Master’s Degree Academic Policies and Procedures
The general requirements for Master’s degree programs at NCCU are included in this section. For special departmental or program requirements, the student should consult the program specific requirements in the section for the particular college/school and department or program in this Catalog. The student must assume full responsibility for acquaintance with both the general regulations and the special requirements of the Master’s degree for the departmental program which he/she enrolls.
The Graduate Coordinator for the Master’s degree program serves as or assigns an academic advisor to all admitted graduate students. The Academic Advisor is expected to guide the graduate student through all program requirements, advising on such things as the course selection in the program, readiness to take the comprehensive examination, admission to candidacy, and other requirements leading to the master’s degree. Graduate students should meet with the academic advisor at least once each semester to discuss their program, carefully plan their course sequences and selections, register for courses, and review the progress that he/she is making in meeting program requirements.
Program of Study
All graduate students pursuing the Master’s degree should have a Plan of Study by the end of the second semester in the graduate program approved by the student’s Academic Advisor, the Program Coordinator, and Department Chair, as appropriate. A minimum of 30 credit hours is required in most master’s programs at NCCU and all courses for the Master’s degree, including supporting courses, must be taken at the 5000 level. The academic performance of the graduate student in all coursework must meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the Graduate School including maintaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 with no “F” grade and not more than one “C” grade. Many graduate programs administer a comprehensive written examination to qualify the student for admission to candidacy for the degree. Generally, the Thesis or Non-thesis program option must be selected, and if the Non-thesis option is selected, then project, practicum, internship, or coursework must be chosen as appropriate for the program. If the student chooses thesis, project, internship, or practicum, then a Graduate Faculty Advisor is assigned based on area of interest to guide the student to completion of this graduate work.
Foreign Language Proficiency
The School of Graduate Studies does not require foreign language proficiency for the graduate students, however some departments/programs may require their students demonstrate proficiency in a specified foreign language. If required by the program, the foreign language requirement must be satisfied prior to admission to candidacy.
Comprehensive Written Qualifying Examination
In addition to the examinations that occur in individual courses, most graduate programs require students to pass a comprehensive written examination to qualify for admission to Candidacy for the Master’s Degree. This comprehensive written examination covers subjects from courses within the major. The graduate student should have successfully completed at least nine (9) credit hours in his/her program of study and maintained a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 before taking the comprehensive written examination. No qualifying written comprehensive examination is required in the MBA, MIS, and MLS programs.
The Graduate Program Coordinator establishes a committee of examiners, representing both major and minor areas, and administers comprehensive written examination. A student failing to pass this examination may, apply for and secure reexamination. The retake of the exam must occur between 30 days and one year from the first attempt. The opportunity to retake the exam will be granted by Dean of the School of Graduate Studies after the completion of the following:
- The student must schedule a meeting with members of the committee to review the performance on his/her previous examination;
- The student and the committee must develop a remediation plan to address any identified areas of weakness. The remediation plan may identify additional readings, courses, or other measures to address the areas of deficiency.
Should a second failure occur, approval for a third examination must be granted by the department chair, academic dean, and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and the above steps must be repeated. However, the third attempt may NOT occur within the same semester as the second attempt. In the event of a third failure, the student has no recourse and he/she is dismissed from the graduate program and admissions to Graduate School terminated.
The academic department determines the date when it will administer the comprehensive written examination for its graduate program. This examination can be scheduled any time before the due date to report the results to the School of Graduate Studies. The due date to report the results of the comprehensive written examination to the School of Graduate Studies is five business days before the University Registrar’s deadline as posted in the academic calendar. The Dean of the School of Graduate Studies reports the results of the comprehensive written examination to the University Registrar for posting on the student’s transcript.
Upon successfully passing the comprehensive written qualifying examination the student is qualified to proceed to admission to candidacy and to thesis, project or portfolio work in the graduate program and to complete any remaining graduate coursework requirements in the Plan of Study. A Graduate Faculty Advisor is then appointed to guide the student in research or other professional work that leads to a thesis, project or portfolio.
