Alumni Interviews — Sarah Whited (’02)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Sarah Whited (’02). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2002 via BIC. I majored in English Literature with a minor in music theory.

What has been your journey since graduating from Baylor? What are you doing currently for work/career?

After school, I worked at the Spirit Shop / Baylor Bookstore and the Waco Public Library for a year while going to grad school online from UNT. During my online courses, I got a job with Texas State University at the Alkek Library. I got my Masters in Library and Information Science in 2005, and became a fulltime librarian at Cedar Park Public Library where I stayed until 2014. I enjoyed the career, but after many years it became repetitive and I had no prospects for advancement or wage improvement. Throughout my time as a librarian, I found that I could almost always resolve technical issues that we had with our public and staff computers, and I became the “computer girl” of the library. When I expressed interest in getting a basic IT certification to our city IT department, they gave me a non-working desktop computer to disassemble and play with. That year, I got my A+ certification, started work at Fry’s Electronics, and within 7 months became assistant manager and one of the best custom build and repair technicians on the team.

Less than 2 years later when I applied to Dell corporate, I had no experience with datacenters, servers, or virtualization software, but my spicy and unconventional cover letter, which illustrated my adaptive mind and curiosity about technology, landed me a position in Dell’s High Complexity Virtualization Enterprise department. I leaped into the world of incredibly complex server support and diagnostics with zest, studying hard and quickly mastering all the elements of Enterprise-level datacenters. I supported all kinds of customers, from AT&T and the Chicago Mercantile Stock Exchange to hospitals and universities (even Baylor!) to mom & pop shops with advanced support contracts.

Early this year I was approached by a former contact at Dell who wanted me on his team at the new Dell Medical School (DMS) at the University of Texas. The role was right up my alley: project-driven, back-end architecture design and implementation for cutting edge technology at DMS, a revolutionary and unique amalgamation of hospital, clinic, research lab, and school. I was “headhunted” hard, and of course I said yes! I am now one of three Senior System Administrators for DMS, and I’m helping design the future of healthcare.

What do you enjoy most about your work–or what is something you are currently excited about in your work?

I am incredibly excited to be using my talents to revolutionize healthcare for the future. Not only do I feel like my life has meaning because I’m contributing to the betterment of humanity, but I’m also constantly learning new skills and keeping my mind young and flexible.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

I can’t express how much richer BIC has made my worldview. Humans are incredibly good at pattern recognition, but in normal classrooms, each subject is broken apart into separate disciplines so you never get the big picture. In BIC, it was amazing to see the interrelation between so many different facets of our existence. When you take the different slices of humanity – mathematics, sciences, history, economics, literature, and so on – and you put those layers on top of each other, you can see a much bigger picture. You can see the patterns of humanity, the cycles and dependencies and interrelations, and it makes the world a much richer place. Going through BIC isn’t something you should take lightly because it means that you have a much deeper understanding of the world, and because of that, you can’t just sit idly and watch the world go by. In the immortal words of Spider-man, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

My friends. I was one of the rebels. I never fit in with the “normal” Baylorite girls. When you’re in a place where the majority of people fit into a certain mold, the outliers gravitate to each other and bond much stronger. Our core group has stayed in contact over the years, and when I got married earlier this year, my friends from Baylor made the trek from Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio to come together and celebrate with me. Friends for life!

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

There are many different ways of living and each of them is valid and valuable. We shouldn’t strive to make everyone conform to a certain ideal; we should strive instead to preserve individuality. We are responsible for our society, and WE are responsible for the way things are.

What are your goals for the future?

I’m going to keep striving to improve humanity in whatever capacity I can.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Pay attention. Don’t get caught up in your own private struggles or victories so much that you lose focus. BIC can help you understand the world we live in. Remember that this is YOUR world, not some incomprehensible political, economic, or technological machine.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Do your best always. Don’t get discouraged. You are privileged and lucky, so try to help those who are not as well-off.

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Alumni Interviews — Priyankaa Bhatia (’17)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Priyankaa Bhatia (’17). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated from Baylor in May of 2017. I studied Biochemistry and was in BIC and the Honors Program.

What have you been up to since graduating from Baylor? Tell us some about your work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). How did you get connected with this opportunity?

My initial plan after graduating was to take a gap year and gain some lab experience before going for a PhD in biomedical research. I had looked into a few locations in Texas (medical complexes and schools) that offered lab tech positions for recent bachelor grads. While I was job hunting, an old family friend who used to work for the WHO told my family that the NIH offers a great training program for “postbacs.” The NIH hires bachelors graduates and places them in an NIH intramural research lab on any campus in the US and provides them with a 1-2 year research experience.

I applied and got interviewed by a couple of researchers in Baltimore and on the main campus in Bethesda and eventually got hired by a lab in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. So I am a full researcher in this lab in Bethesda and have my own project and responsibilities. Postbacs on the NIH campus do receive training but are looked on as research peers and are expected to produce results and present and forward the mission of the lab they are in. There is also a lot that the NIH does to help with the application and transition into graduate/medical school and onto further careers. They have a great training department and a hold lot of seminars and workshops for trainees and fellows and provide us with career and graduate fairs throughout the year.

What do you enjoy most about your work at the NIH? How has the experience shaped your ideas of what you want to do in the future?

I like the diversity of things I get to do on the NIH campus. While my research is my main focus, I get to go to a variety of talks by leading researchers from all over the world. I get to attend research festivals, career workshops, grad school prep seminars, application workshops, grant writing seminars and even a graduate science course that my lab paid for. Its helped me learn more about the biotech industry and what that would entail as a future career choice.

Do you have any advice for BIC students who might want to pursue opportunities similar to your current position with the NIH?

One mistake I made while applying was that I treated it like school applications and applied for jobs too early. Remember, these are jobs, so they aren’t looking for people a year in advance. The NIH however, does start hiring early in the spring.

