Rachel Otwell

Reporter

Rachel's reports currently focus on education and equity. She's also reported extensively on arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees 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, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

c/o Marc Nelson

In highly politicized times such as these, teachers are often warned to remain neutral in the classroom. But at a public primary school in Kewanee, Illinois, one art teacher is showing kids it’s their duty to speak out about injustices.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey

A look back at the top stories in Illinois politics and government over the past year.

c/o Shriver Center

A new report says Illinois lacks comprehensive guidelines when it comes to dealing with sexual misconduct cases in elementary and high schools.

Brian Mackey

The Illinois Statehouse is looking festive this year, with its annual outdoor lights descending from the dome to the ground. But on the inside, things look a little less traditional.

Illinois Public Radio

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker and a new crop of legislators will take office come January. Those crafting state education policies say they will continue one of the biggest fights in recent years, finding more funding for teachers, students and schools.

Alex Coleman / Illinois Newsroom

Students across Illinois are calling for tougher campus policies on sexual harassment and misconduct as the Trump administration proposes changes to federal law that victims’ rights advocates say would weaken guidelines that are already lacking.

Rachel Otwell

Preston Jackson is a martial artist, an accomplished guitar player, an educator and professor-emeritus, and a visual artist who has studios in Bartonville, Peoria and Chicago. His newest work, unveiled on Tuesday, is a mural that depicts the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis caring for the wounded after the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield.

Alex Coleman / Illinois Newsroom

Every college campus has standards and policies to prevent sexual harassment. But time and again, repeated complaints are filed against professors for saying and doing inappropriate things -- yet they often keep their jobs. Documents and interviews from two recent cases on campuses in Illinois shed some light on the reasons why this remains a persistent issue at many schools.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

In an especially contentious election year, there are a couple alternatives to the major party candidates in the race for Illinois governor. But, even some backers of third parties say they aren’t great options either, though that’s not where they want the story to end.

Rachel Otwell

Preschool is a key part of building a solid foundation for lifelong learning, some experts even say it’s the most important part of a child’s education. And yet, it’s not considered by the state of Illinois to be as important as K-12 education, based on the way funding is allocated.

'Hell No to the Memo' rallies have popped up in response to word from the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services that it wants government agencies to limit the way gender is categorized. That information came out via a leaked memo reported on by The New York Times. Trans-rights’ activists say it’s a move that would unravel work they’ve accomplished. They say gender is not binary and their identity is valid.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

It's been one year since the #MeToo movement led to a letter about sexual harassment and misogyny within state government being circulated and signed by about 200 people who work within it. Like many public sectors, this was one with problems that had yet to be adequately reckoned with.

Mary Cullen / NPR Illinois

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we've been hearing from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. 

Illinois Senate Democrats

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. 

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. Today we hear from State Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Springfield who is the Republican spokesperson for the House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

This month marks a year since the Me Too movement went viral as a hashtag on social media (after having first been started in 2006 by Tarana Burke.) This week, we hear from several women in Illinois whose work in government has been affected. The first woman we spoke to is Susana Mendoza, state Comptroller and member of the Illinois Anti-harassment Equality and Access Panel.

Rachel Otwell

Athens is a town like many others in central Illinois. With a population of about 2,000, it’s rural, and encapsulated by fields of crops like corn and soybeans. Visitors driving into town off the interstate are ushered in by numerous American flags and a welcome sign listing several area churches.

LLINOIS STATE MUSEUM, DICKSON MOUNDS MUSEUM. ARTIST, ANDY BUTTRAM.

States like Hawaii, South Dakota and Alaska have replaced Columbus Day with the designation of ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.' It's a trend that goes back decades, and in 2017 a law was signed that brought Illinois up to speed with that trend. Sort of.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Sam McCann is a man on a mission: to see Republican Governor Bruce Rauner end his reign in 2019. He's taking that head on, by running for the state's highest office himself, under the self-established Conservative Party banner.

Flickr commons: public domain

The next debate for Illinois nominees for governor is this Wednesday in Chicago. But two candidates are being left out this time around.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

There are two third party candidates for Illinois governor. And while four names will be on the ballot November 6th (or now, if you choose to vote early) - the efforts to get out messaging is one where odds are certainly stacked heavily against Sam McCann of the Conservative party, and Grayson "Kash" Jackson, running as a Libertarian.

Rachel Otwell

Earlier this month, Diane Nash told a full auditorium of University of Illinois Springfield students that she and fellow civil rights activists, “Loved you before we met you.” She said efforts to make the U.S. a more equitable place had been done, and are still being done, “For generations yet unborn.” And she urged others to join the cause, or risk sliding into what she sees as an increasingly authoritarian state.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Students from a high school in Parkland, Florida turned trauma into activism and a get-out-the-vote campaign. Their high school was the site of a mass-shooting earlier this year. Their work has trickled down to Illinois and Springfield.

Rachel Otwell / Michael Christensen

A fiddling duo is playing Civil War era tunes on the Old State Capitol plaza in downtown Springfield. Near them is a log cabin on wheels (well, technically it's made of cardboard) with a large ball attached to it - fashioned to look as though it was made of iron or steel, with the words "link on to Lincoln." It's old-timey propaganda created by a contemporary Illinois artist.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

The Illinois Governor’s Mansion is recently renovated and has re-opened for tourists, who tend to go for the historical significance. There’s also a new reason for art enthusiasts to check it out.

Russell Hurst

Earlier this month, we reported on the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield and what's being done to remember and reconcile 110 years after the violence broke out. As part of that reporting, we spoke with Kelly Wickham Hurst, CEO and founder of the advocacy organization Being Black at School.

University of Illinois Springfield

It was announced on Tuesday that Innovate Springfield, a business incubator and social innovator that started four years ago, is now partnered with the University of Illinois Springfield.

Sangamon Valley Collection, Lincoln Library

It's been 110 years since the 1908 Race Riot erupted in Springfield. The violence and its aftermath inspired the founding of the NAACP, the prominent civil rights organization. A number of groups in the city recognized and remembered the violence and lives lost in a series of public events earlier this month. There are also plans to ensure more recognition in the future of a violent period many residents say deserves more attention.

Rachel Otwell

The National Bikers Roundup is the largest annual rally of its kind — one that is organized by African American motorcycle clubs. It was founded in 1977 with about 50 riders. Now, it draws around 30,000. This year the rally descended on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Pages