Featured

Racialized health disparities and tech-based remedies

The 511

Back in the 20th century, we called 411 for information. Today, information’s aplenty, so you’re looking for something more. The 511 includes: 

  • ~5 short paragraphs about medtech, biotech, or another science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Treatment time: Black vs. white

In 2004, while on a visiting teaching gig in sociology at Case Western Reserve, I befriended a colleague in medical anthropology. She was studying health disparities across racial lines, and she indicated that when American men have heart attacks or strokes in public, the response time for passersby was significantly faster for white victims than black victims. (Alas, I couldn’t find this particular study, but if you know it, please send along the URL.) In these situations, especially, every second matters. Delays persist, too, as:

  • Blacks experiencing acute coronary syndrome (ACS) symptoms have longer pre-hospital delay times compared to Whites (i.e., time of symptom onset until registration in the emergency dept.), and
  • fewer Black patients received thrombolytic therapy within recommended timelines or other recommended treatments within 90 minutes of arrival to the hospital

Predictably, the results vary . As noted in Devon et al., “failure to consider and order diagnostic testing to confirm ACS on the part of clinicians, and less aggressive medical therapy and interventions contribute to poorer outcomes” for Black men and women. Poorer outcomes persist across racial lines during the pandemic. African Americans aged 35 to 44 experience Covid-19 mortality rates that are nine times higher than their white counterparts. Why, we might wonder, is the objective review of symptoms of patients presenting with ACS not addressed via algorithmic solutions? For decades — and perhaps for pretty good reasons — Americans sustained longstanding faith in the notion of better living through technology. Can AI counter the implicit bias of healthcare workers?

AI bias

Not at this point, according to a new report about models designed for combating COVID-19. “These tools [AI-driven models] are built from biased data reflecting biased healthcare systems and are thus themselves also at high risk of bias – even if explicitly excluding sensitive attributes such as race or gender,” noted the researchers.

The American Medical Association and the NIH seem to be paying attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. A recent search of funding announcement opportunities indicates 53 active projects studying health “disparities” in the US. The AMA supported the annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, but that’s been discontinued. It’s not clear how the recommendations and research translate into action plans. They do offer a health disparities toolkit for $15.00. The AMA, though, according to various sources (Open Secret, The Hill) has long been a top-10 lobbying group, recently doling out $20M a year or so. I wonder if they might have the power (and the $) to design a pilot program for ensuring kids in underrepresented groups who are interested in health careers get the financial and educational support they need the two or three summers before they attend college. Can we imagine the power of an online course through Harvard X (or equivalent), with graduate students and med students providing plenty of one-on-one support time, in order to ensure these students enter college on near equal footing with their prep-schooled peers?

The possibilities are real, so I’ll maintain a Gandalf-like optimism and figure that, like Gollum himself, algorithms and labor-intensive actions (rather than dynamic buzzwords) have some part to play yet.

5(1)1 — On jazz and rock’n’roll and falling apart together

“… jazz only works if we’re trying to be free and are, in fact, together. Rock-and-roll works because we’re all a bunch of flakes. That’s something you can depend on, and … that’s all there is: jazz and rock-and-roll. The rest is term papers and advertising.”

Dave Hickey, Air Guitar, p. 101
51(1) — In rotation: The Plimsouls’ “A Million Miles Away”

An 80s classic, and I just got wind of this live version, which has just the right level of urgency — and it’s pretty cool — and topical, since we all seem so far apart from one another these days. Here ya go.

If you like this stuff, and you know someone interested in health, leadership, and music, all mixed up with a dash of humor, please spread the word.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, drop me a note, if you like what you see.

If you want to talk about a project with words, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

DeVon, Holli A et al. “Disparities in patients presenting to the emergency department with potential acute coronary syndrome: it matters if you are Black or White.” Heart & lung : the journal of critical care vol. 43,4 (2014): 270-7. doi:10.1016/j.hrtlng.2014.04.019.

FitzGerald, Chloë, and Samia Hurst. “Implicit bias in healthcare professionals: a systematic review.” BMC medical ethics vol. 18,1 19. 1 Mar. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12910-017-0179-8.

Moser DK, Kimble LP, Alberts MJ, et al. Reducing delay in seeking treatment by patients with acute coronary syndrome and stroke: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on cardiovascular nursing and stroke council. Circulation. 2006;114(2):168-182. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.106.176040.

Eliane Röösli, BS, Brian Rice, MDCM, Tina Hernandez-Boussard, PhD, “Bias at Warp Speed: How AI may Contribute to the Disparities Gap in the Time of COVID-19,: Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, , ocaa210, https://doi.org/10.1093/jamia/ocaa210.

Turner’s blog: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 16

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh — like this one.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September (yes, I’m behind, but my clients — and my family — come first, of course.

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on each edit and offer some lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Pinduoduo and Vertically Integrated Social Commerce,” August 6

https://turner.substack.com/p/pinduoduo-and-vertically-integrated
by Turner Novak / @TurnerNovak