If you know you want to do a gap year before graduate school, start looking up possible positions and jobs and don’t just move home and then expect to find something during the summer. It will be harder to motivate yourself and you’ll be limiting yourself geographically. Be willing to move far away! It will only be for 1-2 years.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor? Did your BIC education influences the way you view scientific inquiry in any way?

I can see that BIC has influenced the way I write, the way I do research and the way I present findings to my PI. Even when asked to look up something simple or when trying to write up a preliminary protocol, I am subconsciously putting the skills I learned through BIC to work. I am also very comfortable with public speaking and interviews and I do credit that to my time in BIC small group and to the amount I had to verbally present my ideas in class.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

There are a lot of good memories. A few that stand out are the late-night rhetoric writing sessions and WC exam study sessions. While not fun at the time, in retrospect I realize how much I bonded with people and how well prepared I was because of those study sessions.

Aside from that broad answer, getting extra credit for dressing as World Cultures characters for Halloween was particularly fun.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

My Biblical Heritage class has always stuck with me and has really pushed my study of the historical context of the Bible. I am even very motivated to visit Israel and the Jordan soon (am saving up for that!). Because I took that class over the summer, I got a very unique experience in that small class and I remember what I learned there fondly.

Many alumni recall the theme of the examined life and/or the study of world cultures from their time in BIC. Do either of these concepts still influence you today in your life or work?

I do find myself talking about Examined life when I recount stories of my freshman year. The concept of a vocation has become much more real to me in the last few months as I am preparing to apply to grad school and consider my future career choices. It has also become relevant as I realize that striking a work-life balance is very intentional and much harder to achieve than a college-life balance.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Transitioning from being a full-time student (I lived in the HRC for my three years at Baylor) to working full time was difficult at first. It was a little weird not having any obligations after work and took me a while to start pushing myself to not waste my free time. Once I had to start studying for the GRE and looking into graduate programs, I had to remind myself that my day doesn’t end when I come home from work and it was good to be busy in a variety of ways.

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Note from the Director — Spring 2018

Hello BIC family,

I hope this end of semester time finds each of you well. I am in the midst of many exciting projects. Some involve my philosophy work on Socrates as a Public Philosopher. I am working on getting a book proposal together before I go to Colorado to visit my father at the end of May. I’m also deeply involved in my ongoing training in Iyengar Yoga. There’s still more excitement circling around our new Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Dante. And some exciting projects involve the BIC itself.

As you may recall, I started teaching in Examined Life I: Introduction to College Life this semester. It was a great experience overall. I really enjoyed working with the students in a more process-oriented class. When we got to the Spiritual Dimension of the course at the end of the semester, my colleague Melanie Nogalski, showed a clip from the movie, Amazing Grace. It is an excellent movie about William Wilberforce. He spent his life fighting against the British involvement in the slave trade.

Early this semester, I went to a talk that my colleague Chuck McDaniel was sponsoring within the context of his philanthropy class. The presentation was about the work of a Christian organization called The Last Well. They have been at work bringing water to everyone in Liberia for the past several years and their goal is nearly accomplished. I was inspired by their passionate work toward this goal, but even more inspired by the passion that the founder and president, Todd Phillips, had for involving young people in an important cause. He even linked his work with the youth to wanting all of them to feel the deep calling of purpose that William Wilberforce felt. And I thought to myself, ‘that’s what’s great about the BIC. It teaches you to see connections everywhere.’ In fact, some of the people who sponsored this talk are David and Amy Hunt, parents of current BIC student, Hannah Hunt.

After the talk, I started thinking about how we might use the BIC in a grander vision about overcoming injustice in the world. For example, in Social World II, the students participate in a philanthropy project with local charitable organizations, and many BIC students are involved in the great work that Better Together is doing. Others participate in various service and mission opportunities that Baylor provides. But something was calling me to think about what the BIC can do for getting BIC students more involved globally with a focused project like The Last Well.

I mentioned the idea to Chuck the next day and then the day after that we had a BIC faculty meeting. I brought it up to the faculty and there was immediate enthusiasm. We started thinking about what causes could be integrated across a variety of BIC classes. Food scarcity came up, as did human trafficking and immigration. Davide Zori suggested that Forced Migration covers most of these topics and we decided to move in that direction. It really felt like we were caught up in some larger purpose and the momentum and desire to get involved was palpably present in the room.

I formed an enthusiastic subcommittee of Mark Long, Jason Whitlark, and Chuck McDaniel and they are hard at work with what we are calling the BIC Grand Challenge- Forced Migrations. Stay tuned for updates. It is really an exciting time to be involved with the BIC.

Have a wonderful summer everyone, and if you have any ideas for our new project, let us know.

Anne-Marie Schultz
Director, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core

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2018 Senior Banquet Speech — Dr. Bill Pitts

REFLECTIONS: COMMENTS TO GRADUATING BIC STUDENTS
Bill Pitts, Department of Religion
Coordinator of World Cultures II, 1995-2018
April 11, 2018

Introduction:

Greetings to the BIC graduating class of 2018 and to BIC faculty and staff. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of having been part of this program since its inception. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening.

I have distributed a list of great books prepared by Baylor faculty. I wonder how many of these you have read. I was appalled when I saw the list. I had read only five or six, but it spurred me on to wider reading. Education is a lifelong process.

This evening I would like to address briefly three topics that have been central to my life and work.
(1) First, the nature of the university
(2) Second, Baylor’s place among Universities
(3)Third, the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core

I. First, the University

A. The impact of a university

You have now completed a degree at Baylor University. Congratulations! Research shows that as a result of this intense preparation in responsibility you will likely:
1. Work and make friends with a comparable class of people
2. Enjoy significantly more financial security than non-graduates of a university
3. Open your life to further opportunities of education and development, promotion, . . . and so on—

Again, congratulations.