Transfer of Graduate Credit
A maximum of six semester hours of course work may be transferred from another institution for most graduate programs. Professional programs with the higher credit hour requirements may accept up to twelve semester hours of transfer credit. Transfer of graduate credit from another institution may be considered if
- The course is graduate level at an accredited university;
- The student earned at least a grade of “B” or equivalent in each course for which credit is to be transferred;
- The advisor, and department chairperson approve the course as part of the student’s graduate program; and
- The courses do not exceed the time limit for completing the Master’s or Ph.D. degree program.
The University recognizes the grades that follow in the evaluation of the performance of graduate students.
A Work of superior quality.
B Satisfactory passing work.
C Low passing work.
I Incomplete; Work that has not been fully completed. Remaining work must be completed within one year or the grade will be replaced with “F.” Upon earning the grade of “F,” the students is dismissed from the program and the university. The student must follow the Request for Reinstatement after Dismissal for Receiving a Grade of F policy to be considered for readmission to the program and the university.
NF Represents a course in which the student stopped attending classes without officially dropping the class; this grade counts as a failing grade. Upon earning the grade of “NF,” the student is dismissed from the program and the university. The student must then follow the Request for Reinstatement after Dismissal for Receiving a Grade of F policy to be considered for readmission to the program and the university.
W Indicates that the student withdrew from the University for the term.
WC Indicates that the student officially withdrew from the class.
NP Denotes that a student registered in a thesis conference, project, research, or internship/practicum course has not made satisfactory progress during the semester;
NW Represents a course in which the student stopped attending without officially withdrawing from the class;
PR Denotes that a student registered in a thesis, project, research, or internship/practicum course has made satisfactory progress but has not successfully completed the required work, and
AU Represents an audited class; class must be declared as an audit before the end of the official drop/add period.
Quality points are assigned for the purpose of determining the cumulative grade point average as follows:
A = 4
B = 3
C = 2
F = 0
NF = 0
Grades of P, I, W, WC, NP, NW, PR, and AU do not compute into the grade point average.
Grade Point Average (GPA) Calculation
The cumulative grade point average is computed by dividing the total number of quality points earned by the total number of hours attempted. Graduate students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 to continue in the Graduate School and for graduation requirements. Students are placed on probation when their cumulative GPA falls below 3.0.
Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy
Graduate students are expected to meet full class attendance. Conditions on and penalties for class absences will be described in individual graduate course syllabi.
Withdrawal from a Course
All changes in course schedules after the close of registration require the signature of the instructors involved, the student’s advisor, and the Dean of the College. The form for this purpose may be obtained from the major department and it must be delivered to the Office of the University Registrar. Graduate students may withdraw from a course at any time up to the official last day to withdraw from a course for the semester as established by the University Calendar. A graduate student who stops attending a course without notifying the instructor, the dean, and the registrar may receive a grade of “NF” in that course. If a graduate student withdraws from a course or courses before the official last day to withdraw, but remains registered in other courses, the withdrawn course or courses will be assigned a grade of “WC.” The “NF” grade is computed in the GPA the same as an “F” grade. The “WC” grade does not compute in the GPA.
Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA)
Graduate students are required to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 (“B”) and are expected to complete their degree program requirements within the time limit or the respective Master’s of Ph.D. degree program. The evaluation period for GPA monitoring is each academic term, i.e., fall and spring semesters and summer sessions. In order to graduate from the university, a graduate student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. This GPA requirement does not apply to Law School students.
Academic Probation and Dismissal
Graduate students are required to maintain a record of academic success in their graduate programs. Failure to maintain that academic success can lead to placement on academic probation and dismissal.
Students who are placed on probation become ineligible for graduate assistantships and may also lose their financial aid eligibility. After graduate assistantship and financial aid have been withdrawn, students may re-establish satisfactory academic progress by attending subsequent semesters at their own expense and improving their hours and/or GPA to meet the required standards.
The following circumstances can lead to placement on Academic Probation:
- GPA below 3.0: When the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, the graduate student is placed on academic probation and has one calendar year to raise the GPA to at least 3.0.
- Two Grades of “C”: A graduate student who earns two grades of “C” will be placed on academic probation even if his/her GPA is 3.0 or better.
The following circumstances can lead to dismissal from the University.
- If a graduate student earns a grade of “F”, the student will be dismissed from the graduate program and North Carolina Central University.
