Rachel Otwell

Illinois Edition Producer / Reporter

217-206-6407

Rachel focuses on the arts, community, and diverse culture. She's a 2012 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. While working toward that degree she spent a session covering the state legislature for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees from UIS in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, DC. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, and WorkingNow.org. 

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Scary Stories
9:41 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Scary Story: Missing Meredith By Jill Barth

A photo of the author
Credit courtesy of Jill Barth

WUIS is wrapping up its series of scary stories, written by local authors and presented in honor of Halloween season. This second-to-last story comes to us from Jill Barth:

CLICK HERE to read the story.

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Scary Stories
8:00 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Scary Story: St. Michael And Mr. Pyles By H.W. Devlin

H.W. Devlin
Credit courtesy of H.W. Devlin

H.W. Devlin sent us this story, which he recorded himself. Devlin says he, "...is a lifelong resident of Virginia, Illinois with three children, a dog and five sisters. He enjoys running, fishing, carpentry, gardening and coffee -- not necessarily in that order."

CLICK HERE to read the story.

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Scary Stories
3:33 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Scary Story: Planes By Ted Morrissey

Tedd Morrissey
Credit WUIS/Rachel Otwell

Here's our latest in the scary story series, listen to Ted Morrissey read his piece titled, "Planes":

 

You can read the story, HERE.

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Scary Stories
11:24 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Scary Story: The Diviner by Susan Vondrak

Susan Vondrak
Credit WUIS/Rachel Otwell

Here's our latest in the scary story series, listen to Susan Vondrak read her piece titled, "The Diviner":

You can read the story, HERE.

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Harvest Desk
11:14 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Wild Bison Return To IL

Ferran Salat Coll/TNC

It’s been a long time since you could say there were bison roaming the prairie in Illinois. The last ones were thought to have died off here or moved to other places in the 1800s. And while bison have still been raised here on farms, there haven’t been efforts for bison conservation in the state. That is, until now.

Cody Considine is an ecologist for the The Nature Conservancy at the Nachusa Grasslands. He joined us for this interview:

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Local Musicians
8:00 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Artist Profile: Local Troubadour Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin with Theresa O'Hare
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tom Irwin is one of Springfield's most successful, and certainly most visible, musicians. His songs have a timeless quality, often with a folksiness about them. On Sunday, he celebrates 20 years of playing once a week at Brewhaus bar in Springfield (617 E Washington St).  That event is from 7 to 10 pm, 10/25.

Irwin stopped by the WUIS studios to share these tunes and have a chat with us:

You can hear all the songs Tom Irwin performed for us in their entirety: 

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Illinois Poverty
12:05 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

UIS Poverty Series Continues With "American Winter" Screening

Credit americanwinterfilm.com

It’s been 50 years since the war on poverty was declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson, but Illinois still has about 15% of residents living in it – the same percentage living in poverty that half century ago. American Winter is a documentary made about families facing poverty, especially after the most recent recession. It’s being presented on the UIS campus Monday night, and a discussion will follow. It’s part of the university’s series on poverty.

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Arts
9:10 am
Fri October 17, 2014

'Deliverance' Actor Plays Folk Music In Springfield

Ronny Cox
Credit ronnycox.com

His first big acting gig had him playing in a banjo duel (even though he's really playing guitar.) He went on to star in movies like Total Recall and Robocop, often playing the villain. But Ronny Cox says his greatest love is for music. He's bringing that passion to Springfield on Saturday, when he'll play a solo show at The Hoogland. Cox took some time to talk to us about his acting career, his greatest influences, and more:

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Scary Stories
12:36 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Scary Story: The Neighborhood By Millicent Bliesener

Amy Bliesener
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

We have the latest from our series of scary stories by local writers. Millicent Bliesener tells us a bit about her background, and reads her entire story for us:

    

CLICK HERE to read the story.

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Regional
5:59 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Jimmy Carter Brings Human Rights Mission To Jacksonville

Jimmy Carter at Illinois College
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Former president Jimmy Carter made a stop in Jacksonville Tuesday and spoke to over 2,000 people about his quest for peace and human rights. He spoke in a crowded gymnasium at Illinois College. 

His appearance coincided with the school's new initiative called 'Pathways to Peace' in which students and faculty will study the Middle East, and have participants travel to Dubai and the West Bank.

