Sustainability Education University of Minnesota Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:06:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Day at the Museum: Undergraduate Leaders’ Kickoff Inspires and Connects Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:45:58 +0000 IMG_4400

Why was this thing being held in an art gallery?  Why did I say I’d do this anyway?  Now I’m stuck here for my whole Saturday.  Will I like the other people?  The whispers of doubt floated through a head or two, or fifteen, as a group of UMN undergraduate students representing five different colleges made their way up the stairs to the NASH Gallery at the Regis Center for Art.  They represented the students selected for the Institute on the Environment’s Undergraduate Leaders Program and it was the Kick Off on November 8th, 2014.  They shared in common an interest in sustainability, making a difference, and leadership.


In their hands, they brought a representation of sustainability and unsustainability to put on a timeline. (Well….and a few people had some cakes and cookies too).

Here’s what they said afterwards.

The Undergraduate Leaders’ Kick Off was….

“A new perspective on an old passion.”

“An incredible opportunity to meet fellow undergrads who are passionate about sustainability and social change.  We had the opportunity to collaborate on our ideas for what the next AASHE Conference in 2015 can look like, and, for me, it was valuable to continue the discussion of bringing a social justice lens into sustainability.  Best of all…we all like each other a lot!  I can’t wait for the next one. :)”

 “A breath of fresh air for my soul.”

“My first introduction to on-campus peers who are also passionate about sustainability and activism. I loved it!”

 “Inspiring. The connections and experiences at the Kick Off empowered me to take these messages out into the world and not be afraid to shake up Business as Usual”!


 “Inspiring! It was so cool to learn about other people’s views on sustainability. I’m super excited to grow with this team and learn about how we can make a difference!”

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 “Engaging and built social capital.”

 “A unique way of bringing multiple disciplines together to discuss sustainability issues.”


What happened in between?  A lot of team bonding and thought and practice about creative means of communication.  Centering around sustainability as equity and reciprocity, one of the major tools this year is to think about how to effectively communicate and represent sustainability in a way that facilitate it to be more inclusive and interdisciplinary.

Leaders were greeted by the thinking making living exhibit at the NASH.  The exhibit drew on a range of artists and mediums to create a public art platform that required participation and confronted us to “think making and make living.” Through art, it questioned how we are in the world today, how we relate to each other and interact with the ecological, political, and cultural issues that shape our lives.  It immersed the group within creative forms of expression on sustainability, equity, diversity.


They made their way to a project space located within the exhibit itself. It was not a museum that shushed people into a quiet observance, but one which encouraged engagement. That was good since a gurgle of talking and laughter starting flowing from the group almost immediately as they shared out on who they were, made goofy grunting noises while throwing around an imaginary ball, and did some team building.

“I appreciated having the time to get know each other,” Miah Ulysse, a student in Food Systems and Leadership.

Flash forward to Representation.  Question: How can we be creative communicators and represent a vision of sustainability that is inclusive and diverse?  Methodology: As one of our activities at Kick-Off, we will be creating a History of Unsustainability/Sustainability Timeline to help us contextualize sustainability as well as introduce each of us to each others’ views on sustainability.  Come with a “representation” of an event, invention, social change, person, power shift, etc. that you feel is important to both the history of unsustainability/sustainability and your vision of sustainability.

As each of the students explained their representations, everyone brought something a little different to the table.

“Is it good?  Or is it bad?  Sustainability is often not black and white.” John Thompson of HECUA said as he thought through his presentation on several inventions that have impacted our past, present, and future.

Exploration.  Take time explore the gallery to see how public artists are engaging sustainability.  Then translate that to your own art project and work.


“I was looking at Seitu Jones’s Self Portrait and Seed on Drawing and saw they were connected.  He was the seed and the seed was him.  It was like an ah ha. We are the seeds and they are us.  We’re connected.  Sustainability, I am in you.  Sustainability is us,” said Kyle Samejima, a student in environmental communication, as she thought about how to integrate some of the ideas on thinking making living into her own work.

