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Student Research Awards

The DR Student Research Award program recognizes high-quality research across multiple research methodologies conducted by students in the course of their undergraduate or graduate special education training program. CEC-DR makes up to four such awards annually, with one award presented in each of up to four areas of research designs or methodologies: qualitative, single-subject, quantitative, and mixed-methods. No award will be given in any research methodology area if an exemplary, high-quality research study is not submitted; thus, there may be fewer than three awards presented in any given year. Nominations are sought across all areas of special education services. The awardee in each research method area will receive a $200 award and certificate to be presented at the DR Business Meeting at the CEC Annual Convention.

 The following criteria must be met:

  1. The nominated student must be the sole or first author of the nominated manuscript and the research study must represent the student’s intellectual work.
  2. The nominated research study must have been conceptualized and conducted while the first author was a student.
  3. The nominated study must not be in press at the time of submission nor have been published prior to submission for the award.
  4. The nominated manuscript must not exceed 50 double-spaced pages, not including tables and references. Manuscripts should be formatted according to current APA guidelines.
  5. Independent of the methodological area in which the manuscript is submitted, research studies nominated must adhere to standards for high-quality research advocated for in the field of special education and by the CEC-DR. Detailed quality indicators of high-quality research for quantitative, qualitative, and single-subject design studies can be found in the Winter 2005 special issue of Exceptional Children, Volume 71(2), edited by Odom et al. Detailed quality indicators of high-quality research for mixed-methods studies can be found in Klingner and Boardman (2011) and Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2010). Applicants are referred to these references for guidance. Please note that the “quantitative” category for this award includes group experimental and quasi-experimental designs (Gersten et al., 2005) and correlational designs (Thompson, Diamond, McWilliam, Snyder, & Snyder, 2005).

 

To submit a nomination for this award, email a copy of the following by September 15, 2021 to chair of this award:
  1. A copy of the paper being submitted for recognition. If the article submitted has multiple authors, the contributions of the nominee to the publication should be clearly identified.
  2. A letter of nomination, NO LONGER THAN 1 PAGE, including:
    • the title and methodological area in which the research is being submitted for consideration
    • written assurance that the research was conceptualized and conducted by the nominee while the nominee was a student, and has not been accepted for publication; and
    • all current contact information (name, title, position, affiliation, address, telephone number, email address) for the nominator and the nominee.
       

Dr. Kelly Whalon and Dr. Tanya Santangelo, Co-Chairs

CEC-DR Student Research Awards
kwhalon@fsu.edu

Past Award Recipients

Advisor: Andrea P. Dinaro, Concordia University Chicago

 

Title: An Exploration of Nontenured Special Education Teacher Attrition

 

Abstract: This qualitative study included seven nontenured special education teachers assigned experienced teachers as mentors. The study was conducted in public elementary and middle schools in suburban Chicago. Themes were identified as obstacles or commonalities of their mentoring experiences. Themes include: (a) having a “go-to” mentor, (b) lack of administrative support, (c) pressure from colleagues, and (d) abundance of paperwork. The most important factor is to have a personal mentor experienced in special education. Another factor is support from administration. In this study, contributors consistently reported a lack of support from their director of special education and superintendent. The most surprising and repetitive conclusion was these teachers felt a great deal of pressure from colleagues. Recommendations include: (1) Research mentors in the same field; (2) Include directors and superintendents as members of the mentoring process; (3) Educate general and special education personnel in each other’s roles; (4) Reduce paperwork.

Advisor: Erica Lembke, University of Missouri

 

Title: Teachers’ Views of the Mathematical Capabilities of Students with Disabilities: A Mixed Methods Study

 

Abstract: Students with disabilities often have difficulty demonstrating mathematical understanding on conventional measures. One reason for this difficulty could be an instructional opportunity gap. Federal law, recent case law, and recommendations from professional organizations converge on the need for students with disabilities to have access to mathematical learning opportunities aimed at rigorous learning outcomes. However, beyond the existence of these policies and recommendations, enactment relies on individual teachers. Recent research suggests teachers views of their students’ mathematical capabilities may relate to the enactment of learning opportunities aimed at rigorous learning outcomes. A mixed methods study was conducted in order to understand teachers’ views of the mathematical capabilities of students with disabilities. General education mathematics teachers gave unproductive explanations for students’ struggle and articulated rationales for instructional adjustments aimed at unproductive learning outcomes. When further scrutinized, teachers’ views qualitatively and quantitatively differed between students with and without disabilities. 

