Behrend student wins essay contest; participates in Jewish history panel discussion


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Danielle Ropp sat quietly toward the center of the table as her legs shook under the tablecloth, hidden from the audience seated in front. Her quiet demeanor, indicative of her anxiousness, would soon subside.

After all, every living thing thrives in its natural habitat, and that’s exactly where Ropp was once the panel discussion got underway.

“I’ve just always loved history. Whenever I hear an interesting fact, I commit it to memory,” said Ropp, a junior History major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

Ropp displayed the depth of her historical knowledge by participating in a panel discussion of the WQLN documentary Perspective: Jewish History, Parts I and II at Mercyhurst University in Erie on April 22.

The Folsom, California, native earned a spot on the panel as well as $500 after winning first place in WQLN and Mercyhurst University’s “Story of the Jews” college essay contest. The prompt for the contest was: “How has history shaped the modern perception of Jews?”

Other panel participants included: Dr. Joshua Ezra Burns, assistant professor of theology at Marquette University; Rabbi John Bush, Temple Anshe Hesed; Dr. Randall Howarth, professor of ancient history at Mercyhurst University; Dr. Olena Surzhko-Harned, assistant professor of political science at Mercyhurst University; and Dr. Robert von Thaden, Jr., associate professor of religious studies at Mercyhurst University. The panel was moderated by Kim Young, instructor in journalism at Penn State Behrend.

Ropp’s essay was titled “The Crucifixion Shaping Modern Jewish Perceptions,” and it discussed how Jewish individuals are still viewed negatively because of their perceived participation in the crucifixion. Ropp said her own perception was vividly changed through her research.

Ropp found edicts from past Popes that absolve blame for the crucifixion away from Jewish people, but she said that message has not permeated within the general public.

“The fundamental core of Christianity is that Jesus had to die. These people were blamed for this, but it wasn’t their fault,” Ropp said. “Today’s Jews are also different from the Jews back then. You cannot blame people for actions that happened 2,000 years ago.”

While Ropp thoroughly enjoyed writing the essay, she said she was surprised she won.

“This is definitely one of the biggest things I’ve ever accomplished,” Ropp said. “The fact that I won just makes me want to do it again.”

Given Ropp’s career aspirations, it’s likely the essay was just the beginning. Ropp plans to pursue a master’s degree in secondary education upon graduation in 2015 and then plans to attain a doctorate in history. Her ultimate goal is to spread her knowledge as a college professor.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything but history,” Ropp said.


Training + concentration = Impressive Boston Time for Math Prof


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Divide three hours, four minutes and thirty seconds by 26.2 and you’ll get the pace of the fastest mathematics professor at Penn State Behrend.

Dr. Antonio Mastroberardino, assistant professor of mathematics, completed the 2014 Boston Marathon last Monday with an impressive average 7.02 minute per mile pace.

But, that wasn’t even his best! Mastroberardino, 39, qualified for the 2014 Boston marathon at the Rochester marathon in September of 2012 with a finish time of 2:58:34, a full 12 minutes under the 3:10 qualifying time he needed.

We caught up with Mastroberardino (which wasn’t easy…he’s quite fast, you know) and talked him into answering a few question about his race through bean town.

What was your finish time at Boston?

3:04:30. The Erie Times-News had an incorrect time of 3:06:24.

Were you happy with that?

I was pleased with the result.

Have you run Boston before?

No, this was my 3rd marathon. Rochester 2012 was my first. Erie 2013 was my second. I hit the proverbial wall in Erie and ran a disappointing 3:14:07.

What was it like to be/run Boston in this emotional year?

It was an amazing day for the city of Boston. From the start in Hopkinton to the finish in Back Bay and through all of the towns in between, the atmosphere was electric. The most amazing part was turning onto Boylston St. with the finish line in sight and having a roaring crowd carry you to the end.

Was your family there?

No, but my mom mentioned that my aunt in Italy was very happy for me.

Were you worried about anything happening?

No, not at all.

What is going through your mind as you run a marathon? What do you think about?

The first thing to do is to establish the right pace in the first 5-6 miles. People often go out too fast, and this could cost you several minutes in the end if you have to slow down to a walking pace in the last part of the race. This happened to me in Erie in 2013. For the miles in between, a friend of mine with a lot of experience told me: You need to be bored at mile 15; otherwise, you are working too hard and are in danger of hitting the wall later in the race.

What is your strategy for dealing with the tough miles (a mantra, doing math problems to distract yourself, etc.)?

