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About Us

a top-10 low residency MFA program

Poets & Writers, year after year after year

Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program is a post-baccalaureate graduate degree. The 65-hour degree program, which may commence with either the spring, summer, or fall semester, serves people who wish to write and want the experience of graduate-level instruction. Our directors and faculty only accept applicants we believe have the highest potential to write quality fiction, poems, creative nonfiction, young adult or middle grade novels, picture books, screenplays, and plays.

The low residency program format is ideally suited to the life of a writer. During the program, the student establishes writing habits within a natural home setting, not removed to an isolated, solely academic environment. While the MFA is the degree most commonly held by writers who teach creative writing at the college level, most low residency MFA students simply cherish the experience for its intrinsic value.

Our four-semester, low residency MFA in Writing combines superb instruction with unparalleled flexibility. Each semester of the program begins with an intense ten-day residency, in which students and faculty come from around the country and all parts of the globe to gather for 10 hour days of classtime that involve workshops, lectures, readings, and other learning experiences. Students have opportunities to experiment in modes of writing other than their major area and to enjoy the cultural offerings of Louisville (spring/fall semesters) or of an international location (summer semester).

At the conclusion of the residency, students return home to continue through independent study, one on one, with a faculty mentor for the rest of the semester through an exchange of five packets of original writing. During the semester, each instructor supervises a small number of students, and each student’s program is highly individualized according to the student’s writing goals. Students generally work with a different faculty mentor for each independent study, which allows a variety of dialogues regarding issues of the craft of writing, criticism, and aesthetics.

In the Spalding low residency MFA in Writing Program, students may customize the location, season, and pace of their studies. The same amount of writing and instruction is required in each option:

  • Spring (May) and fall (November) residencies in Louisville, each followed by a 6-month semester
  • Summer (July) residency abroad (Greece, 2015; Rome, 2016, previous destinations include Paris, London, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and more!), followed by a 9-month semester
  • Summer-semester students may attend the spring Louisville residency instead of the residency abroad and follow the 9-month summer semester schedule
  • A combination of spring, summer, and fall semesters

Students may complete the degree in two years or may take up to ten years to complete the degree.

mfa-arwen-mitchellArwen Mitchell (’12), recent winner of the Nord Family Foundation Playwriting Fellowship says “Spalding gave me an exceptional, versatile education in writing. The multi-genre flexibility, devoted faculty and staff, compelling and life-changing residency experiences, and strong curriculum make it a one-of-a-kind program. Spalding is not just a stop along the way for a writer as they work toward achieving their goals; Spalding becomes an ever-ready and always-welcoming home for friendship, inspiration, and excellence. I made the best possible choice in choosing to get my MFA at Spalding.”

Philosophy and Purpose

Program Director Sena Jeter Naslund, author of the bestselling, Ahab’s Wife, a modern classic; Four Spirits; Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette; Adam & Eve; and The Fountain of St. James Court, or; Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman has taught more than forty years in traditional and low residency graduate programs. She says, “Low residency master of fine arts programs generally result in excellent writing by mature and highly motivated graduate students who find a high degree of satisfaction in the experience.” The Spalding low residency MFA in Writing Program is designed to be intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive.

Students network with new friends and old after classes at residency.

Students network with new friends and old after classes at residency.

Because of her many years of experience, Sena has seen, firsthand, the advantages of the low residency format for students who desire to write and has instituted many innovative features to enhance the curriculum.

During the program, when writing habits are established, the student works within a natural home setting, not removed to an isolated, solely academic environment. Because the student is engaged in independent study during the semester, jobs and domestic activities need not be interrupted. While adjustments of time may be needed, a person who desires to write and to improve writing skills finds the low residency program provides a solution to the search for further education.

The Spalding low residency MFA program actively seeks ways to provide the best educational opportunities for students and is open to new ideas. For example, after realizing teachers who were interested in the program could not attend spring and fall residencies, the longer summer semester with the residency abroad was added. It has proven successful, and some students who are not teachers find the 9-month schedule suits them better.

Student and Alumni Achievements

Spalding low residency MFA Student and Alumni Achievements
Fiction
Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
New York Times Bestseller List
Finalist, Orange Prize
Crab Orchard Review Jack Dyer Fiction Prize
Finalist, William Faulkner/William Wisdom Short Story Competition

Poetry
Kentucky Poet Laureate
Lannan Literary Award in Poetry
NAACP Image Award in Literature
Nightboat Poetry Prize
University of North Texas Press Vassar Miller Prize
1st place Poetry, AWP Intro Awards

Creative Nonfiction
A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Notable essay, Best American Essays
Guide to Outdoor Literature’s Best Book of the Year
Great Lakes Great Reads Award
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Outstanding Educator Award
Eileen Egan Award
Fellow with the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (Chicago)

Writing for Children & Young Adults
Ezra Jack Keats Award
E.B. White Honor Book Award
Parents’ Choice Gold Award
American Library Association Rainbow List
Writing for Children & Young Adults (cont.)
ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers List
Starred Review from Publishers Weekly
Good Morning America Best Summer Read
Publishers Weekly Flying Start title
Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nebraska Golden Sower Award
Indiana Young Hoosier Award
Lone Star Reading List.

Playwriting
Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award
FringeNYC Encore Series
Southeastern Theatre Conference’s New Play Award
1st place, Canadian Jewish Playwriting contest
Nord Family Foundation Playwright Fellowship

Screenwriting
Full-length feature filmscript sold to Disney
Full-length feature filmscript sold to Universal
Full-length feature film distributed in wide release by Tristar Pictures
Television episodes aired on Disney Channel
Best comedy, Script Exposure Screenwriting Competition
1st place, Write Movies International Screenwriting Competition

Student and Alumni Publications

Student and Alumni Publications: Since founded in 2001, Spalding’s low residency MFA in Writing program has more than 670 students and alumni, from all parts of the globe, who have published or produced hundreds of books, films, and plays with the more than 70 presses and production companies, including: Random House, HarperCollins, St. Martin’s, Algonquin, HarperOne, MacAdam/Cage Publishing, University of Georgia Press, University of Alabama Press, Chronicle Books, Perseus, CBS Entertainment Production, University of Nebraska Press, Scholastic, Toby Press, University of Georgia Press, University of Alabama Press, University Press of Kentucky, The Dial Press, SkyLight Paths, Nightboat Books, Trout Lily Press, Transaction Press, Seattle Turn Press, Conari Press, Cinemawalla Films, Pay Films, Bell Pond Books, Destino, Chronicle Books, Turtleback Books, Cinco Puntos Press, New Womens Voices Series, Finishing Line Press, The Feminist Press, University of Nebraska Press, Lee and Low Books, Spinsters Ink, Southeast Missouri State University and more . . . See our website of alumni and students book: click here.

Assistantships and Scholarships

Assistantships and Scholarships: In 2013, the program awarded 26 assistantships for the spring, summer, and fall semesters in the amount of $31,000. Assistantships are available to students no matter where they live. Most read for our literary magazine, The Louisville Review. Also, in 2013, the program gave 59 scholarships to new students in the amount of $45,985.  Each year the program awards around $80,000 in scholarships and assistantships. See our Tuition and Fees page for more information.

Featured Guests

Featured Guests: Our featured guests have included novelists Tim O’Brien, Ernest J. Gaines, Ann Patchett, Susan Vreeland, and Michael Ondaatje; poet and essayists Yusef Komunyakaa and Molly Peacock; children’s writers Jaqueline Woodson, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Donna Jo Napoli, Patricia MacLachlan, and Nancy Willard; poets W. S. Merwin, Claudia Emerson, Frank X Walker; essayists Terry Tempest Williams, Pico Iyer, Barry Lopez, and Scott Russell Sanders; poet and children’s writer Naomi Shihab Nye; screenwriters Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) and Robert Moresco (Crash); and playwrights Marsha Norman, Heather Raffo, and Rebecca Gilman.  In Fall 2014, the Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence is Pamela Muñoz Ryan, author of Esperanza Rising.

Degree Requirements


Students in the Spalding low residency MFA Program are required to complete successfully five 10-day residency sessions and four independent study sessions. The program is a 65-hour degree. The Program also offers elective courses, including an enrichment semester and a teaching practicum.

