Graduate Study in Sociology

Director of Graduate Studies:

Professor Kelly H. Chong

Fraser Hall
1415 Jayhawk Boulevard, Room 716
Lawrence, KS 66045-7540
Phone: (785) 864-9415

Admission Criteria and Application Materials

.....Thank you for your interest in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kansas! Prerequisites for regular admission to the graduate program in sociology are:

  • a baccalaureate degree with a 3.0 grade-point average
  • 15 hours of college credit in sociology
  • a course in sociological theory
  • a sociology course in statistics

Students who have not met one or more of the prerequisites above may be admitted provisionally or on probation for a limited time. Applications can be accessed using the link below:

Applications for admission must include:

  • a completed application form
  • a current resume/curriculum vitae
  • a statement of academic interests and professional goals
  • three recommendation forms (PDF) and letters focused on academic performance
  • one complete set of original, official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. These must be sealed and sent directly from the Institution to the Department. (New! KU students may request an electronic transcript be sent to the Department of Sociology at  To request an electronic transcript visit
  • scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude tests
  • a brief writing sample of your best academic work
  • if desired, please include a cover letter indicating your wish to be considered for a teaching assistantship or other financial assistance
  • an application fee ( US$55 Domestic Online Application/ US$65 International Online Application). Online applications require electronic payment (i.e., credit card). (Please note that all application fees are non-refundable and subject to change.)

For any application materials you wish to mail, please send to the Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd., 716 Fraser Hall, Lawrence, KS 66045. The application instructions above can also be found in Application Deadlines and Instructions (PDF).

    International Applicants

    The application procedure for international students is the same as above,
    except for the following:
  • Complete an "International Degree-Seeking Application for Admission" of the Graduate School of the University of Kansas
  • International applicants are required to submit scores on both the GRE and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Academic Format of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) administered by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations. Please see the ETS homepage for testing centers. Applicants are expected to score at least 550 on the TOEFL paper-based exam (79 on the internet-based exam/ 213 on the computer-based exam) or a minimumum overall score of 6.5 on the IELTS.
  • International applicants who have earned a baccalaureate degree (or higher) from an accredited institution of higher education in the US are exempt from having to submit TOEFL and/or IELTS scores.
  • Provide a statement of financial means for support during graduate studies at the University of Kansas. Credible documentary evidence of financial support must be provided before an I-20 form (for F-1 status) or a DS-2019 form (for J-1 status) can be issued. For current estimates of expenses needed, please visit
  • Applicants who have studied in universities in other countries must make certain that a brief description of their major programs of study, their university's grading scale, and their rank relative to other students is provided to the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Useful Links: KU's Applied English Center, International Student Association, KU SPEAK test information


The deadline for Fall graduate applications is December 15 of the preceding year. Completed application files received by this date will be considered for all forms of financial assistance including nomination by the Department for University awards and Graduate Teaching Assistantships for the coming academic year. (For more information, see the GTA Information/Documents section on the Provost's webpage.) Applications completed after this date will be reviewed for admission but may be too late to be considered for financial assistance.

MA Graduates! Adrianne Matlock, Andrea Gomez Cervantes, Prof. Shirley Hill, and Melissa Maki

Financial Support

As stated above, completed application files received by the appropriate deadline date will be considered for all forms of financial assistance including nomination by the Department for Graduate School awards (see Graduate School funding) and Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) for the coming academic year.

The Applied English Center assists departments in screening the oral language proficiency of non-native speakers of English who are applying for teaching positions. GTA applicants whose native language is not English are required by Board of Regents Policy to submit either a Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit Test score of 50 or higher or the internet-based TOEFL exam (iBT) with a score of 24 or higher on the speaking section.

In most years, at least one student is supported by a fellowship from the Graduate School; 15 to 18 students are supported by graduate teaching assistantships; six or seven students hold research assistantships for individual faculty members or the Gerontology Center; and three or four students teach at other institutions. Support provided by university positions (half-time service) and fellowships averages about $12,000 per year for nine months.

