The MCTC News Blog

MCTC in the News: Women and Water Reflections

Posted on: December 15th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Rhea Pappas knew she wanted to pursue photography as early as high school, and at MCTC she was able to achieve that goal. She combined her love for water and photography to create stunning images under water. For Pappas, being underwater was serene and comforting and so she uses her photography to emulate that imagery. Pappas’ exhibit is on display in the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The original story, available here in the Minnesota Women’s Press, is posted in its entirety below.


Women and water reflections
CoverArtist: Fine arts photographer Rhea Pappas takes her camera underwater

by Norma Smith Olson


Top photo: “Beneath the Surface – Free” Lower left: Cover artist, Rhea Pappas Lower right: “Beneath the Surface – Enter” “There’s something about water that feels like home. You can be alone, a moment for yourself, it’s your time, with freedom to express yourself in a non-judgmental way. When I’m underwater, I don’t feel objectified or judged, it’s just a place for me. I think a lot of other women feel the same way.” – Rhea Pappas

“It’s pretty simple – I love the water,” says Rhea Pappas, this month’s cover artist. “I was always considered a water baby. I’d be in the tub for hours.”

She’s a swimmer, sailor, scuba diver and – where she makes the biggest waves – an underwater photographer.

Beyond her own love of being in the water, Pappas also encourages other women to join her in the swimming pool. She takes pictures with her Aquatica AD700 camera of women underwater with fabrics flowing, often surrounded by bubbles. In one series of photos, Lingua Luna, a local music trio, included their musical instruments under the water.

“I think underwater lends itself to a very womanly presence. The light is gentle; there’s a lot of serenity underwater. It’s a very mystical, mythical, just a comforting place,” Pappas says.

That is, once you get past the whole fear of drowning. Pappas works with her models to ease any anxiety. “Being underwater can be scary for some people,” she says. “I’m not one of those people.”

Beneath the surface

A collection of photographs by Pappas will be on display from October to January at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. The project grew out of her college senior thesis of individual women floating on the water with flowers and fabrics. She graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) with a degree in fine arts photography.

Within a year of graduating from MCAD she had equipped herself with an underwater camera and started taking photographs below the surface, capturing the reflections from above the water.

Pappas knew from her senior year at Perpich Arts High School that she would be a photographer. “I wasn’t built for the stage – my heart wasn’t there,” she says. She had started out in the singing program at Perpich, but learned quickly that she had stage fright. She found she preferred to be out of the spotlight and behind the camera.

Pappas was introduced to photography and darkroom processes in her first year of high school. “I found it very difficult, but I loved the challenge. Put me in an honors class, and I’d excel.”
For Pappas, this art form was mathematical and technical, with variable scientific components, like the sun being too bright for exposure. “I’m nerdy,” she says. Taking photos combines the logicaland the artistic sides of her brain. “My favorite things. It’s very rewarding.”

While in high school she took PSEO (Postsecondary Enrollment Options) classes in photography at MCAD and also at Minneapolis Technical and Community College. Her senior photographic portfolio led to her winning a substantial arts scholarship, which she used at MCAD.

Today, along with her passion for fine art photography, Pappas works with a digital camera and shoots weddings, senior portraits and events for businesses, such as Aveda and Caribou Coffee.

“I love capturing emotions and moments,” she says. “I’m going along on someone else’s journey and documenting it. It’s nice to be a part of somebody’s story, centered on someone else.”


You can watch Rhea Pappas at work with her underwater camera in a Minnesota Original episode, produced by Twin Cities Public Television:

What: Surfacing: Rhea Pappas
When: Oct. 23, 2015-Jan. 10, 2016; Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 800 Riverview Dr., Winona, MN 55987
Cost: Adults $7; students $3; children age 4 and under, free
FFI: 507-474-6626 or

MCTC Political Science Instructor Brings Awareness and Support to Twin Cities Veterans

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

MCTC Political Science Instructor Miki Huntington was recently featured in an article in the Lake Minnetonka Magazine. In addition to teaching Political Science, Miki is an Army veteran and former member of the Bush administration. She also advises MCTC’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter and is co-chair of MCTC’s branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR). MCTC is fortunate to have Miki actively contributing to the betterment of our community. The original story is available at this link, and posted in its entirety below.