During the program, students

  • read 36-40 books,
  • complete a third semester Extended Critical Essay (minimum of 20 pages),
  • lead a Small Group Discussion,
  • prepare a Creative Thesis of original writing in the appropriate area of concentration (75 pages of prose, screenwriting, or playwriting; 35 pages of poetry; 8 picture books; or 75 pages of middle grade or young adult literature),
  • teach a class to other students (Graduation Lecture)
  • present a reading of original work (Graduation Reading)
  • participate in a Thesis Discussion
  • participate in an editing, publishing component that includes assisting with the national literary magazine The Louisville Review

Grading

Grading consists of discursive evaluations. The appropriate faculty members submit residency evaluations of students for workshops on the quantity, manner, and quality of workshop participation. The faculty mentor evaluates the work sent in packets throughout the semester and recommends at the end of the semester that credit will be Awarded, Not Awarded, or Incomplete, although incompletes are very rare and must be arranged with the mentor and program director. For students to remain in the Program, evaluations of Credit Awarded must be received at the end of each semester. If evaluations of Credit Not Awarded are received, a semester may be repeated one time. All tuition and appropriate fees are required. If at the end of the repeated semester the student does not receive Credit Awarded evaluations, the student is not allowed to continue in the program.

Course Descriptions


The Spalding low residency MFA program consists of five 10-day residency sessions and four independent study sessions.  The fifth residency occurs after the fourth independent study session. During an independent study, students exchange 5 packets of writing with a faculty mentor. A semester generally includes a residency session and an independent study session. The program is a 65-hour degree. The Program also offers elective courses, including an enrichment semester and a teaching practicum. For a print version of the course descriptions, click here.

Course Descriptions: Core Courses for Completion of the MFA Degree

ENG612: Introductory MFA Residency Credit: 3 semester hours
Students attend this course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending residency, including submitting original creative writing to be discussed during the residency Workshop and reading all assigned texts, including the material in the Workshop Booklet, the Program Book in Common, the Genre Book in Common and viewing films, when required. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings, and participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities. Students also attend required orientation sessions and a session on critical writing. Students submit residency reports and a Workshop evaluation. At residency, the student and mentor usually create an Independent Study Plan for ENG613.

ENG613: Introductory Independent Writing and Reading Credit: 12 semester hours
After successfully participating in the ENG612 residency, students begin ENG613 Introductory Independent Writing and Reading. The student and assigned mentor create an Independent Study Plan, which includes five extensive assignments of original creative writing, an individualized reading list, and short critical essays. During the independent study, students in every genre submit five packets to their mentors, at scheduled intervals, containing a cover letter, a specified amount of material that includes new and revised work, and short critical essays. The mentor replies to each student’s packet on an individual basis. Students submit midsession and end-of-independent-study evaluations, and a cumulative bibliography of books and scripts read. Prerequisites: ENG612 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG622: Intermediate MFA Residency Credit: 3 semester hours
Students attend this course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending residency, including submitting original creative writing to be discussed during the residency Workshop, submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common, and reading all assigned texts, including the material in the Workshop Booklet, the Program Book in Common, and the Genre Book in Common and viewing films, when required. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, readings, and participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities. ENG622 students also attend required orientation sessions and participate in Small Group Discussions. Students submit residency reports and a Workshop evaluation. At residency, the student and mentor usually create an Independent Study Plan for ENG623. Prerequisites: ENG613 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG623: Intermediate Independent Writing and Reading Credit: 12 semester hours
After successfully participating in the ENG622 residency, students begin ENG623 Intermediate Independent Writing and Reading. The student and assigned mentor create an Independent Study Plan, which includes five extensive assignments of original creative writing, an individualized reading list, and short critical essays. During the independent study, students in every genre submit five packets to their mentors, at scheduled intervals, containing a cover letter, a specified amount of material that includes new and revised work, and short critical essays. The mentor replies to each student’s packet on an individual basis. Students submit midsession and end-of-independent-study evaluations, and a cumulative bibliography of books and scripts read. Prerequisites: ENG 622 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG632: Advanced MFA Residency I, Credit: 3 semester hours
Students attend this course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending residency, including submitting original creative writing to be discussed during the residency Workshop, submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common, and reading all assigned texts, including the material in the Workshop Booklet, the Program Book in Common, and the Genre Book in Common and viewing films, when required. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings, and to participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities. ENG632 students also attend required orientation sessions and participate in Small Group Discussions. Students submit residency reports and a Workshop evaluation. At residency, the student and mentor usually create an Independent Study Plan for ENG633. Prerequisites: ENG623 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG633: Advanced Independent Writing and Reading: Emphasizing Critical Writing, Credit: 12 semester hours
After successfully participating in the ENG632 residency, students begin ENG633 Advanced Independent Writing and Reading: Emphasizing Critical Writing. The student and assigned mentor create an Independent Study Plan, which includes five extensive assignments of original creative writing, an individualized reading list, and an extended critical essay which is a minimum of 20 pages. Students also present and discuss possible topics for the Small Group Discussion, which takes place in a subsequent residency. During the independent study, students in every genre submit five packets to their mentors, at scheduled intervals, containing a cover letter and a specified amount of material that includes new and revised work. The mentor replies to each student’s packet on an individual basis. Students submit midsession and end-of-independent-study evaluations, and a cumulative bibliography of books and scripts read. Prerequisites: ENG632 or equivalent and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG642: Advanced MFA Residency II, Credit: 3 semester hours
Students attend this course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending residency, including submitting original creative writing to be discussed during the residency Workshop, submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common, and reading all assigned texts, including the material in the Workshop Booklet, the Program Book in Common, the Genre Book in Common and viewing films, when required. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings, and participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities; also, each student leads a Small Group Discussion. Students submit residency reports and a Workshop evaluation. At residency, the student and mentor usually create an Independent Study Plan for ENG643. Prerequisites: ENG633 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG643: Advanced Independent Writing and Reading: Emphasizing the Creative Thesis Collection, Credit: 12 semester hours
After successfully participating in the ENG642 residency, students begin ENG643 Advanced Independent Writing and Reading: Emphasizing the Creative Thesis Collection. The student and assigned mentor create an Independent Study Plan, which includes five extensive assignments of original creative writing culminating in the completion of the creative thesis, and an individualized reading list. In addition to the work on the creative thesis, the plan also includes new writing to help establish a transition to the writing life after the MFA is awarded to the student. During the independent study, students in every genre submit five packets to their mentors, at scheduled intervals, containing a cover letter and a specified amount of material that includes new and revised work. The mentor replies to each student’s packet on an individual basis. Students submit midsession and end-of-independent-study evaluations, and a cumulative bibliography of books and scripts read. Prerequisites: ENG642 or equivalent and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG645: MFA Graduation Residency, Credit: 5 semester hours
After successfully completing ENG643, students attend their graduation residency, a course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending residency, including submitting original creative writing to be discussed during the residency Workshop, submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common, and reading all assigned texts, including the material in the Workshop  Booklet, the Program Book in Common, and the Genre Book in Common and viewing films, when required. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings, and participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities. During the Graduation Residency, the student delivers a Graduation Lecture, a Graduation Reading, and participates in a Thesis Discussion. Students submit residency reports, a Workshop evaluation and an End-of-Program evaluation. Prerequisites: ENG 643 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

