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pongo
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e-mail user

Jan 28, 2011, 8:44 AM

Post #2276 of 2662 (17988 views)
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Re: [relsek] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

From what I've been reading here for the last ten years or so, most of the established low-res programs are pretty strong on community. This is not to take anything away from Spalding, but it is to say that you might want to look at a couple of programs in terms of the natures and textures of their communities. A lot of low-res programs have high dropout rates, as people discover that the community isn't right for them.

So it isn't the existence of the community that's important. That's a given. Whether it's the community that will help you more than others might be your concern.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Roylb2
Roy Burkhead

Jan 28, 2011, 1:23 PM

Post #2277 of 2662 (17952 views)
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Re: [EllaJ] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Congrats!! :-) I graduated from Spalding's MFA in Writing program in 2004, and I know that you are in for a wonderful experience, one that will extend into the program, beyond graduation, and throughout the rest of your life.

I cannot imagine a personal or creative life without so many of the people I met at Spalding.

Community. That is not a term the program uses lightly. It's a fact, a reality. I have been out of the program going on seven years now, and I continue to have daily interactions with my fellow MFAers.

In addition, I know from first-hand experience that many of Spalding's MFA graduates work hand-in-hand throughout the years to create, to form, to force creative projects into existence together.

As you sit in the workshops, panels, discussions, presentations, and lectures, take a slow look around the room. Many of the people you see are not just your fellow classmates. There's a significant possibility that they will be active, positive forces in your life...for the rest of your life.

Enjoy. :-) All my best, Roy


Roylb2
Roy Burkhead

Jan 28, 2011, 2:10 PM

Post #2278 of 2662 (17943 views)
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Re: [lmorris] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

I graduated from Spalding's MFA in Writing program in 2004, and I read your post with great interest. Of course, I think Spalding is the best Low-Res MFA around. The below paragraphs will attempt to address your comments and questions.

The Low-Residency Approach: Our scenarios are similar. I was (and am) a full-time writer at a demanding day job throughout my time with Spalding, and the low residency approach was an important factor. The MFA writing/packet schedule was demanding, but I survived.

Being in the Southeast. I think Spalding would be a smart decision for you, from this point of view. Beyond (in addition to) Spalding, there's a lot going on in the creative writing world south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi. And more often than not, you will find Spalding MFAers involved and in the crowd. Of course, the program has a lot of students from across the country and the world, but I live in the South, and that's where a lot of my attention is focused.

Is the program structured to publish novels and/or short stories. Hhhhhhmmmm. I have a lot of reactions to this statement. The most important is: the goal should be to improve as a writer, to be the best possible writer that you can be...at this particular point in your writing life. I think the structure is successful in this goal. Yes. There is a lot of structure. If this goal is achieved, the publishing--at some point--will happen. This reminds me of the Biblical story of giving either 1) a fishing pole or 2) fishing lessons. Don't show up in search of the pole. Show up for the lessons.

A fun trip with a bit of writing on the side. I have often said that my ten days at Spalding at the start of each semester was like Literary Boot Camp. The trips were fun, BUT that fun was blended into A LOT of work, from early in the morning till...early in the morning.

Yes: you will write A LOT during the on-campus residency, but please realize that this is a low-residency program. A serious, accomplished mentor will guide you along the way, but the bulk of the writing (be in on the side or anywhere else) is all on you and done far from Spalding's campus.

Hope some of these words have helped a little bit.

All my best, Roy


Roylb2
Roy Burkhead

Jan 28, 2011, 2:45 PM

Post #2279 of 2662 (17938 views)
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Re: [lmorris] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting post. You touched upon a topic that has been on my mind since I earned my MFA: student loans and debt.

I put myself through undergraduate school at WKU and through Spalding's MFA in Writing program. That's a polite way of saying that I have used student loans to pay for much of my education.

A student loan bill does not represent debt; it represents an investment. There's a big difference.

To owe $20,000 on a car is a debt, a bad one. The value of the car goes down from the moment it leaves the auto lot.

To owe $20,000 on a student loan for a MFA is an investment, an opportunity. The value of the degree goes up from the moment you earn it. From the moment you walk the line, new opportunities materialize. I can say this because I have experienced it first hand.

