Eliza’s Experiential Learning

Hi Everyone! I hope you all have been able to stay warm over the past couple of days.

As both Jada and Gracyn have mentioned, Experiential Learning is part of our curriculum for College of Public Health students. Undergraduate students can choose to pursue an internship, research, service-learning, or global learning opportunities. I was very fortunate to have been offered an undergraduate research assistant position with Dr. Natoshia Askelson’s team. I started a couple weeks before this semester and have learned so much already!

What I enjoy most about my research job is the ability for me to jump in on multiple projects and learn about many aspects of public health. Our team operates on a project-based system which allows you to understand the full scope of the project before you move on to another task. While our tasks are individual at times, they often feel group oriented because of the culture Dr. Askelson has created. 

The first project I was able to work on was a literature review for the Iowa Department of Public Health. We were looking at past literature to see if there were certain communities that would benefit from a different approach to vaccination campaigns. I was able to understand the importance of looking at all communities you are planning to address or target for an intervention. With the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaign, we found it important to refer to past campaigns with the polio, smallpox, and HPV vaccinations. 

One of the projects I have been most excited to work on is a qualitative research project where we are interviewing ENTs to see if it would be feasible for them to promote the HPV vaccination to their patients. This requires my team to submit an IRB application, so I am looking forward to learning more about that process. HPV vaccination rates are down in Iowa while the numbers of preventable cancer are only increasing. If you are under age forty-six, consider talking to your doctor about the HPV vaccine. 

In addition to the literature reviews and ENT project, I have also been able to work on surveys regarding micropolitan communities and adolescent mental health. My opportunities to participate in survey response have emphasized the importance of collaboration with my fellow team members. 

I am so grateful for this experience because without it, I would not have discovered my passion for research. I have been taking advantage of this opportunity and soaking up all of the knowledge of my peers. It is one thing to learn about how research operates through your courses but a completely different one to jump right in and actually complete tasks and participate in research.

Most of all, I love our team dynamic. Everyone is so positive and uplifting! It can be difficult to onboard a team member virtually, but Dr. Askelson, Becky Bucklin, and the rest of the team have made me feel so welcomed. I am comfortable asking questions and my co-workers are more than willing to answer. In our team meetings, we laugh and build a sense of camaraderie through team-building activities. Later this month we are planning a team game night, which I am really looking forward to! I have had a lot of fun discovering the research topics I am passionate about and can’t wait to learn more! 

– Eliza Steere

Gracyn’s Experiential Learning

Hello All!

I hope everyone is having a great start to the Spring 2021 semester!

For this post, I would like to take some time and talk about a really important component in the public health major here at Iowa- Experiential Learning! Just like the previous post by Jada, I want to discuss what I did to fulfill this requirement and stretch beyond the standard university classwork.

When I was first told about the experiential learning requirement for the public health major (BS and BA), I was honestly very worried about being able to 1) Find opportunities and 2) Work the requirement into my schedule. However, I was surprised about all of the ways in which the information about finding an opportunity was presented to us as undergraduates. For example, professors are always talking about things that they did as undergraduates to get more acquainted to public health practice, making it easy for students to ask them more questions about an interesting experience. Presentations about the experiential learning requirement were always popping up in undergraduate seminars and advisor meetings, allowing for a wide range of ideas to help direct my search.

I, however, happened to gain my credit for experiential learning during a very unconventional time in public health. I completed my internship during the summer of 2020, but originally did not have one lined up prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the university asked students to stay home and do class virtually in the spring of 2020, I returned home to my hometown of Ottawa, Illinois. As it became more clear that everyone would be staying home during the summertime, I decided to reach out to my local county health department and see if there were any contact tracing positions available. After a few emails, I was so happy to find out that I could instead work as an intern for both COVID-19 contact tracing and for other communicable disease investigations.