B. What is the nature and task of a university?

1. Edwin Gaustad, a leading scholar of American religion and distinguished Baylor graduate, summarized the tasks of the university in two brief statements:
a. To transmit the culture (teaching) and
b. To discover new truth (research)

2. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), eminent British thinker and sometime Harvard professor of a century ago, wrote in the The Aims of Education that the essence of a liberal education comes by knowledge of masterpieces of thought (philosophy, history, science, etc.) as well as by knowledge of imaginative literature, art and religion. The BIC strives to introduce students to many of these masterpieces of the cultural heritage.

3. Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), well known classicist of the generation following Whitehead and author of The Art of Teaching (1950), counselled students to prepare:
a. By learning the language they would work in
b. By reading the primary sources in the original
c. By becoming familiar with relevant secondary literature
d. And then trusting their own capability in presenting their arguments and conclusions

This description of research sounds simple, but it is pretty demanding, as you will discover if your write a thesis, dissertation or book.

4. During our generation, in The Idea of a University Jaroslav Pelikan identifies four critical components essential for a great university; namely, highly developed:
a. Teaching
b. Research
c. Library resources and
d. Academic press

This is quite a list, and it has all been in play for a long time at Yale where he worked.

C. His fourfold criteria is a challenge for other aspiring universities such as Baylor.
1. Before 2000 Baylor qualified on only one of these four points—teaching and preparing people for life and for vocations.
2. Baylor produced some outstanding teachers, including
*Henry Trantham, a Rhodes scholar
*A. J. Armstrong, English professor for whom the Armstrong-Browning building is named
*Ann Miller, inspired by Armstrong
*Historian Jim Vardaman, Ann’s brother
*Bob Reid, the historian who brought the past to life for me

These people all inspired students in extraordinary ways through their lives, their passion and their delivery of ideas. They shared the power of language and story in unique ways to touch imaginations of countless students.

II. Baylor’s Place as a University

A. For the past two decades the dominant academic narrative at Baylor has been to shift to research and publication.

B. The shift may be outlined in three stages during a 25-year period:
1. President Abner McCall (1961-1981) emphasized good teaching, Every year at the fall faculty meeting he emphasized that Baylor did not have a publish or perish policy, but rather a teach or perish policy. A law professor himself, he insisted on excellence in teaching.
2. President Herbert Reynolds (1981-1995) began to emphasize research. He often said, “We do not require research, but we encourage it, and he supported summer sabbaticals to facilitate both teacher development and small-scale research.
3. President Robert Sloan (1995-2005) moved to require research for tenure at Baylor. In order to achieve tenure in my department now, for instance, one must publish a book and three articles in refereed journals (or nine articles) in the first 6 years at the university.

C. And so the university is serious about making contributions to scholarship.

D. Two criteria remained
1. Digitization and the Internet have revolutionized access to library resources. It is no longer as essential that libraries spend fortunes collecting original copies of manuscript, or that scholars travel to distant archives or libraries to access hundreds of thousands of documents. These vast resources are now available in the researcher’s home.
2. Baylor Press has increased its productions enormously, aspiring to join other notable university presses.

E. So by Pelikan’s criteria, for achieving academic excellence we are on the way at Baylor..

III. The Baylor Interdisciplinary Core at Baylor:

I will recount a couple of memories of the early days of the BIC

A. First, the Beginnings
1. A couple of years before BIC was organized, President Reynolds asked me to chair a committee to explore the organization of a creative general education curriculum for all Baylor students. The committee met often during the year.
2. However, there were a couple of problems we did not work through:
a. One was the assumption that we could create a program for the entire undergraduate student body of about 2000 (now about 3000).
b. The second problem was the size and complexity of the committee—25 people from a diverse collection of disciplines.
3. As you can imagine, people resisted for a variety of reasons. In essence, they did not want to lessen current requirements for their majors nor add hours to graduation requirements to achieve an interdisciplinary program.
4. My reluctant report to the President was that there did not seem to be a will to go forward with this innovative project.
5. However, not to be denied, the next year President Reynolds appointed Bob Baird to chair a committee addressing the issue. By reconceivig the BIC as a self-selecting program of 200/2000 (200/3000 now) instead of a requirement for the entire university, it succeeded.

B. Story Two: Bill Cooper’s Commitment to this program
1. Bill Cooper, a philosophy professor who still teaches in the BIC, at that time was serving as Dean of Arts and Sciences. He was supportive of the idea.
2. And so we began to create something new and valuable.
3. Why would I be interested? I had a double major in history and religion. I had taught Western Civilization in history departments for nine years before joining the Baylor Religion Department.
a. I loved my Western Civilization courses. But it was time to look more broadly at World Cultures, not just European cultures.
b. Second, much of our material for general education courses was excerpts pre-digested and delivered in textbooks and lectures. Now we would read excerpts from masterpieces and set aside time for student discussion.
c. Third, we would have mane opportunities for connecting disciplines. We would be interdisciplinary.
4. World Cultures II was charged with teaching four major components, including China.
5. Our faculty did not know the culture at all so we asked Bill Cooper about the possibility of visiting this ancient culture. Frankly we were amazed and profoundly grateful that he said “yes.” He found funds to send us to China which vastly improved our knowledge, and equally important, inspired us to continue learning more. As I recall, Ann Marie Bowery was on that trip and remarked, “I want to see the pyramids.” She planted a seed for future travel in my mind. I’m glad she did.