Advisors: Yaoying Xu, Virginia Commonwealth University and Colleen Thoma, Virginia Commonwealth University

 

Title: Effects of Behavioral Skills Training with in Situ Training on Workplace Conversational Skills of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Abstract: Young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience high rates of unemployment in the years immediately following high school, yet very few studies to date have investigated approaches to teaching transition-aged high school students work-related social skills within competitive, integrated workplace settings. This study investigated the effects of a behavioral skills training (BST) with in situ training intervention package on workplace conversational skills of four transition-aged high school students with ASD enrolled in a community-based internship program. Data were collected on participants’ accuracy in demonstrating the steps to conversing with coworkers during BST probes in training settings and in using the same steps in authentic conversations with coworkers during in situ trials in internship settings. Findings demonstrated a functional relation between the implementation of the intervention package and increases in skill accuracy on in situ trials for all participants. All participants maintained skill mastery on BST probes, and three out of four participants maintained skill mastery on in situ trials.

Advisor:  Sharon Vaughn, University of Texas at Austin

 

Title: The Effects of instruction linking word reading and word meaning

 

Abstract: This within-subjects experimental study investigated the relative effects of word reading and word meaning instruction (WR+WM) compared to word reading instruction alone (WR) on the accuracy, fluency, and word meaning knowledge of 4th-5th graders with dyslexia. We matched word lists on syllables, phonemes, frequency, and number of definitions. We assigned half the words to WR and half to WR+WM. WR+WM significantly improved accuracy (d = 0.65), fluency (d = 0.43), and word meaning knowledge (d = 1.92) immediately following intervention, and significantly improved accuracy (d = 0.74), fluency (d = 0.84), and word meaning knowledge (d = 1.03) at posttest.

Title: Comparing Schedules of Progress Monitoring Using Curriculum-Based Measurement in Reading: A Replication Study

 

Abstract: Using data to inform instructional decisions is a pillar of special education practice. Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is a systematic, ongoing assessment tool that allows special educators to monitor the progress of their students to determine the need for instructional adaptations. CBM and data-based instructional decision-making have a strong evidence-base supporting their use with students in special education to improve academic outcomes. Despite this evidence, these data-based processes are infrequently used in practice. One hypothesized barrier to implementation is the amount of time it takes to administer and use CBM data to inform instruction. This study is a replication of Jenkins, Schulze, Marti, and Harbaugh (2017), in which the authors compared the decision-making accuracy and timeliness of six different schedules of CBM progress monitoring (PM). Results demonstrate that the accuracy and timeliness of the PM schedules for the sample of students in this study was poorer than the accuracy and timeliness reported by Jenkins and colleagues. In line with the results of the original study, however, these results indicate that, on the basis of accuracy and timeliness, intermittent PM schedules sufficiently predict student true growth compared to weekly PM schedule. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Student Awardee: Samantha Gesel, Ph.D. University of North Carolina Charlotte

Nominator: Christopher Lemons, Ph.D. Vanderbilt University

Title: Development of Mathematical Practices through Word Problem Solving Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Abstract: This study investigated the effects of a problem solving instructional strategy known as Modified Schema Based Instruction (MSBI) on the Mathematical Practices of four students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics highlight the importance of not only content standards for mathematics, but also mathematical practices such as communication, representation, and reasoning. Students with ASD often demonstrate difficulties with these skills as a result of deficits in social communication, theory of mind, and executive functioning. Through a multiple probe across participants design, this study demonstrates MSBI is an effective strategy to increase the use of mathematical practices for middle school students with ASD when solving multiplicative word problems. Four students eligible for special education services under the area of autism enrolled in sixth grade general education mathematics classes increased their use of mathematical practices for both problem types taught (multiplicative comparison and proportion), and maintained the use of some mathematical practices 4-8 weeks after intervention. Additionally, all four participants generalized their use of mathematical practices to novel multiplicative comparison problems containing extraneous information while three of the participants generalized mathematical practice skills to proportion problems containing extraneous information. Implications for practice are discussed.

