Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  

He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production. 

Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

Ways to Connect

WKU

The Western Kentucky University Board of Regents has approved a $402 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Fifty-one-percent of the budget is funded by student tuition and fees. The new spending plan includes a 4.5 percent tuition increase, and factors in a 4.5 percent reduction in state funding.

Student regent Jay Todd Richey cast the lone vote against the budget. In a prepared statement read before the vote, the Glasgow native said he couldn’t support certain parts of the plan, including a reduction in funding for the Track and Field program.

Speaking to reporters after the budget was passed 8-1, Rickey said many WKU students believe the burden of decreased state funding for higher education isn’t being shouldered evenly.

WKU

A legal scholar at Western Kentucky University says Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is good for the country’s college classrooms.  

The high court upheld the affirmative action program at the University of Texas.

WKU History Professor Patricia Minter says having a diverse student body creates a better learning environment for everyone.

“As much as we empathize with the struggles of others, we sometimes need to let groups and people speak for themselves about their own lived experience.”

Opponents of affirmative action programs have argued that factors like race, ethnicity, and gender shouldn’t factor into university admissions policies.

Minter says Thursday’s high court ruling isn’t necessarily the last Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action. She says the country’s racial and ethnic makeup is rapidly changing, and those factors could lead to future court challenges.

You can hear Minter’s conversation with WKU Public Radio by clicking on the “Listen” button above.

Creative Commons

Kentucky’s export totals are on the rise.

Kentucky exported nearly $7 billion in goods and services during the first quarter of the year. That’s a 1.2 percent increase over the same time period last year.

Many Kentuckians would likely be surprised at the state’s number one export. It’s not bourbon or automotive parts.

Instead, it’s aerospace products.

Kentucky exported more than $2.6 billion in aerospace parts between January and March.

That’s an increase of nearly 23 percent over last year’s first quarter.

The state’s top five international trading partners are Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Brazil.

Creative Commons

A Western Kentucky University researcher says hospitals now have more incentive than ever before to achieve patient satisfaction.

Neale Chumbler, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at WKU, says a federal survey of hospital patients is creating a comparison of care providers across the country.

The survey’s official name is Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Its goal is to measure patients’ perspectives on the care they’ve received.

Chumbler says the results are also being scrutinized by insurance companies.

“As a hospital CEO, whether you get more or less reimbursements through insurance, these types of results will bear a lot of important findings.”

WKU PBS

The recent public spotlight on substandard conditions at an Edmonson County animal shelter has brought an outpouring of support for several other shelters in the region.  

About sixty cats and dogs were taken from the Edmonson County shelter over a week ago after a Kentucky State Police raid. Twenty-seven of those dogs ended up at the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society.

Adoption Center manager Leah Lawrence says community support has been amazing.

“People have just come out of the woodwork to try to help. They’ve come out to bathe the dogs, to make donations, donate money toward sponsorships and our medical fund. And it’s been a real blessing that people have supported us the way that they have in this.”

Daviess County Public Library

A program at the Daviess County Public Library will allow residents to check out a different kind of book.

Saturday’s Human Library will feature individuals with unique perspectives who can be checked out by those interested in having a conversation.

Some of the individuals who have volunteered for the program include two transgender individuals, a Muslim woman, a vegan, an atheist, a bisexual, a female Unitarian Universalist minister, and Burmese refugees.

Lisa Maiden, with the Daviess County Public Library, says the Human Library is a way to learn about people in the community you might not normally meet.

"Being different can sometimes be scary to other people, because if you don't know about it, and the only information you get is from the news, a lot of that information tends to be sensationalized for the 'wow' factor."

Animals rescued from an Edmonson County shelter are being nursed back to health at several facilities in our region.

Kentucky State Police raided the shelter in Edmonson County Saturday morning, and sent about 60 cats and dogs to shelters in Bowling Green, Glasgow, and Owensboro.

Many of the animals found at the Bee Spring facility were malnourished and suffer from respiratory problems.

Jamie Ray, director of the Barren River Animal Welfare Association in Glasgow, says the 16 dogs and 11 cats they took from Edmonson County will be adoptable.

When it comes to caring for malnourished canines, Ray says the shelter will slowly build them back up.

U.S. Army

Veterans and their dependents are being encouraged to attend a military jobs fair this week at Fort Knox.

The Hardin County military post is hosting organizations that are looking to hire active duty military, veterans and their spouses.

Garrett Reed is with the group organizing the event, CivilianJobs.com

He says there will be companies at the Wednesday event from many industries, including aviation, law enforcement, management, and engineering.