C. Values of BIC—There are many rewards for being in the BIC. One is learning from Faculty.
I illustrate by paying tribute to the BIC colleagues I have worked with for ten or more years.
1. Eric Rust’s video essays are aesthetic masterpieces, combining art, music and poetic use of language.
2. Ann McGlashan reminded us that it is okay to take some leisure time, where creativity is more likely to flourish. Her presence and lectures made me aware of the roles of women in multiple cultures.
3. Paul Larson’s passion for Spain remains undimmed. He models the love of other cultures and the value of travel and living abroad.
4. Lynn Tatum introduces students to essentials of Islam and Judaism with energy of delivery as explosive as it was 25 years ago.
5. Having Xin Wang join our faculty meant that Chinese culture came alive in students’ imaginations in ways no non-Asian (the rest of the faculty) was capable of achieving.
6. We also have recently added newer colleagues: David Zori, Colleen Zori, Ivo Novakovic, Craig Clarkson, and John Michael Marrs. All of them add to the richness of the course through specialized knowledge and insights we would never acquire individually.

D. Value of the BIC Studies
1. One of the values and great contributions of the BIC is its aspiration to sustain and promote Baylor’s tradition of high quality teaching and learning. Team teaching and student discussion offer a special site for academic growth.
2. I don’t have the time to re-count the many values of the BIC for students, but you have experienced them for yourselves for four years—diversity, tolerance, breadth of knowledge, analysis of issues, critical reasoning and writing . . . The list goes on. You have worked hard at engaging new ideas and expanding your horizons.

In conclusion
1. Value your university degree. You have accomplished something of value which can never be taken away from you.
2. Value Baylor for the treasure of opening intellectual vistas, providing a place for finding significant friends, preparing you for vocations, and for providing models for your life. Also commend Baylor for aspirations to be a better university than she already is.
3. Finally, value the BIC for the way it has informed your mind, but perhaps even more for the way it has formed your life.

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2018 Senior Banquet Speech — Ryan White

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018 we gathered to celebrate the BIC graduating students of 2018. As part of the banquet, Ryan White was voted by his peers as the male BIC student to represent his graduating class and was invited to offer a few words to his fellow graduating seniors. We hope you enjoy reading his remarks from that evening’s festivities.

———————

Hey everybody. It’s really an honor to be on this stage. I don’t really know what qualifies me to be up here, but I’m very grateful.

I think at this time it’s normal to share some memories and classic moments we have had in the BIC. At least, it wouldn’t be a BIC banquet if we didn’t all take a moment to remember Dr. Tatum’s wicked dance moves.

When I was thinking of what to speak about tonight, I did what any good BIC student would do, and I spent some time in self-reflection. When I woke up from my nap I still didn’t know what I was going to talk about.

I remember when I decided to come to Baylor, I was determined to go backpacking up to Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevadas the summer before we started first semester. Because of this I didn’t go to line camp, or orientation. This meant I would do orientation the day prior to move in day, which also happens to be my birthday. On that day I got my ID and all the other freshmen things. I also sat in on an interest meeting for the honors college and filled out an application for the BIC. As I was walking back to my dorm with my parents, a man called me and said his name was Adam Moore and he wanted to offer me a spot in the BIC. I accepted obviously. I like to think that perhaps I was only offered because it was my birthday and Mr. Moore was feeling particularly generous that day. Whether that is true or not, throughout my time here I’ve had moment after moment where I knew the BIC was exactly where I needed to be.

When Dr. Marcus Dracos would bring us coffee to our 8am Rhetoric class freshmen year, only so we would stay awake to talk about Aristotle, I knew this is where I needed to be.

When Mr. Moore continued to let me in his office and talk about my future after I already had my advising appointment, plus a couple more, I knew this was where I needed to be.

When my classmates and I would get lunch after class and actually talk about what Aristotle had to say about a specific virtue, I knew.

When Dr. Zori told me he would be happy to be my thesis director, whether or not either of us knew at the time what we were getting into, I knew.

And when I ran into Dr. Long right outside of Morrison one day and jokingly offered him my skateboard, only to have him, without hesitation, ride away on it… and I mean away, I knew.

When, after 3 &1/2 years of BIC life, I still had questions about Aristotle and Aquinas, Dean Hibbs happily got coffee with me to help me understand, I knew.

When I walked in tonight and recognized the faces of all my friends, I knew this was where I needed to be.

Throughout my time at Baylor I’ve learned so much about family, about community, and about friendship. At the very least BIC has been a conduit and a training ground, if you will, for that experience to take place. A place to learn, to fail, to ask questions, and to grow.

C.S. Lewis says that “we need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”

If my experience has been anything, it is that what I have come to know has been from each and every one of you here. The only appropriate thing for me to do with this opportunity is thank you: my teachers, my colleagues, my rivals (Brad), my family, my friends. Thank you for all you’ve done for me, accidental or not, it’s been the best birthday present I’ve had.

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Alumni Updates–Spring 2018

We hope you enjoy reading all the latest personal and professional updates from our BIC alumni. We post these updates once each year, during the spring semester. We also post various alumni interviews throughout the year. If you would like to contribute an update for a future post, please email us at BIC@baylor.edu. Enjoy!

Jackson Hurst (‘99) After graduating Baylor (BIC: MIS, International Business, Spanish) I worked at Citigroup in IT for several years. I left when booking the film, The Mist, after which time I moved to Austin. I worked on Tree of Life, among others, while in Austin. I also booked Diva from Austin, then moved to LA in October of 2008. I’ve been a professional actor for 9 years, after booking NCIS: Los Angeles, Drop Dead Diva in 2008. My Current projects are HBO’s Sharp Objects coming in June, and currently in negotiations on a Netflix series shooting in June. I also work in real estate investing wherein my wife and I fix and flip homes in Los Angeles. Using that Baylor business degree. Company: Hurst & Home llc.