 

Student Awardee: Sarah Cox, Ph.D.,  Florida State University

 

Nominator: Jenny Root, Ph.D., Florida State University

Title: Involvement of Students with Severe Disabilities in Specialized Health Care Procedures

 

Abstract: The purpose of this qualitative multiple-case study was to understand how transition-age students with severe disabilities are involved in their specialized health care at school. Purposeful sampling resulted in nine cases and a total of 41 participants. A case was comprised of a transition-age focus student and the student’s parent(s), special education teacher, school nurse, and classroom nurse or paraprofessional. Data sources were document reviews, observations, and interviews. Data analysis entailed using an iterative inductive coding approach for each individual case to identify patterns in the data followed by a cross-case synthesis using visual matrices to identify salient themes across cases. This process resulted in four themes depicting student involvement, which were: (a) taking part in one’s own health care procedures, (b) time to socialize, (c) posing a potential health risk to oneself, and (d) care received without opportunities to participate. The findings from this study highlight a need for improved attention to the promotion of self-care in specialized health care for this population.

 

Student Awardee:

Sarah Ballard, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Illinois State University

 

Advisor:

Stacy K. Dymond, Ph.D.

Professor

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Title: Contextual Analysis of Special Education Disproportionality in One Urban School

 

Abstract: Studies related to disproportionality of students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds in special education have increasingly used complex statistical analyses to expand our understanding of the interplay of factors that may cause and maintain disparities, but these studies often focus on nationally representative datasets, which may be lacking in important contextual information related to socio-demographic and school characteristics at the local level. This study examined student- and school-level factors related to special education identification generally and in individual disability categories, as well as longitudinal patterns of placement for students who are racially and ethnically diverse within one large urban school district. Results showed that gender, race, socioeconomic status (SES), and suspension are all factors associated with special education identification, and that school-level structural factors attenuated the effect of race for some groups, which suggests that school composition and resources are important considerations for understanding risk of special education identification.

 

Student Awardee:

Becca Cruz

University of California, Berkeley Joint Ph.D. program at San Francisco State University and University of California, Berkeley

 

Advisor: 

Janelle E. Rodl, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

San Francisco State University

Title: Improving Writing Instruction of General Education English Teachers for Students with Disabilities

 

Abstract: National surveys of middle school teachers indicated they do not use high quality writing practices. This study attempted to improve the use of modeling, an evidence-based writing practice, by providing teachers a professional development package designed using cognitive apprenticeship as a guiding framework. This single case multiple baseline experiment found that all three teacher participants increased the quality of their modeling during writing instruction and maintained the improved instruction for the duration of the maintenance phase. Future research should examine whether this intervention can improve student writing outcomes.

 

Student Awardee:

John E. Romig, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Texas at Arlington

 

Advisor:

Michael Kennedy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Virginia

Title: Vision as Professional Socialization in Special Education Teacher Preparation

 

Abstract: In general education teacher preparation, researchers find that the extent and nature of pre-service experiences are associated with candidates’ socialization into the knowledge, norms, and values of the profession. An important aspect of this process is program vision—the collective understanding of teaching put forth by a preparation program. Yet, few investigations in special education examine program vision. Using surveys, interviews, and publicly available program documents from six teacher preparation programs, this study explores the role of program vision in the professional socialization of special educators.  Survey findings highlight similarities across programs regarding clarity of vision. However, drawing on interview data, candidates’ conception of special education teaching included three profiles consistent across candidates within a given program: Direct Instructor, Supportive Differentiator, and General Responder. Each profile was associated with unique roles and responsibilities. Findings highlight the importance of examining vision as a tool for professional socialization.