For this internship, I worked mainly as a COVID-19 contact tracer, which entailed lots of phone calls, reading lab results, and mounds of paperwork. A typical day at the health department for me started out with a quick staff meeting to hear updates from the state health department that were being handed down to the county departments to implement. I would then log into our COVID-19 electronic reporting system and review new cases (meaning a confirmed positive test result) that had been added into the database overnight. These cases included both COVID-19 cases in addition to more commonly seen communicable diseases such as Hepatitis C, Salmonellosis, Cyclosporiasis, and potential rabies cases. As COVID-19 cases were increasing in volume at the time, I would start by creating a case file for a specific COVID-19 patient, obtain contact information (phone number), and attempt to reach the patient. After connecting with a patient, I would then begin my interview and ask questions about past travel history, close contacts, symptoms, and other questions that were formulated by the state health department and CDC. This same type of process was how I went about investigating other disease cases, but with different questions depending on the disease type. Additionally, the county health department was responsible for notifying any close contacts of cases that we received and issuing quarantine and isolation orders. We would frequently check in on our active COVID-19 patients to see how their symptoms were progressing, as well as issuing release letters for those who were considered to be recovered.

This contact tracing and disease investigation internship was one of my favorite experiences in public health that I have had so far. Actually getting to see how public health practice worked during an emergency like a global pandemic is an opportunity that not everyone will get to experience, and am thankful for the support of my professors and advisors here at Iowa that supported me in finding this internship. I immensely enjoyed working on my interpersonal skills, seeing how different departments work together, and learning about the epidemiology of diseases in my community. I learned how the line of communication works to send information from the CDC to state health departments to local county health departments and finally to the citizens of the state. This is a very crucial aspect of health departments on a smaller scale because until they get the go ahead from state health departments, new information and policy cannot be enforced at the local level.

I hope that this little dive into my experiential learning opportunity was helpful in showing that you do not always have to have a perfect plan with a timeline to find internships and other community engagements. Please feel free to reach out to me or any other ambassadors as we continue to navigate experiential learning during these pandemic days!

Until next time,


Jada’s Experiential Learning

Part of our curriculum here at the College of Public Health is to complete something called Experiential Learning. What is that? Experiential learning includes completing either an internship, research, service-learning, global learning, or independent research, or a combination of these as long as they add up to at least 80 hours. The 80 hours is equivalent to 1 semester hour and the experience can be paid or unpaid. Undergrad students have a course that is ongoing throughout our time in the program called Experiential Learning Preparation for Public Health Majors. The course is constantly updated with potential opportunities that would count toward this requirement. All though the task may seem daunting, it is really to help you as a student apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting. My advice would be to try and find research or an internship related to where you eventually want to end up career wise so you get some first hand and relevant experience!

I will be honest in saying that I was scared to complete this requirement! I didn’t complete this until this past fall, my senior year!! Fear not, it will get done and you will do great! Johnson County Public Health Department works closely with the college and provide a lot of opportunities for students to come help out with various projects. I filled out an application to be a Contact Tracer as part of the ongoing pandemic, however this is not what I ended up doing. I recieved a call about my application and was told they had something that would be a better fit, based upon my previous experience working in the healthcare setting. I figured why not? I’ll listen to what this is, so I set up a phone interview.

I interviewed and accepted their position as a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) for the upcoming open enrollment period for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace Health Insurance. Big words and many abbreviations…I was already nervous! I began my online CAC training through the Marketplace’s website, which took around 7 hours. I took notes and dug up my old notes from the class I took last year, The US Healthcare System in a Global Context, definitely one of my favorite classes in the curriculum! After training and reviewing notes, I felt much more comfortable with what the job entailed. My duties included responding to calls on the CAC line and either providing guidance on the health insurance application or setting up an appointment and going through the application with people via zoom. Pre-COVID the CAC would sit in the public library or other public places and help people there, so using zoom for this was a first.

I would average at least three phone calls a day and three-four hour long appointments a day during the open enrollment period of November 1st – December 15th. The Federal Marketplace was put into effect with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is in place to provide other options for insurance for those who do not have it readily available to them, easily compare plans, determine eligibility for tax credits that help pay the monthly premiums, and screen for eligibility for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP).

In doing this internship, I learned a lot about the technicality of health insurance but most importantly how expensive and excluding health insurance can be. For example, there were words I did not know as a college student who has had courses on insurance on the application. So imagine how someone with minimal access to education feels? On top of this, the Marketplace takes into account your income. The less you make the more affordable it becomes, and those are typically the people that need health insurance the most. However, low income usually equates to limited access to technology or transportation to somewhere with computer or internet access. There were multiple people who tried to fill the application out on their phones or who had to just give me the answers to the application questions over the phone. These types of disparities to obtaining health insurance are extremely disheartening to me, but knowing I helped even just a few people really made me feel good.

This internship ignited the fire within me to close this gap in healthcare coverage. I knew there was an issue with the system before coming to the University of Iowa, but this experience along with my Public Health courses have really given me the tools and motivation to make changes to this. I want to live in a better world and help as many people as I can, this is just the beginning.

Semester in Review: Fall 2020- Eliza

Hey everyone – It’s Eliza again! I wanted to take time to reflect on the Fall 2020 semester as a public health student at the University of Iowa!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of my courses were taught virtually this semester. Fortunately, I have taken online classes previously which has helped me immensely during these unprecedented times. Though I was sad at first to not physically be in the College of Public Health Building every day, this semester has had its perks such as having more time to spend in extracurriculars and other professional development activities. There is also the added benefit of not having to rush across campus in the morning to get to class. If there is one thing from Zoom University that should be a permanent part of higher education, it is Zoom office hours. Not only does this make learning more accessible, it is also a much more laid-back environment, which helps students be open with their questions.

Regarding academics specifically, this semester has been my favorite thus far! I have really enjoyed engaging in topics such as health promotion, maternal and child health, refugee health, and basic infectious disease principles. Another highlight of this semester has been applying textbook knowledge to the real world in terms of COVID-19. I have analyzed graphs of Iowa COVID-19 incidence and prevalence along with looking at how pandemics wreak havoc on hospital systems and change the demand for health services and basic hygiene products.  

In other news, I started working for Dr. Askelson as a research assistant this month! I am looking forward to applying my public health knowledge in the terms of vaccination campaigns, health beliefs regarding COVID-19, and health behavior change.

As I am sure we are all too aware, now is a very interesting time to be up and coming public health professionals as we are in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. With this I have been able to not only validate the importance of my studies, but I have also been able to envision myself working in the field of public health. I know that these times are scary, and that our work often goes unnoticed, but the world is changing, and we all are doing great things. As we prepare to enter into the next semester let us remind ourselves of the sheer nature of public health, to help our communities. As we often hear in the CPHB, we know public health is working when it seems like nothing is happening. 

I hope you all are having enjoyable and safe winter breaks. I am looking forward to what lies ahead, and of course Go Hawks!

– Eliza Steere

Fall 2020: A Semester in Review- Gracyn

Wow! Can you guys believe that our Fall 2020 semester is over already?

This semester somehow flew by and also felt like it took forever to get through all at the same time, you know?

Starting with coming to campus in August, it was quite an adjustment to return to my resident assistant position in the university dorms. New regulations with mask wearing, attempting social distancing enforcement, and adjusted protocols were the new headlines in our training sessions. Looking back, we were really going into this new situation blind. No one knew how this attempt at returning to the dorms was going to end, and I for one whole-heartedly believed I would be back home before the first round of exams would start in late September. However, we were able to make it through. I am extremely thankful that my floor was able to pull through without any severe illness, and hopefully we can continue this going into spring semester.

Though being a resident assistant during a pandemic seemed quite daunting, I was most concerned about how my courses were going to play out as we got the semester rolling. Thankfully, I only had one class that met in person for the first half of the semester, and then after that was finished, I was able to work remotely and have all my classes online fully. My public health classes were extremely enjoyable and I was exposed to a wide range of topics, including injury and violence prevention and biostatistics. One of my favorite classes for this semester was Introduction of Public Health Methods with Professor Jeffrey Dawson (CPH:2600). This was my first exposure to how public health researchers conduct their projects, with the class being broken down into two categories of study: quantitative and qualitative design/analysis techniques.

In addition to my own coursework in public health this semester, I also began my graduate school application to UI’s Master in Public Health (MPH) program. After sitting in on a few overview sessions about the MPH program here at Iowa, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to focus in on an area of public health that I am passionate about (Epidemiology). I have immensely enjoyed every experience I have had through the College of Public Health, and hope that this program will help me to connect public health expertise with my goal of becoming a Physician Assistant. I personally think that medicine would benefit immensely from having more students coming into programs with a foundation based in public health, allowing for issues to be addressed that medicine alone cannot always remedy.