Andy Box (’01) recently celebrated his 15th anniversary with Jenny, a registered nurse. They have two sons, Brenden (9) and Jonathan (8), and live in Grand Prairie, TX. Andy is a Chief of Dispatch for Southwest Airlines at their Network Operations Center in Dallas. In 2006 he completed an MBA in Aviation through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. When not chasing their sons around, they enjoy traveling, reading, being outdoors, video games, and planning their next house project. Andy also likes to run and bike and is currently training for his second triathlon.

Kristen Williams Cook (’02) Kristen is a 2002 Baylor University and BIC graduate with a double major in Spanish and International Studies and a graduate of Baylor University Law School in 2005. Kristen met her husband, Read Cook, a fellow Baylor Law School grad, while in law school.  Read and Kristen live in Dallas and Kristen is an in-house attorney with 7-Eleven, Inc., primarily working in the areas of real estate, fuel and environmental law. Read and Kristen have two energetic children and are members of Munger Place Church.

Carrie (Jobe) Bowden (‘03) and her husband, Greg, welcomed their third daughter, Emily Mae, in July of 2017. Big sisters Catherine (4) and Samantha (2.5) are in love with their baby sister! Carrie and Greg will celebrate eight years of marriage this summer. Carrie currently teaches at First Baptist Academy of Houston as the Lower School Technology Instruction and Integration Specialist, and looks forward to a new position in the 2018-2019 school year as the Primary and Lower School Assistant Principal

Christine Gentry (’03) After four years running the Urban Teaching Fellowship program in Boston, Massachusetts, will be heading to Corona, California this summer to launch and direct a new teacher residency program for New York University’s Embedded Master of Arts in Teaching program. In her spare time, Christine writes short stories, performs in oral storytelling shows, and produces/hosts shows for The Story Collider. Her writing has been published in Word Riot, The English Record, and Printer’s Devil Review magazines, and her oral stories have been featured on The Moth Radio Hour, PBS’s Stories from the Stage, and NPR’s This American Life. In addition to her Baylor B.A., Christine holds an M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Erin Wheeler (’03) graduated from Baylor with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a Major in Child and Family Studies. She taught at Baylor’s lab school for four years as a Lead Teacher before changing careers in 2007 to work in the field of adoption. Erin is currently the Executive Director and Licensed Child-Placing Agency Administrator of Generations Adoptions, a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions – a non-profit, Christian adoption agency that ministers to women (and men) facing unplanned pregnancies, providing them with hope and life-affirming options. Erin believes that adoption is a beautiful way to build a family, and enjoys watching God knit together the hearts of birth-parents and the adoptive families they choose. She loves living in her college town and attending as many Baylor football and basketball games as possible. Sic ‘em, Bears!

Kenneth Wolfe (‘03) I recently had a book come out on Amazon and it hit best seller status.  The book is about the growing need for passive income in our society. I own Wolfe Investments and we’re a private equity real estate firm that has been involved in $100M worth of real estate transactions across 5 states.  We focus on multifamily, commercial, lending, and development real estate projects.  We bring our investors together to acquire larger properties and create higher cash flow returns then they can get elsewhere.

Chris Josefy (‘04) loves Jesus, his wife of 14 years Amy (‘03), and their two kids Reagan (9) and Elise (5). They live in Cypress, TX and are both passionate about increasing awareness of the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes (which Reagan was diagnosed with at age 5). They encourage you to visit www.jdrf.org or www.beyondtype1.org to learn more.

 

Alexandra Spencer (’05) graduated from Baylor with a B.A. in English and earned a M.S. in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University in 2007. Alex is completing her tenth year at Incarnate Word Academy, an all-girls’ college preparatory school adjacent to Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. She has taught AP English and served as college counselor and academic dean. Alex will be joining the faculty at the Kinkaid School in Houston this fall as the Assistant Head of Upper School.

Mildred F. “Mimi” Wiggins Perreault (’05) was recognized by the Appalachian State University​ Student Government Association as the Outstanding Faculty Member in the College of Fine and Applied Arts at  for 2017-2018. Perreault is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Research Assistant Professor in the Research Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University, Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics (RIEEE), Appalachian Energy Center. Courtesy photo is of myself and junior public relations student Melissa Phipps.

Amanda Martinez Beck (‘06) is an author and editor in Longview, Texas. Her book, Lovely: How I learned to embrace the body God gave me, will be released nationwide by the Catholic publisher Our Sunday Visitor in December 2018. She blogs about size dignity, faith, and fatness at amandamartinezbeck.com and has bylines at Christianity Today Women, Evangelicals for Social Action, Christ and Pop Culture, and The Catholic East Texas Magazine, for which she is the managing editor. Amanda also co-hosts a podcast called Fat & Faithful, a show where she and her co-host talk faith, politics, and culture from a fat perspective. Continue reading

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2018 Senior Banquet Speech — Jessica Schurz

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018 we gathered to celebrate the BIC graduating students of 2018. As part of the banquet, Jessica Schurz was voted by her peers as the female BIC student to represent her graduating class and was invited to offer a few words to her fellow graduating seniors. We hope you enjoy reading her remarks from that evening’s festivities.

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In the spirit of BIC, I want to begin with a story.

It was the first day of my freshman year at Baylor and I was lost.

I had five minutes to get to the second class of the day, World Cultures I. Epic of Gilgamesh in hand, I hurried across Fountain Mall with the scorching August Texas sun blazing above me. Panting, I opened the door and, to my shock, found an empty classroom. It was the first of many times that I went to small group instead of large group.

On that first day of freshman year, I was also lost in another sense. My official major was “undecided” and my parents and home were on the other side of the Atlantic, where I had grown up in Zambia. I had the blind confidence of someone graduating from a small high school and was still not quite sure how I ended up living in Waco. I felt much like Sam Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers when he asks Frodo, “I wonder what sort of story we’ve fallen into?”

