Rachel Otwell


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 Art Beat, 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%.


State News
6:38 am
Fri July 3, 2015

Grassroots Efforts To Keep State Museum Open

Illinois State Museum in Springfield
Lisa Ryan WUIS - Illinois Issues

Originally published on Sat July 4, 2015 12:17 pm

Almost 7,000 people on Facebook have "liked" a page titled 'Save the Illinois State Museum.' Supporters have planned a rally for July 21st. 

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NPR Story
7:06 am
Thu June 18, 2015

Union Members Will Celebrate Updated Mother Jones Memorial

Mother Jones

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 12:32 pm

Union members have long been at odds with government in Illinois. They have come out attacking both Democrats and Republicans alike for measures to cut or freeze benefits as the state grapples with its billions of dollars of debt. One historical figurehead in the movement for workers' rights is still highly lauded - Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones

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4:39 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

Being Transgender In Illinois

Emma Todd, 20, has become an activist for transgender people. At 15, the Springfield native came out as transgender to her mother.

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 2:27 pm

ILLINOIS ISSUES - Emma Todd, then a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Tulsa, found herself seriously contemplating suicide, again. This time, the Springfield native had made her way to the top of a building.

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State News
1:32 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Are All Those Cat Videos Making Us Stupid?

A cat on a newspaper

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 12:43 pm

In this day and age when people put a lot of effort into making their videos or news stories viral,  there's one sure-fire way to garner some extra attention - put a cat in it. Instagram is full of pictures of cats, and your Facebook news feed likely sees a cat video from time to time. Grumpy Cat is a household name, and face. But what implication does this have with the quality of news we receive?
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State News
6:28 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Community Arts Groups Face Funding Challenges

The Springfield Art Association hosts an annual Paint the Street event.
Credit Steve Myers

Betsy Dollar’s office at the Springfield Art Association, which she heads, is a hodgepodge of computers used for digital art classes, important files, various books and pieces of art. Her dog, Jake, who tends to accompany her to work, is napping under the desk. Dollar is in the middle of a messy project, using clay to restore a historic ceiling medallion that was damaged at Edwards Place, a home that is part of the Springfield Art Association campus and was the original center of artistic activity for the group some 100 years ago. This is the office of a person who does far more than push papers and handle bureaucratic duties; it’s headquarters for a woman who does a little bit of everything to keep the organization she loves running.

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State News
5:57 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Jacksonville Girl Shares Story Of Brother's Death To Help Others

Valerie with the book she helped create

Originally published on Thu January 29, 2015 12:06 pm

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. are the victims of domestic abuse. Some die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them. That's what happened to Maxwell, he was two when he died after a history of neglect and abuse that was never adequately addressed. He left behind a family who will never forget him, and a sister who has worked to cope with his passing. 

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NPR Story
1:18 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Chicago Singles Club: Tunes Your Ears Will Fall In Love With

CSC Vol. 1 Compilation LP

Originally published on Mon February 2, 2015 11:20 am

Chicago Singles Club probably sounds like a dating site - but it actually is an operation that records and releases free singles, of the musical variety. Chicago Singles Club is in its second year and features some of Chicago's best and most unique independent artists. We spoke with one of the founders, Jeff Kelley, to find out more: 

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State News
5:32 am
Thu January 8, 2015

U of I Considers Sexual Assault Policies

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:42 am

University of Illinois officials say they will continue to convene meetings on the prevention of sexual assault on all three campuses. The group comprises about 20 people - including legal counsel, police, and women's rights advocates.

Dedra Williams is the Assistant VP for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois, she says the goal is to ultimately shape effective policies: "If we need to make improvements, we want to be a leader and work with the legislators, with our campuses, and make a safe place for our students."

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State News
4:29 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Lincoln Museum & IHPA Should Stick Together Study Says

Inside the ALPLM

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:45 am

A panel that considered whether to separate Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the state's historic preservation agency released its findings on Wednesday. Convened at the request of both entities, the study recommends keeping the same oversight. Legislation has been proposed to split them apart. The report also suggests a reorganization of the state agency to improve what it calls the cultures of "politics" and "research."

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State News
1:09 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Interview: Prostitution & More At State-Run Teen Centers

Chicago Tribune investigative reporter, David Jackson

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:47 am

The Chicago Tribune has been taking a look at the rampant problems that appear to be taking place at residential treatment centers for teens run by the state. David Jackson has been one of the reporters who has been looking at the issue over a long period of time.

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