Rachel Otwell

Rachel's reports focus on the 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's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

A new report from a University of Illinois panel on faculty misconduct seeks a broader definition of sexual harassment and more transparency. But a university spokesperson couldn’t say when the reforms would be adopted or how much they would cost.

A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign committee released on Tuesday its recommended changes to how the university handles claims of sexual misconduct against faculty.

Former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Gary Gang Xu assaulted and threatened students while university officials downplayed complaints, a lawsuit says. He ultimately resigned, taking $10,000 as part of his separation agreement.

This article was produced in partnership with NPR Illinois, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

After NPR Illinois and ProPublica found that several University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professors who violated policies were allowed to quietly resign and take paid leave with their reputations intact, lawmakers called for reforms.

NPR Illinois and ProPublica found several sexual harassment allegations against University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty that haven’t been publicly reported. Here's a rundown of the accusations, the consequences each faced and their responses.

This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica Local Reporting Network .

An administrator resigned amid sexual harassment accusations. Another college hired him. A professor was found to have stalked a coworker. She agreed to retire, then won a Fulbright grant. Campus leaders vow reforms, but many say it’s a long road.

This article was produced in partnership with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

'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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Advocates of the so-called Illinois Human Rights Act "expansion bill" are urging Governor Bruce Rauner to sign that piece of legislation, which is currently on his desk. Otherwise, without his action, it would die by mid-August.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois is speaking out against proposed changes to the only federal program that provides funding for birth control. Those changes include a so-called "gag rule" that could affect thousands of Illinois residents.

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