When I eventually found the right classroom, I was delighted by what I saw: a Lord of the Rings themed lecture depicting our journeys as BIC students. It was a moment of familiarity and a breath of fresh air in the midst of stifling uncertainty. I left that BIC classroom feeling confident that I had fallen into the right story.

This hermeneutic of story-telling continued to be an essential aspect of my BIC experience.

In World Cultures II, we all read Arabian Nights. As you recall, this beautiful collection of 1001 Middle Eastern folk tales compiles stories from across the Arabic world. It begins when the Persian Sultan Sharayan executes his wife after learning of her infidelity. Following this betrayal, he invites a young virgin into his quarters, only to execute her in the morning. This cycle of tragedy continues for another 1001 nights, until he meets Sharazad. She, accompanied by her sister Dinarzad, tells the Sultan stories filled with laughter, strife, and love. Sharazad’s 1001 stories soften the Sultan’s heart and he asks for her hand in marriage.

Arabian Nights is quintessentially BIC. It teaches us that stories matter, that stories possess a kind of magic, and that stories, when used well, have the power to be transformative. Each of the characters in Arabian Nights has a rich lesson to teach us; I will focus on four in particular.

Sharazad illustrates the art of storytelling. As our time in BIC comes to an end, let us continue to tell stories well. In my current World Cultures V class, we read CS Lewis’ essay Experiment in Criticism, where he argues that stories are essential to human flourishing. He writes, “We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is ‘I have got out’. Or from another point of view, ‘I have got in’; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside.” Sharazad, through the telling of her stories, helped the Sultan to “get out” of his own violence and tragedy. She offered him a window. BIC has prepared us well in this great art of window-making and taught us to be faithful stewards of stories. We saw this exemplified by Dr. Long’s storytelling in large groups moving us to tears. In another sense, stories allow us to leave our caves of flickering shadows and enter into the light.

We must also take with us the spirit of Dinarzad, the supporting sister. Every night for 1001 nights, she sat by her sister’s side. She teaches us the importance of coming alongside others with compassion and patience. There may be a time when we, too, sit by each other for 1001 nights. Dinarzad’s relationship with her sister also reminds us that we cannot accomplish anything alone. We could not have completed our Examined Life reflection journals without gathering together in Moody the night before they were due; we could not have written our New York Times papers without the comfort of solidarity; we could not have reflected on the zen qualities of the Japanese flower garden in Dallas without one another. Let us be like Sam Gamgee, willing to endure the treacherous road to Mordor, all in support of a dear friend. Let us be like Penelope, who, when her husband Odysseus returned to Ithaca from 20 years at sea, welcomes him home. There will be many moments ahead that will require us to extend this patient and persistent love to others.

We must also learn from the characters in Sharazad’s stories. They participated in their work fully and unapologetically. They capture the spirit of Walt Witman’s “I celebrate myself, and sing myself;” a trait we all have certainly seen in the BIC. The image that most comes to mind is during World Cultures II when Mr. Dr. Zori led a lecture on Vikings. One particular slide featured an ancient Viking poem, both in English and in its original old Norse. Dr. Zori read it, of course, in the old Norse. Every day, we are faced with the choice of reading in English and reading in old Norse, and we often choose the former. We constantly choose to reveal less of ourselves to others. As we leave BIC, let us be encouraged to, whenever possible, read the Viking poem in old Norse. To use another example, when we eat at a Mediterranean restaurant and are faced with the choice of belly dancing or not belling dancing, we should all choose to belly dance.

Looking ahead, there will be a time to tell stories like Sharazad, to support like Dinarzad, and to live without reservation like the many characters in their tales. Each of these roles is essential. However, I am convinced that we learn our most important lesson from a surprising source: Sharayar, the tragic Sultan. From Sharayar, we learn the importance of listening to others’ stories. Although this is of the highest importance, it is perhaps the most difficult task we can undertake. It requires us to directly contradict the current meta-narrative of myopia and success. This often keeps us from listening to stories at all. Or when we do we, like Sharayar, listen with a hardened heart.

For these reasons, we must learn to cultivate that habit of listening. Even more challenging, we must listen in order to better understand. Nigerian author Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, whose speech we heard at the beginning of Cultures IV, says that the Igbo word for ‘hello’ loosely translates to ‘I see you.’ Let us listen to our neighbors’ stories with the intention of better seeing one another.

To quote Lewis again, “In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.” Upon leaving our BIC classrooms for the last time, let us listen to 1001 stories, become a thousand men, become a thousand women, and in doing so, carry with us the spirit of BIC.

Thank you.

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Expanding Your Frame — Trevor Cichowski (’04)

This article is part of our series of alumni articles in which we invite BIC alumni to contribute articles connecting their own work, education, experiences, or interests to their BIC education. Today’s contribution is from Trevor Cichowski (’04), an F-16 instructor pilot with the US Air Force. We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in contributing an article, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
― Robert M. Pirsig

I hope I’m not alone when I reminisce about reading Robert Pirsig’s classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe it was the enriching sense of being able to read philosophy and finally, FINALLY being able to comprehend some (but certainly not all!) of the concepts. Or perhaps it was the mere fact that I had time to read for pleasure, something which remains fleetingly elusive these days in “the real world.” Or maybe it was the way Pirsig’s ideas dovetailed right into Dr. David Corey’s political philosophy syllabus, and echoed the concepts first brought into my lexicon during Social World sessions with Professor Henry Wright, and World Cultures lectures with the incomparable Dr. Tom Hanks. Regardless of what memories this passage inevitably invokes, the two key concepts Pirsig is attempting to portray with this metaphor are simple. First, life is full of “frames” through which we view the world, and I hardly think I need to bore a BIC audience with a recitation of the various “frames” which can color our personal world views. The second concept is that passivity can inevitably lead to stagnation, and a solidification of a view which hinders your ability to experience the world to its fullest.