- If a graduate student is placed on academic probation for GPA below 3.0 and fails to achieve a GPA of 3.0 or better after one year of academic probation, the student will be dismissed from the graduate program and North Carolina Central University
- If a graduate student is placed on academic probation for earning two grades of “C” and fails to improve the grade in one of the courses within one calendar year, even with a 3.0 GPA the student will be dismissed from the graduate program and North Carolina Central University
NOTE: These requirements do not apply to Law School students. Law School students should refer to NCCU School of Law for Academic Dismissal and Appeals processes.
A graduate student MUST repeat the course she/he has earned a grade of “F” within one calendar year (Probation year). At the discretion of the academic department, a graduate student may repeat no more than two courses in which grades of “C” were earned for the purpose of improving his/her grade point average. The courses may be repeated once, and only once, for a higher grade. Although all grades initially earned or repeated will remain a part of the permanent record, only the highest earned grade will be used in computing the grade point average. The repeating of courses may result in an improved grade point average but credits for only one of the same course can count toward the graduate program degree requirements. Students who repeat courses are still bound to the time limits of the graduate degree program.
Appeal Process for Academic Dismissal
Conditions for Possible Appeal
The University recognizes that there may be extenuating circumstances beyond a student’s control which impacted his/her inability to meet the GPA and other academic requirements stipulated by the NCCU Graduate and Professional School Catalog. To that end, the University will permit a student to appeal his/her dismissal from the University when that dismissal is directly attributable to extenuating circumstances that occurred during the fall or spring semester or summer session immediately preceding the student’s dismissal from the University.
Definition of Extenuating Circumstances
An “extenuating circumstance” is defined by the University as a situation which is beyond the student’s control and which could not have been prevented by the student. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A car accident which causes serious injury to the student resulting in hospitalization and/or creating health challenges which prohibit the student from being able to meet academic requirements;
- A serious, life-threatening, or life-altering illness to the student or an immediate family member for whom the student must assume legal responsibility due to the condition;
- An official documentable military deployment;
- A natural disaster which negatively impacts the student’s well-being due to total destruction of home or other essential familial provisions.
Authentic Appropriate Documentation
- The University reserves the right to consider other situations in addition to those enumerated herein in determining whether or not the alleged extenuating circumstance(s) directly impacted the student’s ability to maintain the required GPA or a record of academic success.
- A student must have official written documentation, which explicitly substantiates and corroborates the assertion of the extenuating circumstances.
- An extenuating circumstance is not one that is characterized by a repeated pattern of behavior which has compromised the student’s academic standing over time.
- An extenuating circumstance should be an exceptional one-time occurrence.
Procedures for Filing an Appeal
A student may elect to appeal the dismissal decision by submitting a written petition to the Dean of their School or College within seven (7) work days of receiving formal notice of dismissal from the University. A student’s appeal must include the following:
- A completed appeals form;
- A clear and concise petition personally typed and developed by the student to delineate the appeal and the extenuating circumstances that will justify the request;
- An official/authentic/formal document providing proof of the extenuating circumstance(s) which the student contends caused his/her earning a grade of “F” or inability to maintain the required GPA.
- A letter of support from the student’s department chair;
- A letter of support from the student’s program coordinator or graduate program director.
- A Plan, signed by academic advisor, that will ensure success
- Upon receipt of the complete appeals packet including all five of the above documents from the student, the college or school Dean shall conduct a thorough review and render a recommendation in the case.
- The college or school Dean shall recommend either approval or denial of the dismissal. The college or school Dean will submit this recommendation in writing, with her/his signature affixed, to the Office of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies within seven work days following the date of the student’s submission of the appeals package. Only the college or school Dean is authorized to make the recommendation and sign the document.
- Once received by the Office of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, the appeals packet will be forwarded to the Graduate Council Student Affairs Committee for a final recommendation to “approve” or “deny” the dismissal. The Student Affairs Committee will forward its recommendation along with a written explanation to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies within seven work days.
- A student who is allowed to be readmitted to the University will be required to adhere to a formal “Academic Improvement Plan” developed collaboratively with his/her academic advisor, signed by the student, and kept on file in the Graduate Studies and college or school Deans’ Offices for periodic review and possible institutional audit.