For information about grants, loans, and other need-based financial aid, contact KU's Financial Aid & Scholarships , Strong Hall, 1450 Jayhawk Boulevard, Room 50, Lawrence, KS 66045-7535, (785)864-4700. Please visit the Office of Student Financial Aid to obtain cost of attendance information.

The University of Kansas is committed to providing programs and activities to all persons, regardless of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, age, or veteran status.

The Department

.......The Sociology Department is a vibrant community of about 50 graduate students and 20 faculty members. From our pool of applicants, we welcome 7-10 new students into the graduate program each year. Our Department is small enough to allow students to develop mentor-relationships with the faculty members while engaging in a rigorous program of study that focuses heavily on sociological theory, equips students in research skills, and allows them to pursue their interests in a variety of substantive fields.

.......Graduate students also play an active role in Departmental affairs; they serve on most Departmental committees, participate in the Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA), and edit a research journal, Social Thought and Research (STAR). Fifteen to 18 graduate students are funded as graduate teaching assistants, and receive continuous training and support in a teaching seminar. A few advanced graduate students have taught in other departments and at nearby colleges and universities. Professional socialization is an important component of our program: Our students are encouraged to participate at professional meetings (e.g., Midwest Sociological Society, American Sociological Association, Sociologists for Women in Society) and submit their work (especially their Master's Degree thesis) for publication. Graduate students host a Graduate Student Sponsored Lecture Series, inviting new Sociology professionals to lecture at KU.

SWS KU Sociology Members
Winter Meetings of the Sociologists for Women in Society in Albuquerque, NM, 2013.
From right to left: Shane Willson, Laurie Petty, Profs. Mary Zimmerman and Joey Sprague, Emily Jones, Ilana Demantas, and Dr. Ophra Leyser.

Program Overview and Course Descriptions
The graduate program allows students to develop programs of study emphasizing specialties in sociology or a combination of sociology and related fields. A full list of graduate course decriptions may be found here. Our major sociology specialties include the following:


Affiliated faculty: Andac, Chong, Davidman, Donovan, Sprague, Staples, Stock

Economic Sociology

Affiliated faculty: Albrecht, Antonio, Hanley, Kim, Najafizadeh, Rauscher, Staples, Stock


Affiliated faculty: Nagel, Stock


Affiliated faculty:  Ekerdt, Hill, LaPierre, Zimmerman 

Gender and Sexuality

Affiliated faculty: Albrecht, Chong, Davidman, Donovan, Hill, LaPierre, Najafizadeh, Nagel, Sprague, Zimmerman 


Affiliated faculty: Andac, Antonio, Hanley, Najafizadeh, Nagel, Obadare, Stock, Zimmerman

Life Course & Aging

Affiliated faculty: Ekerdt, LaPierre, Rauscher, Saint Onge, Zimmerman 


Affiliated faculty: Ekerdt, Hill, LaPierre, Obadare, Rauscher, Saint Onge, Zimmerman


Affiliated faculty: Andac, Chong,Kim, Najafizadeh, Obadare, Zimmerman    

Political Sociology

Affiliated faculty: Andac, Antonio, Hanley, Obadare, Smith, Staples, Stock, Zimmerman

Race & Ethnicity

Affiliated faculty: Andac, Chong, Davidman, Donovan, Hill, Kim, Nagel, Saint Onge, Smith


Affiliated faculty: Chong, Davidman, Obadare, Stock

Social Inequality/Stratification

Affiliated faculty: Donovan, Hanley, Hill, Kim, LaPierre, Najafizadeh, Rauscher, Saint Onge, Smith, Staples, Stock, Zimmerman

Sociology Graduate Program
Qualifying for a Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Kansas entails completing a sequence of steps.  Students must complete required coursework, prepare a Professional Portfolio, write and successfully defend an M.A. thesis, complete examination requirements in two areas of specialization, draft and successfully defend a proposal for a Ph.D. dissertation proposal, and successfully complete a doctoral dissertation.