 

Student Awardee:

Hannah Morris Mathews, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate

Boston University

 

Advisor:

Michael Kennedy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Virginia

Title: Teaching Students with Disabilities and General Education, Special Education, and Dual Certified Teacher Turnover

 

Abstract: More students with disabilities (SWDs) are being educated in general education classrooms than ever before and general education teachers are taking increasing responsibility for educating these students. Yet, few recent quantitative studies have examined if teaching SWDs influences general education certified, dual certified, or special education certified teachers’ decisions to remain teaching at their same school. In this study, the author fit multilevel logistic regression models to a large state administrative dataset in order to examine (1) if the percentage of SWDs a teacher instructs was associated with turnover, (2) if this association varied by student disability type, and (3) how these associations were moderated by special education certification. The study found that the percentage of SWDs in teachers’ classes was associated with an increase in the odds of turnover after controlling for teacher, classroom, and school characteristics. However, this association was completely moderated by special education certification and partially moderated by dual certification. Special education certification alone had a strong association with turnover, but special education certified teachers had lower odds of turnover when their classes contained more SWDs. Teaching students with behavior disorders was associated with a large increase in the odds of turnover for all categories of teachers. Implications are discussed for future research on training and supporting all teachers who work with SWDs.

 

Student Awardee:

Allison F. Gilmour, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Special Education

Temple University

 

Advisor:

Joseph Wehby, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Chair

Vanderbilt University

Title: Possibilities for a Transition with Dignity: Silos and Trialling in Aotearoa New Zealand

 

Abstract: Transition out of school is more than an administrative procedure, biological life stage, or public policy issue. Achievement of community engagement in post-school life is challenging, particularly for those with significant disability. Findings from this 6-month ethnographic study confirm the existence of these challenges within Aotearoa New Zealand, through the emergent findings of silos, or breakdowns in collaboration while trialling post-school options. Analysis of three in-depth cases is theoretically framed by the capability approach (Nussbaum, 2006; Sen, 1985) to construct a possibility-based study. Therein, the personal perspectives of those least often heard within their own transition and research on the topic are foregrounded. Their experiences are re-envisioned to propose a transition with dignity.

 

Student Awardee:

Sarah Hart, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Special Education

University of Hartford

 

Advisor:

Janet S. Gaffney, Ph.D.

Professor

University of Auckland, New Zealand

Title: Tiered Teacher Coaching on the Implementation of A Self-Monitoring Strategy with Students At Risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

 

Abstract: In this study, we examined the effects of a tiered teacher coaching intervention package, including video coaching and in-vivo coaching with use of the Bug-In-Ear technology, on the procedural fidelity of a self-monitoring strategy implemented by four general education teachers to support students with persistent behavioral challenges in the general education setting. Additionally, we evaluated the effects of teachers’ implementation on the on-task behavior of four targeted students at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders. Results of the multiple probe across participants design showed that there is a functional relation between the coaching intervention and the teachers’ implementation fidelity as well as students’ on-task behaviors. Limitations, suggestions for future research, and implications for practice are discussed.

 

Student Awardee:

Tosha Owens, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

East Carolina University

 

Advisor:

Ya-yu Lo, Ph.D.

Professor

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Title: The Perceived Stress, Executive Function, Perceived Stress Regulation, and Emotional and Behavioral Outcomes of Middle School Students With and Without Significant Emotional and Behavioral Problems

 

Abstract:  Students with or at-risk for significant emotional and behavioral problems have some of the poorest outcomes of all students, which may largely be linked to neurocognitive differences and stress related issues. Researchers across disciplines have discovered that individuals with significant problem behaviors tend to exhibit deficits in the neurocognitive mechanisms known as executive functions (EFs) and have limited ability to navigate stressful situations, resulting in worsening conduct and resistance to intervention over time. Yet, few researchers have investigated the EF of students who receive school-based services for behavior and none have examined the relationships among EF, school-based stressors, stress regulation, and behavioral outcomes during middle school – a high stress and active EF maturation period. This investigator conducted an observational study with 79 matched middle school students (44 with behavior, 35 typical peers). Results indicated that students with behavior problems (a) had lower EF abilities and higher peer stress, (b) used less engagement coping, and (c) reported higher internalizing and externalizing behaviors than typical peers. For all students, perceived family and school stress predicted behavioral problems and stress regulation abilities, with group moderating effects noted. Involuntary responses to stress positively predicted internalizing and externalizing problems, while engagement coping and disengagement coping predicted internalizing behaviors only. Both engagement coping and involuntary responses to school stress served as mediators between perceived stress and behavior problems. Unexpectedly, EF was unrelated to any variable of interest. Findings highlight important prevention and intervention areas for students with significant emotional and behavioral problems.

 

Student Awardee:

Michelle Cumming, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Special Education

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

 

Advisor:

Stephen W. Smith, Ph.D.

Professor of Special Education

Department of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

College of Education

University of Florida

Title: Training a Paraprofessional to Implement Video Prompting to Teach a Vocational Skill

 

Abstract:  Very few individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been trained in the vocational skills needed to obtain gainful employment. Moreover, although there is an abundance of research evaluating the practice of training practitioners of students with ASD to use evidence-based practices to teach a wide variety of skills, there have been few that apply this training to the acquisition of vocational tasks. This study uses a multiple baseline across behaviors design to evaluate the training methods used to train a paraprofessional in the preparation and implementation of video prompting with his student with ASD. Further, the behavior and learning of both the paraprofessional and student are measured. Results indicate that the training package resulted in increased video prompting implementation behavior for the paraprofessional, as well as corresponding, increased vocational skill behavior for the student.

 

Student Awardee:

Rachel L. Seaman, M.Ed.

Department of Educational Studies

Special Education Program

Ohio State University

 

Advisors:

Matthew Brock, Ph.D.  

Assistant Professor of Special Education

Ohio State University

 

Helen Malone, Ph.D.

Professor of Special Education

Ohio State University

Title: Teachers’ Voices: Understanding Effective Practice-based Professional Development for Elementary Teachers on SRSD in Writing

 

Abstract: This qualitative study examined understandings of practice-based professional development (PBPD) and its effectiveness for teacher implementation of an evidence-based practice, self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) for writing. Focus group interviews with 14 second- and third-grade teachers with diverse classrooms who participated in PBPD for SRSD in writing were conducted that resulted in significant and meaningful changes for teachers and students. Grounded theory was used to analyze interview data and findings were triangulated among researchers to increase trustworthiness. This study gives voice to teachers who successfully implemented an evidence-based practice at the whole class (or Tier 1) level. Teachers’ perceptions of the characteristics and components of PBPD for SRSD, implementation of SRSD instruction, and the results of PBPD for SRSD were explored. Findings highlight aspects of PBPD and SRSD teachers believed were important and why, as well as what they would change in the future. Challenges addressed include aspects of PBPD and differentiating SRSD instruction in diverse classrooms. Implications for future professional development and classwide implementation of SRSD are discussed along with limitations and future directions for research.

 

Student Awardee:

Debra McKeown, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor Georgia State University  

Department of Educational Psychology, Special Education, & Communication Disorders

College of Education and Human Development

Georgia State University

 

Advisor:

Karen Harris, Ph.D.

Mary Emily Warner Professor

Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Arizona State University

Title: Novice Special Educators’ Perceptions of Workload Manageability: Do They Matter and Are They Influenced by Novices’ Perceptions of Their Social Context?

