viral pathogenesis. She is studying the capacity of circulating North American wild bird (shorebird and waterfowl) avian influenza viruses to infect mammals and the pathogenetic mechanisms responsible for these infections.

“The severity of disease caused by highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, combined with the capacity to cause pandemic infections, could cause catastrophic effects on humans,” said Mark Kuhlenschmidt, the interim head of the department of pathobiology. “Dr. Driskell’s research into the mechanism by which these avian viruses gain the ability to directly infect mammals is at the forefront of research in the pathogenesis and transmissibility of influenza.”
Driskell is a board certified pathologist and Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.

Courses: Driskell will participate in instruction in the professional veterinary curriculum for second-year veterinary students as well as in graduate instruction. She also will participate in residency training.

Why Illinois? ”Illinois is somewhat of a homecoming for me,” Driskell said. “I grew up a Midwestern girl. I’ve had excellent experiences at other institutions, but I’m excited to bring all those experiences here to contribute to the strong veterinary medicine, residency and graduate programs in the college and department. I hope to inspire students with all different interests, to embrace and understand pathology in the context of what they are doing and perhaps even love it as much as I do.”

Oct. 20, 2011

Tatyana Deryugina

a lecturer of finance in the College of Business

Tatyana Deryugina
Tatyana Deryugina, a lecturer of finance in the College of Business

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (economics), Massachusetts Institute of Technology; B.A. (applied mathematics), B.S. (environmental economics and policy), University of California at Berkeley.

Research Interests: Deryugina investigates environmental economics. Her research focuses on how natural disasters affect the U.S. economy, measuring the employment rate, government transfer payments, and disaster aid from federal and private companies. She also studies how effective federal aid is after a natural disaster, measuring post-disaster construction activity, average earnings and non-disaster transfer payments.

“Tatyana is an extremely creative researcher who tackles difficult economic questions with rigorous empirical analysis,” said Jeff Brown, a professor of finance and the director of the Center for Business and Public Policy. “Her work is highly respected by academic economists, but it also is very relevant to important real-world policy issues. Given her broad interests and her excellent training, we are looking forward to many important research and policy contributions from her in the years ahead.” 

Courses: Econ 210, “Environmental Economics.”

Why Illinois? “Because of its excellent finance faculty and research resources. I consider myself lucky to be part of this department and to be surrounded by so many accomplished and interesting colleagues,” Deryugina said. “I’m very excited to teach and work with the high-caliber graduate and undergraduate students here. I also appreciate the diversity and inclusivity present on this campus.”

Prashant K. Jain

an assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Prashant K. Jain
Prashant K. Jain, an assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (physical chemistry), Georgia Institute of Technology; B. Tech. (chemical technology), University Institute of Chemical Technology (India).

Research Interests: Physical and material chemistry. Jain focuses on how light interacts with nanoparticles in order to better understand nanoscale and molecular processes.

 “Jain is a remarkable scholar who has already, in his young career, an impressive record of accomplishments,” said Steven C. Zimmerman, a professor and the head of chemistry. “He is a creative individual who is asking some important questions about how light, ions and electrons behave in a confined environment at the surface of a metal nanoparticle. The work should provide insights to those working on applications in catalysis, solar energy and biomedical imaging.”

Courses: Chem 544, “Statistical Thermodynamics.”

Why Illinois? “Illinois has been my dream school since my pre-graduate school years,” Jain said. “The chemistry department at Illinois has a long-standing tradition of excellence. I was particularly impressed by how many now renowned chemists launched their careers as junior faculty here. On my pre-hire visits, I experienced both the intensity and collegiality of the academic community, without any compromise of one for the other.”

Nov. 3, 2011

Charles Daval

an assistant professor of trumpet in the School of Music in the College of Fine and Applied Arts

Charles Daval
Charles Daval, an assistant professor of trumpet in the School of Music in the College of Fine and Applied Arts

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education:J.D., Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh; M.A. (trumpet performance), Northwestern University; B.A. (music), San Jose State University.

Research Interests:Entrepreneurship, orchestra and chamber music.

“Professor Daval brings to Illinois a wealth of professional performing experience,” said Karl Kramer, director of the School of Music. “He was a member of the Boston, Montreal, Seattle and Cincinnati symphony orchestras, and has significant teaching experience as a former member of the faculty at the University of Michigan. He has significant recording experience and in addition to his music degrees, he has a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University Law School.”