“Of course!” you’re probably saying. “BIC is the motorcycle in this metaphor! I’m being an active participant and stepping outside of my normal ‘frame’!” you’re probably thinking. “I’ve read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Social World!” you’re probably telling yourself. Regrettably, I would temper this enthusiasm with a more realistic assessment – while BIC is an amazing program, and will forever color the way in which I see the world, BIC is NOT the “motorcycle” in this analogy. Instead, BIC is an opportunity to actively increase the “frame” through which you’re seeing the world, because regardless of how many temple visits you take, or how many times you re-read Augustine’s The City of God (lots of times, if you’re like me and didn’t understand it the first time), you will never be without your own personal “frame” through which you view the world. Additionally, as a military officer, I’ve found that beyond your own personal “frame,” you’re often burdened with other “frames” that sometimes overlap into a distorted Venn diagram of sometimes complementing, and sometimes opposing viewpoints. My personal views that I held when I graduated from Baylor were far more idealistic and energetic than the views that I hold now, although my views now are tempered by pragmatism, and the experience of 14 years of military service. Likewise, I must simultaneously view the world through the Department of Defense’s professional lexicon on many issues, regardless of how I may agree or disagree with those views personally. This disconnect between my professional views and personal views has been an interesting conundrum to say the least.

For example – the first time I looked down on the Iraqi countryside, and watched the devout going to pray at the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad, I was filled with competing emotions. From a personal perspective, I was awed by both the sheer numbers of believers flowing into the mosque, and also by the devotion that these Sunni Muslims had in their faith, despite living in – what we might consider- fairly dire straits following the coalition military campaign 2007-2009. Professionally, I was filled with a mixture of both anxiety and boredom. Anxiety because a large gathering of civilians is a perfect target for potential counter-insurgent attacks, but boredom because repetitively performing armed over-watch of Iraqi civilians from a height of 18,000 feet, day after day, quickly becomes tedious. In fact, a large portion of my career can be summed up by the old military adage “hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” These same competing views have held steadfastly regardless of where my military service has taken me – over the DMZ in South Korea, over the deserts of Iraq, even over the training airspace in the Sea of Japan. I am constantly reconciling my personal sense of amazement with my more temperate professional “frame” of reference.

So why do I still reflect on my BIC education then, even after 14 years of leaving Waco and the “bubble” behind? Simply put, BIC enabled me to recognize that I had a very narrow “frame” through which I viewed the world. And while BIC certainly helped me expand my “frame” of reference, the more important lesson I’ve carried with me is the recognition that I will always have a “frame” which shapes how I view the world. It would be naïve to think that I can view the world from a “frameless” perspective like Pirsig’s motorcycle rider. However, I don’t believe that it’s naïve to hope that future BIC graduates use their unique educational experience to recognize the makeup of their own “frame” and continually seek to expand its boundaries. Don’t allow yourself to remain a “passive observer” of the world!

Trevor Cichowski (’04) hails from Wichita Falls, and is an F-16 instructor pilot with the US Air Force.

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Alumni Interviews — Meaghan Bond (’10)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Meaghan Bond (’10). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Mathematics and Biology. I was in the BIC and Honors programs.

What has been your journey since graduating from Baylor? What are you doing currently for work/career?

I started a PhD in Bioengineering at Rice University directly after graduating from Baylor. It was a tough transition since I hadn’t done much bench research or engineering at Baylor and left a lot of friends behind in Waco, but I hit my stride about a year into graduate school.

My advisor is Rebecca Richards-Kortum, and our lab focuses on low-cost medical diagnostics for the developing world. For my PhD, I developed a lower cost way to measure hemoglobin to diagnose anemia, acquiring skills such as phlebotomy, spectroscopy, mechanical, optical, and electrical design, microcontroller programming, data analysis, and more. I also developed a lateral flow strip to diagnose sickle cell anemia. During the course of this research, I discovered that successive drops of blood coming from a fingerprick can have dramatically different hematological parameters. This simple study got a lot of attention!

I finished my PhD in 2016. My husband and I decided to stay in Houston, and I’ve gotten to stay on in my lab as a post-doc. I am completing research on the hemoglobin project, teaching several classes, mentoring younger students and keeping lab equipment running, and working on various projects for the Rice 360 Institute for Global Health.

What do you enjoy most about your work–or what is something you are currently excited about in your work?

It’s been an exciting couple of years in the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health! We recently competed as NEST 360° in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100andChange program, which offered $100 million to one organization to solve a global problem.

NEST 360° is an international group of researchers, engineers, doctors, and business leaders, led by Rice, seeking to solve the problem of newborn death in Africa, where 1 million babies die each year. Almost all of these deaths could be prevented with simple technology that has been available in the US for 50 years: tech that keeps babies warm, shines blue light to treat jaundice, or helps them breathe.

Rice 360° and other organizations have been building a suite of technologies needed in nurseries that can also withstand the difficulties of the African environment: dust, heat, humidity, and power outages.

NEST 360° will optimize and scale a package of these “newborn essential solutions and technologies” (NEST), train health care workers to use NEST, and create a distribution network to provide NEST continent-wide. We’ll also work with African technicians and engineers to ensure that the technology is maintained and that new technology is being invented by the people who understand the need the best. Within 10 years, we could reduce newborn death rates by 50% at a cost of only $1.48 per birth!

While we were among the four finalists for the 100andChange award, we were not selected to win the $100 million. We’re thankful to have received a $15 million prize from MacArthur, and we’re currently working on the best way to fund and implement our ambitious and much-needed plan.

I have enjoyed working on a few of the technologies in the NEST package, and in helping write the grant I got to work with people who are literally the best in their fields from all over the world. It was especially poignant for me to work on the final stage of the competition during Advent: working to save newborn lives while we awaited the coming of God as a newborn.

What are your goals for the future?

Like many on the NEST team, I plan to dedicate my career to making this needed change happen. I hope to do that by continuing to teach and research at Rice in a non-tenure track position.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

Well, BIC and Ancient Greek gave me the skills to justify to my husband keeping 4 different copies of Homer’s Odyssey!

But seriously, I’ve loved the broad background BIC gave me – history, philosophy, religions, art, architecture, literature – and of course the skills of deep thinking and clear writing. Reading the Epic of Gilgamesh has not helped me repair the hematology analyzer in lab, but I know BIC has enriched my life.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

One of my funniest memories came from serving as a PI for World Cultures I. Many of us remember how Dr. Hanks would single you out in large group to answer a question, often by the color of your shirt if he didn’t know your name. On the last large group of the semester, the entire BIC class wore their yellow BIC T-shirts, and we all laughed as Dr. Hanks struggled to single anyone out. One of my students arrived late, without his T-shirt, and hid behind the back row of seats so as not to be seen.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

I may be mixing a couple of stories, but the point still stands. There was one paper in World of Rhetoric for which Dr. Corey kept extending the deadline. It seemed like every time the paper was due, he would change it to a rough draft and push the “real” due date back a week. I think I re-wrote that paper 5 times! It reinforced the value of working and re-working and re-working a project until it was perfect, which was good preparation for the 6-year-long project of graduate school. I was so proud of the grade at the end!

The other strong memory is a day in Dr. Whitlark’s religion class. We talked about types of covenants in the ancient near east – those that required something from both parties, and those where one party promised something to another. Dr. Whitlark took us through the different covenants God made in the Old Testament – with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. The Mosaic covenant was the only one that required something of the people, and it was the only one that was broken.

Jesus came to fulfill the old covenants and give us a new one. And, as Ezekiel previews, this time God will make us able to uphold the covenant: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

This lecture came at an important moment in my spiritual life and has stayed with me ever since.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

You don’t have to have it all figured out. The major you pick your freshman year doesn’t have to be your major forever (I thought I was going to be a veterinarian). The major you graduate with doesn’t have to determine your career or the field of your graduate school.

Baylor, and especially the BIC program, is a wonderful place to study deeply in many different fields. Drink deep and grow in your faith. Learn some philosophy, some history, some math, some coding. Learn to think, to write, and to speak. No matter what your eventual career is, your life will be enriched by what you have chosen to study here.

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Make Connections, Not Compartments — Julie Bennett (’03)

This article is part of our series of alumni articles in which we invite BIC alumni to contribute articles connecting their own work, education, experiences, or interests to their BIC education. Today’s contribution is from Julie Bennett (’03), a high school social studies teacher in Humble, Texas. We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in contributing an article, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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Beginning in kindergarten we are taught history, science, math, reading, music, art, etc… in separate classes. The day is broken into units of time and each unit is filled with one subject. Compartmentalization is stressed as a manner of organization, time management, and as a study strategy. The Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, breaks that mold. As an undergraduate, I, for the first time was taught about the world in the manner that the world actually works: through connections.

All I was told at summer orientation was that BIC “is great for people who love history” and was sold. I am a history buff who wanted to become a Social Studies teacher. So, it sounded perfect. It didn’t occur to me until halfway through my first semester that this massive shift in approach made so much more sense to me than all of my previous twelve years of schooling. My notes looked like spider webs tracking the connections across my pages. To others they looked messy and illegible, but to me it was like opening my eyes for the first time. This approach changed the way I learn. It also changed the way I view the education system in our country.

It has been fifteen years since I graduated from BIC. Of those, ten have been spent as a high school Social Studies teacher. The other five were spent getting my Master’s degree and working at the college level. Through all of them I have been frustrated. High school freshmen are lovable, but challenging. Parents, coworkers, malfunctioning copy machines, and of course administrators are also guilty of causing clenched fists and gnashed teeth. However, the true root of my frustration has always been the archaic clinging of our nation’s education system to the neat, little boxes.

My students have been trained since they were six to think about math as totally separate from English which is separate from physical education. Their brains have literally been wired to compartmentalize information. I teach World Geography. At least three times a day, I hear, “Why do we have to learn about (insert place name)? They have nothing to do with us!” when introducing a new regional unit. I also teach U.S. Government and regularly hear similar questions from my seniors. They do not understand that they need to know math in order to calculate their taxes which are levied by our Congress which is elected by us. They do not understand how studying astronomy helped explorers cross the oceans spreading disease (biology), religion (social studies), and plants such as tomatoes (agriculture and culinary arts). Nor do they understand the impact of those exchanges. They genuinely do not understand the connections between the world around them and themselves.

As Disney so eloquently put it, “it is a small world after all.” Globalization and cultural diffusion have made us more connected to and dependent on the world around us than ever before. This can be daunting for a young person searching for his or her place in it. Admittedly, it is difficult to simultaneously contemplate how “small” each of us is and how dramatic our impact can be. I strive to help my students do just that. I want them to know that the world does not revolve around them, which most teenagers believe, and that each one of them has the power to make significant positive changes. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to reprogram 8-11 years of education in the time I have with them. How, are they going to change the world if they don’t fully understand it? How are they going to fully understand it, if they are only able to think in screen shots rather than in panorama?

I was lucky enough to experience an education that broke through the boxes and encouraged me to see the big picture. It is my prayer that someday our K-12 system will do the same for my daughter and students. Fellow BICers, as parents, educators, and up-in-coming movers and shakers, I ask that you use your influence to advocate for this cause. Just imagine how powerful the next generation could be if they were taught to make connections instead of categories.

Julie Bennett (’03) is a high school social studies teacher in Humble, Texas.

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