Step 1: The M.A. Degree All pre-M.A. students must enroll in 9 credit hours of coursework per semester until they complete the M.A. requirements.During their first semester, students must complete 3 graduate seminars in addition to any GTA requirements. All new students must participate in the Proseminar to become acquainted with the department and faculty. This entails, within two years of enrollment in the doctoral program at the pre-M.A. level, the completion of 36 hours of graduate credit, including:

  • Sociology 810 Sociological Inquiry
  • Sociology 811 Sociological Methods
  • one graduate-level course in the history and theory of sociology (see list below)
  • two other graduate-level sociological methods courses (according to the list of courses below)
  • and six thesis hours (SOC 899)

Individual Master’s Readings courses (Sociology 891) may not be used to meet these requirements except by approved petition. (A full list of the courses that satisfy the theory, methods, and substantive seminar requirements may be found below.)

Time Limits Students must complete all requirements for the M.A. degree no more than two years from the time of their first semester of graduate enrollment.  For example, if a student begins the program in Fall 2009, all requirements for M.A. degree must be completed before the first day of classes in the Spring 2011 semester.  

Professional Portfolio From their first semester in the graduate program, students will prepare a Professional Portfolio of their graduate work. The Portfolio should be an electronic document, created with Microsoft Word and converted into a PDF, so that it may be accessible to faculty for evaluation.  Details of submission may also be obtained here.  For pre-M.A. students, the portfolio must contain the following items: a table of contents, curriculum vitae, written work from all courses including research papers, take-home examinations and annotated bibliographies, master’s thesis proposal, master’s thesis, and any conference papers, grant proposals or published works. The Portfolio may contain the following items if students and their committees find them helpful as evidence of students’ command of a given field: syllabi of courses taught or proposed, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and web-site designs.

M.A. Thesis Besides completing the required coursework, pre-M.A. students must prepare and defend an M.A. thesis. The purpose of the M.A. thesis is to train students in writing, conceptualization and research.  Defense of the thesis includes a general examination on relevant themes of sociological theory and research.  Completion of these requirements leads to the M.A. degree, which normally allows the student to proceed to doctoral study.  

PhD Student Nikki Perry in her Soc 104 Discussion section

Step 2: The Ph.D Program Requirements for students pursuing a doctoral degree normally include:

  • for students admitted at the pre-Master's level, a letter requesting admission to the PhD program
  • creating a Professional Portfolio within the first semester of admission
  • completion of course requirements within two years of admission
  • satisfaction of requirements pertaining to the two areas of specialization within two years of admission
  • a dissertation proposal and comprehensive oral examination
  • a final dissertation and oral defense thereof

Course Enrollment
All Ph.D. students are required to enroll in 9 credit hours of coursework per semester for the first two years of enrollment in the program at the Ph.D. level.  During their first semester all students are required to take three graduate seminars, in addition to any GTA requirements. All new students must participate in the Proseminar to become acquainted with the department and faculty. After completing the oral comprehensive examination and defense of the dissertation proposal, students are required to enroll in a total of 18 additional credit hours, 6 credit hours per semester and 3 credit hours per summer session until the 18 hours are completed.  If the Ph.D. degree is not completed after 18 credit hours of post-comprehensive enrollment, students must continue to enroll each semester and each summer session until all requirements for the degree have been met.

Professional Portfolio From their first semester in the graduate program, students will prepare a Professional Portfolio of their graduate work. The Portfolio should be an electronic document, created with Microsoft Word and converted to a PDF, so that it may be accessible to faculty for evaluation. Details of submission may also be obtained here. The Portfolio may contain the following items if students and their committees find them helpful as evidence of students’ command of a given field: papers and exams written in graduate seminars, area specialty materials, syllabi of courses taught or proposed, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and web-site designs.

Course Requirements Ph.D. students are required to complete 14 graduate seminars in Sociology including three graduate-level theory courses and three graduate-level research methods courses. For those who completed the thesis-option M.A. in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kansas, the graduate-level theory, methods, and sociology seminars taken while earning the M.A. count towards meeting these requirements. Students who do not complete Sociology 812 (Analytic Methods) at the Master's level are required to do at the Ph.D. level. Individual Doctoral Readings courses (Sociology 991) may not be used to meet these requirements except by approved petition. With a letter of support from their faculty advisor, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to have one or more of these requirements waived.