Courses: Applied trumpet and coaching chamber music. He also has an interest in music business classes.

Why Illinois? Daval said he was “very happy and settled at the University of Michigan” before taking time off to be at home with his young children. “When the time seemed about right to go back to work this job presented itself,” Daval said. “I was lucky to basically have the same position at a peer institution present itself at just the right time for me. I feel like – in the best possibly way – I’ve been struck by lightning twice.”

Jennifer A. Kam

an assistant professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jennifer Kam
Jennifer A. Kam, an assistant professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (communication), Pennsylvania State University; M.A. (communication), San Diego State University; B.A. (communication and English), University of California at Davis.

Research Interests: The intersection of interpersonal, intercultural and health communication. Kam focuses on what factors influence how people form their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, and its implications for their long-term health and happiness. 

“One of the most exciting features of Jennifer’s research is her focus on the members of subcultures in the U.S.,” said David Tewksbury, a professor and the head of communication. “Her work with Mexican-heritage adolescents has a strong emphasis on identifying the factors that can lead to poor academic performance, substance abuse and related problems. This foundational research examines how people interact with their environments, and it has very real implications for designing interventions to help at-risk youth.”

Courses: CMN496, “Risk Communication.”

Why Illinois? “Initially, I wanted to join the UI because of its reputation for having one of the top communication departments in the nation,” Kam said. “I quickly learned that the department and the university have much more to offer than just reputations. In particular, I was blown away by how friendly, supportive and humble the faculty is in and outside of the department. (I feel) this active and energetic department will inspire me to succeed. In addition, I look forward to developing collaborative relationships through opportunities for interdisciplinary research.”


Nov. 17, 2011

Mireya Loza

an assistant professor of history and of Latino/Latina studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mireya Loza
Mireya Loza, an assistant professor of history and of Latino/Latina studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (American civilization) and M.A. (public humanities), Brown University; M.A. (anthropology), University of Texas at Austin; B.A. (anthropology and Latino/a studies), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Research Interests: The Bracero Program (the guest worker agreement between the United States and Mexico) and its legacy.

“We are thrilled to welcome back professor Loza to Illinois,” said Isabel Molina-Guzmán, the chair of the department of Latina/Latino studies. “She was a groundbreaker when she graduated as the first Latina/Latino studies major in 1996, and she continues to be a pioneer today in Mexican-American history. From her work on the Bracero History Project at the Smithsonian Institution, she brings with her a wealth of research experience in public history and the digital humanities. She’s already hard at work making her archival collaboration with DePaul University on Mexican American Chicago community organizations digitally accessible to the public.”

Courses: HIST 396, “Oral History: Theory, Methods, Practice.” LLS 296 “Race and Ethnicity in Chicago”

Why Illinois? “I chose Illinois because the department of Latina/Latino Studies and history both serve as great homes for the kind of scholarship I do,” Loza said. “It is also exciting to work alongside colleagues who are producing stellar scholarship in their respective fields. I am both thrilled and proud to return to Illinois where I first encountered the Latino/Latino studies program.”

Dov Weiss

an assistant professor of religion in the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dov Weiss
Dov Weiss, an assistant professor of religion in the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (history of Judaism), University of Chicago Divinity School; M.A. (modern Jewish history) and B.A. (political science), Yeshiva University, New York City.

Research Interests: Weiss’ newest study focuses on hierarchical inversions in ancient Judaism.

“Weiss is an outstanding new addition to our faculty who is doing innovative research on rabbinic (early Jewish) writings, in particular offering new insights into the ways the rabbis empowered people to question traditional, even biblical formulations of divine authority,” said David Price, chair of the department of religion.  “While his research focuses on rabbinic writings, the subjects of his courses range over the entire history of Jewish culture.”

Courses: RLST 120A, “History of Judaism” and RLST 289, “Jewish Sacred Literature.”

Why Illinois? “I chose to start my career at Illinois because of its reputation as a leading research institution and for its well-known commitment to support young scholars,” Weiss said. “I walked away from my campus visit last year struck not only by the caliber of scholarship among the religious studies faculty members, but also by their openness, warmth and genuine friendliness. I am so thrilled and honored to be part of this amazing community.”

Dec. 1, 2011

Ying Chen

an assistant professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations

Ying Chen
Ying Chen, an assistant professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (organization studies), Vanderbilt University; M.A. (sociology), University of Toledo; M.A. (labor economics), Capital University of Economics and Business, China; B.A. (sociology), Nankai University, China.