LKM5794_1115_Miki_EJD_001 Cropped


Excelsior Resident Miki Huntington Brings Awareness and Support to Twin Cities Veterans


Miki Huntington has worked in the White House. She’s flown Black Hawk helicopters. She has lived overseas. She spent 25 years in the U.S. Army. She served as a member of President George W. Bush’s administration. And though she’s already achieved that prestigious list of accomplishments, Huntington is now living in Excelsior, tackling another item on her bucket list: teaching.

Huntington was born in Japan, where her father, retired by that time, had been stationed with the Navy. Her family lived in Japan until Huntington was 10. It was overseas that she developed a deep appreciation for her country, and she eventually joined the Reserves and then ROTC to help pay for an education degree.

As she listed her preferred areas of military service, aviation came to mind. “Someone told me not to put it down,” says Huntington. “ ‘You’ll never get it,’ they told me… but sometimes a challenge is a really great motivator!” That spirit of confidence and resilience is one that’s served Huntington well through 25 years in the Army, including 10 as a pilot in Huey and Black Hawk helicopters.

Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in Asian studies, lived in South Korea and Japan, and became foreign area officer for Asia and the Middle East. When Huntington was asked to apply for a position at the White House, she and her husband knew they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So she spent 2007 through 2009 in Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Security Affairs Office.

In 2011, she retired from her final military position as the chief of U.S.-Japan government relations, and she and her husband, an Excelsior native she met in South Korea, decided to move back to the lake area. She began pursuing her life-long dream of teaching, and she brought her extensive military and travel background into the classroom as a political science professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). She also advises MCTC’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter and is co-chair of MCTC’s branch of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR). It’s an initiative that connects veterans with support, training and resources; Huntington and her team plan events and coordinate resources designed to raise awareness of and build support for veterans and their families.

Annette Kuyper is director of military outreach for the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs, and she’s worked closely with Huntington to develop MCTC’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program.

“Veterans need to feel like they can come back and contribute in their civilian communities,” says Kuyper. “We’re educating our networks on the resources that are available, making more people aware of resources in case transitional issues surface.” Though raising awareness in a community is important, “it takes people like Miki to lead organizations and synchronize support,” says Kuyper.

Huntington worked with Kuyper to secure MCTC’s certification as a recognized Yellow Ribbon Company, which included making an organization-wide commitment to supporting veterans and military-connected families and community members. In January, MCTC became one of 47 Yellow Ribbon organizations in Minnesota.

Kuyper notes that a recent Readiness & Resilience in National Guard Soldiers (RINGS) study found that combat service members are amazingly resilient. “Key factors that help in that resiliency are that they came back to communities and workplaces and educational institutions that show acceptance and visible support for veterans,” says Kuyper.

Tara Martinez, director of student life and co-chair of the Yellow Ribbon Committee at MCTC, notes that being a veteran is different from other identities.

“It’s not an identity that’s often obvious … veterans might not easily connect with each other,” says Martinez. The Yellow Ribbon Committee developed a Hall of Veterans designed to commemorate service members in the current MCTC community. In this way, students and staff could begin to recognize and support MCTC veterans and active service members.

“As someone who hasn’t served in the military, I needed to partner with someone who had. Miki is poised, polished and professional, but also so fun and down-to-earth,” says Martinez. She notes that MCTC has a student population with an average age of 28, so there’s a higher-than-average percentage of veterans and non-traditional students. Huntington offers her military background every day in the classroom, but also knows first-hand that just as college experiences are diverse, a military background isn’t the same for everyone.

