Rachel Otwell

Reporter/ The Scene Blog

217-206-6407

Read Rachel's "The Scene" blog.

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community, and diverse culture. She produces WUIS' original program, Illinois Edition. She also hosts The Scene, which airs on Fridays and features cultural happenings in the central Illinois region.

 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, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

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The Pharmacy
11:05 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Springfield's Artist Co-Op Hosts Monthly Writer's Critique

Adam Nicholson
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Each month Springfield's artist co-op, The Pharmacy, hosts a writer's critique open to the public. Adam Nicholson helps organize that event, he joins WUIS to talk about the writing arm of the artist group, which meets tomorrow night at 7: 

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Theatre In The Park
7:00 am
Thu July 4, 2013

'The Crucible' At New Salem's Theatre In The Park

John O'Connor as John Proctor & Kara DeWall as Abigail Williams
Credit Donna Lounsberry

Carly Shank joins us to talk about the play 'The Crucible', written by Arthur Miller. The final performances are Thursday through Sunday at The Theatre in the Park in New Salem. Carly Shank is the director of that production:

CLICK HERE for more information about the production and to purchase tickets.

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Education
4:40 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Focus Groups Will Meet Re: Search For 186 Superintendent

District 186 has chosen a search firm to find the next permanent superintendent. Walter Milton left earlier this year and Robert Leming has temporarily taken his place. The search firm School Exec Connect plans to accept applications until October, provided an ideal candidate is not found before then, says Springfield public school board president Chuck Flamini. He says the next step the search firm plans is organizing focus groups that will meet publicly:

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Community
10:32 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Artist On The Plaza: Local Performers In Downtown Springfield

Every spring and summer, local artists can be seen performing in the plaza outside of the old state capitol in Springfield. We speak with Sheila Walk, who tells us about the Artist on the Plaza events which happen twice a week:

CLICK HERE for more information on the Artist on the Plaza events on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in downtown Springfield.

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The Legacy Theatre
10:44 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Sunset Boulevard: Locally Produced Musical With Film Noir Style

Cynda Wrightsman in her role as Norma Desmond
Credit The Legacy Theatre

Sunset Boulevard is a musical that almost never was. It went through multiple failed plans before Andrew Lloyd Weber - who also wrote the music for The Phantom of the Opera - took the story line of a movie from 1950 and made it a Broadway hit. And now, the musical is coming to The Legacy Theatre in Springfield - the first time it will have a run in the city.

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Education
11:31 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Technology In The Classroom Pt. II: iPads Used Daily

  Paper notebooks are still a requirement in schools. But devices like iPads are becoming increasingly more popular in classrooms. In the second half of the WUIS series on technology and teaching, this story takes us to elementary schools in Springfield’s District 186 to see how the electronic tablets are becoming a common part of the school day:

REAVY: “OK, so go ahead and open up your email to ‘Snakes Quiz’…”

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Americana
11:20 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Ford Edsel Devotees Bring Unique Cars To Springfield

Herb Wiese with his '58 Edsel Pacer Convertible
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

  The Ford Edsel is widely known for being one of the greatest marketing flops in history. It had a brief run from 1958 to 1960. But not everyone gave up on the Edsel:

WHITE-SWIFT: “Favorite car votes… get your favorite car votes here….”

Joey White-Swift is from Waco, Texas. He came to Springfield for the Edsel Owners Club's 45th Annual Convention. He's collecting votes for the 15 cars on display.

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The Muni
2:42 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

The Muni’s Les Miserables Showcases Local Talent

Photo courtesy of The Muni

Springfield’s Muni out-door theater is putting on its largest production yet. With a cast of just about fifty actors, plus chorus singers, Les Miserables cost 50 percent more than the average Muni show. When Les Mis recently became available to amateur theaters, The Muni was quick to buy the rights. The show is in its second week… performances start at 8:30. They are tonight through Sunday, and again next week – Thursday through Saturday. Here's the interview with cast members Sydney Assalley & Jerry Hicks and the vocal director, Damien Kaplan.

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Pensions
1:58 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Legislature Forms Group Tasked With Finding Pension Fix

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn is giving legislators less than three weeks to come together on a pension overhaul. So far the formation of a rare “conference committee” is the only result of the special legislative session Quinn called to deal with the state’s pension problem.