Research Interests: Cross-cultural management, employment relations and conflict management. Chen focuses on relationships between organizational leaders and members in China and the U.S.

“This is an important area of research where she is identifying crucial differences in workplace relations between the U.S. and Chinese contexts, including team leadership, norms of reciprocity and other matters,” said Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, a professor and the dean of the School of Labor and Employment Relations. “Professor Chen also will teach our international and comparative employment relations course and other classes. We are very excited to have her join our community.”

Courses: 590ERC, “Labor and Employment Relations in China.”
Why Illinois? “I have found my academic home,” Chen said. “LER at Illinois is a place that I feel that I can fit in, contribute to, work with world-class faculty and teach highly motivated students with many different backgrounds from all over the globe,” Chen said. “I was proud to have the opportunity to join the school and become part of the LER community.”


Ting Lu

an assistant professor of bioengineering in the College of Engineering

Ting Lu
Ting Lu, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the College of Engineering

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (biophysics) and M.S. (physics), University of California at San Diego; B.S. (physics), Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.

Research Interests: Systems and synthetic biology, an interface of biology, engineering and physical sciences. Lu is interested in the dynamics and associated functions of biological networks as well as the engineering of de novo gene circuits. He will investigate multiscale dynamics of gene regulation, the interface of synthetic biology with DNA nanotechnology and human gut microbiota. He hopes to uncover design principles of biological systems for therapeutic and environmental applications.

“Ting was highly recruited to campus for his expertise in theoretical and experimental synthetic biology,” said Michael F. Insana, a professor and the head of bioengineering. “He models and designs bacterial systems for human medicine applications. His approach is unique in that his computational designs are balanced by his ability to produce the re-engineered designs in his lab and test their effectiveness. He is interested in probiotics for gastrointestinal health and other novel therapeutic delivery systems.”

Courses: BIOE 507, “Advanced Bioinstrumentation.” Courses on synthetic biology and computational bioengineering beginning spring 2012.

Why Illinois? “The university has a longstanding tradition of excellence as a world-class leader in research and teaching,” Lu said. “Our bioengineering department has assembled an amazing team of faculty and students with extreme intelligence and enthusiasm. I’m so excited about launching my research program here and joining the team to make this place the best for bioengineers.”

Jan. 19, 2012

Kenworthey Bilz

a professor of law

Ying Chen
Kenworthey Bilz, a professor of law

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. and M.A. (experimental social psychology), Princeton University; J.D., University of Chicago; A.B. (government), Harvard College.

Research Interests: How social psychological processes can inform the study of law.

“Kenworthey is one of the nation’s most innovative scholars working on how social psychological processes can inform the study of law,” said Bruce Smith, the dean of the College of Law. “She advances the college’s prominence in the area of law and social science and strengthens our cross-disciplinary bridge to the campus’s world-class department of psychology. With her arrival, the University of Illinois College of Law has become one of the top law schools in the nation for the study of law and psychology.”

Courses: Criminal Law.

Why Illinois? “I chose Illinois because its law school and its psychology department are world class,” Bilz said. “I’m continually impressed by the caliber of my colleagues and my students. Everyone here is open to new ideas and learning – it’s an incredibly functional and productive atmosphere, and I feel very lucky to be here.”

Jana Diesner

an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Ying Chen
Jana Diesner, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science

| Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Education: Ph.D. (ABD) and M.S. (computation, organizations and society), Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; M.A. (magister atrium) in communication science, Dresden University of Technology, Germany.

Research Interests: Computational analysis of the interplay and co-evolution of information and the functioning of socio-technical networks. Her research focuses on networks from the business, science and geopolitical domains. She is particularly interested in factors that impede the sustainable development of networks and their wider context, especially conflicts and crime, and in covert information and covert networks.

“Those who met Jana during the hiring process were uniformly impressed with her energy, her intelligence and her creativity,” said John Unsworth, the dean of the school. “The work she is doing is a great fit for GSLIS, and it will provide added depth to our social, community and organizational informatics research. I’m also pleased to say that Jana is a dedicated and effective teacher.”

Courses: Co-teaching LIS 590, Information Networks, with Les Gasser.

Why Illinois? “I’m excited to come to Illinois because of the great scholarship that is happening here,” Diesner said. “I think GSLIS offers an exceptional depth and breadth of expertise and research activities that is not found elsewhere.”




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