 

Abstract: Novice special education teachers (SETs) consistently report that their workloads are unmanageable, encompassing too many responsibilities with insufficient support for fulfilling all responsibilities effectively. Extant research provides some evidence that perceptions of workload manageability predict teachers’ intentions to continue teaching, but this relationship has not been examined among novice SETs and other possible consequences of workload manageability (e.g. for burnout and instruction), have seldom been investigated. Further, extant research provides few insights into the factors that contribute to perceptions of workload manageability; understanding these factors is essential for determining how to help novices manage their workloads. In this article, two studies using structural equation modeling were implemented to examine data from the Michigan-Indiana Early Career Teacher (MIECT) study. The first study examined whether workload manageability is associated with consequences of concern. SETs’ perceptions of workload manageability significantly predicted emotional exhaustion and career intentions, but not instruction. GETs’ perceptions of workload manageability predicted emotional exhaustion, career intentions, and the proportion of time spent in instruction; the magnitude of these relationships was larger for GETs than SETs, even though SETs rated their workloads less manageable than GETs. Based on these findings, it was concluded that novice SETs’ and GETs’ perceptions of workload manageability are important to understand and address. To inform efforts to address them, the second study examined how school social contexts contribute to perceptions of workload manageability. It was also determined that SETs’ perceptions of workload manageability were predicted by instructional interactions with colleagues and schools’ cultures of collective responsibility for students with disabilities, but not instructional interactions with mentors. The pattern of relationships differed for SETs and GETs, suggesting that different populations of novices may benefit from different supports for managing their workloads.

 

Student Awardee:

Elizabeth Bettini, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Special Education Program

School of Education

Boston University

 

Advisor:

Mary Brownell, Ph.D.

Professor and Director, Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform Center

Department of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

College of Education

University of Florida

Title: Effects of Modified Schema-based Instruction Delivered through Computer-based Video Instruction on Mathematical Word Problem Solving of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Moderate Intellectual Disability

 

Abstract: The Common Core State Standards initiative calls for all students to be college and career ready with 21st Century skills by high school graduation, yet the question remains how to prepare students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and moderate intellectual disability (ID) with higher order mathematical concepts. Mathematical problem solving is a critical, higher order skill that students need to have in order to solve real-world problems, but there is currently limited research on teaching problem solving to students with ASD and moderate ID. This study investigated the effects of modified schema-based instruction (SBI) delivered through computer-based video instruction (CBVI) on the acquisition of mathematical problem solving skills, as well as the ability to discriminate problem type, to three elementary-aged students with ASD and moderate ID using a single-case multiple probe across participants design. The study also examined participant’s ability to generalize skills to a paper-and-pencil format. Results showed a functional relation between SBI delivered through CBVI and the participants’ mathematical word problem solving skills, ability to discriminate problem type, and generalization to novel problems in paper-and-pencil format. The findings of this study provide several implications for practice for using CBVI to teach higher order mathematical content to students with ASD and moderate ID, and offers suggestions for future research in this area.

 

Student Awardee:

Alicia F. Saunders, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Department of Special Education and Child Development

College of Education

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 

Advisor:

Ya-yu Lo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Special Education and Child Development

College of Education

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Title: Word-Problem Instruction for English Learners with Mathematics Difficulty: A Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Approach

 

Abstract: Word problems are prevalent on high-stakes assessments, and success on word problems has implications for grade promotion and graduation. Unfortunately, English Learners (ELs) continue to perform significantly below their native English-speaking peers on mathematics assessments featuring word problems, which may be attributed to the linguistic complexity of mathematics instruction and standardized assessments. Little is known about the instructional needs and performance of ELs at-risk for mathematics difficulty (MD). In the present study, a mixed-methods design (i.e., qualitative methods and an exploratory quasi-experimental design) was used to investigate word-problem instruction for ELs in a culturally and linguistically diverse public elementary school. Specifically, we studied one teacher’s mathematics instruction for ELs over several months and empirically tested the efficacy of a word-problem intervention for ELs with MD (N = 9) that combined culturally and linguistically responsive practices and schema instruction (CLR-SI). The study is unique in that it combines research on effective instruction for ELs and students with MD; CLR-SI has not been investigated for either ELs or students with MD. Results have implications for teachers, administrators, and researchers of ELs with MD.

 

Student Awardee:

Melissa K. Driver, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Inclusive Education

Bagwell College of Education

Kennesaw State University

 

Advisor:

Sarah R. Powell, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Special Education, College of Education

University of Texas at Austin

Last Updated:  3 February, 2021

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