Overall, this semester has been quite a mix of ups and downs, full of uncertainty at times, but also with hope and unity. Thankfully, we were blessed with fairly decent weather all the way up to finals week, so I was able to enjoy running outside (see our beautiful campus pictured above!) and having socially-distanced picnics with friends! It was hard to get out and safely go to public spaces that I love in Iowa City (JavaHouse, the IMU, the Rec), but by getting creative with when and where I went, I was able to study and leave my room in a low-risk way. A big tip I learned was to try and get up early and study if I wanted to go to a library (the Sciences Library and Hardin are some of my top choices), though I know it is easier said than done.

Congrats to everyone who finished out this semester! It was hard and filled with huge uncertainty throughout, but you did it! Hope you use the break to relax and catch up on some fun activities!

See you next year!


Meet Your Ambassadors- Cameron!

Hello! My name is Cameron and I am a new edition to the public health undergraduate ambassadors blog this year. I got admitted to the College of Public Health over the summer, and I am happy to be here. I was a Biology major, but after taking Fundamentals of Public Health, I knew I had to change my major. Currently, I am a second year student in the college pursuing a B.S. degree. For classes this semester, in addition to Spanish, I am taking Finding Patient Zero, Social & Psychological Determinants of Health, Public Health Methods, and a Second Year Public Health Seminar. Just like our other writers, I would say that I have enjoyed Finding Patient Zero quite a lot because it has shown me how interesting virology is. 

All of these classes are online, so I have been off campus since March. I am currently back home in Illinois, so I have only seen my teachers and classmates through zoom, which is just as draining as you might imagine. On the bright-side, staying at home is decreasing my chances of contracting Covid-19, so I will be taking as many online courses as I possibly can. It is definitely not the college experience that I thought I would have, but what can I say, it’s a pandemic. Plus, I get to see my miniature schnauzer, Winston, everyday so it’s not so bad.

On another note, despite classes taking up most of my time, I still partake in other extracurriculars along with the public health undergraduate ambassadors.  Just like it says in my email signature, I am a senator and committee chair in the Undergraduate Student Government at Iowa. USG has been a great way for me to continue feeling connected to campus even though we are meeting online these days. During our meetings we vote on legislation that benefits the student body and we work on our own projects as well. My current project is a website called Complain for a Coupon, in which we email students coupons in exchange for complaints about campus (I will let you all know when that is up and running).  In addition, I am also a volunteer at UIHC in the STEM education unit, but unfortunately we cannot volunteer through zoom, so it has been delayed for the time being. 

All in all, I hope that you all enjoyed my very first post for the blog and got a good introduction to who I am and what I am doing these days. I hope to share more about the College of Public Health in my future posts so that our readers can see how supportive and inspiring the staff and students in the college are. With that, good luck on finals and keep taking care of your minds and bodies.

 ¡Hasta luego!


Meet Your Ambassadors- Eliza!

Hey everyone! I’m Eliza and I’m new to the public health ambassadors this year. I’m a third-year B.A. public health student from Rancho Palos Verdes, California. I am one of the College of Public Health undergraduates who will be posting on this blog. My interest areas in public health include global public health, maternal and child health, community interventions, and vaccination campaigns. One thing I love about public health is how broad the field is! 

I am involved in many organizations and clubs on campus outside of being an ambassador for the College of Public Health. I volunteer with Iowa Admissions, helping recruit and answer questions for out-of-state students. I really enjoy being able to share my experiences as an undergraduate student with future Hawkeyes! Healthy LifeStars is a public health organization I recently joined in February and has amplified my passion for community and behavioral health. With Healthy LifeStars, I am a treasurer and graphic designer. We work with local kids in the community to encourage healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Prior to the pandemic, I volunteered with Aramark Football Concessions during the Hawkeye Football games to raise money for Salt Company, a local ministry. I am also a member of the Celi-Yak Club on campus! We raise awareness for celiac disease, gluten allergies, and intolerances, while advocating for and empowering students with dietary restrictions who live in the residence halls. In addition to all of my extra-curricular activities, I hold a part-time job as a tutor! I love being able to help students gain confidence in their coursework. 