“Just about every company is trying to hire military folks, in some shape, form, or fashion. So these events are really to help get in front of them face to face," Reed told WKU Public Radio.

The jobs fair is being held Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Saber and Quill officer’s club at Ft. Knox.

A link to the registration page for the fair is here.

A new jobs-training program is aimed at helping young Kentucky adults with the transition out of foster care.

Governor Matt Bevin unveiled the Fostering Success program this week.

It will put 18-23 year olds who have left foster care into a 10-week office job at a local branch of the state Department for Community Based Service.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks says the program will introduce participants to a range of options they might not have otherwise known about.

“There are going to be routes clearly laid out to take them to community colleges, to four year colleges, and also to trade and technical and career apprenticeships.”

Barren River Area Safe Space

A Bowling Green-based domestic violence shelter wants to empower women who are trying to land jobs in office settings.

Barren River Area Safe Space—or BRASS--is holding its Dress for Change event May 31-June 15.

The shelter is giving women donated clothing and accessories they can wear for job interviews and while at work.

BRASS Executive Director Tori Henninger says the project can be valuable for low-income women and victims domestic violence.

"They are able to feel a little more confident, a little more secure, and a little bit better about their appearance, especially when they're trying to prepare themselves for work outside of a--say--fast food restaurant."

BRASS serves Warren, Barren, Simpson, and seven other southern Kentucky counties.

Owensboro Bar-B-Q Festival

Organizers with the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro are hoping to build on an increase in attendance over the past few years.  

The annual event is being held tomorrow and Saturday along the city’s riverfront area. Festival co-chair Sharon NeSmith says about 30,000 people showed up last year.

NeSmith, who has lived in Owensboro since they age of four, says she’s been attending the festival since it began in 1979.

She thinks the festival has managed to stay true to its roots.

“I like the way it was described in the first brochure that ever came out about the festival—that it was taking the atmosphere of a country church picnic to the downtown urban area. And that basically really describes what we do,” NeSmith said.

Ira Gelb/Creative Commons

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will pump millions of dollars into the Louisville-area economy.

But it will also bring an increase in the number of sexually exploited women and children.

That’s the warning from Amy Leenarts, the director of the Louisville-based anti-trafficking group Free2Hope.

She says people who make money through human trafficking are drawn to high-profile events like the Derby.

“There is a syndicate that runs across the country, and they just simply go to all these big events all over the country, and they bring people with them—girls who are enslaved.”

Leenarts is asking the public to be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

“It can be a child at a hotel where they shouldn’t be, when they’re obviously not with parents. It can be a young adult who has several different phones, or key cards from multiple hotels.”

WKU

Western Kentucky University is one step closer to hiring an executive search firm to look for the school’s next president.

The Board of Regents on Friday approved a motion to award a bid to the Boston-based firm Isaacson, Miller.

Dr. Phillip Bale of Glasgow, the chairman of the WKU presidential search committee, said the committee was impressed with the recent track record of Isaacson, Miller.

“They’ve done many presidential searches within the last few years. They’ve done the presidential searches for Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Illinois, just to name a few.”

The proposed contract with the firm has to be approved by the state next month.

WKU

The faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are being asked to give input related to the search for the school’s next president.

A forum for faculty is being held Friday afternoon, April 15,  on campus, and staff members are invited to a forum Friday, April 22.

WKU President Gary Ransdell has announced he’ll retire at the end of June 2017.

Doctor Phillip Bale of Glasgow, chair of the presidential search committee, says the early announcement by Ransdell gives the committee ample time to do a thorough job.

“I envision the next several months will be spent mainly developing our position profile—that is, what sort of skill set and what sort of attributes do we want the next president to have,” Dr. Bale said.

Ransdell will have served as WKU president for 20 years when he steps down.

401kcalculator.org

The federal government is encouraging Kentuckians to sign up for an online service that lets you check your Social Security benefits.

To be eligible for an online account, you must be at least 18 years old, and have a U.S. mailing address, Social Security number, and valid e-mail address.

Social Security Administration spokesman B.J. Jarrett says those who don’t currently get benefits can also sign up to see what they’re eligible to receive in the future.

"Folks can review and verify their lifetime earnings history for accuracy. They can also see estimates of their future Social Security benefits--not only retirement, but if they were to become disabled, what their family could receive."

Nearly 1 million Kentucky residents receive Social Security benefits.

‘My Social Security’ accounts can be set up here.

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