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.

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Education
3:28 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Corporate Gift Brings Specialized STEM Curriculum to Third Hardin County High School

Starting in August, John Hardin High School students will be able to take Project Lead The Way classes at their school in Elizabethtown.
Credit Hardin County Schools

A financial gift from a corporation will allow a Hardin County high school to offer a curriculum designed to help students excel in the STEM fields.

Dow Corning Corporation announced Monday that it’s donating $25,000 to implement the Project Lead The Way program at John Hardin High School. Project Lead the Way is a non-profit effort that designs programs related to science, technology, engineering, and math that are used in over 5,000 schools in the country.

Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright says Project Lead the Way will open doors for students who excel in the program.

“North Hardin, John Hardin, and Central Hardin engineering students will now get the prerequisites that they need at their home high schools that will allow them to go to our new Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center that opens in August.”

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Business
2:24 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Lake Cumberland Region Hoping for Big Tourist Season Following Recent Water Level News

Lake Cumberland's water level is back to full strength for the first time since 2007.
Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Now that Lake Cumberland’s water level is back to its full summer point for the first time in eight years, the head of the state dock there says the region is in for a great tourist season.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that the recent rain in southern Kentucky has pushed Lake Cumberland’s water level to 723 feet above sea level. The water level at the lake was dropped in 2007 while repair work was done on Wolf Creek Dam.

Lake Cumberland State Dock president Bill Jasper told WKU Public Radio it’s been a challenge fighting off negative public perceptions about the lake over the past eight years. He says this week’s news helps erase those problems.

“We’ve still got one of the biggest waterways east of the Mississippi in terms of volume of water, and people thought we were dry. So, we still get that question at boat shows. So this takes away all that uncertainty.”

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WKU
1:59 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

WKU Student Arrested After Incident Involving Unloaded Gun

Michael Dearborn
Credit Warren County Regional Jail

A WKU freshman was arrested after pulling an unloaded gun on campus.

Michael Dearborn of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, was taken into custody late Wednesday morning by WKU Police and faces charges of menacing, terroristic threatening, and wanton endangerment.

WKU Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper says the incident began when university police received a call about a verbal altercation at Centennial Mall, near the center of campus.

“As the police were en route, they got a 911 call saying there was somebody brandishing a gun," Skipper told WKU Public Radio. "Officers were on the scene quickly, found the person who matched the description, and then several students pointed him out, as well.”

Skipper says that Dearborn ran after being approached by police, and was apprehended along the steps near the Downing Student Union and Academic Complex.

The College Heights Herald quoted a student eyewitness as saying Dearborn didn't run very fast, as it appeared he was trying to hold his pants up.

Police found an unloaded gun on Dearborn and placed him under arrest. He was taken to the Warren County Regional Jail.

Economy/Politics
1:23 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Kentucky Senators Help Defeat Federal Minimum Wage Increase, Tennessee's Corker Only GOP "Yes" Vote

The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators have helped defeat an effort to raise the federal minimum wage.

Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul joined almost every other GOP Senator Wednesday in voting against a bill that would have boosted the minimum pay level for federal workers to $10.10 an hour by 2016, up from the current rate of $7.25.

Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats voted against the bill, with Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly supporting it.

Overall, the bill received 54 votes in favor and 42 votes against, short of the 60-vote threshold needed to continue.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure.

The federal minimum wage bill has become a hot campaign topic ahead of the next round of Congressional elections. Democrats have portrayed GOP opposition to a minimum wage increase as proof of Republican disinterest in the working class poor.

Republicans point to a Congressional Budget Office report that found such an increase could cost the economy 500,000 jobs.

Regional
2:43 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Injured Veterans and Troops Biking Through Kentucky This Week

Injured military veterans, troops, and supporters are cycling through our region this week to benefit programs that aid in physical and mental rehabilitation.

Over 200 cyclists departed Covington, Kentucky, on Sunday, in honor of a program called Riding 2 Recovery, which helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling.

Cyclists are scheduled to bike from Elizabethtown to Bowling Green Wednesday and eventually make their way to Nashville by Saturday.

Some of the bicycles used by participants have been custom-fitted to the physical needs of the rider.

Over the course of the seven-day event, Ride 2 Recovery participants will bike over 450 miles between northern Kentucky and the Tennessee capital.