- A re-admitted student may be dismissed from the University if the student fails to increase his/her GPA by the end of the semester immediately following the decision to re-admit. Students are required to maintain their GPA in accordance with the provisions of the Graduate School.
- A student is permitted “ONLY ONE APPEAL.” No Exceptions!
Academic Forgiveness Policy for Graduate Students
Academic Forgiveness allows graduate students who have been in a different graduate program from their current graduate program at NCCU to void a portion of the work attempted during one or more semesters of the prior enrollment(s). NCCU offers this option because it recognizes that some students fail to perform satisfactorily due to factors that interfere with their academic performance.
To qualify for Academic Forgiveness, a graduate student must meet the following conditions:
- The student must be enrolled in a different graduate program than the one in which he or she was enrolled during the semester of the work to be forgiven.
- The student must have been out of the previously enrolled program for a period of at least two consecutive years after attempting the work to be forgiven.
- The student must state, in writing, his or her intention to request Academic Forgiveness from the Graduate School. The student will also specify which semesters are being requested for Academic Forgiveness. Students may request Academic Forgiveness for any or all semesters of their prior work, but all work from a given semester will be affected if the student requests academic forgiveness for that semester and if the request is approved.
- The student may not have previously been granted Academic Forgiveness for any graduate course work done at NCCU.
The graduate student must complete the Academic Forgiveness Request Form and submit it to the School of Graduate Studies along with a copy of his/her transcript. The Graduate Council Student Affairs committee will review the application, and if it is deemed successful, the committee will notify both the student and the University Registrar of the successful petition. The petition will then be forwarded to the Provost’s Office for final approval.
If Academic Forgiveness is granted, the grades from all the affected semesters will remain on the transcript but will not be counted in the student’s GPA and will not count toward degree requirements. The Dean of the School of Graduate Studies may waive major, and supporting requirements met by courses taken during the semesters affected by academic forgiveness if the grade is appropriate; but credit from those hours will NOT count toward the degree or GPA. Students should note, however, that all coursework, including the ones taken during the affected semesters, count toward their total attempted hours. A successful petition will also result in a notation of “Academic Forgiveness” on the student’s transcript in the Office of the University Registrar.
The Academic Forgiveness Policy does not impact a student’s financial aid eligibility. Any student who was previously not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress and subsequently granted academic forgiveness must submit a financial aid SAP appeal to be considered for financial aid eligibility. In calculating students’ academic progress for federal aid eligibility, the University cannot ignore credits attempted or grades earned from previous periods of enrollment. Students should therefore be prepared to pay all charges owed to the University until a decision is made on the Financial Aid Appeal and financial aid may be awarded.
Students who seek Academic Forgiveness should also understand the following guidelines:
- Successful Academic Forgiveness petitions will only apply to grades obtained at North Carolina Central University. It does not apply to coursework from other post-secondary institutions.
- Students may only receive Academic Forgiveness once.
The time limit for the completion of graduate degree program requirements in all masters-level graduate degree programs is six years. The time limit for completion of Ph.D. program requirements is eight years. The time limit begins on the date of the student’s registration in his or her first course for graduate degree or PhD degree credit at North Carolina Central University.
Extension of Time
A student whose Master’s or PhD time limit has expired is regarded by the Graduate School is automatically terminated from the program. An extension of the time for completion of the Master’s or PhD degree beyond the respective time limit may be requested in exceptional circumstances and granted with certain conditions. Typically, the time extension should not exceed one calendar year.
Before making a formal request for an extension of time, the student must first be readmitted to the program. Upon readmission the student must consult with his/her academic and/or research advisor to agree with the request and to assist in preparing an extension of time request packet. The student must make his/her request for extension of time through a prepared request packet and a cover letter addressed to the Chair of the Department or Director of a Program. The cover letter must include the following information:
- A statement of the request being made;
- The reasons for not completing the degree program requirements within the time limits;
- The proposed length and ending date of the extension requested; and
- A statement about the plan developed by the student and advisor that will ensure success in completing the Program.
The extension of time request packet must include:
- An academic review report on the student that gives the current status in the Program and the chronology of the progress made to date.
- A revalidation of courses that are more than five years old at the time of the request or include in the work plan new coursework that provides up-to-date disciplinary content knowledge.