Sure, a MFA degree cost a good deal of money, but things of value cost. And they are worth that cost.

I think you have a great outlook on this situation. Go for it and good luck!

Roy


MPridd40391
Melva Priddy

Jan 28, 2011, 3:33 PM

Post #2280 of 2662 (17924 views)
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Re: [Roylb2] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

 


MPridd40391
Melva Priddy

Jan 28, 2011, 4:09 PM

Post #2281 of 2662 (17914 views)
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Re: [MPridd40391] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

I’m a Nov 2010 Spalding MFA grad. I agree with Roy, it is an investment, and like others have pointed out, doing the program was one of my life’s goals. My husband & I have 5 adult children and 8 grandchildren. When I was selecting which program to enter, & I had previously decided to go low-residency, my family was a concern. Frankly, I narrowed my choices to Vermont or Spalding by emailing students & graduates, phone calls, and internet searches, probably the same as anyone else would do. Then I attended open sessions at each program and talked to admissions personal in person at Vermont and Sena at Spalding. While filling out the applications, I corresponded with the offices of each. When it came to the bottom line, having to make the final choice, one of my friends said to me, “if both schools look good, I’d go with the one that makes good ecology,” which I hadn’t thought about until then. But I did notice when I checked residency dates, that with Spalding I wouldn’t be missing my grandchildren’s winter school break. As I live in Kentucky and knew some of the facility members in other genres, I would, as my friend pointed out, be keeping my money in Kentucky with Spalding & practicing good ecology.

As it turned out, the program was very rigorous; I would wager it is as rigorous as one makes it; you will get out of the program what you put into it; but the mentors are super at spotting your weaknesses and your strengths, and pushing you to do your best. They are supportive and never pit you to compete with other students. I have never attended another school so supportive and uplifting. Confidence is one thing all writers need, even if they are to be great writers. Some one else above wrote that all program had communities. I don’t think this is true, from speaking to people who have attended other programs. Some people have told me they felt great about their program but they didn’t have a sense of community like I did.

I think the agonizing part was making the decision. Once it was made, the first day of my first residency, I knew I had come to the right place in coming to Spalding.


maybemd


Jan 28, 2011, 4:41 PM

Post #2282 of 2662 (17905 views)
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Re: [pongo] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

So it isn't the existence of the community that's important. That's a given. Whether it's the community that will help you more than others might be your concern.


Amen.

Chosing between the three programs I'd been accepted to was difficult. I researched not just the costs, living conditions, weather and driving distances, and specific faculty I thought would be great to work with, but -- since I believe an organization's culture comes from the top, down -- also the work and interviews of the directors and founders. I then spread-sheeted the data and abstracted statements, looking for differences. One program appeared to be cutting-edge, redefining writing education and what it means to live the writer’s life. Another had maintained ties to the NYC publishing industry; important because I wanted to complete a novel and get it out into the world. The third seemed to offer a more literary, and cerebral, experience.

It was the phone conversations with the different programs' directors and my gut response as they voiced their teaching philosophies that decided me. I chose Warren Wilson, which is committed to keeping their student body small; the faculty, select; and their residencies intimate, and intense. Although I'm a prose student I'm required to attend the poetry lectures, and I have the opportunity to hear all faculty readings, including that of the poet-founder of the program and originator of the concept of low-residency MFAs. WW is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and they have learned to be very good at what they do.


edwriter



Jan 30, 2011, 9:54 AM

Post #2283 of 2662 (17809 views)
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Re: [maybemd] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To

So it isn't the existence of the community that's important. That's a given. Whether it's the community that will help you more than others might be your concern.


Amen.


Second. Ditto. Cannot overemphasize.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



EllaJ


Jan 30, 2011, 1:44 PM

Post #2284 of 2662 (17787 views)
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Re: [edwriter] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Very good point. I definitely agree that the existence of the community is a "given." What helps me, as a prospective MFA student, is the ability to see how people from different MFA programs (current and former students) describe their respective communities on forums such as this. Though certainly not as good as experiencing a program firsthand, people's comments and interactions on the Speakeasy have given me a (slight) glimpse into the communities from which they hail. This, combined with my own experiences with program administrators/admissions staff/faculty have helped me narrow down my list of "programs i MUST apply to"... So, again, thank you all for your input :)


greenpenquills


Jan 30, 2011, 6:56 PM

Post #2285 of 2662 (17754 views)
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Re: [EllaJ] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

So, as I mentioned before, I'm deciding between Vermont and Spalding. I was basically ready to send out a deposit to Vermont last week, but circumstances have changed, and now money is going to be more of an issue.