–Grey typeface: Turner.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 10 -> 9.
–word count: 1440 -> 1331.
–median sentence length: 16 -> 16 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 7.5 -> 6.5.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 53% -> 49%

~~~~~~

[Subhead:] How the son of factory workers grew Pinduoduo from zero to $100 billion in five years

In 2015, Colin Huang founded his third company, Pinduoduo (PDD). By June of 2020, it had become China’s second largest ecommerce company and was valued at over $100 billion in the public markets. How did a company that helped farmers sell fruit on the internet rise so fast in a market dominated by Alibaba and JD?


Pinduoduo, meaning “together, more savings, more fun”, eliminated layers of middlemen and flipped the retailing model from being supply-driven to demand-driven. The team used a mobile-first approach that gave it a fundamentally different product DNA than incumbents. It used fruit as a wedge to combine consumption with entertainment and created a vertically integrated gaming company. It took advantage of down payments from suppliers and used stretched payment terms to create float out of customer transactions. It used that float to fund customer acquisition, and then leveraged clever growth tricks on an emerging distribution channel (WeChat) to acquire hundreds of millions of overlooked customers for practically free.

In 2015, while in his mid-30s, Colin Huang founded Pinduoduo (PDD), his third start-up venture. In June 2020, it was China’s second largest ecommerce company, valued at over $100BN in public markets. How did Huang’s company, in a market dominated by Alibaba and JD, scale so fast simply by helping farmers sell produce on the Internet?

Pinduoduo — which translates as “together, more savings, more fun” — eliminated middlemen and flipped retailing on its head. First, the team’s mobile-first approach gave it a fundamentally different DNA than its rivals. They also zeroed in initially on demand, rather than supply. Using fruit as a wedge, they combined consumption and entertainment to create a vertically integrated gaming company. Pinduoduo used down payments from suppliers and stretched payment terms to create float from customer transactions. It then used that float to fund customer acquisition, and leveraged clever growth tricks on WeChat to capture the attention of hundreds of millions of customers — practically for free.

~~~~~~~~~

Humble Beginnings

Colin grew up in Hangzhou, the home of Alibaba located in the Eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. His father never finished middle school and worked in a factory with his mother. Colin excelled in math. At 12 he was invited to the Hangzhou Foreign Language School, attended by the children of the cities’ elites. He credits this to changing the trajectory of his life. He was among the top students at the school and received a scholarship to study Computer Science at Zhejiang University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious schools.

He joined the Melton Foundation his first year and secured an internship at Microsoft China making $900 per month – more than his parents combined annual salaries. He then transferred to Microsoft’s US HQ, making over $6,000 per month.

In college, Colin met NetEase (gaming) founder William Ding after helping him with a coding question in an online forum. This serendipitous meeting changed Colin’s life. William introduced him to many other Chinese tech luminaries like Tencent (WeChat) founder Pony Ma, and SF Express (logistics) founder Wang Wei.

Colin grew up in Hangzhou, in the Eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. His father never finished middle school, and he worked in a factory, alongside Colin’s mother. At age 12, Colin received an invitation to the Hangzhou Foreign Language School: the school of choice of the children of local elites. It He was among the top students at the school, and it changed the trajectory of his life. His success secured him a scholarship to study computer science at Zhejiang University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious schools.

In his first year at Zhejiang, Colin joined the Melton Foundation and secured an internship at Microsoft China. He earned $900 per month, which exceeded his parents’ combined annual salaries. He eventually worked at Microsoft’s US headquarters, where he earned over $6,000 per month.

While in college, Colin met NetEase (gaming) founder William Ding after helping him with a coding question in an online forum. This serendipitous meeting changed Colin’s life. William introduced him to many other Chinese tech luminaries like Tencent (WeChat) founder Pony Ma, and SF Express (logistics) founder Wang Wei. William introduced Colin to Duan Yungping, fellow Zhejiang University alum and founder of BBK Electronics. Colin soon came to regard Duan a close friend and a mentor.

~~~~~~~~~

Colin then moved to the US in 2002 to pursue a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. By graduation in 2004 he had a full-time offer from Microsoft, and an impressed professor wrote letters of recommendations to the large US tech giants of the time (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM).

The summer before moving to the US to start at Wisconsin, William at NetEase had also introduced Colin to Duan Yungping, fellow Zhejiang University alum and founder of BBK Electronics. The two grew very close. Colin considers him a close friend, mentor, and he even helped Duan with his investing. Duan recommended he move to San Francisco to work at a promising young startup. Colin then turned down all of his other offers to join a pre-IPO Google.

Colin joined Google as a software engineer working on early ecommerce-related search algorithms. He quickly became a Product Manager. In 2006, Duan won the annual charity auction for lunch with Warren Buffett with a $620k bid. Colin joined alongside Duan’s wife and five other friends. It’s said that this meeting with Buffett greatly influenced Colin’s crafting of the Pinduoduo business model. This included the power of simplicity, utilizing float, and redistributing wealth (as Buffett has famously pledged to donate 99% of his wealth after death).

In 2002, Colin moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon graduation, Colin received an offer for a US-based position from Microsoft. Duan, though, recommended Colin move to San Francisco to work at a promising young startup called Google.

Colin joined the pre-IPO Google as a software engineer, worked on ecommerce-related search algorithms, and was promoted to product manager. In 2006, Duan won the annual charity auction for lunch with Warren Buffett with a bid of $620K. Colin joined Duan, his wife, and five other friends. Reports indicate that this luncheon helped Colin craft Pinduoduo’s business model by utilizing the power of simplicity, float, and wealth redistribution. (Buffett has famously pledged to donate 99% of his wealth after death.)

~~~~~~~~

Colin returned to China shortly after to work on a secret team launching Google China. He reportedly grew tired of constantly flying back and forth to the US pitching Google founders Larry and Sergey on trivial matters. The last straw was a trip to get in-person approval of a change in the color and size of Chinese characters shown in the search results. He left many of his unvested options behind and Google eventually shut down the division. Colin then followed many of his mentors into a journey of entrepreneurship.