- A description of what the student has to do to finish the Program, such as complete specific courses, pass the Comprehensive or Qualifying Examination, defend the thesis or dissertation.
- A work plan that itemizes remaining work to be done and a specific timeline for completion of the itemized work. This work plan should include a detailed plan of action or steps (an academic success plan) that ensures a reasonable probability of success in completing the Program. If the student does not currently have at least a 3.0 GPA, then the student’s academic plan must outline how the student will have acquired a cumulative GPA of 3.0 within 12 months from the date that the extension begins.
- A letter of support and commitment from the academic and/or research advisor.
- The following statements endorsed by the student:
- I understand that not following the plan in the request for time extension may result in the Department rescinding any recommendation it has made in support of my request for extension of time.
- I understand that during the approved extension of time, I must be continuously enrolled either in Thesis/Dissertation or in courses required by the program or the terms of the extension. Failure to do so will void the extension.
If the request for extension of time is supported, the Department or Program must submit its recommendation for a time extension to the Graduate School. The Dean of the Graduate School, in consultation with the Graduate Council, will review the unit’s recommendation. He/she will inform the student in writing of the decision regarding the request for extension of time. Any conditions of a granted extension of time will be cited in the Graduate Dean’s letter to the student.
Should there be a second request for extension of time, it must be made prior to the expiration of the first extension and follow the same procedure. Consideration of a second request will be subject to a satisfactory progress report submitted by the student’s advisor to the Graduate Committee of the Department. No consideration will be given to a third request for extension of time.
Academic Integrity Policy
As a center of learning, teaching, and research, North Carolina Central University charges its members to maintain patterns of academic behavior which enable these essential functions.
Academic Dishonesty Defined
Academic dishonesty is defined as any conduct which is intended by the student to obtain for him/her or for others an unfair or false evaluation in connection with any examination or other work for academic credit. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism and complicity are examples of conduct which is academically dishonest.
Cheating is the unauthorized use of materials in connection with an examination or other work for academic credit, including, but not limited to:
- The use of books, notes, outlines, etc. during an examination where the instructor has not authorized use of such materials or information;
- Seeking unauthorized materials or information from others in connection with an examination;
- Giving or attempting to give unauthorized assistance to another person in connection with an examination;
- Obtaining or attempting to obtain unauthorized copies of examinations;
- Bringing to an examination, or attempting to use during an examination, unauthorized answers which have been prepared before the examination period;
- Copying or attempting to copy from the work of another student during an examination; and,
- Submitting for evaluation in a course, part or the whole of a work for which credit has been given previously.
Fabrication is the invention, counterfeiting and/or alteration of quoted passages, data, procedures, experiments, sources or other information in connection with any academic exercise.
Plagiarism is the use of the ideas, words, or works of another without attribution when the information provided is not common knowledge either in content or form and includes, but is not limited to:
- Quoting from the published or unpublished work of another without appropriate attribution;
- Paraphrasing or summarizing in one’s own work any portion of the published or unpublished materials of another without attribution; and,
- Borrowing from another’s work, data, and facts which are not in the domain of common knowledge.
Complicity is the giving of assistance or the attempt to give assistance to another for the purpose of perpetrating academic dishonesty.
The penalties for conviction of the first offense of academic dishonesty will be imposed by the instructor responsible for assigning the final grade for the course. The penalty will be determined by the severity of the offense:
- Formal warning;
- Grade of “F” for the assignment;
- Grade of “F” for the course; or
- Suspension for a period ranging from one semester to a year.
Conviction of a second academic dishonesty offense will result in expulsion from the University.
Complete rules governing the Academic Integrity Policy and procedures for appealing any part of the policy may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, NCCU, Durham, NC 27707.
Grade Appeal Procedures
The grade appeal policy is intended to provide a standardized, formal process for graduate students to resolve instances of alleged unfair or improper treatment in academic matters. The policy seeks to protect both students and faculty from acts of caprice, while preserving the integrity of the teaching/evaluation process. The policy is written to be consistent with the university’s concern for due process through a system of appeals.
A student is allowed to remain in class during an appeal except in cases where the student’s remaining in class would endanger human life or the integrity of the academic program.