Application.  Apply these creative thoughts to reality.  What do you think should be in the call for proposals for the 2015 AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference that will be hosted in Minneapolis should include.  Students thought outside the box to come with a wide range of ideas that will go to the conference planners.

 “Being surrounded by art and positive energy today was really refreshing,” commented Beth Mercer-Taylor, UMN Sustainability Studies Minor Advisor to sum things up.

Thanks for the great time.

If you have questions about the Undergraduate Leaders Program, contact Kate Flick at

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ACARA Spring 2015 Courses Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:30:23 +0000 Acara guys

Do you care about a problem in the world? Do you want to travel? Do you want to make a positive impact in 2015?Getting started means joining an Acara course. Acara is the University of Minnesota’s impact entrepreneurship program, shaping leaders and ventures for global impact. Whether you are a grad student or an undergrad interested in solving problems related to environment, health, economy, infrastructure, or inequality, these classes are for you. Apply now for our Spring 2015 courses here.

Acara Spring 2015 Opportunities:CE 5570 – May-term India Discovery Course – May 2015
What: In this 3-week, 3-credit May-term study abroad course to Bangalore, India, we’ll explore solutions to societal and environmental challenges (e.g. waste, water, energy, agriculture, health and livelihoods) through entrepreneurs, local leaders, and communities.When: May 18-June 8, 2015

In the course you will:

  • Discover Bangalore
  • Interact with entrepreneurs
  • Enjoy India’s cuisine and diverse culture
  • Explore approaches to development challenges
  • Design your own venture solution

CE 5571 – Acara Global Venture Design: Grand Challenges – Spring 2015
What: The Acara Challenge course is an interdisciplinary, global, entrepreneurial, experiential, project-based 4-credit impact venture design course in which students create solutions to grand challenges in MN (e.g. water, energy, agriculture, health).

When: Spring 2015, Fridays 9am–noon

In the course you will:

  • Identify a grand challenge locally
  • Design an impact venture solution
  • Collaborate on an interdisciplinary project team
  • Be mentored by business professionals
  • Pitch your venture for funding

CE 5572 – Apply for Acara Social Venture Launchpad course in J-Term
What: The Acara Launchpad course is a 2-credit impact venture design course in which UMN students develop their existing ideas for venture solutions to social and environmental challenges.

When: January-Term 2015 (Jan 12-16).

In the course you will:

  • Refine your idea for an impact venture solution
  • Work with business professionals
  • Meet impact entrepreneurs and investors in MN
  • Pitch your venture for funding

NURS 5800: Sustainable Development in Africa: Entrepreneurial Solutions with Ugandan Communities 

What: This 3-credit course is an interdisciplinary, global, entrepreneurial, experiential, project-based course in which students create venture solutions to One Health challenges in Uganda with Ugandan students.

When: Spring 2015, day/time TBD

See or contact Brian Bell at for details.

Note: All courses are open to upper level undergrads and grad students from all majors. No prerequisites are required. See to apply. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are due by December 21, 2014. Acara is a series of courses and incubation actions to educate future leaders and develop impactful venture solutions focused on societal and environmental change in the U.S. and abroad.

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U of M Students Storm AASHE Conference in Portland Mon, 10 Nov 2014 21:42:09 +0000 IMG_1207

Madeline Giefer

Last week five students from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities jetted off to Portland to exchange ideas for campus sustainability with students, staff, and faculty at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) annual conference. AASHE holds the largest conference of its kind in the world, and this year it drew members from every state and twelve countries on six continents. Simone Childs-Walker, Tyler Redden, Bailey Rockwell, Jeff Tierney, and Madeline Giefer represented Sustainability Education during many workshops, roundtable discussions, and networking sessions. Out of the experience they brought back plenty of new ideas from these sessions as well as presentations by high-profile sustainability advocates.

Anna Lappé

Anna Lappé closes out the Student Summit with an address on food systems

Sunday was dedicated to student action with the AASHE Student Summit, where students participated in workshops on student engagement. From leadership theory to strategizing specific campus initiatives, there was something to support the work of any student activist. The Student Summit closed with a keynote address by Anna Lappé, world-renowned author and educator on sustainable food systems. She raised questions of health inequities, environmental risk, the implications of advertising to children, and corporate power in the American democratic system.

The full conference officially kicked off with another keynote presentation by Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff campaign. She argued for “busting out of the environmental silo” to bring more disciplines into the sustainability movement. She also mapped out human behavior in terms of our “consumer muscle,” which is continuously rewarded, and our “citizen muscle,” which has atrophied. Leonard believes a collective decision to “flex” our citizen muscles is necessary to “get corporations out of our democracy and the citizens back in” and ultimately achieve a sustainable economy and society. Though Leonard is more optimistic than many about our ability to change for the better, she nonetheless delivered a stern ultimatum: “Are we going to change by design? Or are we going to change by disaster?”

Tyler finds a friend outside. Portland's animals may be as friendly as its people.

Tyler finds a friend outside. Portland’s animals may be as friendly as its people.

On Monday the conference continued with more sessions on curriculum design, student leadership, and enhancing a university’s role as a sustainability leader and exemplar. There was also a poster session with more than one hundred presenters, which drew so much engagement the session was running strong well past its one-hour time slot.

Monday closed with an address by sustainability and diversity advocate Marcelo Bonta. Sporting bright orange pants, Bonta explained the value of “color” in his life as a metaphor for cultural diversity. Bonta grew up in a multi-racial family and now has one of his own. Early in his environmental career, he had encountered blatantly racist remarks from coworkers and felt a constant sense of exclusion in the field, which later inspired him to found the Center for Diversity and the Environment and Young Environmental Professionals of Color. While he now has a much more positive outlook on this issue, he worries the environmental movement may not be able to incorporate the rising percentage of minorities in the United States, especially children of color who are expected to make up half the U.S. child population by 2019. “In order to be for all, we have to be with all,” he said in his appeal for more active incorporation of people of color into environmental organizations.

The conference closed on Tuesday with a closing presentation by EcoDistricts founder Rob Bennett. EcoDistricts works to heal communities and neighborhoods that are victims of environmental injustice. The organization focuses on “urban renewal,” or working sustainability and community building into urban planning. Bennett believes strongly in the potential of community and campus organizers. “We are the disruptors!” he told the crowd. Bennett’s speech nicely tied together the conference’s themes of university responsibility, community and student action, and diversity and justice within the environmental movement.

The Oregon Convention Center was full of info on proper waste sorting.

The Oregon Convention Center was full of info on proper waste sorting.

Medical student Simone Childs-Walker had great success connecting with other sustainability enthusiasts at the conference, which she believes is critical in her sustainability work. “Place matters. Stories matter. Relationships matter. It is our work to meet people where they are and to be present, humble, and grateful.”

Next year we are fortunate enough to have the AASHE conference in Minneapolis. Organizing such a large international event is a monumental task, so if you are interested in getting involved, contact Madeline Giefer at

Sustainability Education was able to send so many students thanks to a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation through Student Unions and Activities.   

Jeff takes some time to enjoy the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Jeff takes some time to enjoy the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.coca-cola-foundation-logo-604



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Resources for Voters: Making Voting Easier Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:07:12 +0000 4446461866_2a2822cd2d_b (1)

Tomorrow is election day, when we’ll be choosing the Minnesota Governor, federal Senators and Congresspeople, and our state legislature. So whichever candidates you believe have our best interests in mind, be sure to cast your vote.

And remember, even if you haven’t registered yet, you can register at the polls tomorrow.

To find your polling place and answer other logistical questions, visit this webpage provided by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. Public transit is free all day, and you may be able to secure a sponsored free ride to the polls.

Information for voters without a Minnesota driver’s license is available here. Just bring another photo ID plus plus a bill (utility, cable, etc.) with your name and address on it, or another registered voter who can vouch for you.

If you live in Minneapolis but aren’t sure who you’ll vote for, check out this voter information packet provided by the League of Women Voters.

Voting is both a right and a civic obligation, so please help ensure the best government possible for Minnesota and the nation.



Image credit: Alan Cleaver

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Apply now for paid National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Internships Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:49:43 +0000 Three times a year, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition offers paid, full-time internships in its Policy and Grassroots departments.

NSAC is currently seeking a Policy Intern for the winter and spring, beginning in mid-January 2015 and ending in May 2015.  This position is full time and is located at NSAC’s DC office on Capitol Hill. Find the full description here: NSAC Policy Internship

NSAC is currently seeking a Grassroots Intern for the winter and spring, beginning in mid-January 2015 and ending in May 2015. This position is paid, full time, and is located at NSAC’s DC office on Capitol Hill. Find the full description here: NSAC Grassroots Internship

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Monday, November 3, 2014.

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Student Unions Coca-Cola Grant Helps Send Six Students to AASHE Sun, 26 Oct 2014 04:17:32 +0000 Six UMTC students will be attending the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Portland, the largest conference of its kind in the world. The conference will run this Sunday through Tuesday and allow students, faculty, and other university staff from around the United States and beyond to exchange ideas and experiences on bringing sustainability to campuses, communities, and the world.

Our campus could not have been this well-represented without the help of a grant from the Coca-Cola Company through Student Unions and Activities.

Stay tuned for more stories, and keep up on Twitter for photos and updates on this enormous, diverse conference!

    Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education - Conversations on Campus Sustainability

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Minnesotans: Record Breakers, Movers, and Shakers Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:00:30 +0000 Author (6 people from the left, back row), and friends at the People's Climate March in NYC

Author (6 people from the left, back row), and friends at the People’s Climate March in NYC

It has been a busy month for activists here at the University of Minnesota. From New York to the Bell Museum, they have been working hard to strengthen community between issues, identities, and groups.

On September 21st, six busses brimming with Minnesotans travelled to New York City to partake in the People’s Climate March, the largest climate-related march in all of history. They, and 400,000 others concerned for our planet’s future, marched in the record-breaking event.

As the author of this blog, as well as one of the Minnesotans who attended People’s Climate March, the biggest takeaway of the march for me, Nathan Michelson, was the immense solidarity between peoples and issues. The way the march was organized was that groups with similar goals and identities were purposefully placed near each other to provide a greater sense of community within the larger environmental justice movement.

Fathi Mahad, a junior in the Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management major at the University of Minnesota reflects, “I thought PCM was very inclusive. I marched with the frontline communities and there were many people from all walks of life who happened to be there because they wanted climate justice. [I felt like] my identity as a Muslim African American women was validated and appreciated. I felt a sense of belonging that I still do not get in MN.”

Tyler Redden, a Biology, Society, and Environment major in his junior year at UMN stated “As a midwesterner, I was enthralled to see activists from all around the world attending. It proved that this is an international problem in need of international attention. I was glad to have MN350, the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs, and other University of Minnesota students and staff there to represent Minnesota.”

The energy in New York came home with these motivated individuals, and our University of Minnesota students saw a need to create solidarity and closer connections between social-change oriented student groups. This drive was manifested on October 10th at the Bell Museum. Hosted by Fossil Free Minnesota and Open Stage and sponsored by The Institute on the Environment, SUA, the Coca-Cola Sustainability Initiative, the CFANS office for Diversity and Inclusion, and Radio K, ‘Family Frenzy’ was a fun event created with the mission of “setting the stage for a student group movement at the U that works together to accomplish more than is possible as individuals. This event will not be a time for planning actions, but rather to hear where we are all coming from, entertain one another, and most importantly, dance together.” As you can tell by the long list of collaborators for this event, they really put their money where their mouth is as far as “coming together” goes.

We’d tell you more about the event ourselves, but Beth Mercer-Taylor, University of Minnesota Sustainability Education Coordinator, put it too well to be topped:

Sustainability projects can feel a lot like pulling weeds in the hot sun.  You put hours of effort into the work, but not many will even notice what you’ve done.  Coming back to the yard next week, all you see is even more weeds. [For example,] You can cut energy use on campus by getting office staff to turn off all those lights and appliances, but at the same time, a new campus building goes up, further expanding energy use and the campus carbon footprint.  College lectures teach you that the earth is beyond its carrying capacity and that our politics hold no way to stop our collective overuse of resources.   Why would anyone want to hang out with a crowd giving off such a negative vibe?

Cue the music.  Turn down the lights. Maybe the agony of a hopeless situation can be a cause for creativity, a chance to hold hands, dance, sing, tell stories and celebrate the possibility of another way of being in this world.  The young women in hijab move with a queer couple in short-hair.  Skirts and high heels mix with bare feet, flannel and flowing scarves.

Amidst creatures frozen in time in glass cases, the Bell Museum of Natural History (on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus) played host to the Family Frenzy Art & Music Festival last Friday.  You would never even know the environmentalists planned it, with the Capoera, the painters, the rappers, the poets, the a Capella singers (Enchantment, you had me) and a certain spoken word artist called Guante, telling us:

Everything is for sale and everything will kill you.  So don’t buy it.  Remember who supplies it…

Remember, a poem is worth more than a prayer…. Every mic is a magic wand.

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You’re Invited! 2nd Annual Sustainability Fair Celebrating Sustainable and Vibrant Communities Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:35:43 +0000 Picture1

For residents, business leaders, community groups, and anyone interested in learning more about living a sustainable lifestyle. Presented by the Three Rivers Park District and the cities of Lauderdale, St. Anthony Village, and Falcon Heights.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

5:30-8:30 pm

Silverwood Park

2500 County Road E W

St. Anthony, MN 55421

FREE and open to the public

Family friendly! Activities for all ages will be provided

Riding public transportation, biking, or carpooling to the event is encouraged.

This event is also co-hosted by St. Anthony Village Citizens for Sustainability and by UMN Sustainability Education through the UMN Institute on the Environment.



This is a great event for vendors because it provides the opportunity to engage residents who share a common vision of trying to become more sustainable. It’s also a great event for community leaders and local residents because it gives the opportunity to learn, network and gain resources to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

                                    -Mark Casey, St. Anthony Village City Administrator

History of the event

Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and St. Anthony Village have over twenty years of history collaborating through shared resources and ideas. In the winter of 2012, the three cities came together to build on their synergies and work toward the common goal of creating a more sustainable and vibrant community.

In fall of 2012, a sustainability plan was created for each city in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Sustainable Communities class. Students helped to collect data, determine city goals, and establish a starting point for a city sustainability vision and work plan.

Read the sustainability plan for Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and St. Anthony Village as well as Three Rivers Park District

In fall of 2013, the cities’ visions moved from policy to practical. The first annual sustainability fair was hosted at Silverwood Park, a logical partner because of the park’s leadership in energy efficiency, water management, community engagement, and land stewardship. The fair provided resources on how the residents of three communities can be more sustainable and access the resources they need.”

In its second year, the event promises to be widely attended and more impactful. Resources providers will discuss and share information with residents and local leaders to build a community-wide call for action to make progress toward sustainability goals. Together, we can build a more sustainable community.