I’m currently enrolled in the following courses: 

CPH: 2050 Second Year Undergrad Public Health Seminar 

Every fall, public health undergraduates take a 1 s.h. seminar course! Second-year seminar prepares students for their experiential learning requirement for the College of Public Health. If you didn’t know, experiential learning is where students get to take the skills they have learned in the classroom and apply them into a real-world setting. To fulfill this requirement, you can participate in research, an internship, service-learning, and global learning. This course also teaches students how to develop resumes and cover letters.

CPH: 2230 Finding Patient Zero 

Finding Patient Zero is one of my public health electives. I have learned a lot about virology and how zoonoses occur. As a class, we have evaluated past pandemics like the 1918 Spanish Flu and compared the response to our current pandemic. My small group is currently working on a video project supporting the argument that the Rift Valley Fever Virus could be our next pandemic.

CPH: 2600 Introduction to Public Health Methods 

This course has given me an introduction to both quantitative and qualitative research methods. I learned how to use Stata this semester to organize, analyze, and interpret data. This class builds heavily off of the course material from CPH:1600 Public Health Science. I love that this class facilitates discussion and uses examples from current research projects. I have learned a lot about focus groups and participated in one during our lab section this semester. Study designs, in-depth interviews, participant observations, document reviews, screening tests, and displays of data are just a few of the many topics we have covered this semester.

CPH: 3100 Health Economics 

This is an introductory course in the principles of applying basic microeconomic theory. The instructors have talked a lot about health insurance, how the healthcare industry operates, and the role of government in healthcare. I have learned how to anticipate supply and demand based on barriers and outside factors. I also learned to use cost-effective analysis as an economic evaluation tool.

CPH: 3500 Global Public Health 

Global Public Health is my favorite course so far! I absolutely love the content being presented and we have had many guest speakers throughout the semester. The most important thing I have learned so far in this class is that as public health professionals, we need to look at the environment as a whole when implementing interventions. The people who best know what is needed in a community are the community members! This class built off of principles from CPH:1800 Social and Psychological Determinants of Health. I have learned about the major global public health challenges facing the world today and what contributes to the disease burden in those situations. Dr. Story has also talked about the ethical implications of working with vulnerable populations in a cross-cultural context.

GHS: 4002 Working in Global Health 

Working in Global Health is all about discovering the many different realms of global health in which you can work. Dr. Brunner-Luse has provided so many resources for jobs I can pursue after graduation and beyond. I really like how she uses current news topics in her class material. This course involves not only working on developing the skills you need for a job but making sure you can promote health globally. This is my third class with Dr. Brunner-Luse and I highly recommend her courses!

I hope I was able to show the numerous opportunities for education and involvement at the University of Iowa. Throughout the semester, I hope to write more about my experiences here, including how I am able to stay involved despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to follow along with all of our blog posts!

– Eliza Steere

Meet Your Ambassadors-Gracyn!

Hi all! My name is Gracyn and I am a third-year B.S. student and am excited to able to write and share some of my love for public health and the program here at Iowa. Just like my fellow ambassador Jada explained in her first post for this semester, I am part of the UI College Public Health Undergraduate Ambassadors for this academic year, and cannot wait to have more (virtual) meetings with fellow undergraduates and perspective students to talk about curriculum, experiential learning ideas, and the overall experiences that come with studying public health here- especially in the middle of a pandemic!

So, what does my semester look like during this crazy fall? Mostly filled with public health! While I am also on the pre-physician assistant track, I am getting a lot of my core public health classes in, such as Global Public Health with Dr. Story, and also a few electives. One of my favorite elective classes right now is my Injury and Violence Prevention course with Dr. Peek-Asa. Now that I am a third year student in this program, it is exciting to be able to take higher level public health classes that are targeted to my specific interests such as maternal and child health on a global scale. In addition to the public health side of my coursework, I am also taking Biostatistics and Microbiology, which tie into public health so perfectly- especially now! As I continue in this program, I want to narrow my focus in public health to epidemiology, which relies heavily on statistics and an understanding of the human/microbe relationships that occur constantly. 