While Vermont is still my first choice in terms of faculty and reputation, Spalding will cost me up to $14,000 less than Vermont, and will be less to take out in loans. To be honest, looking at how much Vermont will cost with loan interest makes me reconsider this entire endeavor, but Spalding isn't quite as bad. I'm just not sure how heavily that should weigh in this decision. I've heard great things about both programs, and Spalding does have some great features that Vermont doesn't offer, so I'm really torn. I want to attend the right program to me and the one that will open the most doors, and I thought that was Vermont, but I just don't know. Any thoughts?


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Jan 31, 2011, 3:40 PM

Post #2286 of 2662 (17703 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

greenpenquills,

Did you receive my response to your PM about Vermont? I'm traveling tomorrow (on my way to AWP), but if you have more questions, feel free to send them my way. I'll try to answer as soon as I can.

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


greenpenquills


Feb 1, 2011, 12:30 AM

Post #2287 of 2662 (17673 views)
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Re: [jlgwriter] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

(Jeanne- I did get your message, thank you for sharing more about your experiences with Vermont.)

I know this has come up before on this thread, but I'm really struggling with the financial aspect of this decision. I'm basically looking at loans and probably won't make much money while in school because I want to focus on the degree (and work has been hard to come by anyway). My living situation is stable, so that's not an issue. I'm just overwhelmed by the reality of the expense, and wondering if this is really the best thing for me. I'm a recent college grad without too much undergrad debt, but the thought of graduating from the MFA program and owing so much money without any sort of job safety net is frightening. On the other hand, I really want to do this. If I don't, I'm not exactly sure what else is out there for me, but it doesn't seem like much.

I know this decision is a personal one, but I was wondering if anyone else experienced similar fears when going into a low res program, and whether it ended up working out. I know a lot of people going into low res programs already have jobs, but that won't be the case with me. My hope is that the degree and the program will open new doors for me, but of course, there's no guarantee.


writerle


Feb 1, 2011, 1:08 AM

Post #2288 of 2662 (17668 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Greenpequills, I would be more than happy to discuss the financial ramifications of going the low res route with you if you would like to pm me. I graduated from VCFA in 2008.


cigarettes


Feb 1, 2011, 10:13 AM

Post #2289 of 2662 (17636 views)
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Re: [writerle] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Greenpenquills: first, congratulations on your acceptances. But also, I wonder if you could say more about what attracts you to the low-res option. I know they are a way to fit an MFA into a work schedule, which is why they often make financial sense even when compared to a funded full-res, but that doesn't seem to be your situation.

I ask this not to be nosy (okay, well, I'm a little nosy), but because I'd been thinking of applying to some low-res programs if I have no success with the full-res route. And maybe there are some inherent benefits to that type of situation besides just fitting around a busy schedule...


kghoerth



Feb 1, 2011, 10:48 AM

Post #2290 of 2662 (17629 views)
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Re: [cigarettes] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

If money's a concern, maybe a funded full res program would be better?

I took a slightly different route - got a staff job at the university I'm attending, which includes free tuition and a decent living wage. It's nothing glamorous, I'm just an advisor - but it works. I'm actually not having much difficulty working full time and doing a full schedule. Though - I work for the university which means no commute btw work/class and such, so that helps. So I'll graduate with no loans, which takes just a little bit of the inherent anxiety out of looking for a new job. Plus, if I can't find a job right away that's ok because I'm content with this one... for now :-p

So maybe, just look at your options and weigh everything. For me, the thought of loans was just too scary. But that's just paranoid little old me. I think a lot of people do it and are ok.


sarandipidy


Feb 1, 2011, 2:50 PM

Post #2291 of 2662 (17596 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

greenpenquills, let me first say that you should make the best decision for you, taking into account your current situation and goals for it. Only you can know what is right for your life. That said, if I were you, I would not take out loans (beyond maybe 1-2K a year for extra living expenses if absolutely needed) for an MFA program, especially when there are a fair amount of fully funded programs out there. The low-res option is a great one when you already have a day job, children, a house. It allows people to grow as writers and complete a book without having to make any life-altering sacrifices or uproot their families. You are young, and still have the luxury of packing up and moving anywhere, yes? Moving for grad school will not require you to take huge, potentially detrimental risks? Since you don't have a separate career and/or children in school, I would wait a year and apply to fully funded in-residence programs. Remember it's not just about the tuition remission, but also the stipend, health benefits, opportunities for teaching/editing experience, close advising, a close-knit community of peers, etc. On top of those perks, you can live somewhere new, see another part of the country. I found that moving to an entirely new region positively influenced my writing. I think this acceptance illustrates that you are a capable writer with decent chances at such programs. Good luck, whatever you decide!


maybemd


Feb 1, 2011, 2:58 PM

Post #2292 of 2662 (17594 views)
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Re: [EllaJ] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Most, maybe all, low-res. MFA programs open their residency lectures and readings to the public. While that will not give you the full experience of being a student, you can get a feel for how the program is run, and you will get a chance to interact with the students.

A visitor, a poet, sat next to me during a faculty reading at my residency (last month) and asked how it was going for me. Intense, both tiring and exhilirating, I told her. She said she envied me.

If it will help you chose between a low-residency or full-residency program, or between schools, then why not ask about sitting in during the residencies at the one or two schools you are most interested in.


greenpenquills


Feb 1, 2011, 3:56 PM

Post #2293 of 2662 (17581 views)
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Re: [sarandipidy] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

I should have mentioned that I do not, at this point, have the luxury of packing up and attending a fully funded program. I'm in a long term relationship with a person who is not able to relocate along with me. Also, because my genre is CNF, there are no funded programs in my area or even really on the West Coast, so I'd have to move quite far away.

I've done a lot of research and even applied to a few traditonal programs last year, but they would have been difficult to attend had I gotten in, which I didn't anyway. Fully funded programs usually admit about 2% of applicants, and my choices are narrowed down significantly with my genre as it isn't offered at every school.

All of that is a long way of saying that, at this point, I do not have the option of attending a fully funded residential program. So it's low res or nothing.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Feb 1, 2011, 4:14 PM

Post #2294 of 2662 (17575 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

That being the case, maybe nothing is the best choice, at least for a while. Write, find a job, work on your craft, and in a few years, when your finances are in better shape (inshallah), look into low-res MFA's.

You don't have to take the break between college and grad school that I did (26 years), but a couple of years may not do you any harm -- and may do you some good.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


sarandipidy


Feb 1, 2011, 4:15 PM

Post #2295 of 2662 (17575 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I should have mentioned that I do not, at this point, have the luxury of packing up and attending a fully funded program. I'm in a long term relationship with a person who is not able to relocate along with me. Also, because my genre is CNF, there are no funded programs in my area or even really on the West Coast, so I'd have to move quite far away.

I've done a lot of research and even applied to a few traditonal programs last year, but they would have been difficult to attend had I gotten in, which I didn't anyway. Fully funded programs usually admit about 2% of applicants, and my choices are narrowed down significantly with my genre as it isn't offered at every school.

All of that is a long way of saying that, at this point, I do not have the option of attending a fully funded residential program. So it's low res or nothing.


I want to mention that I was in a long distance long-term relationship for my MFA program and it worked out well. I moved from the edge of the east coast to the edge of the west coast and saw him during winter and summer breaks. Now we live together again and are in our tenth year as a couple. It's totally doable, since programs are only two years and the breaks in the academic system are lengthy. But if you really don't want to move and need to do a low-res program, it's still a tough call. If you are only looking to improve as a writer and complete your book, I'm not sure the financial burden is worth it. If you are looking to have the degree to qualify you to teach after you publish your book(s), then it's a different story, because you will not get a job without an MFA unless you are some kind of writing god. I'd probably end up going to Vermont, and applying for grants here and there to try to offset the costs.


sarandipidy


Feb 1, 2011, 4:16 PM

Post #2296 of 2662 (17573 views)
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Re: [pongo] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
That being the case, maybe nothing is the best choice, at least for a while. Write, find a job, work on your craft, and in a few years, when your finances are in better shape (inshallah), look into low-res MFA's.


This is also a good idea.


greenpenquills


Feb 3, 2011, 1:02 AM

Post #2297 of 2662 (17501 views)
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Re: [sarandipidy] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

I appreciate all of your thoughts and advice. Although ideally I'd rather not take out loans for the degree, I really want to attend Vermont, and I don't think waiting will really make a difference. So, I think I'm going to go for it, and hope it all works out for the best.


GiseleF


Feb 3, 2011, 10:34 PM

Post #2298 of 2662 (17427 views)
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Re: [greenpenquills] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Do it!!! wish you the best!!


atkinspea
Priscilla Atkins

Feb 4, 2011, 2:24 PM

Post #2299 of 2662 (17398 views)
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Re: [EllaJ] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi,
I realize you have probably already made your decision; I've only just now gotten onto this thread.
I am a May 2008 graduate of Spalding.
In a nutshell: my teacher-mentors were out of this world.
When a friend of mine who had graduate from another very well-regarded low residency program saw an example of how my Spalding mentor responded to a packet of my work, she said, "Oh, I never got anything that in depth for one packet." I'm as busy as any of us are--yet, I still reread my Spalding teachers' words. They continue to teach me.


hollslee
Holly Jensen

Feb 5, 2011, 9:11 AM

Post #2300 of 2662 (17349 views)
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Re: [EllaJ] Low-Residency MFAs [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Ella,

Congrats on your acceptances!

I just graduated from Spalding U's Low-Residency MFA Program in Dramatic Writing in November 2010--it was the BEST thing I've ever done! I work full-time, so I needed to enroll in a program that was flexible enough to allow me to work, but still challenging in terms of deadlines and expectations. I could go on and on about Spalding, but I'll summarize my top three favorite things:

1) Quality of faculty: The mentor professors at Spalding are amazing! Even though I was a dramatic writing student, I was able to participate in a number of lectures with faculty from other genres and they're all top notch. I think this program attracts faculty who are working successfully within their field, but also those who are genuinely interested in helping students become better writers. In my experience, all of the faculty have been tremendously talented, smart, challenging and interesting. Within my program, I was fascinated by how different each mentor was, but also by how their differences really helped me take my writing to a new level each semester. (PS: the staff at Spalding are the best as well---seriously, they take care of the students in a way I've never seen---Sena, Karen, Kathleen, Katy, Gayle---they're all amazing!!!)

2) Quality of the curriculum: Spalding believes in the interrelatedness of the arts, which I think is critical! Each residency focuses on a different genre, so all students (regardless of major) will read a book or script outside of their focus area and then attend residency and participate in discussions with other students and even the author sometimes. During residency, we also take "field trips" to attend the opera or symphony or perhaps visit an art museum. All of this has been incredible to broadening our horizon and reinforcing the importance of how all art can inform your work. For example, one day our playwriting workshop visited a contemporary art exhibit and we had to identify a piece of artwork and allow a setting for our play to emerge from our engagement with it. From that experience, I wrote a short play that was extremely different from my previous work, which is very, very cool! I think we (writers, in general) have the tendency to be very genre-focused, which is fine. But I think we miss the opportunity to develop our talents even more if we don't consider how poetry can challenge us to use better imagery in our dialogue or how classical music can challenge us to make our words sing.

3) Quality of students: I can't say enough good things about this part! Sure, I thought I'd meet a few folks during residency and perhaps we'd stay in touch during the semester...well, I had no idea how close you bond with your classmates in just ten days. It's truly amazing! I've developed incredibly strong friendships through this program that will last a lifetime. My writing pals are truly talented and extremely encouraging and supportive. And it's so much fun to have writing pals sprinkled around the country!

If you'd like to know more, I'm happy to chat anytime! Just let me know! Best of luck with your decision!

Warmly,
Holly J.
Rhode Island

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