Education
2:06 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

WKU One of Nine Schools Receiving Grant Money to Boost Minority Students in STEM Fields

WKU hopes to attract more minority students into degrees related to the STEM fields.
Credit WKU

WKU is part of a collaborative effort to increase the number of minority students pursuing degrees in the so-called “STEM” fields.

WKU and eight other higher education institutions in the commonwealth and West Virginia have been awarded a five-year, $ 2.5 million National Science Foundation grant that will primarily focus on undergraduates seeking diplomas in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

WKU’s Associate Vice President for Retention and Student Services, Joelle Davis Carter, says she hopes some of the school’s grant money will be used to create a “summer bridge” program.

“This would be an opportunity for prospective college students to come to campus a little earlier, maybe five weeks earlier, stay on campus, and participate in reiterations of math and science,” she told WKU Public Radio.

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Regional
12:45 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Franklin-Simpson Middle Schoolers Unite to Help Needy Families in Their Community

Franklin-Simpson Middle School is hosting an event Saturday where thousands of items will be available to those in need.
Credit Simpson County Schools

Kevin's interview with Franklin-Simpson Middle School teacher Cheyenne Brown and students Maddie Arney, Anne Reid Forshee, Meredith Raby, and Lilly Spears

When a group of Franklin-Simpson Middle School students learned about the number of economically disadvantaged families in their community, they didn’t just talk about it in class.

They decided to do something to address the problem.

Franklin-Simpson 6th grade social studies teacher Cheyenne Brown and one of her sixth-grade classes have collected thousands of items from individuals and businesses including clothing, toys, household appliances, sporting equipment, and jewelry that will be given away at what they’re calling a “free sale” Saturday at the school.

Brown and her students printed over 4,500 flyers promoting the effort, set up drop boxes for items at local businesses, and got the word out through social and traditional media outlets.

“Items have been coming in like crazy from Russellville; Bowling Green; Gallatin, Tennessee; from Allen County—just everywhere imaginable,” Brown told WKU Public Radio.

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Arts & Culture
3:48 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

2014 SOKY Book Festival to Feature Nearly 150 Authors

The 2014 SOKY Book Fest is Saturday, April 26.
Credit Southern Kentucky Book Fest

An organizer of an upcoming book festival in Bowling Green says it’s becoming more of a challenge to get authors at larger publishers to appear at events for free.

Kristie Lowry is literary outreach coordinator with WKU Libraries, and an organizer with the Southern Kentucky Book Festival. She says book companies have cut their budgets related to book tours and marketing campaigns.

“So getting the authors to come to an event like ours for free, which would have been a little easier back in the day, is harder to do now,” Lowry told WKU Public Radio. “And Penguin and Random House have their own speaker bureaus now, so they market their authors, but you have to pay a fee in order to have them come into town.”

Lowry says another growing trend in the literary world is the rising number of self-published authors. She says many self-published writers in the southern Kentucky region, like Allison Jewell and Jennie Brown, have loyal followings and are well-received when they appear on panels at local book festivals.

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Business
11:02 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Nashville Company Expanding Taylor County Facility, Adding 70 Jobs

A Tennessee company is expanding its operations in Taylor County, adding 70 new full-time jobs. Frost- Arnett is an accounts receivable management company based in Nashville that announced Tuesday it is investing $620,000 to expand its call center in Campbellsville.

Company leaders say the expansion and new hiring comes as a result of Frost-Arnett’s increased business dealings with the health care industry.

Hiring for the new 70 full-time positions is underway. Frost-Arnett is also holding a job fair at the Kentucky Career Center in Campbellsville April 26-28.

Education
2:44 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

WKU's Ransdell: U.S. Schools Need to Grow International Student Populations--While They Still Can

WKU President Gary Ransdell
Credit WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell is confident the school will be able to grow its international student body over the next several decades.

But he admits it will become more difficult to do so as countries such as China and India become wealthier and begin to build more of their own universities.

“There are not enough colleges and universities to meet the needs in an awful lot of the countries that have growing economies and growing populations. Therefore, we’re a solution," the WKU President said. "Now, in another generation—in another 25 or 30 years—they may have built enough universities to meet their needs.”

Dr. Ransdell says WKU is actively recruiting in several countries where the school has previously not had a presence.

“South America is really an emerging market for higher education," Ransdell said during a break in Friday's Board of Regents meeting. "We’re looking at as many as 90 students from Brazil next year. We’re always looking for new markets. Turkey is an emerging market for us. Their economy is doing great, and their families are looking for a place to send their sons and daughters.”

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