Soon after, Colin returned to China to work on a secret team dedicated to the launch of Google China. He reportedly grew tired of constantly flying back and forth to the US to consult with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to secure approval, for example, of a change in the color and size of Chinese characters shown in the search results. Colin abandoned many of his unvested options, and Google eventually shut down the division. Like many of his mentors, Colin then followed the path of entrepreneurship.

~~~~~~~~~

The Birth of a Serial Entrepreneur

In 2007 Colin founded his first startup, Ouku.com, an ecommerce site selling mobile phones and other consumer electronics. His mentor Duan’s company was a large player in the Chinese electronics supply chain. Duan was an angel investor and likely helped in the early days. Colin built up Oaku to “several hundred millions of yuan” in revenue (~$20-40 million USD), but he stepped down and sold the company in 2010 after realizing JD’s scale would always grant it better terms from suppliers and he could never beat them.

Almost immediately, he brought members of the team to build his second company: Xunmeng. It was a gaming studio that built role playing games on Tencent’s WeChat. Some ex-Oaku and future Pinduoduo employees launched Leqi, which helped companies market their services on other ecommerce sites (like Alibaba’s Taobao and JD). Both companies took off. Then Colin got sick.

He had an acute form of Otitis media, which causes severe inflammation and pain behind the eardrum. This typically causes a loss of appetite and occasional fever, and Colin specifically struggled sleeping. He stopped going into the office, and briefly retired in 2013 at 33 years old. He spent over a year at home. He considered moving to the US to open a hedge fund. He also thought about starting a hospital after going through the painful process of treating his ear infection.

In 2007, Colin founded his first startup, Ouku.com, an ecommerce site selling mobile phones and other consumer electronics. Duan, a key player in the supply chains of Chinese electronics, was an angel investor. Oaku eventually raked in “several hundred millions of yuan” in revenue (~$20-40 million USD). In 2010, Colin stepped down and sold the company, having realized that JD’s scale would always ensure better terms from its suppliers.

Soon thereafter, Colin brought members of his team to build Xunmeng. This gaming studio built role-playing games on Tencent’s WeChat. Some ex-Oaku employees launched Leqi, which helped companies market their services on other ecommerce sites, including Alibaba’s Taobao and JD. Both companies took off. Then Colin got sick.

Colin was diagnosed with an acute form of otitis media (“middle ear”), which causes severe inflammation and pain behind the eardrum. Symptoms include loss of appetite and occasional fever, and it affected Colin’s ability to sleep. He stopped going into the office, and spent a year at home. He considered moving to the US to open a hedge fund. He also considered starting a hospital, inspired by the misery associated with the treatment of his ear infection.

~~~~~~~~

Over the next two years, Colin came up with the idea for what became Pinduoduo by observing China’s two largest internet giants: Alibaba (ecommerce) and Tencent (social, games). He’s quoted as saying “these two companies don’t really understand how the other makes money.” Both are massive, successful companies, however neither had figured out how to penetrate the others business.

Pinduoduo fell directly in the center of the two; social gamified ecommerce. It helped manufacturers cut out middlemen by selling discounted items directly to low income consumers, and monetized largely with advertising. It fell within the intersection of unique insights Colin gained growing up poor and every previous business he, his mentors, and his team had worked on.

Over the next two years, Colin studied China’s two largest internet giants: Alibaba (ecommerce) and Tencent (social, games). “These two companies don’t really understand how the other makes money,” Colin said. Neither had figured out how to derive advantage from the success of their rival.

Pinduoduo situated itself squarely in the middle of Alibaba and Tencent as a social, gamified ecommerce company. It helped manufacturers cut out middlemen by selling discounted items directly to low-income consumers, and monetized largely with advertising. The Pinduoduo model drew in part upon the unique insights Colin learned from his modest upbringing.

~~~~~~~

Pinhaohuo: Selling Fruit in WeChat Group Chats

Pinduoduo was initially founded in early 2015 as yqphh.com, or Pinhaohuo (PHH, “piece together good goods”). PHH’s initial business model consisted of buying fruit in bulk from farmers and then selling it directly to consumers. China’s fresh fruit market was growing fast in 2015, but less than 3% was sold online. Colin raised an angel round from his mentors, and once again brought over the team from his prior companies. Many were lifelong friends, including current members of PDD’s management team like Sun Qin, Lei Chen (first CTO, now CEO), Zhenwei Zheng, and Junyun Xiao.

Pinhaohuo’s business grew entirely through group chats on Tencent’s popular WeChat (often called the Facebook of China). To start, they bought boxes of fruit from a local Hangzhou fruit market and separated them into smaller boxes. On April 10th of 2015, they spent a few hundred USD to run one ad on an official Hangzhou WeChat Account (similar to a Facebook Page) that showed up in users’ feeds. They had more than a thousand employees, relatives, and friends of the company share the post. By May 1st, they’d fulfilled a total of 5k orders. Daily order volume surpassed 10k soon after. They paid an average of $0.30 cents for each of these earliest users.

Pinduoduo was initially founded in early 2015 as yqphh.com, or Pinhaohuo (PHH, “piece together good goods”). PHH’s initial business model consisted of buying fruit in bulk from farmers and then selling it directly to consumers. China’s fresh fruit market grew quickly in 2015, but less than 3% of it was sold online. Colin raised an angel round from his mentors, and once again brought over the team from his prior companies. Many were lifelong friends and included members of PDD’s management team: Sun Qin, Lei Chen (first CTO, now CEO), Zhenwei Zheng, and Junyun Xiao.

Pinhaohuo’s growth relied exclusively on group chats on WeChat, which is often regarded as the Facebook of China. To start, they bought boxes of fruit from a local Hangzhou fruit market and separated them into smaller boxes. In April 2015, they spent a few hundred USD to run one ad on an official Hangzhou WeChat Account (think of a Facebook ad) that appeared in users’ feeds. They had more than 1,000 employees, relatives, and friends of the company share the post. By May 1, they fulfilled a total of 5,000 orders. Soon thereafter, daily-order volume surpassed 10,000. They paid an average of $0.30 for each of these earliest users.