Optional Courses and Opportunities for Enrichment

In addition to the new core courses, MFA students have the opportunity to take optional enrichment courses as listed below.

ENG662: Teaching Seminar in Creative Writing with MFA Residency and ENG672: Book-length Manuscript Workshop with MFA Residency may each be substituted for ENG632 (as a 3-hour course), ENG642 (as a 3-hour course), or ENG645 (as a 5-hour course), as long as prerequisites are met, and as such would be counted toward the 65 hours needed to complete the degree. When either course is substituted for ENG642, the Small Group Discussion assignment normally completed during ENG642 takes place during the substituted course. When either course is substituted for ENG645, the graduation requirements (graduation reading, graduation lecture, and thesis discussion) take place during the substituted course. A student may take both ENG662 and ENG672 and each will count toward the degree requirement in place of one core course: ENG632, ENG642, or ENG645.

Course Descriptions: Optional Courses

ENG625: Service Learning through Creative Writing Credit: 2-5 semester hours
 The MFA in Writing student designs and executes a service learning segment concerning some aspect of creative writing for some segment of the community. Writing projects may be conducted in a school, prison, community center, nursing home, etc. The project consists of a proposal, the actual on-site activity, and a brief report with examples of community writing. The project is supervised by the MFA Program Director, Associate Program Director or a designated faculty member. Projects may commence at any point in the semester for variable amounts of time; those continued over the end date of a fall, spring, or summer semester will have credit awarded at project completion. Prerequisite: ENG623, and the permission of the Program Directors.