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Growing Cities Film Screening Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:39:08 +0000 growing cities

It’s a crisp October afternoon on campus, where fall semester is in full swing. Amidst the bustle of students walking to class, you sit at a table on Northrop mall, downtrodden. You’re thinking back to spring semester 2013, when you attended an installment of the Sustainability Education department’s annual film series. Those times were so good, learning about sustainable living and development with like-minded peers, eating popcorn donated by Wise Acre Eatery. But spring 2014 is so far away and you don’t know how you’re going to make it until then. You go in for full nostalgia and start perusing the posts on “What’s this?” you think, as you see a post titled “Growing Cities Film Screening.” Your eyes light up and you skip to class, giddy for October 24th.

That’s right, folks! The Sustainability Education department here at the University of Minnesota is proud to announce a film screening of Growing Cities, a film about urban farming in America. Preceding the film, there will be a panel discussion with representatives from Urban Ventures and Gardening Matters. These Minneapolis organizations focus on combating urban poverty and supporting urban community gardens, respectively. This topical panel discussion will take place at 7:00pm on National Food Day (Friday, October 24th) nestled in the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus at the Bell Museum, with the film screening following at 7:45.

This event is sponsored by the Sustainability Education department in partnership with the following UMN student groups: Students for Sustainability, U Students Like Good Food, and the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (CFANs) Ambassadors. These students groups work year-round to promote an informed and active student body, and we’re excited to bring this event to fruition with them!

Tell your friends, tell your professors, tell the person sitting next to you on the campus connector all about it because this event is free and open to the public! The free Wise Acre Eatery popcorn will also make a return appearance while supplies last. Now stop pouting about our annual film series being so far away and get excited for Food Day 2014!

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IonE Undergrad Sustainability Leaders Program Wed, 24 Sep 2014 18:10:17 +0000 COLLAGE

What’s your passion?  What’s your sustainability vision?  How can your vision be fused with others to help create a more sustainable future?

The Undergraduate Sustainability Leaders’ Program is a leadership accelerator within the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. The Leaders Program develops emerging undergraduate leaders into real world change makers committed to solutions-focused leadership.  Our goal is to grow a cohort of students who are committed to becoming the next generation of community, regional, and world leaders.  We encourage holistic thinking and respect the diverse skills and perspectives each leader brings to the table.

The ideal Institute on the Environment Leader candidate has impactful environmental and/or social leadership experience, shows a passion for environmental and social change, and has a strong academic track record.  All undergraduate majors are open to apply.

2014-2015 Focus themes: equity and reciprocity

  • How can we use lenses of equity, reciprocity, justice, and diversity to define and think about sustainability?
  • How can we bring together science, creativity, art, healing practices, and diverse ways of knowing in communication to make sustainability more interdisciplinary and inclusive?
  • How do these versions of sustainability fit into the big picture governance and policy frameworks?

 Timeline and Flow:

Starting in November, 2014, the Leaders Program will open with a day-long introduction and workshop, and continue with experiential learning through the academic year.  As a final action project this year, we will have an opportunity to shape a student component of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) National Conference 2015 that will be hosted in Minneapolis, MN.  Let your voice be heard in this planning and sustainability’s future at one of the largest sustainability conferences in the nation.

 Cohort Learning and Action

  • Kick Off Workshop (ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED): November 8, 2014
  • Create change agent alumni piece for Sustainability Education website
  • Sustainability Symposium (Leaders present creative work): Spring 2014
  • Participate in Earth Day (April 22)
  • Present 1 of 4 Sustainability Film Series Films
  • Work towards AASHE Minneapolis 2015 Student Action Plan

Amp up your sustainability know-how by participating in

  • Once-a-month Leaders meeting/field trip (First Thursday of every month)
  • Food Day (October 24th, 2014)
  • At least 1 Frontier in the Environment Lecture Series (Wednesday @ 12)
  • Sustainability Film Series Events
  • Student Engagement Leadership Forum (SELF) Sustain (Spring 2015)
  • May Celebration at Eric Sannerud Family Farm, Sandbox (Ham Lake)


The application period for the 2014-2015 Leaders Program is now closed.  Check back early next fall if you are interesting in applying next year!

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