“I wasn’t a combat veteran. For some of us, going to work in the military is just like going to a regular job. Yes, there are serious needs we need to address [for combat veterans], but that wasn’t the experience for all of us,” says Huntington. More importantly, she says, communities need to recognize the wide variety of reactions and needs of our veterans, and to offer support and understanding.

One aim of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is simply to be more inclusive and appreciative of veterans in our communities. Huntington says that the Yellow Ribbon initiative at MCTC has encouraged her because “it’s taken the conversation beyond ‘Thank you for your service.’ Not to discount the intent behind that comment, but it’s just the start of the conversation.”

Though it’s taken her a few extra years to land her original dream job in the classroom, Huntington says that working with students isn’t all that different from her time in the military. Says Huntington, “Service in a uniform, or service in the classroom… I’m grateful to do what I do.”

(Photos courtesy of Miki Huntington)

Taking Flight

Far left: Miki Huntington in a UH-1 “Huey” Iroquois helicopter at K-16 Seoul Airbase. Top center: Huntington’s husband David, left, and Vice President Dick Cheney, right, pin on Huntington’s new rank of Lieutenant Colonel during her promotion ceremony in 2008. Bottom center: David and Miki Huntington with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2009.

Yellow Ribbon

Miki Huntington works with Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s student veterans’ groups and helped secure the college’s certification as a Yellow Ribbon Company.

Learn about some of the awards on Miki Huntington’s uniform.

Senior Aviator Badge (silver wings) Awarded for attaining an aeronautical rating of Senior Army aviator; recipients have at least 1,000 hours and 84 months of Department of Defense (DOD) aviator flight time, which must include flight time as a pilot in command. Huntington piloted UH-1 “Huey” Iroquois and UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopters.

Defense Superior Service Medal Awarded to members of the Armed Forces who rendered superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility. Huntington received the award upon completion of her White House assignment.

Legion of Merit Awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. Huntington received the award upon her retirement following 25 years of service in the Army.

Meritorious Service Medal (one bronze oak leaf cluster) Awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who has distinguished himself or herself by outstanding meritorious achievement or service. The oak leaf cluster is issued to denote the award of second and succeeding decorations.

Army Commendation Medal (three oak leaf clusters) Awarded to any member who distinguishes himself or herself by heroism, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service.

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Army Achievement Medal (two oak leaf clusters) Awarded to any member who distinguishes himself or herself by meritorious service or achievement of a lesser degree than required for award of the Army Commendation Medal.

National Defense Service Medal (one bronze star) Awarded for honorable active service for any period between 2 August 1990 and 30 November 1995 (Persian Gulf) and 11 September 2001 to a date to be determined (Global War on Terrorism). The bronze service star is worn to denote participation in a named campaign to denote an additional award. Huntington notes that she did not deploy overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan, so this medal simply reflects her service during the specific time period.

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Awarded to members of the Armed Forces who have participated in or served in support of a Global War on Terrorism operations outside of the designated area of eligibility on or after September 11, 2001 to a future date to be determined.

Army Service Ribbon Awarded to members of the U.S. Army for successful completion of initial entry (“basic”) training.

Army Overseas Service Ribbon Awarded to members of the U.S. Army for successful completion of overseas tours.

Reserve Components Overseas Service Ribbon
Awarded to members of the Reserve Components of the Army for successful completion of annual training or Active Duty Training for a period of not less than 10 consecutive duty days on foreign soil.

Air Assault Badge (silver badge) Eligibility criteria consists of satisfactory completion of an air assault training course.

MCTC Psychology Instructor Identifies How to Determine Where a Student is Struggling

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

MCTC’s Troy Dvorak is at it again! The MCTC Psychology instructor was recently featured in an article from the Better Weekdays blog about the “nontraditional student.” Dvorak provides experienced advice about how to make students feel at ease as well as tips for student success. The instructor and recently published author is also a self-taught drummer, guitar student and a self-proclaimed fan of 80s rock and hair metal. You can read this original story here. The story is also posted in its entirety below.