ENG652: Enrichment MFA Residency Credit: 3 semester hours
Students attend this course delivered during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending the residency, including reading all assigned texts, submitting the worksheet for the Workshop Booklet, and submitting a short critical essay on the faculty book/script in common. Students are assigned to participate in Workshops led by faculty mentors and are expected to be open to the comments of faculty and students, to provide comments on the work of other students, and to participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty. In addition to Workshop, the students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings, and participate in cross-genre and interrelatedness-of-the-arts activities. If continuing into ENG653, student and mentor usually create an Independent Study Plan for ENG653. Prerequisites: ENG623 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG653: Creative Writing Enrichment Credit: 12 semester hours
In ENG653, the student and mentor create a Independent Study Plan for the enrichment semester, which includes five extensive assignments of original creative writing. ENG653 is not a required course but is an elective which students may take to work on a project, or to work in another area of concentration, if an application is accepted by faculty in that area. Students submit midsession and end-of- independent-study evaluations. Prerequisites: ENG623 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG662: Teaching Seminar in Creative Writing with MFA Residency Credit: 3-5 semester hours
The Teaching Seminar in Creative Writing serves MFA students (or graduates of MFA programs) who wish to pursue a specialization in the teaching of creative writing. The seminar takes place during a 10-day intensive residency. Before attending residency, students must complete pre-assignments, including reading all assigned texts, submitting special worksheets for the Workshop Booklet, and submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common. Teaching students also develop lesson plans for leading a Workshop and writing exercise during the seminar. During the residency, ENG662 students take part in a faculty-led Workshop that focuses on the teaching of writing in different genres. Students are expected to present their work and provide comment on the work of other students, as well as participate in any other assignments presented by Workshop faculty and students. During the seminar, students are expected to attend required lectures, conferences, and readings. Students submit residency reports, a Workshop evaluation, and any other required evaluations. This course may be taken only once. If a student takes ENG662 as a substitute for ENG645 MFA Graduation Residency, the student must also fulfill all graduation requirements, including presenting the graduation lecture and reading, and participating in the Thesis Discussion, and accordingly earns 5 credits for ENG662. Prerequisites: ENG623 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG663: Teaching Practicum in Creative Writing Credit: 12 semester hours
The Teaching Practicum in Creative Writing serves MFA students (or graduates of MFA programs) who wish to pursue a specialization in the teaching of creative writing. The practicum student is assigned a mentor who supervises the independent study. ENG663 students are responsible for arranging a teaching practicum during which they teach students in creative writing. These classes may take place in formal university settings or may be convened in community settings. In addition to the teaching, students read and write widely on creative writing pedagogy and develop a syllabus and course management strategies. Students submit midsession and end-of- independent-study evaluations. This course may be taken only once. ENG 663 does not substitute for ENG 613, ENG 623, ENG 633, or ENG 643. Prerequisites: ENG662 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

ENG672: Book-Length Manuscript Workshop with MFA Residency Credit: 3-5 semester hours
The Book-Length Manuscript Workshop takes place during a 10-day intensive residency. Students must complete pre-assignments before attending the residency, including submitting a book-length manuscript by the deadline and reading and commenting on all book-length manuscripts of participants in the Workshop before residency. Other student pre-assignments include reading all assigned residency texts and submitting a short critical essay on the Faculty Book/Script in Common. During the residency, ENG672 students present and provide comment on full manuscripts presented in a faculty-led Workshop. During residency, students attend required lectures, conferences, and readings. ENG672 students may also be required to participate in or fulfill other residency requirements (including Small Group Discussions). Students submit residency reports, a Workshop evaluation, and any other required evaluations. This course may be taken only once. If a student takes ENG672 as a substitute for ENG645 MFA Graduation Residency, the student must also fulfill all graduation requirements, including presenting the graduation lecture and reading, and participating in the Thesis Discussion, and accordingly earns 5 credits for ENG672. Prerequisites: ENG623 and permission of Program Director or Associate Program Director.

 

Choosing the right MFA program for you is a personal and important decision. We invite you to continue looking over our website to find out more about us so you can make an informed decision. Also see our FAQ page, which lists some of the things you should be asking as you choose the MFA program that is right for you.

Email us at mfa@spalding.edu  or call us at 502-873-4400 for more information.

Current and Future Residency Dates

Fall 2014: Residency in Louisville: November 14-23, 2014

Spring 2015: Residency in Louisville: May 22-31, 2015

Summer 2015 Semester with residency in Athens and Crete: June 24-July 6, 2015

Fall 2015Residency in Louisville: November 13-22, 2015



Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing program is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing program is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the Playwrights’ Center.

Contact us:

mfa@spalding.edu

MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400

MFA in Writing
Spalding University
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203

FAX: (502) 992-2409

last updated 07-25-2014, information subject to change without notice