Step 1: A student who believes that he or she has been graded unfairly or improperly must first schedule a conference with the concerned faculty member to attempt to arrive at a mutual understanding and to resolve any differences in an informal, cooperative manner. The student must express the appeal clearly, in writing, and listen to the instructor’s rationale. The meeting should be scheduled within 10 class days of the incident or two weeks after the student could reasonably be expected to be informed of the assigned grade.
Step 2: If consultation with the instructor is impractical (e.g., death of the instructor or instructor is no longer at NCCU) or if the student is dissatisfied with the results of the initial conference with the instructor, the student must seek the assistance of the department chair within five class days of meeting with the instructor. If the instructor involved is the department chair or if a satisfactory solution is not reached, the student should seek the assistance of the associate dean. This contact should be made within five days of the meeting with the department chair. The associate dean’s role is to guide the student through the remaining steps of the appeals process. In no way is the role of the associate dean to be construed as that of advocate for either the student or the instructor.
Step 3: A student may choose to file a formal grievance. However, a formal grievance may be filed only after conferring with the associate dean. The grievance must include the following: (a) date of incident; (b) date of first meeting with instructor; (c) reasons for which the student contends that the assigned grade is improper or unfair; (d) reasons for which the student believes that the grade should be changed or for why other corrective action should be taken; and (e) copies of any and all pertinent examinations, papers, and other relevant materials.
Step 3a: To file a formal grievance, the student must submit four copies of the formal grievance to the associate dean. This formal grievance should be submitted on the form designed for that purpose. The grievance must be filed with the associate dean within 20 class days of the initial meeting with the instructor (Step 1).
(In cases of doubt concerning time limits, the associate dean will determine whether proper procedures have been followed.)
Failure to meet these deadlines forfeits the student’s right of appeal under this policy. Further, it is understood that only issues documented in the grievance statement will be considered at the subsequent hearing.
Step 4: After a formal grievance has been filed, the associate dean must within two class days forward a copy of the student’s grievance to the instructor, the instructor’s immediate supervisor, and to the chairperson of the unit’s Grade Appeals Board.
Step 5: The chair of the unit’s Grade Appeals Board shall convene a meeting of the board not sooner than five and no later than 10 class days after receipt of the grievance statement. In a closed hearing, the student shall present the grievance, including any additional supporting evidence and pertinent arguments. The instructor will be allowed to respond to the student’s grievance in the meeting.
Decisions by the Grade Appeals Board shall be determined as follows:
A vote concerning the student’s grade appeal shall be taken by the faculty board members and a separate vote shall be taken by the student board members. If a majority of the faculty group or a majority of the student group vote against the student’s appeal, the student’s appeal is denied. If a majority of either group votes in favor of the student’s appeal, the board shall recommend that the student appeal be granted.
Step 6a: If an appeal is determined to be unfounded at the hearing, the chair of the appeals board shall provide written notification of that fact to the student, the faculty member, and the immediate supervisor.
Step 6b: If an appeal is deemed valid, the appeals board shall forward its recommendation to the appropriate dean, including a written account of its deliberations and its recommendations for redress. The dean shall take whatever action is deemed appropriate.
Step 7: Should either the student or the faculty member be dissatisfied with the decision of the dean, a formal, written appeal may be made to the vice-chancellor for Academic Affairs, who will review all written material and make final disposition of the appeal. This final appeal must be filed within five class days of notification of the decision of the dean.
Exceptions to the procedure
If a student is unable to file an appeal because it is the end of classes for a spring or a summer session, the student must, within 20 days of the end of that session, notify the concerned instructor and department chair in writing of his or her intention to appeal a grade when classes resume in the fall. The timetable described in Step 1 is initiated by the beginning of classes in the fall semester.
In the event that the aggrieved student is graduating, a separate process designed to expedite the matter will be followed. The latter process is described as follows:
Step 1: Conference with instructor
Step 2: Conference with department chair or associate dean if the matter cannot be resolved in the department.
Step 3: Meet with appeals board. To expedite the matter, the appeals board will establish a time to hear any grievance for which redress is sought. Such a time for hearings should be set not less than 24 hours before the graduation ceremony is scheduled to begin.