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

Written by : Aja Frost

How to Determine where a Student is Struggling

The “nontraditional” student may be the new “normal” student.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) defines “nontraditional” in three different ways: delayed enrollment, familial responsibility, or financial constraints and lack of high school degree. And under this definition, the NCES found that around half of all students enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions are moderately or highly untraditional.

It’s important for career counselors to be aware of this statistic, as the NCES has also found that the more “nontraditional” characteristics students have (including age, job status, dependency status and so on), the more likely they are to leave school before getting their degree.

To help these students succeed, you’ll want to create an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable. Once they trust you, work with them to identify and overcome potential obstacles.

Establish a Relationship

“Rapport is one of the most important parts of any counseling session,” says Troy Dvorak, adjunct professor of psychology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the author of “Psychological Keys to Student Success.”

He advises making sure you leave plenty of time in your day for the appointment so that you don’t seem rushed or preoccupied.

“You don’t want to communicate that you are just squeezing the person in between other things,” Dvorak says.

To further put students at ease, remember to smile, be friendly and show you’re interested in them as people. The first couple questions you ask should be unrelated to school. Try openers like: “How was your weekend?” “What are you looking forward to?” “Is your day going well?”

Pinpoint the General Problem

After you’ve made the student feel a little more relaxed, you can start getting into the actual issue.

“I like to start by asking about his or her situation rather than delving immediately into what he or she is personally doing or not doing,” Dvorak says. “This reduces defensiveness.”

If you don’t immediately get an answer, he recommends gently bringing up the reason why the person booked the appointment. To engender trust, make sure you remain patient.

The Job Search

Dvorak assesses a number of factors to determine why a student’s efforts to find employment aren’t working. First, he asks practical questions, like “Do you have a resume?” or “What resources are you using?” and “What types of work are you applying for?”

If the student’s answers raise any red flags—for example, maybe he or she doesn’t have a well-crafted resume—you can start making a list of ways to help.

But you may have to go a little deeper. Dvorak will also inquire about students’ schedules, interests, transportation options, which can limit their ability to go on interviews, and what exactly they’re doing to find a job.

“Sometimes students say they are looking, but this means they surfed the Internet for 10 minutes one day,” he says.

He suggests asking how much time they’re spending looking and where they’re looking—but not too early in the session, as these questions can make students feel defensive.

Academic Success

“I personally want the person to know that there are many challenges associated with getting good grades. Some of the challenges are personal, while some are situational,” Dvorak says. “As a show of respect, I let them know that I am interested in learning more about what those challenges might be, and I ask if they are willing to share some of their personal experiences with me to help me understand how I might be able to help them.”

You’ll want to look into whether or not the student is supporting anyone or raising children, and if so, whether he or she has access to day-care. In addition, ask whether the student is working while he or she goes to school.

Dvorak also recommends asking:

  • Does the student have family or social support? Does he or she live with someone?
  • Is English the student’s first language?
  • Does the student have transportation? Is he or she regularly attending class?
  • Has the student recently experienced a hardship (loss of a home, death of a loved one, divorce/relationship break-up, etc.)?

The student may also be struggling with personal factors such as study skills and habits, time management abilities, self-confidence, mental health, previous academic experiences, and motivation and goals. To get to the root of these issues, Stacy Haynes, a licensed clinical psychologist and the chief executive officer of Little Hands Family Services in Turnersville, New Jersey who has a doctorate in education and helps people of all ages with academic struggles, likes to ask questions such as:

  • What subjects are you having a difficult time in?
  • What makes learning difficult?
  • What in the learning environment makes it difficult to learn?
  • Is there something the teacher is doing or not doing that is making it harder to learn?
  • What’s your favorite method of learning something?

Show Respect

No matter what, make sure you’re always showing respect for the student.

“These people have significant life experience,” Dvorak says. “Many have worked for a long time. Many are from other countries. They speak many different languages. They have children to support. They have limited time. And they are often trying to better themselves and the opportunities for their families.”