The last 5-6 miles require total concentration. At that point, your legs are crying for you to stop, but you have to simply fight the strong desire to give in to your body’s demand of slowing down. In a race like Boston, the crowd support definitely makes a difference.

Where do you train?

This winter, I trained everywhere. I used the treadmill at my apartment complex, the treadmill and the indoor track at LECOM, the treadmill and the indoor track at Junker, the Behrend outdoor track, Veteran’s Stadium, Mercyhurst soccer field, the streets around the Gannon campus, Presque Isle trail, and various other places whenever I traveled out of town.

How many days/miles a week do you run?

I started from 30/week back in December and got up to the low 50’s during the last week of March.

Where is your favorite place to run locally?

I like running at Presque Isle, although I don’t go there that often to run. I actually prefer to ride the bike if I go to the peninsula.

Do you train alone or with friends?

I train alone.

Do you listen to music?

No music. Just the sound of nature.

Favorite running shoes?

I choose shoes that fit the best. I wore Adidas for this marathon and had a pair of Saucony before that. I purchased both pairs from Achille’s Running Shop in Erie.

Why do you enjoy running marathons?

It is a great challenge not only to complete one but also to train for one. And I guess I enjoy the challenge.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I played football in high school and in college. In college I played Sprint Football—a varsity sport with a weight limit that has ranged from 150 lbs. in the early years of the league to the current limit of 175 lbs. There are currently eight teams in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, including the Army and Navy teams.

What do you like to do (besides run) in your free time?

I play the violin, although I am not very good. I play in a community orchestra called YADO (Young Artist Debut Orchestra) conducted by Frank Collura. We have a performance in December and one in May every year.

Next race? What are you training for now?

I will run a half marathon in Buffalo at the end of May.

Any other memories from Boston you want to share?

As we walked from the Athletes’ village to the start (just over a kilometer) in Hopkinton, a man standing outside his home was offering everyone donuts, beer, and cigarettes. I passed on the offer.



Behrend Love Stories: The Gollick’s

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend



Bob and Kimberly (Cunningham) Gollick ’73

Degrees: Bob ’73, Kim ’73, both in Health and Human Development. Kim did a nutritional internship at Miami Valley Hospital; Bob went to graduate school at the University of Colorado where he earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning.

First met: Fall of 1969.

Married: 1974

Home: Denver, Colorado

Professions: Kim is president of Kimberly Gollick Associates, Inc., a nutritional consulting firm; Bob is president of Robert J. Gollick, Inc., a real estate development consulting firm. Both firms are located in Denver.

How they met, as told by Bob: I started at Behrend in the fall of 1968. The following year I helped the mom of a freshman girl carry some boxes into her daughter’s dorm room. I met her daughter on the way out of the room, her first day on campus. We started dating about four weeks later. Long story short, we’ll be married forty years this October.

Parting thoughts: “While we both finished our undergraduate degrees at University Park, if it weren’t for Behrend and a little luck on move-in day in 1969, I’d never have met the love of my life,” Bob said.

Fit for life: Kim is a runner who also enjoys yoga and ballet and she swims every day. Bob said he had to stop running, but he hikes all over Colorado and Costa Rica.

Gollick Head2 Gollick head1





Penn State Behrend freshman finds niche with Concert Choir and Chamber Singers

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Me Singing

There seems to be one in every family: one person who differs from the rest of the clan.

Jessa holds that distinction in the Boarts family, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“On multiple occasions, my mom has asked me where I came from,” Boarts says.

A first-year Psychology major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Boarts is somewhat of a fanatic when it comes to choir. On a typical day, the Erie native can be found humming choir songs, listening to choir CDs in her car, or practicing the tunes she performs as part of the Chamber Singers and Concert Choir at Penn State Behrend.

Music and singing have come naturally to Boarts even though no one in her family has ever had any experience with it.

“It’s just easier for me to express my emotions through music,” says Boarts.

Boarts is one of twenty-five students who will be performing Sunday, April 27, during “Wayfaring Stranger,” the spring concert from Penn State Behrend’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. The concert is the latest stop in what has been long musical career for Boarts at Penn State Behrend.

In eighth grade, she joined the Young People’s Chorus of Erie, which was in its first year of existence. YPC Erie is a youth outreach organization of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Penn State Behrend and northwestern Pennsylvania’s only comprehensive youth choral program.

Boarts had longed to join a choir ever since her first exposure as an elementary school student, and YPC Erie was the perfect fit.

“It was kind of like a second family. I liked the togetherness that we all shared,” she says.

Over the next five years, Boarts performed in a slew of concerts as a member of YPC. She formed many relationships along the way, and her passion for choir music continued to grow.