After completing one semester in good standing in the sociology doctoral programs, students are eligible to apply for the dual-title sociology-gerontology Ph.D. program.  Further details are in Sociology Graduate Manual, below.

Areas of Specialization Students will demonstrate their command of two areas of specialization in sociology and their preparation to undertake dissertation research by creating artifacts to be part of their Professional Portfolios. Two sections of the Professional Portfolio are designated as Area Specialization Dossiers (ASDs) and devoted to materials that demonstrate mastery in the students' specialty areas. During their first semester in the Ph.D. program, students must select a chair and establish a committee for their first ASD. After securing the agreement of each person to serve on the committee, the student must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the composition of the committee. The committee must be comprised of three members of the graduate faculty, at least two of whom are from the Department of Sociology. By the end of their first semester, students must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a one-paragraph statement signed by the student and all committee members outlining the field to be covered. The first ASD must be completed before the end of their third semester in the PhD program. The second ASD must be completed before the end of their fifth semester in the PhD program.

Students will demonstrate their competency in their chosen areas by receiving a satisfactory grade (B or higher) in a minimum of two seminars in each area and placing materials from those seminars in their ASD. At least one of the two ASDs will include a Critical Review Essay (CRE) (see below). An ASD will be a part of the student’s Professional Portfolio. Materials in the ASD may include conference papers/presentations, exams/essays/research papers written or published, original course syllabi, completed research proposals, or papers submitted to a journal for review. ASDs are to be electronic documents formatted as a bookmarked PDF file. All committee members will review the ASD and indicate whether it shows evidence of competency in its field of sociology. If the committee deems all or sections of the ASD to be “unsatisfactory” the student is allowed one opportunity for revision; a second failure requires that the student's advisory committee report this fact to the Graduate Studies Committee for consideration for dismissal from the program. Current graduate course descriptions may be found at, and include information about substantive area requirements satisfied. See the Graduate Secretary for further information.

At least one ASD must include a Critical Review Essay that is no longer than 10,000 words (40 pages) in length, excluding the bibliography and cover page with committee members signatures. The CRE is a broad assessment of the area, starting with a conceptual mapping of the area that includes its foundational literature, theories, and relevant work produced in the past 10 years. This essay might also highlight the student’s specific interest in the area, especially pertaining to their dissertation. Students may refer to the Annual Review of Sociology for examples of the style and content of a critical review essay. Another example of the CRE can be found in the ASD of a graduate student in our department [on file with the Graduate Secretary]. CREs should be completed, approved and placed in the relevant ASD before the entire ASD is reviewed.

Graduate Students Hanhao Wang and Sirui Mi

Time Limits All course requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within two years of first enrollment in the program at the Ph.D. level. In addition, students are required to demonstrate command of one specialty area  within 3 semesters of first enrollment in the program and of a second specialty area within 5 semesters of first enrollment. Having demonstrated command of a the second specialty area students have one semester to complete a comprehensive oral examination and defend a dissertation proposal.

Comprehensive Oral Examination and Defense of Dissertation Proposal
Within one semester of having satisfied the requirements pertaining to the second area specialty exam, students must complete a comprehensive oral examination and defend a dissertation proposal. The comprehensive oral examination (which covers students’ specialization areas) and the defense of the dissertation proposal take place within the same examination period.  The focus of the examination and defense will be on the feasibility and quality of the proposed research as well as the student's two areas of specialization.

Dissertation Finally, students must present a dissertation that demonstrates the development, execution, and results of original research.  The doctoral dissertation is a coherent, logically organized, scholarly document.  Material previously published by the candidate may be incorporated in the dissertation.  See the graduate catalog for a full description of the principles that underlie the dissertation.  Instructions regarding the proper form of the dissertation, besides those in this document, may be obtained from the Graduate School.  Completion of the dissertation is the final phase of a doctoral program and is followed by the final oral examination and defense of the dissertation.  Upon satisfactory completion of the final oral examination and approval of the dissertation by the dissertation advisory committee, the student proceeds with the submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School.

The current data from the National Research Council's assessment of the PhD program's Time-To-Degree can be found here.

Approved Graduate Courses The following courses are approved by the faculty for all Sociology Department graduate programs. Sociology Graduate Course Descriptions

Sociological Theory

  • Sociology 802 Modern Social Theory
  • Sociology 803 Issues in Contemporary Theory
  • Sociology 804 Sociology of Knowledge
  • Sociology 808 Feminist Theories
  • Sociology 900 Seminar on Special Topics in Theory

Sociological Methods

  • Sociology 812 Analytic Methods
  • Sociology 910 Seminar in Special Topics in Methods
  • Sociology 930 Comparative Studies

For a detailed account of advising procedures, degree requirements, and program options, please see the Manual of Graduate Study (PDF).

PhD student Danny Alvord leading a Soc 104 Discussion Section, Fall 2012

Alpha Kappa Delta Beta Chapter of Kansas

International Sociology Honor Society

In 1920, University of Southern California sociologist, Dr. Emory S. Bogardus, founded Alpha Kappa Delta for the purposes of stimulating scholarship and promoting the scientific study of society. Bogardus’ impetus in establishing this organization was to provide a forum for student and faculty interchange. His endeavor paved the way for what has become an international organization dedicated to promoting, facilitating, and recognizing academic scholarship. As we enter the 21st century, Alpha Kappa Delta is an integral part of many Sociology programs and is proud to acknowledge that in the past eight decades, over 80,000 scholars have been initiated into the Society. More than 490 chapters have been chartered in the United States, Canada, China, Finland, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Singapore.

For students officially admitted to graduate study in sociology at KU, the following specific requirements must have been met prior to the time of initiation:

  • completion of one half year of graduate study in sociology
            (i.e., one semester or two quarters or the equivalent academic unit)
  • with a graduate G.P.A. of 3.5 or better,
  • and continued matriculation in a program of study leading toward a graduate degree in sociology at KU.

Please see the AKD website for more information.  


Doctoral Placement

.......The Sociology Department has a strong record of placing students who graduate from our doctoral program. Since 2000, thirty-two students have earned PhDs from our program, and they are now employed all over the country, mostly in academic positions. For example, 28 of those who graduated are in positions that require teaching, research, and service, 1 in a post-doctoral fellowship, and 3 hold researcher/administrator positions. A listing of recent placements can be found here. The current data from the National Research Council's assessment of the PhD program's Time-To-Degree can be found here and KU's Sociology Doctoral Program Profile can be found here. Following are a few comments from some of our previous students:


Elizabeth M. Legerski

Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Dakota
Dissertation title: Hierarchies of Risk: The Longitudinal Dynamics of Family, Work, Welfare and Health Insurance in Low-Income Women's Lives
Chair/Adviser: Mary Zimmerman

"Individual initiative is not enough to succeed in graduate school – a student must also have access to supportive colleagues, mentors, and programs that can help guide them through the degree process. I found the graduate seminars offered through the Sociology Department and graduate school to be rigorous, engaging, and rewarding, which allowed me to feel confident that I was well prepared. In addition, I also benefited greatly from close mentoring and opportunities for teaching, research, and networking. The faculty in the Department are respected and well-connected in their fields of study, and are eager to find opportunities for their graduate students to contribute to and participate in local, regional, and national academic communities. I found the graduate students to also be supportive of each other and am grateful for the friendships (across cohorts) that helped me at each stage of the degree process. Graduate work – like any professional training – can be long and difficult at times, but a supportive and positive environment can help make the process more exciting and enjoyable. It has been my experience that the Sociology Department and graduate students at KU are sincerely committed to graduate student success. I’m proud to call myself a Jayhawk."

Jason S. Capps

Core Lecturer in the Anthropology, Sociology, & Social Work Department at Seattle University, Seattle, WA
Dissertation title: Collateral Damage in Iraq and Capital Punishment in the U.S.: How the Public Makes Sense of Extreme Violence and Death
Chair/Adviser: David Smith

“The Kansas Sociology Department has a long history and reputation of being a place that does an exceptional job of grooming young scholars to be productive, provocative, intellectually curious sociologists.  I am thrilled to be a product of the Kansas Sociology program.  One clear strength of the program is the ability for students to work closely with mentors to actively develop the skills necessary to work as a professional in the field of sociology.  Students are allowed the flexibility to conduct research on the topic of their choice while receiving effective and detailed feedback during the entire PhD process (from PhD qualifying exams to finished dissertation).  Professors at Kansas take the time to carefully and honestly review student work, focusing squarely on areas of improvement in a humane and comprehensive manner. Further, Kansas Sociology stresses the mentor/apprentice model of graduate work that seems to be missing from many departments in the United States.  I can envision working in a collaborative fashion, for years to come, with several of my professors at Kansas.  As a result of the relationships I have with Kansas Sociology I am motivated to come to the Midwest Sociological Meetings every few years even though I now live on the West Coast.  What is more, the student culture at Kansas is very positive.  In my experience, the vast majority of the students were supportive of each other and truly wanted to see people do well and to represent Kansas Sociology in a positive way.”

Sara F. Collas
Adjunct Faculty in the Social Sciences Department at Edgewood College, Madison, WI
Dissertation title: Conflict and Community in a Lesbian Feminist Space: An Autoethnography of Workerville at the 2001 and 2002 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival
Chair/Adviser: Joane Nagel

“In pursuing my PhD I found my dissertation advisor and my dissertation committee excellent guides. Their recommendations and feedback led me to work out the questions which I confronted. As a result of my studies at the University of Kansas I am prepared to teach and further my research in the field.”

Robert Futrell

Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Dissertation title: Struggling for Democracy: Environmental Politics of Chemical Weapons Disposal
Chair/Adviser: Jack Weller

“I began the graduate program in KU Sociology as an MA student with the goal of earning a PhD and becoming a professor. But frankly, I had little idea of exactly how to do it or what it would take. From the first semester on I was thoroughly socialized both academically and professionally. The program provided a deep grounding in social theory while strongly emphasizing its use for empirical research. Faculty were generous with their time for students while providing us a great deal of autonomy and support to carve out our own path of study and research. We were encouraged to be active in the discipline and given the insights needed to “play the game,” so to speak. I now find myself trying to do all of the same for my own graduate students.”

Mary E. Kelly

Associate Professor of Sociology at Central Missouri State University
Dissertation title: Born Again Lithuanians
Chair/Adviser: Joane Nagel

“My graduate experience at KU was, on the whole, a positive one. I found the faculty, especially at the dissertation stage, to be committed to my becoming a professional sociologist. Sometimes this meant telling me things I didn't want to hear- but I was the better for it. The graduate student relationships were in some ways equally important. Getting together socially and complaining about teaching, faculty, and dissertating helped us all. My experience on MARS (now Social Thought and Research) and Research on Aging was also an important introduction to the publication process.”

Dan Krier

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Iowa State University
Dissertation title: Speculative Management: Corporate Restructuring and the American Stock Market, 1984 - 1997
Chair/Adviser: Jack Weller

“Kansas Sociology has a distinctive identity in the world of academic sociology. The program tends to attract students who care about real-world social problems and the faculty demonstrate by example how to use social theory, history and methodological creativity to dive down deep into our society in the search for solutions to them. At KU, students will find faculty who sincerely care about their development and who exert remarkable energy to make courses not just rigorous but meaningful. Other departments might provide efficient, tightly-contained degree programs, but few offer students a better opportunity to develop into self-directed, socially-engaged scholars.”

William J. Swart

Chair and Professor of Sociology at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Dissertation title: A Terrible Beauty is Born: The Framing of Nationalism in Irish Politics, 1790-1994
Chair/Adviser: Joane Nagel

“One of the many benefits of the graduate Sociology program at KU is its’ unique focus on individual intellectual development. Rather than being stifled by pre-approved reading lists and preliminary examinations, I was given the freedom to organize a literature and explore questions that interested me the most. The graduate faculty served as partners in this process; their mentoring encouraged me to take ownership of the discipline as an individual scholar rather than force-fit my interests to a standardized programmatic agenda. I have fond memories of my graduate experience in sociology at KU – it was excellent preparation for my career in academic sociology.”

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MA Student Adrianne Matlock Sp10


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