This year definitely has not been what I thought it would be, but it has allowed me to see firsthand what local-level public health practice looks like. This summer, as the pandemic really began hitting the Midwest hard, I interned at my local public health department back in my hometown. My internship was a mix of contact-tracing for COVID-19 for my county, as well as disease investigation for other communicable diseases that are more commonly seen in human populations such as Hepatitis and Campylobacter infections (my next post will go into this more- stay tuned!).

I am so excited to continue to be involved in our undergraduate community here at the College of Public Health! I hope everyone is enjoying Fall Break, though I know it looks very different for many of us this year. Take time to relax and de-stress, and I can’t wait to be able to write again in a few weeks!

Until next time!


(Delayed) Welcome Back, Jada!!

Although this is quite delayed, we as ambassadors are super excited to get back into writing this blog for you all!

I am Jada, a senior B.S. student and have a few other posts on our blog. I’m excited to be back, even in these trying times. Last time I wrote, I was reflecting on my semester. And boy, was I shocked to be sent home because of a pandemic?? Such a crazy world we live in, but it has brought so much attention to the world of Public Health.

This will be the first post of a few introducing the new blog team! We all serve as Undergraduate Ambassadors for the College of Public Health here at Iowa. Our work looks different from day to day; providing curriculum feedback, serving on student panels, answering prospective student questions. My favorite part is connecting with prospective students through social media and student panels!

Enough of that, let me tell you about my semester! I am also on the pre-physician assistant track so for that I am taking physiology and organic chemistry. I am taking one course through the college called Finding Patient Zero. If you weren’t intrigued by the title…well you should be! Dr. Nonneman makes this class a blast! Even with it being online, it is still so engaging. This class is for undergraduates and introduces us to the concepts of how infectious disease is both transmitted and the methods to prevent disease. We discuss bacteria, viruses, and prions, very fitting with the current pandemic.

My favorite part of this class is watching popular movies that deal with epidemiology (Contagion, Outbreak, etc.) and comparing the things seen in the movie to the things we see in real life. Spoiler alert: these movies are slightly exaggerated based upon the material we talk about in class! The final project involves working with a group to argue why a given disease will become the next pandemic, against another group who is arguing why it won’t become the next pandemic. My group is assigned to the Lassa Virus, which causes lassa hemorrhagic fever. Given that my group members are okay with it, I will upload our video when it’s finished!

My senior year is definitely not what I imagined it would be. However, the College of Public Health and its associated people have become a great support system. Don’t be afraid to lean on professors and classmates this semester, they’re facing the same challenges as you are.

Signing off,


(P.S. Come back for my next post about my internship this winter!!)

Public Health in the News: COVID-19

Before my class on infectious disease outbreaks, I had never heard of a coronavirus. Now, the entire world has heard the term. We are in unprecedented times, which can be frightening. However, public health has been brought the the forefront of the media, which has exposed a pretty invisible occupational field.

As a future public health official, it is amazing to watch public health in action, tackling an infectious disease outbreak. As serious as this situation is, it is a situation for students at the College of Public Health to learn from responses and outcomes of the outbreak.

Being a public health student here, at the CPH, has prepared me in ways I never could have imagined. This is extremely evident in our current health situation. Just last semester, I took a class all about infectious disease outbreaks and studied, in depth, the SARS outbreak. This past month, the graduating class of undergraduates just finished case studies set in 2022 for the Qatar World Cup where a novel coronavirus threatened health and tournament operations.

Watching the response to the coronavirus has let me observe many of the practices that I hope to implement in my profession in the future. Seeing risk communication and emergency responses in action has been such a great learning tool. I have been given opportunities I couldn’t have ever had before. Multidisciplinary action teams are meeting via Zoom and implementing response techniques that will get our communities through this tough time and bring us to better days. Healthcare workers are implementing more preventative methods in their facilities. The general population are taking heed to public health advice and starting to change habits.

I have never been more proud to be a public health major. To see the collective effort of the entire world combating this obstacle has been such a moment for public health. This situation is serious, as vulnerable populations are being fatally affected, and we have seen the immediate action of public health to diminish the effects of the disease. The world needs public health more than ever.

Stay safe and stay healthy!



If you need any information on the coronavirus, seek out factual, respected sites. Here a few that are great tools of information!

General COVID-19 information

University of Iowa Updates

Iowa Department of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

College of Public Health’s Panel Discussion on COVID-19






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