Of all the relationships Boarts forged, perhaps none was more significant than the bond she developed with Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich. Dietrich joined Penn State Behrend in 2012 as the college’s director of choral ensembles and serves as YPC’s artistic director as part of her position.

The two immediately hit it off.

“Jessa is really special,” Dietrich says. “She’s not only a wonderful singer, but she’s one of those people who shows up every week and has a great attitude, a great spirit, and is willing to try everything.”

As Boarts began to look at colleges during her senior year of high school, she says it became apparent that Penn State Behrend would be an ideal choice. Not only did the college have the Psychology major that she sought, but it would also allow her an opportunity to continue to grow musically with Dietrich as part of the college’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir.

“I was really interested in how she brought the music out in YPC, and I wanted to be able to continue that in the Behrend Choir,” Boarts says.

Dietrich was more than a little enthused when she heard the news.

“I was thrilled to hear she was staying because she’s the kind of kid you want in your choir. She’s not only the type of girl who brings good with her, she’s the type of girl who spreads good,” Dietrich says.

Boarts does more than spread good. She’s constantly trying to encourage her friends and other students on campus to enroll in either the Chamber Singers or Concert Choir class.

She subscribes to the idea that everyone has the ability to sing, which comes from Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály and is a big part of Dietrich’s teachings. It’s the reason she believes everyone should consider joining the choir.

“Anyone can sing, it’s just a matter of will someone join a choir and portray different types of music,” Boarts says.

Many different types of music will be portrayed by Boarts and the rest of the Penn State Behrend Chamber Singers and Choir Orchestra during Sunday’s “Wayfaring Stranger” concert. The concert will include works from American composers Aaron Copland, Cecil Effinger, and Kirke Mechem; African-American spirituals; a folk song from Northern Thailand; and music of the French Renaissance.

For Boarts, the concert is the culmination of months of practice and hard work. It’s a long road to get to the point of being ready to perform, but Boarts says it’s always worth it.

“My life would be pretty boring without choir,” Boarts says. “Something would definitely be missing.”

Behrend Reacts: What will you remember most about this past school year?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

The end is near.

There are just a couple weeks left in the spring semester. It’s been a memorable year at Penn State Behrend with several highlights, some of which include the college welcoming its second-largest freshman class in history and winning the AMCC Championship in every fall sport.

Penn State Behrend students have made their share of memories as well.

We asked students to share what they’ll remember most from this past year.

Brett Larson

Brett Larson, sophomore, Aerospace Engineering: “Getting a 100-percent score on an exam when all of my friends didn’t.”

Chelsey Cratty

Chelsey Cratty, first-year student, Psychology: “All of the shenanigans that went down on the first floor of Senat Hall.”

Jacob Binda

Jacob Binda, first-year student, undecided: “Staying up until 5:00 a.m. talking with new friends.”

Brandon Ford

Brandon Ford, first-year student, History and Education: “The night I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. at the Delta Chi house getting to know my brothers.”

Alexa Seeton

Alexa Seeton, first-year student, Marketing: “I don’t have a specific favorite memory. I just loved it all.”

Meredith Snyder

Meredith Snyder, first-year student, Accounting: “Winning the AMCC Championship in volleyball.”

Paige Scurpa

Paige Scurpa, first-year student, undecided: “Definitely winning the AMCC Championship in volleyball.”

Matt McWilliams

Matt McWilliams, sophomore, Aerospace Engineering: “Going to the ECAC Indoor Championships for track and field.”

Omkar Paturu

Omkar Paturu, first-year student, Biology: “Just being around Behrend and getting to know the college.”

Janai Keita

Janai Keita, first-year student, Psychology: “The annual drag show from this past November.”

Bethany Still

Bethany Still, first-year student, Biology: “Trying to scare my boyfriend’s roommate while pretending to be a dinosaur.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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Behrend Reacts: What’s your favorite cellphone app?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It seems like there’s an app for almost anything these days.

Need a dog whistle to train your canine? Interested in watching real-time radar for predicting storms? The App Store or Google Play has you covered.

Of course, some apps have bigger followings than others, and that’s true at Penn State Behrend.

We asked students what their favorite cellphone app is.

Ryan Kapner

Ryan Kapner, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering: “Twitter and YouTube are my gotos.”

Connor Combs

Connor Combs, first-year student, Project and Supply Chain Management: “Reddit because you get to see everything before everyone else does.”

Aubrey Marcoline

Aubrey Marcoline, first-year student, English: “I use Instagram because it’s convenient.”

Libby Marcoline

Libby Marcoline, junior, General Arts and Science: “Snapchat because it’s fun.”

Maurice Moffett

Maurice Moffatt, sophomore, Marketing: “I like the PNC app because it’s useful when I need to do my banking.”

Demond Carr

Damond Carr, junior, Psychology: “The TV remote control app is great because whenever I lose the remote, it lets me use my phone instead.”

Julie Pace

Julie Pace, first-year student, Nursing: “Instagram because it’s fun to see other people’s photos and what they like to take pictures of.”

Marissa Duvall

Marissa Duvall, first-year student, Nursing: “Instagram because it keeps me updated on my friends’ lives who don’t live close by.”

Claire Petrun

Claire Petrun, first-year student, Psychology: “I’d say Tinder because it’s fun to see who’s on it.”

Ian Duchene

Ian Duchene, first-year student, Plastics Engineering Technology: “Twitter because it’s nice to stay in touch with all my buddies at home.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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Penn State Behrend “STAND UP” campaign concludes with pig roast and concert


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Patty Pasky McMahon learned years ago that change doesn’t happen overnight, especially when it comes to affecting systematic problems such as dating violence or bullying.

“If you want culture change, it can’t just be hit-and-run,” said McMahon, director of the Health and Wellness Center at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “Dating violence, bullying, it’s been going on forever and a day. We can’t just accept that things are staying the same.”

That was the thinking behind “STAND UP,” a yearlong campus-engagement campaign promoting integrity, respect, tolerance and diversity at Penn State Behrend that concluded last week. The campaign, sponsored by the Health and Wellness Center and the Janet Neff Sample Center for Manners and Civility, addressed the health-and-wellness issues that most threaten college students, including drug use, relationship violence, stalking and sexual assault.

A number of student organizations joined in to support the efforts throughout the year, including the Lion Entertainment Board, the Behrend Beacon, BVZ Radio, Reality Check, Student Government Association, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Delta Chi, the Student Activities Fee Committee, the Multi-Cultural Council, the Student Athletic Advisory Board, Theta Phi Alpha and Alpha Sigma Alpha.

“STAND UP” kicked off in September 2013 with a concert by the Romantic Era, followed by a fireworks display. Each subsequent month featured an event, including a movie in Junker Center, a Penn State tailgate party, a chili stand and a pool party. “STAND UP” concluded Friday, April 4, with a pig roast and concert by the M-80s.

One of the keys to the programs’ success was making sure that each event was unique, McMahon said.

“That ensured that we would be targeting a different segment of the campus community each month,” McMahon said.

Finding unique events is easier said than done, but Vee Butler, a junior arts administration major and executive director of the Lion Entertainment Board, was satisfied with the selections for “STAND UP.”

“Coming from the programming board, we know how hard it is to find events that peak interest in students and also send a positive message,” Butler said. “‘STAND UP’ did an amazing job of choosing events. The chili stand was brand new and everyone talked about it, and the fireworks show definitely brought out some new faces.”

The events were fun, but they were also effective in promoting the positive message; students had the opportunity to speak out against numerous health-and-wellness issues at the events.

Student attendance was also strong throughout the year. That was true at the campaign’s conclusion with nearly 150 students present at the pig roast.

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Behrend Reacts: What’s your favorite social media network and why?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Social media is everywhere.

It’s the reason the words “like” and “tweet” now have new meanings compared to just a few years ago.

Whether you’re into tweeting, liking, connecting, pinning, or watching, there’s always something out there to satisfy your social media tastes. There are plenty of options when it comes to social media networks, but which one is the best?

We asked Penn State Behrend students which social media network they enjoy most.

Sean MacVay

Sean MacVay, sophomore, Computer Engineering Technologies: “Twitter because it’s the only one I really use.”

Alex Hoover

Alex Hoover, sophomore, Computer Engineering Technologies: “I’d say Twitter because you don’t see as much drama as you would on other stuff.”

Christopher Bendt

Christopher Bendt, sophomore, Software Engineering: “They’re all a waste of time and a distraction from the things we should be doing.”

Taylor Stephens

Taylor Stephens, junior, Communications: “I guess Twitter because you just get little snippets and quick responses. It’s easier to keep up with your friends from home.”

Hannah Rauch

Hannah Rauch, freshman, Chemistry: “Twitter because it’s easy to access.”

Julianne Carter

Julianne Carter, junior, Business Economics and Finance: “Twitter because it limits you to 140 characters, and people can’t go on and on.”

Virginia Schoonmaker

Virginia Schoonmaker, sophomore, Agribusiness Management: “Facebook because I’m used to it.”

Erin Kyle

Erin Kyle, sophomore, Early Childhood Education and Special Education: “I like Twitter because it’s fast, and everything’s very instant.”

Greg Cass

Greg Cass, sophomore, Early Childhood Education: “YouTube because I like videos, and Facebook and Twitter are basically the same thing over and over again.”

Ali Sieckowski

Ali Sieckowski, sophomore, Early Childhood Education and Special Education: “Pinterest because there’s so many great ideas out there. It brings out your creativity.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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Secret Lives of Faculty: Dr. Mary Beth Pinto

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.


Dr. Pinto with her certified therapy dog, Jessie.

Name: Dr. Mary Beth Pinto

Day job: Professor of marketing, Sam and Irene Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend

Personal passion: Pet therapy

One morning a week, Pinto and her dog Jessie, a certified therapy dog, visit physically and mentally challenged students at the Elizabeth Lee Black School at the Barber National Institute in Erie.

The students in the classrooms that Pinto and Jessie visit have a range of physical and mental challenges, but many are diagnosed with Austism Spectrum Disorder.

Pinto said Jessie is used to reinforce, teach, or reward positive behaviors – for instance, making eye contact, waiting patiently for their turn, or using a language card to point to the activity they’d like to do with Jessie.

“Children on the autism spectrum often don’t like traditional means of reward—a hug, touch, or personal attention—but they love to throw the ball for Jessie or take her for a walk around the classroom,” Pinto said.

For some, just petting Jessie is an important lesson.

“Many children with autism don’t like physical touch, but they like to pet Jessie and that can help them bridge that gap,” Pinto said.

“One young boy, Brandon, made remarkable progress with Jessie. When I first met Brandon he wouldn’t make eye contact and he was doing a lot of hand-flapping (a common self-stimulatory behavior in autism). You should see him now. He’s come so far that he’s now walks Jessie down the hall with me to the next class. He makes eye contact and he doesn’t hand-flap when Jessie is there.”

Jessie revels in the attention, though his eyes are firmly locked on Pinto at all times. She’s a well-trained dog. And, she’s in big demand at the Elizabeth Lee Black School.

“She’s gotten to be a little celebrity down there,” Pinto said. “Everyone wants us to come to their room.”


“I asked one of the teachers one time, ‘Long term, what does pet therapy really do for the kids here?,’” Pinto said. “She said, ‘Mary Beth, we live for the moment here. If we lived for the long-range view, we could never do our job because it would be too overwhelming. If, for one moment, Jessie brings them happiness and joy, then we’ve succeeded.’”

Why she volunteers:

“Social service is in my DNA. Gertrude Barber (the woman who started the Barber National Institute) was my aunt and I grew up with kids who had physical and mental challenges. I realize some may think the Barber Institute is a sad place, but it’s not. They celebrate every child. It is a really happy place.”

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Have a suggestion for a candidate for a future Secret Lives of Faculty/Staff feature? Email hjc13 at  


Behrend Reacts: How do you plan on finishing the spring semester strong?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s crunch time. Are you ready?

The finish line is in sight as there are just a few weeks left in the spring semester. Penn State Behrend students will be busy as the final papers, projects, and exams are right around the corner.

We asked students how they plan to finish the semester strong.

Nick Denman

Nick Denman, senior, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies: “I plan on doing a lot more studying.”

Daphne Cruz

Daphne Cruz, freshman, Electrical Engineering: “I plan to keep on studying and go to tutoring almost every day.”

Courtney Post

Courtney Post, sophomore, Project and Supply Chain Management: “I’ll be studying and working on balancing work and school better.”

Drew Chidester

Drew Chidester, sophomore, Civil Engineering: “Getting to bed early, studying a lot, and trying to eat clean.”

Drew Chidester

Jesse Jarrett, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering: “Studying a lot, making sure I stay on top of my homework, getting a lot of sleep, and staying focused.”

Alicia Buccigrossi

Alicia Buccigrossi, senior, General Arts and Science: “I plan on really cracking down on all my work. I do have a lot of big projects coming up, so it’s matter of focusing on those things and sticking to it.”

Corey Hoster

Corey Hoster, senior, History: “Tons of caffeine and manning up.”

Alice Park

Alice Park, freshman, undecided: “I’ll be dedicating more time to studying and reading all my materials ahead of time.”

Jemmerio Harper

Jemmerio Harper, freshman, Psychology: “I plan on dedicating a certain amount of hours to studying and staying focused on what needs to be done for finals.”

Amber Ricci

Amber Ricci, freshman, Plastics Engineering: “I plan on studying hard, keeping active, and not wasting my time.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at

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