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District 186
2:34 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Technology In The Classroom Pt. I: Interest In Computer Science Increases

Indigo Lacy shows off her final project in computer programming class at SHS

  While most high schools teach an assortment of foreign languages: Spanish, French, German – other types of languages are finding their way into classrooms. Like Java. Never heard of it? It’s basically a language computers speak. At one time, this area was something few kids found interesting. But in the era of video games and smart phones, technology is part of the average students’ everyday life. In the first of a two-part series looking at teaching tech, we look at how District 186 is getting the next generation of programmers ready:

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District 186
11:29 am
Tue June 18, 2013

186 School Brd. Discusses Residency Requirement – Reappoints Leming

The Springfield school board continues to discuss a rule on the books that requires administrators to live within district 186 boundaries. Vice president Adam Lopez has adopted the cause, saying the policy should either be enforced, or removed from regulations. It’s his wish to enforce it. But board member Donna Moore questioned the need for the policy:

MOORE: Can I ask a question … I know we have this policy… but what purpose does it serve? Is this policy helping us to achieve the goals that we’re trying to achieve in the school district? Or does it hamper it?”

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Black History
10:11 am
Thu June 13, 2013

“Juneteenth” Celebration In Springfield This Weekend

“Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1900.” – Wikimedia Commons

For two decades Springfielders have celebrated Juneteenth. It's a holiday commemorated in most states. It marks the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, which came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

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District 186
9:17 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Interview: Springfield School Board Member, Scott McFarland

  WUIS has brought you interviews with all the new Springfield school board members seated last month. Today we speak with Scott McFarland – he’s serving his second term on the board. McFarland recently saw the closures of multiple schools in his district on the north-east side of town. He tells WUIS about that as well as problems within the previous school board:

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District 186
11:26 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Interview: Springfield School Board Prez Chuck Flamini

The Springfield school board has four new members, they were seated last month. WUIS has brought you interviews with three of them, today we speak with the fourth – Chuck Flamini, who also is the new school board president. In this interview he tells us about his background with the district, the search for a new superintendent, the district budget, and more:

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Music & Community
10:57 am
Fri June 7, 2013

SOHO Showcases Local Music In Downtown Springfield

SOHO is in its 9th year of highlighting local bands with a downtown street festival. The festival begins tonight (Fri. 6/7) and goes through Saturday. There will be food and alcoholic beverages on site as well as a kids area on Saturday. Local art will be on display and for sale. The event benefits the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery in Springfield.

Here's the interview with Eric Welch who is the founder of and heads the music fest:

 

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Bedrock 66
1:07 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Marshall Crenshaw + Bottle Rockets

  Michigan native Marshall Crenshaw hasn’t stopped playing music since he rose to fame in the 1980s. It’s been a career that spans just over 30 years – he’s also been an author, actor, radio host, and music producer.

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Arts & Community
1:00 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Local Band 'The Old Fashioneds' Serve Up Roots Music

Lorin Devine & Ryan Bishop are The Old Fashioneds
Credit Rachel Otwell

  Country music seems to be a genre that’s either loved or hated. But even country-lovers don’t always agree on which type is the best. Country roots music is bit of an umbrella label, including honky-tonk, folk, and rockabilly. It’s gained a foothold across the nation with artists like Pokey LaFarge and the Old Crow Medicine Show providing alternatives to Top 40 contemporary country offerings.

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District 186
3:45 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Interview: Donna Moore, Springfield School Board Member

  We’ve brought you interviews with new Springfield school board members over the past couple days. Today we speak with Donna Moore about her background and goals for district 186:

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District 186
11:47 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Interview: Adam Lopez, Springfield School Board VP

Yesterday we brought you an interview with school board member Mike Zimmers. Today we speak with Adam Lopez, an insurance agent who was seated on the new Springfield school board earlier this month. Listen to the interview with Lopez about the budget, a school closure, and more:

 

This interview is part of an ongoing series, more interviews with District 186 school board members will follow. 