To allow students to open up, he believes you should always spend more time listening than talking. If you’re too quick to offer suggestions, the person you’re talking to will likely become non-responsive.

If you use these tips and questions, you’ll be able to discover why students are struggling, which will make finding solutions to their challenges that much easier.

MCTC in the News: Plight of Modern Refugees Strikes a Chord for Immigrant Artists

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Khadija Charif, a student at MCTC and the daughter of Somali immigrants, performed her poem “She Woke Up” at the Refugee Crisis forum at Macalester College recently. As part of our community here at MCTC, Charif advocates for refugees struggling to find safety. The original story is available at this link, is posted in its entirety below.

Plight of Modern Refugees Strikes a Chord for Immigrant Artists
By Laura Yuen

When Khadija Charif performs a poem about a Syrian refugee woman, her mind races to the image that inspired it: a video of a panicked mother searching for her lost child and husband along the family’s journey to safety.

Charif, the daughter of Somali immigrants, said her own mother was moved by the same image.

“My mom found it so, so, so touching, to see a mother and a wife going through that struggle — and here she was, blessed enough to have her family with her,” Charif said.

Charif will perform the poem Thursday evening at a forum where young Minnesota artists will draw from their personal experiences in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The state is home to a vast refugee community whose own stories of escape and rebuilding may ring familiar to the most recent exiles from Syria.

“It kind of hits home,” said Charif’s mentor, Somali-American photographer Mohamud Mumin, referring to the current crisis. “It’s something that we empathize [with], and know firsthand.”

Mumin also mentored another artist presenter, Muna Ahmed, 22, who is majoring in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Minnesota. For the past year, she has been photographing Twin Cities refugees from all over the world and listening to their stories.

Ahmed, a Somali-American born in Yemen, said she could relate to the act of leaving one’s homeland and adapting to a new place and culture. She said that through her photography, she wants to help connect the broader public to the plight of the refugees.

“I think anyone, not necessarily even immigrants, can connect and understand having to be vulnerable, and needing help, and seeking it, regardless of things holding you back,” Ahmed said.

Thursday’s event will also feature speakers from Macalester College, the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee and the resettlement group International Institute of Minnesota. The forum is a collaboration among the college, Public Radio International and the group Gazillion Strong.

Charif, a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, considers herself lucky; her family left Somalia before civil war erupted in the early 1990s. After that, mother and father were separated for several years while her dad lived in the United States, working to provide for his family in Belgium.

But Charif’s family has seen its share of loss, too. Her younger brother, Abdullahi, drowned last year during a swimming class at St. Louis Park Middle School.

Charif’s grief hasn’t stopped her from advocating for others across the globe struggling to find safe refuge.

“We’re hoping to bring awareness toward the crisis,” she said, “and also to have a ripple effect.”

The forum starts at 4:45 p.m. at John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

MCTC In The News: Start of A Transition at FAIR Downtown

Posted on: November 2nd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
FAIR School Downtown started its first school year since a change in management to Minneapolis Public Schools from the West Metro Education Program.

The FAIR School in downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Community and Technical College campus is located just blocks from FAIR School Downtown, a K-12 school in downtown Minneapolis. The proximity provides students an opportunity to look to MCTC as both a choice for PSEO as well as after graduation. “Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework,” said FAIR School principal Kevin Bennett. The original story, available at this link, is posted in its entirety below.

Start of a transition at FAIR Downtown

October 6, 2015

By: Dylan Thomas

DOWNTOWN WEST — More than a week after the start of the 2015–2016 school year brought most Minneapolis Public Schools buildings back to bustling life in August, the hallways at FAIR Downtown School were still relatively quiet, with no students in sight.

A post-Labor Day start remained on FAIR Downtown’s calendar even though management of the school was transferred this summer to Minneapolis from the West Metro Education Program. It was just one example of how the downtown site serving grades K–3 and 9–12 remains distinctive in its new home district.