~~~~~~~

Pinhaohuo also relied heavily on WeChat Pay, WeChat’s in-app digital wallet that had launched in 2013. Most users carried a balance due to the popular Red Envelope feature, in which users sent small monetary gifts to family and friends during the holidays. Routing all payments through WeChat Pay provided extremely low payment fees, low friction for order placing, and PHH’s low order sizes enticed early customers to pay with their outstanding balances. Most importantly, Pinduoduo’s primary competitor today, Alibaba, had also banned its sellers from using both WeChat and WeChat Pay. Its biggest incumbent competitor was un-incentivized to react to this newfound distribution channel.


Pinhaohuo also relied heavily on WeChat Pay: WeChat’s in-app digital wallet (est. 2013). Since most users sent small monetary gifts to family and friends during the holidays, they carried a balance in their wallet. Routing all payments through WeChat Pay offered low payment fees and low friction for ordering. PHH’s small-order sizes enticed early customers to pay with their outstanding balances. Most importantly, Pinduoduo’s primary competitor today, Alibaba, banned its sellers from using WeChat or WeChat Pay. Its biggest incumbent competitor was un-incentivized to react to this newfound distribution channel.

# # #

This article continues here, and I hope you’ll check out Turner’s newsletter / blog. It’s chockful of good insights and analysis.

And that’s a wrap.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

Client scores $500K+ from the feds

Just a quick note: I worked on a big grant application for a client a few months back, and they just learned that their sizable check from the feds is in the mail! Hooray!

My hands were two of many on this project. Still, it’s always fantastic when a client (and their team) call you to say, “Hey: my team’s at a wall on this thing, and we need your help.”

It’s nice, of course, when they express their gratitude for my contribution. It’s absolutely brilliant when they bring home the big bucks.

Cheers!

The Bulwark: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 15

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh — like this one.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September.

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on each edit and offer some lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“It’s Almost Like There’s A Pattern,” Sept. 18

https://morningshots.thebulwark.com/p/its-almost-like-theres-a-pattern /
by Charlie Sykes @SykesCharlie

–Grey typeface: JED.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 10 -> 8.
–word count: 1455 -> 1400 (or so).
–median sentence length: 16 -> 15 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 15 -> 13.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 43% -> 40%

~~~~~~

It’s Almost Like There’s A Pattern

September 18, 2020

It’s almost like it’s a pattern: even more high-ranking Trump Administration officials break with the president. Joe Biden resets the expectations game. The president rips his own FBI director. And new polls have more bad news for Trump’s GOP.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 45 days to go until election day; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day.

It’s almost like there’s a pattern: even more high-ranking Trump Administration officials break with the president. Joe Biden defies expectations. The president rips his own FBI director. And new polls deliver more bad news for the Trump party.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown: 45 days until the election, and 78 more days until inauguration.

~~~~~~

I keep thinking about my conversation the other day with Time magazine’s Charlotte Alter, who has spent the last few weeks on the ground here in the Midwest. It has not always been an edifying experience.

Political elites and pundits would like to believe that voters deploy something like a rational process when they make political decisions. But, as Alter found when she talked with actual voters here, that’s not always the case. Those of us still clinging to the notion of self-government would like to think that the average voter reasons from A to B to C, but, she says, but the thought process is more lie “A leads to purple, which leads to banana, which leads to eight.”

“Sometimes in the media we have this assumption that by writing this story you will change minds,” she said. We imagine that stories about disrespecting war dead will cause veterans to dislike Trump; or that writing stories about all of the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault will cause women to turn against Trump; or that stories about how he downplayed the coronavirus will change voter perceptions.

But, she says, “the idea that this information leads to this opinion is broken.”

Time magazine’s Charlotte Alter.

I recently spoke with Time magazine’s Charlotte Alter, who spent the last few weeks on the ground here in the Midwest. Her conversations with voters about the election often left her baffled.

Political elites and pundits imagine that voters use a rational process to make political decisions. But, as Alter learned by talking to actual voters, that’s not always the case. Pundits like me who believe in the virtue of self-government like to imagine that the average voter reasons from A to B to C. That process, though, according to Alter, looks more like “‘A’ leads to purple, which leads to banana, which leads to eight.”

“Sometimes in the media we have this assumption that by writing this story you will change minds,” she said. We imagine, for example, that stories about:

● Trump’s disrespect of American soldiers lost in battle will lead veterans to dislike Trump

● the number of women who have accused Trump of sexual assault will cause women to turn against Trump, and

● the fact that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus will change voter perceptions about his fitness to lead.

 “The idea that this information leads to this opinion,” Alter said, “is broken.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

So what actually happens? How do we get to banana?

“That’s one of the most challenging things about this,” she told me. “I think of it as a kind of unlogic. There is no way to get to the banana, because I could talk to one person where A leads to purple, which leads to banana; and I could talk to their friend who thinks A leads to the Beatles, which leads to chicken soup.”

“I talk to some voters who have very established reasons for why they think what they think and it tracks logically. I talk to other people — and not even QAnon people — for whom something has short-circuited in the way that they are making these decisions, and the way they are thinking about this.”

She compares the level of disruption to the American Revolution. (She’s been watching “Turn” on Netflix.)

So what actually happens? How do we get to banana?