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Scary Stories
10:39 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Scary Story: Hand In Glove By Shawna Mayer

Shawna Mayer
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Shawna Mayer got a Masters in English from UIS, with a focus on creative writing. The life-long Springfield native submitted the following story, it kicks off a series we have collected from local writers for this Halloween season:

Hand in Glove by Shawna Mayer

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Live at the Suggs
8:00 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Preview Of 'Beethoven Meets the Silk Road'

Sandeep Das
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A tabla virtuoso is in Springfield. Sandeep Das has worked with greats like Yo-Yo Ma and Ravi Shankar. He will play with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, headed by Alastair Willis, on Saturday (CLICK HERE for more info.)

In this interview, UIS ethnomusicology professor Yona Stamatis speaks with Maestro Willis about the concert, called 'Beethoven Meets the Silk Road': 

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
11:10 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Alternative Art Spaces: Labors Of Love

Allison Lacher & Jeff Robinson stand on the porch of DEMO
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

If you think an art show needs the confines of white walls, like in a museum or other formal setting, think again. Warehouses, apartments, and storefronts are also display places for art. Alternative art spaces, as they are known, began gaining attention in the late sixties. To this day, they draw in audiences who desire art that’s challenging and cutting edge. While cities like New York and L.A. are known for them, you don’t have to go to a big city to check one out.

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Harvest Desk
11:06 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Fracking Study Shows Consequences Are Uncertain

Credit WSIU

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking" - is an extraction method of natural gas that has many environmentalists concerned. It also has energy business booming in towns across the nation, and those towns will soon include ones in southern Illinois.

 

But in states where fracking is already underway, some say public health is at risk and pollution is happening. A recent study in Texas has looked at the liquid byproduct left over from fracking - and how it could be safely handled. Jamey Dunn joins us to talk about her recent column on the topic:

 

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Arts/Community Events
12:31 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

First Friday Highlights All Things Local

Credit Courtesy of Illinois State Museum

First Friday is an event hosted by the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. It's from 5 to 8 pm (10/3) and will focus on local food, beer, entertainment, arts & crafts. The event is an attempt of the museum to draw in a crowd it might usually miss - young professionals. Families and children are also invited, and it's free to get in. Jennifer Snopko is with the museum and joined us for this interview about it:

CLICK HERE for more info about events at the museum.

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Education Desk
4:01 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

LLCC Announces New Ag Programs

One state university and four Illinois community colleges are kicking off new agricultural and environmental programs. That includes Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.

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Arts/Engagement
11:24 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Send Us Your Scary Stories!

Do you have a scary or spooky original story or original piece of writing: fiction or non-fiction? Would you like to hear it on the radio? WUIS is looking for Springfield area writers to share their frightening tales with us for the coming Halloween season. Maybe it’s a ghost story, or a remembrance of the time you forgot your kid at the grocery store. If it’s scary, send it our way! Email your writing to rotwe2@uis.edu, and we may be in touch to have you voice your story for our air.

Regional
11:44 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Decatur Forum Focuses On Compassion

A national movement is asking people to be more compassionate and empathetic. The cause has come to Decatur – where a forum on compassion is planned for Tuesday. We spoke with one of the group’s members, Macy Barnett, about the event and its message:

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Education Desk
4:37 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Nursing Program Comes To UIS

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch, UIC College of Nursing Dean Terri Weaver and Memorial Health System CEO Ed Curtis
Credit Sean Crawford/WUIS

The University of Illinois Springfield is branching out into the health field. Starting next fall, a new nursing program will start accepting students. About 30 are expected to enroll in the first year of the four-year program. Memorial Health System is donating $2 million, which includes scholarships and the hospital will provide facilities for teaching. 

UIS Chancellor, Susan Koch says she's often heard from students, parents, and others in the community that the university needs to provide medical training.

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Community Event
9:08 am
Fri September 19, 2014

African Drumming At Southwind Park On Saturday

Saturday will be the Kilimanjaro Rumble: An African Drum Jamboree at Southwind Park in Springfield. There will be various genres of drum and dance. Roosevelt Pratt owns Fashion Afrique boutique and cultural center in Springfield, he is hosting the event and says its a way to foster unity in the capital city. He joined us for this interview about the event:

CLICK HERE for more info about the event. 5 to 8pm on Saturday September 20th at Southwind Park in Springfield. 

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Arts
11:49 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Humanities Film Series Kicks Off In Jacksonville

It’s the second year for  The Humanities Film Series in Jacksonville. This year’s is meant to make you think about moral courage, and the challenges that can come with doing the right thing. It kicks off Thursday night at 6:30 at the Jacksonville Public Library. Christopher Strangeman teaches history at MacMurray College in Jacksonville and helped get the film series started, he joined us for this interview about it. 

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Arts
11:34 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Springfield Art Co-Op Founder "Blossoms" On East Coast

A still of the artist from a video in his current exhibition
Courtesy of Andrew Woolbright

The Pharmacy artist co-op in Springfield has come a long way since its humble beginnings a few years ago. The group will soon move from their digs in what once was the Watt Bros. Pharmacy off South Grand Avenue to a new location downtown. It's hosted numerous art shows, as well as literary, musical, and educational events.

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Arts
9:11 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Who Owns The Rights To Vivian Maier's Photos?

self portrait by Vivian Maier, from vivianmaier.com
Credit © 2014 Maloof Collection, Ltd.

By now her story is one that’s been told often: A Chicago nanny takes thousands of photos, many are of street scenes from all over the city. She never tells anyone about her passion for photography. A young man buys boxes of her works on a whim at an auction, only to later realize in his possession are what will become some of the most critically acclaimed examples of street photography perhaps ever. By the time the man realizes the value of his findings, the mysterious woman who took the photos has passed away.

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Education Desk
12:03 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Carbon Monoxide Leak Sends North Mac Students To Hospital

NOTE: This story has been updated.  More than 130 students and a few staff members from North Mac Intermediate School in Girard have been taken to hospitals with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. North Mac superintendent Marica Cullen said a leaky pipe caused significantly high carbon monoxide levels, and the school - with about 640 students, was evacuated around 9 am she said.

Cullen says the number of affected students may continue to rise, as parents are being told to take their children directly to the hospital if they show any signs of being sick.

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Illinois Poverty
8:00 am
Mon September 15, 2014

A Practice In Poverty

Ronetta Buckner (center) discusses plans with her virtual family
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

It’s been 50 years since the “War on Poverty” was launched. Around 15% of Illinois residents currently live in poverty, the same percentage of a half century ago. Universities, non-profits, and other organizations are teaming up to draw attention to the unrelenting problem. The University of Illinois Springfield is hosting a series of poverty-related events in the coming year. The first was a “poverty simulation.”

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Roots Music
9:10 am
Fri September 12, 2014

The Best Music You've Never Heard

Credit Bedrock 66 Live!

Friday night (9/12) at Donnie's in Springfield will kick off The American Music Show. It's a festival that's making a comeback this year. Bands include regional favorites The Bottle Rockets, and Brooklyn rock/indie duo The Mastersons, who regularly serve as backup band members for Steve Earle. The two-day event highlights roots/Americana music. We spoke with booker Sean Burns about it - he tells us about bringing under-appreciated, talented musicians to town.

CLICK HERE for tickets.

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Arts
9:12 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Jekyll & Hyde: A Story Of Good & Evil At Muni

D.J. Schultz plays Jekyll and Hyde
Credit Donna Lounsberry

The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been told for over a century. But it’s only been a Broadway musical since the 1990s. Now, it’s a production on the Muni stage in Springfield. We were recently joined by cast members who told us more about it: D.J. Schultz who plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Wes Bridges who plays his best friend John Utterson, and Dennis O’Brien who plays Sir Archibald Proops.

Jekyll & Hyde is this Thursday through Saturday, and Sept. 18-20 as well. Shows begin at 7:30.

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Education Desk
12:39 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Technology Is Changing Decatur Classrooms

MacBook Air
Credit apple.com

Students at Decatur public schools will each have their own iPad or laptop to use. That's the goal the district has set for the coming two years. Elementary schools will have 1-to-1 iPads, middle schools will have a mix of iPads and laptops, and the two high schools will use laptops. At Eisenhower High School it's already taken place - with each student having their own MacBook Air.

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Ferguson, MO
10:00 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Local Response To Ferguson

Members of the audience address the panel at the Sept. 4th NAACP meeting
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Last Thursday, over 300 people met in Springfield for a meeting titled “Saving Our Black Males Through Education, Information, and Communication." It was organized as a response to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer. One common refrain was that blacks in Springfield often feel targeted by police simply because of their skin color. Local police chief Kenny Winslow told the crowd that better communication is needed.

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Code Switch
3:12 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Police Respond To Criticism At NAACP Event

Credit WUIS/Rachel Otwell

Racial tension and profiling by police were among the topics discussed at a community meeting held at Southeast High School in Springfield on Thursday. Over 300 people were in attendance for the meeting put on by the local chapter of the NAACP. It was organized as a response to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer. One common refrain was that blacks in Springfield often feel targeted by police simply because of their skin color.

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