Principal Kevin Bennett said, for him, the most noticeable change may be that his district headquarters is now two miles away in North Minneapolis instead of just down the hallway from his office. For students and their families, the message from Bennett and the district is one of consistency and stability for at least the next four to five years.

“I think we’re working to keep the experience for students the same,” Bennett, who is beginning his 12th year at the school, said. “I would hope if students say that something is different, it’s been that we’ve been able to access (Minneapolis district) programs and personalize their learning experience for the better.”

But there has been change, including significant turnover in FAIR Downtown’s K–3 teaching staff since last school year. And for some parents, the unusual path FAIR students once followed from downtown Minneapolis to a sister campus in Crystal and then back again is now looking too uncertain.

Meanwhile, officials with Robbinsdale Area Schools, the district now running FAIR Crystal, have publicly discussed a change in grade configuration at that 4–8 school as soon as 2017.

Staff turnover and that uncertainty where both factors Jim Ramlet, a former member of the two schools’ PTO, cited for enrolling his two boys at new schools outside of FAIR this fall. Ramlet, who lives in Robbinsdale, said his younger son would’ve been entering his senior of high school just as Minneapolis’ pledge of four years of stability expired.

“You don’t want to be looking for another high school when your son is starting his senior year,” he said.

WMEP’s changing role

The West Metro Education Program was founded in 1989 as a way for its 11 member districts, including Minneapolis, to collaboratively work on school integration issues. Although it no longer manages the two FAIR schools, WMEP plans to continue offering professional development for educators.

The school boards of the Minneapolis and Robbinsdale districts acted last winter to take over management of the FAIR Downtown and FAIR Crystal, respectively. At the time, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said the school’s K–3 classrooms “obviously” would be phased-out at some point, but pledged to “protect the program” at FAIR Downtown and transfer some of the lessons learned there to the district at large.

The shift in the schools’ management was formalized in June during a special legislative session.

Minneapolis district leaders plan to initiate a community engagement process around the future of FAIR Downtown this year, while at the same time continuing conversations with Robbinsdale about the future of the Crystal campus, Michael Thomas, chief of schools for the Minneapolis district, wrote in an email. For now, the schools continue to operate as an inter-district integration program, enrolling students from all 11 of the member districts.


Bennett, who this summer was one in a group of American educators invited on a five-city tour of China, said he’s interested in pursuing community partnership school status for FAIR Downtown. The designation gives Minneapolis schools greater freedom in setting their own budgets, staffing rules and curricula — even the lengths of the school day and school year — as long as they can show the changes are boosting student learning.

Bennett said the school already offers students unique learning opportunities through a “robust network of partners,” including downtown businesses like Target and arts institutions like the Hennepin Theater Trust. Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework.

Bennet said those partnerships, and the 500-student school’s relatively intimate size, continue to draw families. He estimated about half of the school’s students live in Minneapolis.

In 2014, the FAIR Downtown graduated more than 88 percent of its relatively small senior class, according to the latest figures available from the Minnesota Department of Education. The graduation rate for Minneapolis Public Schools that year was just less than 59 percent.

Not a seamless transition

Richard Spratt, the parent of both a current FAIR Downtown sophomore and a graduate of the school, mentioned that graduation rate when asked about the school. Spratt described the small campus as “a very caring community,” but said he wonders about the direction the school will go in now that it’s a part of the Minneapolis district.

“In a large system like that you lose control of a lot of things, and sometimes systems make decisions that have a negative impact on programs,” he said.

Kari D’Averill, whose son, Levi, is a grade 2 student at FAIR Downtown, said the transition has not been as “seamless” as the Minneapolis district promised. By D’Averill’s count, there was only one teacher on the school’s K–3 staff this fall who’d been there the previous school year.

Drawn to FAIR in large part by the relatively small size, D’Averill said she’d already experienced additional layers of district bureaucracy since the transition to Minneapolis. But as long as the leadership and office staff at FAIR remains in place, she added, “I still have great hope that the FAIR that was will emerge.”

“We’re committed to seeing it through until it doesn’t work,” she said.