“That’s one of the most challenging things about this,” she told me. “I think of it as a kind of unlogic. There is no way to get to the banana, because I could talk to one person where A leads to purple, which leads to banana; and I could talk to their friend who thinks A leads to the Beatles, which leads to chicken soup.”

“I talk to some voters who have very established reasons for why they think what they think and it tracks logically,” Alter told me. “I talk to other people — and not even QAnon people — for whom something has short-circuited in the way that they are making these decisions, and the way they are thinking about this.”

She compares the level of disruption to the American Revolution. (She’s been watching “Turn” on Netflix.)

~~~~~~

“The thing that I keep thinking about… is that one of the things that we learn about the Revolutionary war is that in some ways it was also a war between order and chaos.

“The Redcoats were like ‘we’ve got five lines of 30 men; our cannons are all pointed due north; and the enemy will never take our mighty fleet.’”

In contrast to the linear approach of the British, “the revolutionaries were a sort of ragtag band of rebels, and they attacked them from the side, they attacked them from behind trees. They hid under hay bales…. They were impossible to predict, and it was ultimately a battle between order and chaos.”

“I think that’s been one of the things that has been sticking out to me this trip: I don’t think that this election is a contest really between Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I think it’s a contest between order and chaos.”

“One of the things that we learn about the Revolutionary war is that in some ways it was also a war between order and chaos,” Alter said. “The Redcoats were like ‘We’ve got five lines of 30 men; our cannons are all pointed due north; and the enemy will never take our mighty fleet.’”

The Bluecoats used less geometrically sound tactics. “The revolutionaries were a sort of ragtag band of rebels, and they attacked them from the side, they attacked them from behind trees. They hid under hay bales,” Alter noted. “They were impossible to predict, and it was ultimately a battle between order and chaos.”

“I think that’s been one of the things that has been sticking out to me this trip: I don’t think that this election is a contest really between Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I think it’s a contest between order and chaos.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This makes everything so unsettled, “because chaos is impossible to predict,” and the political playing field is not level. One side “has a much narrower field that they can fight on because they’re constrained by rational constraints and guilt,” while the other side can live in a world of its own making.

She thinks that makes Biden “uniquely vulnerable to an October surprise in a way that Trump is not,” because there is no information that will come out about Trump that will change his supporters’ minds. Even if we had a video of Trump shooting someone on 5th Avenue, she said, there would be “a certain core portion of his voters will not only still vote for him, they’ll be more excited to vote for him because they’ll think that the video was faked, and it was evidence of some plot to get him.”

You can listen to the whole thing here.

Chaos is impossible to predict. The political playing field is not level. The democrats, Alter said, “have a much narrower field that they can fight on because they’re constrained by rational constraints and guilt.” Republicans thrive in a world of their own making.

For Alter, Biden is “uniquely vulnerable to an October surprise in a way that Trump is not.” What information about Trump could possibly discourage his most faithful supporters? Even a video of Trump shooting someone on 5th Avenue, she said, would likely energize his base: “a certain core portion of his voters will not only still vote for him, they’ll be more excited to vote for him because they’ll think that the video was faked, and it was evidence of some plot to get him.”

You can listen to the whole thing here.

~~~~~~~

Biden shows up.

ICYMI last night, the Joe Biden who showed up for a CNN town hall was not the one we had been promised by the Trump campaign. Biden may not have been flawless, but he was certainly not the senile, doddering can’t-string-together-a-coherent-thought dotard that Trump has spent months telling us about. He was actually pretty good, at times actually quite sharp.

ICYMI last night, the Joe Biden at CNN’s recent town hall was not the caricature promised by the Trump campaign. Biden was not perfect, but he was certainly not the can’t-string-together-a-coherent-thought dotard that Trump imagined. In fact, he was pretty good. At times, actually quite sharp.

It’s almost like there’s a pattern.

Look, by any standards what is happening here is remarkable. One after another, Trump Administration officials are coming forward to warn the country that their former boss is dangerously unfit.

This has never happened before on this scale.

Stop what you are doing now and watch this video:

[removed from their site, alas]

Look: regardless of your stance on the second amendment or abortion rights, what is happening here is remarkable. One after another, Trump Administration officials keep coming forward to warn the country that their former boss is dangerously unfit to lead.

~~~~~~~

Susan Glasser writes in the New Yorker:

Every Presidency has its dissenters, people who leave and tell tales after they do so. But there has never been anything like the stories that have emerged from the Trump White House, from so many who worked with the President and observed him up close. People like his former national-security adviser John Bolton, who called Trump “unfit” for office. And people like the former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, the former White House chief of staff John Kelly, and the former director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, all of whom have relayed grave concerns about Trump that have made their way to Bob Woodward and other journalists.

In the end, this is what struck me most during my conversation with Troye: she is young, only forty-three years old, with a long career ahead of her, and she was willing to put it all on the line publicly, whereas people like Mattis and Kelly were not.

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There’s more. The former chief of staff to Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos is also speaking out.

Josh Venable, the former chief of staff to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, has joined another former Trump administration official’s group opposing the president.

Venable is lending his name as an adviser to the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform, a group former Department of Homeland Security official Miles Taylor launched on Thursday of current and former Trump administration officials and other Republican leaders who want to see President Donald Trump defeated in November.

–Susan Glasser

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Trump is an anchor for the Senate GOP.

New NYT/Siena poll:

President Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has imperiled both his own re-election and his party’s majority in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers in crucial states like Arizona, North Carolina and Maine have fallen behind their Democratic challengers amid broad disapproval of the president, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

President Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has imperiled both his own re-election and his party’s majority in the Senate. Republican lawmakers in Arizona, North Carolina and Maine have fallen behind their Democratic challengers amid broad disapproval of the president, according to a new poll.

See the original for this image- and quotation-heavy section of the essay.

What In Conservatism Should Be Conserved?

Thoughtful piece by Martin Skold and J. Furman Daniel in this morning’s Bulwark.

In a previous Bulwark article, we asked what was left to conserve about the United States, and offered some thoughts on what could form the basis of conservatism in the present era. We pick up here with an opposite question: What must we conserve about conservatism, and what must change?

This is no mere academic exercise. Our cities are burning, our people are divided, our foreign policy is adrift, and our nation is literally sick.

Some of the blame for these problems belongs to the left, but by no means all of it. For a two-party system like ours to function properly it must have a viable and healthy conservative party. America needs a governing consensus, so that it can know what is too much and what is not enough, what is on the table and what is not—and that implies having both a liberal or progressive party and a conservative party, and between them some sort of consensus about the boundaries of the policy debate.

These failures of ideas and leadership were evident long before the 2016 election. While Donald Trump, as a candidate and as president, has been able to exploit the country’s polarization, it did not originate with him. Moreover, should he recede from the scene, it will be more, not less, necessary to attempt to make some sense of a chaotic Republican party. Doing so will require reassessing what about the old conservatism retains relevance and vitality.

[Note: since the quotation above appeared originally in Bulwark, I included it in this edit.]

In a previous Bulwark article, we asked what was left to conserve about the United States, and offered some thoughts on a new foundation for conservatism. Here we offer a complementary question: What must we conserve about conservatism, and what must change?

This question is not academic. Our cities are burning, our foreign policy is adrift, and our citizens are prisoners to a preventable pandemic. This question begs another question: what do Republicans imagine the oath of office means today?

Certainly, the liberals are not without fault. For a two-party system to function properly, it needs a viable and healthy conservative party. America needs a governing consensus, so that it can know what is too much and what is not enough, what is on the table and what is not—and that requires having both a liberal (or progressive) party and a conservative party, that together establish a consensus about the boundaries of policy and decency.

These failures of ideas and leadership were evident long before the 2016 election. While Donald Trump, as a candidate and as president, has deftly exploited the country’s polarization, he didn’t start this dumpster fire. Moreover, when he leaves the White House, it will be more, not less, necessary to make sense of the chaos of the Republican party. Doing so will require reassessing which features of your father’s conservatism retain relevance and vitality.

# # #

And that’s a wrap.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!

JED Newsletter: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 14

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh — like this one.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September.

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence to the newsletters, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on each edit and offer some lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“Newsletter for College & Univ. Professionals,” Sept 16

@ https://tinyurl.com/yxde72pb / The JED Team @ @jedfoundation
–Grey typeface: JED.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 12 -> 9.
–word count: 1714 -> 1512
–median sentence length: 29 -> 17 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 20 -> 17.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 45% -> 37%

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Dear Randal,

Every September, those of us working to promote mental health and well-being on college campuses look to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month as a way to activate our mental health programs, encourage campus-wide collaboration, and connect with national alliances and peers around the country. At the same time, we are navigating the busyness and challenges of the back-to-school season. Though this season has always had its challenges, we continue to face unique stressors this fall after six months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

During a webinar with Facebook Safety and JED Student Ambassador Skylar Chau last week, Erica Riba (JED’s Director of Higher Education and Student Engagement) offered a reminder to all in response to the season ahead of us:

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. With our shift from summer relaxation to fall routines, we face the same old challenges — as well as unique stressors to the ongoing pandemic. Your students are in the same boat. So it’s a great time to activate our mental health programs, encourage campus-wide collaboration, and connect with national alliances and peers around the country.

In a recent webinar with Skylar Chau, Facebook Safety and JED Student Ambassador, and Erica Riba, JED Director of Higher Education and Student Engagement, Erica offered us an inspirational reminder:

“We as humans are resilient. It’s also good to acknowledge that we got this. Let’s take some time to pause and reflect on how much we’ve done and overcome in the last [six] months and how we can move forward with that resiliency.”

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And while we affirm our resiliency to overcome the challenges ahead, we know we can only do this together and with the support of others. As you continue to read below about resources to support your work during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we encourage you to take care of yourselves and your colleagues—freely offering and asking for support as we encourage our students to do the same.

Our resiliency depends upon collaboration. We are best equipped for the challenges ahead when we know we can count on one another. Take a look at our new resources to support your work during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. We encourage you to think about how, this fall, you can freely offer and ask for support, as we encourage our students to do the same.Yours in health,

The JED Team

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JED’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month landing page is now live!

On this page, your students can access various tools and tips to support their wellness, including advice on how to start conversations about mental health with friends, self-care guides, mental health stories from celebrities and JED community members, and COVID-19 specific mental health and suicide prevention resources.

On this page, your students can access various tools and tips to support their wellness. There’s advice on how to start conversations about mental health with friends. There are self-care guides and stories about mental health stories from JED community members and celebrities, too. There’s also COVID-19-specific resources for mental health and suicide prevention.

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SHARE OUR RESOURCES WITH STUDENTS

The mental health of students is more critical now than ever and at JED, we’ve always driven home the message that institutions need to take a comprehensive, strategic approach to emotional well-being. JED has been supporting young adult mental health for 20 years and since the launch of our JED Campus program, we have worked with over 300 colleges and universities to establish and strengthen mental health strategic plans. Our comprehensive approach works as evidenced by our recently published JED Campus Impact Report.

At JED, we have long believed that colleges and universities should embrace a comprehensive and strategic approach to the emotional well-being of their communities. For 20 years, JED has supported the mental health of young adults. Since the launch of our JED Campus program, we have worked with over 300 colleges and universities to establish and strengthen this approach. Check out the results of our 2020 JED Campus Impact Report.

“The Jed Foundation has had an incredible impact in higher education. It’s the best model out there to enhance student well-being and save lives.” ~ School of the Art Institute of Chicago, JED Campus Alum, Summer 2020

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Our early learnings have enabled us to tailor our approach to institutions of different sizes and types. We have adapted our program and now have assessments specifically for community colleges and graduate/professional schools. We now also have two different program options: our original four-year JED Campus program and a new 18-month JED Campus Fundamentals program. The two programs provide colleges and universities varying levels at which they can engage with JED.

We’re also pleased to announce the creation of the Morgan Stanley Scholarship Fund that will help to subsidize the fees for these programs for institutions that are serving students from low-income and diverse backgrounds. Program cohorts start each February and August and we invite you to reach out to learn more about how we can partner with you in support of your students!

The takeaway lessons from our early work enabled us to tailor our engagements with institutions of different sizes and types. We now have assessments specifically for community colleges and graduate/professional schools. We also offer two different program options: our original four-year JED Campus program, and a new 18-month JED Campus Fundamentals program.

Financial support for your JED program.

We’re pleased to announce the creation of the Morgan Stanley Scholarship Fund, which subsidizes program fees for institutions with students from low-income households and underrepresented groups. Program cohorts start each February and August. Contact us to learn how we can help support of your students!

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ICYMI: JED’S POV ON STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING IN FALL CAMPUS REOPENING

Below, we offer some considerations for our college and university campuses as they continue to prepare and work through supporting the mental health and well-being of their communities during the fall reopening, in whatever format it will take for each campus. We have organized our recommendations by the various domains of JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities. Because each of the domains are not discrete or mutually exclusive, the reader will find that some recommendations can be applied across several domains. We would like to emphasize that the list of recommendations is not meant to be exhaustive and may or may not work on every campus. We put them forward for consideration only and each campus can determine if/how they will work for their specific communities.

We know that college administrators, students, and their parents face difficult decisions about the fall semester. Remote, or face-to-face? A combination of both? We offer some guidelines for our on-campus colleagues as they prepare to support the mental health and well-being of their communities this fall. Our recommendations coincide with the various domains of JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities. Not every recommendation is meant for every campus. We understand that you know what works best with the students in your communities.

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JED Higher Ed Webinars

How College Students Are Coping During the Pandemic: Why Tracking Student Mental Health Data in 2020 Is So Important
Thursday, October 8, 2:00PM-3:00PM EDT

During the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the Healthy Minds Study (HMS) has shown significant increases in issues like student financial stress and difficulties accessing mental health care. In light of the numerous impacts of COVID-19 on student mental and emotional health, it is important to continue to survey students to understand how their well-being is being impacted, while also investing to improve programs, policies, and systems that will promote their mental health.

Keep the Data Coming: The Mental Health of College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic / Thursday, October 8, 2:00PM-3:00PM EDT

During the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the Healthy Minds Study (HMS) indicate significant increases in student financial stress and difficulties accessing mental health care, to name but two. COVID-19 places new stresses on all of us. It’s essential that you continue to survey students about their mental and emotional health, and invest in programs, policies, and systems to promote their mental health.

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Participants will learn about the importance of tracking student mental health data at their college and university in order to inform programs, policies, and systems that help improve behavioral health outcomes, which lead to higher rates of student success and retention.

Participants will learn about findings from the 2019-2020 Healthy Minds Study National Data Reports, as well as “The Impact of COVID-19 on College Student Well-Being,” a study conducted in partnership with the American College Health Association (ACHA), demonstrating the importance of continuing to track student mental health data during the pandemic.

Participants will learn how the partnership between JED and The Healthy Minds Network supports a Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities, especially now in response to COVID-19 and the unique challenges of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Webinar participants will learn about:

the importance of tracking student mental health data in order to inform programs, policies, and systems that help improve behavioral health outcomes, which in turn improve student success and retention;

insights from the 2019-2020 Healthy Minds Study National Data Reports and “The Impact of COVID-19 on College Student Well-Being.” “The Impact” was conducted in partnership with the American College Health Association, and analyzes the importance of tracking student mental health data during the pandemic.

how the partnership between JED and The Healthy Minds Network supports a Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities — and why it matters even more during the pandemic.

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ICYMI: View our Summer 2020 Higher Ed Webinars

This summer, we’ve hosted four separate webinars that may help you and your campus in implementing strategies to support distinct student groups on campus and promote connectedness, their well-being, and mental health:

  1. Live Briefing: Learnings from the Equity in Mental Health Framework Pilot Implementation Partners
  2. Supporting International Student Mental Health During Challenging Times 
  3. Amplifying Voices of Future Leaders: Supporting the Mental Health of Students Speaking Up Against Racial Injustice
  4. Struggling to be Proud and Thriving: Supporting the Well-being and Mental Health of LGBTQ+ College Students

Please click the links above to view individual recordings of each webinar, or use the button below to view recordings of all JED Webinars for Higher Ed.

This summer, we hosted four webinars designed to help and your staff work with distinct student groups to promote connectedness, their well-being, and mental health:

● Live Briefing: Key Lessons from the Equity in Mental Health Framework Pilot Project

● Supporting International Student Mental Health During Social Conflict

● Amplify the Voices of Future Leaders: Supporting the Mental Health of Students Speaking Up Against Racial Injustice

● Pride and Poise: Supporting the Well-being and Mental Health of LGBTQ+ College Students

Please click the links above to view individual recordings of each webinar, or use the button below to view recordings of all JED Webinars for Higher Ed.

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VIEW OUR SUMMER 2020 WEBINARS

P.S. The JED Higher Ed Team also participated in Day 2 of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health Conference (August 18–August 19) on Reopening College Campuses with Uncertain Expectations and Emerging Anxieties. Click here to access full recordings from the conference keynotes and panels.

P.S. In August, the JED Higher Ed Team participated in day 2 of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health Conference on Reopening College Campuses with Uncertain Expectations and Emerging Anxieties. Click here to access full recordings from the conference keynotes and panels.

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Resource Reminder: JED’s “You Can Help”

A fundamental part of a comprehensive approach to supporting mental health and preventing suicide is to train community members to identify and support students who may be struggling with a mental health challenge and refer them to professional help if needed. JED’s “You Can Help” is designed to help you educate faculty, staff, and student peers on how they can best support others on campus.

A comprehensive approach to supporting mental health and preventing suicide entails training community members to identify and support students in need. When students are facing a mental health challenge, what can you do to ensure they receive professional help, if needed? JED’s “You Can Help” is designed to help you educate faculty, staff, and student peers on the best modes of support for students on your campus.

For more information, please visit https://www.jedfoundation.org/you-can-help-a-friend-ychaf-training/ or click the button below for the two-page overview.

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LEARN MORE: From Our Partners and Other Organizations

Unpack U Campaign with the Pittsburgh JED Campus Cohort

Unpack U is an innovative, inclusive program that helps universities address the extraordinary transitions facing today’s college students. The toolkit reminds students of the importance of reaching out for help and connects them to resources on and off campus that promote emotional well-being and resilience including real-time virtual experiences that are authentic, engaging, and genuinely fun!

Within Unpack U, students will find validation, connection, self-discovery and see themselves represented in our diverse range of partners—including influencers, Pittsburgh athletes, and most importantly—students. Guided by research and direct collaboration with students and local partners, Unpack U is building a radical new program that addresses collegiate mental health by meeting students wherever they may be—in their dorms, at home, on Zoom or on social media.

Unpack U is an innovative, inclusive program that helps universities address the complexity of key life transitions for today’s college students. The toolkit reminds students of the importance of reaching out for help. It connects them with resources on- and off-campus that promote emotional well-being and resilience, as well as real-time virtual experiences that are authentic, engaging, and genuinely fun!

In Unpack U, students can find validation, connection, and opportunities for self-discovery. They get to see themselves represented in our diverse range of partners, including influencers, Pittsburgh athletes and, most importantly, students. Guided by research and direct collaboration with students and local partners, Unpack U is the cornerstone of a radical new program that “meets” students in their dorms, at home, on Zoom or on social media.

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New Seize The Awkward Website

Head to seizetheawkward.org to share new tools and tips with your students to support themselves and their friends. We’ve added step-by-step conversation guides to help you start and sustain mental health conversations, a conversation starter generator and much more. Check it out!

Head to seizetheawkward.org to share new tools and tips with your students to support themselves and their friends. We’ve added step-by-step conversation guides to help you start and sustain mental health conversations. Check it out!

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The College Student Mental Health Action Toolkit

Developed by The Healthy Minds Network, in partnership with Active Minds and The Jed Foundation (JED), The College Student Mental Health Action Toolkit was created for college students to equip them to advocate for policies, systems, and environmental changes that will improve the mental health and well-being on college and university campuses. The toolkit provides key data points, resources, and tips to help students take action! Share with your students here.

Developed by The Healthy Minds Network, in partnership with Active Minds and JED, The College Student Mental Health Action Toolkit equips college students with the skills to advocate for policies and environmental changes to improve mental health and well-being on campus. The toolkit provides key data points, resources, and tips to help students take action. Share with your students here.

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COVID-19 and Mental Health: How America’s High School and College Students Are Coping During The Pandemic

Seize the Awkward recently partnered with Chegg to survey high school and college students about COVID’s impact on their mental health. Since the onset of the virus, more than half of students surveyed have offered support to a friend whom they thought might be struggling – while nearly half have had a friend reach out to them. Take a look at the rest of our findings here.

Seize the Awkward recently partnered with Chegg to survey high school and college students about COVID’s impact on their mental health. Since the onset of the virus, more than half of students surveyed have offered support to a friend, and nearly half have friends who reached out to them. Check the rest of our findings here.

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#BacktoSchoolTogether

As millions of college students begin to return to campus in the coming weeks and states across the country are reporting a rise in younger people testing positive for COVID-19, MTV, and ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group—in partnership with the Ad Council—are launching #BacktoSchoolTogether, a new phase of the #AloneTogether public awareness campaign which will communicate how to stay safe, dispel myths and misinformation, and promote the importance of key actions that students can take to slow the spread.

The digital-first PSA campaign features a media toolkit that consists of a style guide and a suite of creative assets that colleges and universities can easily and quickly customize across their social channels and digital platforms.

As millions of college students return to campus in the next few weeks, multiple states report a rise in positive cases. MTV and ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group—in partnership with the Ad Council—are launching #BacktoSchoolTogether. It’s a new phase of the #AloneTogether public awareness campaign, designed to help students stay safe, recognize misinformation, and use their own agency to flatten the curve.

The digital-first PSA campaign features a media toolkit with a suite of creative assets that colleges and universities can easily and quickly customize for their social channels and digital platforms.

Good luck and stay safe everyone!

# # #

And that’s a wrap.

If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!