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District 186
9:31 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Time For Goodbyes At Capitol College Preparatory Academy

  School lets out for the summer today in district 186. That means the end of a three year run for a middle school thats closure was hotly debated in Springfield. As the school board took multiple votes on whether to keep the Capitol College Preparatory Academy, or CCPA, open – parents, teachers, and students showed up in droves to fight for their school. But the battle to keep the school that taught grades 6 through 8 open has been lost. Listen to the story:

 

Here’s an interview with a CCPA parent and PTO president, Robert Ogden:

TRANSCRIPT:

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District 186
11:42 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Dist. 186 Explores Existing Residency Requirement

  Some Springfield public school administrators are violating a policy that says they must live within district 186, according to a new board member. Adam Lopez is the school board’s vice president, he was seated earlier this month. He says he’s heard complaints from district 186 faculty that the policy is not being enforced. Lopez says it’s an issue that should be considered by the new school board, and either enforced or done away with. His personal opinion?

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District 186
11:36 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Interview: Mike Zimmers, Springfield School Board Member

Mike Zimmers worked in district 186 in a variety of roles – administrator, teacher, principal, coach… And now he serves on the school board. His win unseated previous school board president, Susan White. In this interview Zimmers tells us about his priorities for Springfield public schools, the search for a new superintendent, the closure of a middle school, and more:

 

This interview is part of an ongoing series, more interviews with District 186 school board members will follow.

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District 186
5:02 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

AG Says Springfield School Board Violated Open Meetings Act

 Former superintendent Walter Milton’s separation agreement with District 186 violated open meeting laws, according to an opinion by the state’s Attorney General. The previous school board decided to part ways with Milton during the winter before his contract was up. So, the members approved a severance plan worth over $175,000 and agreed to pay health and dental insurance.

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Education & Community
11:32 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Foreign Exchange Students Wrap Up School Year In Central IL

Chris Reid (right) with foreign exchange daughter, Kairi Kosaka

  Foreign exchange students who spent this past school year in central Illinois with their host families are bidding them adieu. At a recent dinner 14 exchange students from countries like Spain, Thailand, and Germany shared meals from their native countries as they prepare to return home:

 

Chris Reid is mixing up a crockpot full of bright colored noodles and meatballs, food she helped her foreign exchange daughter from Toyko cook for tonight’s farewell ceremony…

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Bedrock 66
9:49 am
Fri May 17, 2013

JP Harris & The Tough Choices

  JP Harris & the Tough Choices play at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield tonight (5/17) as part of WUIS’ Bedrock 66 Live Concert Series. Harris’s music has been called “real country” and Harris calls his music “Hank Williams with a Motorhead attitude.” The Alabama native and Nashville transplant shares his music and what inspires it in this interview:

 

CLICK HERE to get tickets to tonight’s show.

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Music
4:37 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

John Michael Presney To Play Acoustic Set In Rochester

John Michael Presney is a Rochester native who’s spent the last couple years touring the country as part of a musical production that he played rockabilly star Carl Perkins in. But 25 year old Presney has crafted a music-style all his own. And he has a new EP called ‘The Nighttime and the Dawn’ to prove it.

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Community
4:33 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Third Springfield "PrideFest" On Saturday

  The third Springfield PrideFest is this Saturday. The all-day event celebrating gay pride includes food, drinks, and performances. The festival will be on Capitol Avenue between 4th and 6th streets downtown. WUIS’ Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Jonna Cooley about it, she’s the executive director of The Pheonix Center which puts on the event:

CLICK HERE for more info about the event on Saturday in downtown Springfield from noon to 9pm.

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Community
4:17 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Garden Project Pairs Local Sponsors & Students

Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A local elementary school is teaching students about growing their own food with a hands-on project. Rachel Otwell recently visited the community garden across from McClernand Elementary School and spoke with instructors and students as they planted and tended to plots. She brings us this story:

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District 186
10:27 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Dist. 186 To Interview Search Firms Re: New Superintendent

sps186.org

 The Springfield school board decided last night it will begin interviewing search firms and may hire one to find a new superintendent for district 186. The district has an interim superintendent who took over for Walter Milton at the beginning of April. It’s been debated since then how to go about finding someone to permanently replace him.

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District 186
9:55 am
Tue May 7, 2013

New 186 School Board Starts Off With Tense Meeting

The new 186 school board is sworn in
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tensions were high at last night’s (5/6) Springfield district 186 school board meeting as the 

  new board was seated and a president and vice president were appointed.

The meeting started with goodbyes for the previous school board members.

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