Rachel Otwell

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

She's a 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 NPR Illinois 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%.

A.D. Carson says he was asked by counter-protestors to speak out in response to the white-supremacist, "alt-right" and neo-Nazi organizers who had descended on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  Carson, who gained international attention for earning a Doctorate with a thesis in the form of a hip hop album, has been settling into his new home there. 

After the first day of a special session on education, Democratic lawmakers and the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner appear no closer to resolving the dispute that could hold up money for school districts. Rauner continues to demand Democrats send him the funding plan so he can change it and remove additional money for Chicago teacher pensions.

A website that popped up this month asks a question as its URL: arethereanywomenrunningforilgovernor.com. It then very simply answers it with a bright red "NO." A group of professional women in the state are behind the effort to draw attention to the issue.

A group of nuns in Springfield is participating in a long-term medical study. For those involved, it’s another way to serve others.

A new study done on one mound in particular at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville shows that human remains interred there, which are around 900 years old, belong to both men and women. It was previously thought the mound was for elite warrior men. That means there are new implications to be explored.

On Friday, Bernice King spoke to a group in Springfield representing the Abraham Lincoln Association - which regularly honors the president's birthday with scholarly symposiums. King was there to accept the "Spirit of Lincoln" award on behalf of her parents - Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Dr. Valerie Hoffman has taught about Islam and the Muslim faith for three decades. She teaches religion at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and has lived in the Middle East.

Hundreds of artists and administrators met last week to discuss the state of the arts in Illinois.

Politics dominated the discussion, with a focus on ever-shrinking budgets for many arts groups, including the Illinois Arts Council Agency - the state department that oversees government spending on the arts.

Funding for the council has diminished from about $20 million dollars in 2007 to less than $9 million in 2012.

Ra Joy heads Arts Alliance Illinois - the state's largest such advocacy and membership group:

Marriage for same-sex couples is now the law of the land. While it took effect in Illinois in 2014, the United States Supreme Court made it available across the country earlier this year. So what's next in the push for rights in the LGBT community? That's a question I posed at a recent conference in Springfield:

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: