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

A Kentucky school is becoming just the second university in the nation to offer scholarships for competitive video game players.

The University of Pikeville will offer 20 scholarships this fall to students who excel in the online multi-player game League of Legends.

The school in central Appalachia hopes the program will draw attention from prospective students who otherwise wouldn’t have considered U-Pike.

The school’s New Media Director, Bruce Parsons, believes it’s just a matter of time before more American universities offer scholarships to gamers.

“I think there’s a good opportunity for colleges and universities to look at starting e-sports programs at their schools—officially supported scholarship programs. It’s growing very quickly, there’s a lot of attention, and it offers opportunities to students who might not have athletic or others scholarships at their disposal.”

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says the elimination of a senior administration level position at the school will help balance the campus budget this year.

Vice President for Research Gordon Baylis  sent an email to WKU faculty and staff Sunday announcing that his position had been eliminated, and that he was returning to his faculty position at the Department of Psychological Sciences.

In an email to employees Monday afternoon, President Ransdell said a portion of the money being saved by the job elimination would balance the school’s budget, while the remaining part will be redirected to the Office of the Provost to recreate the school’s research leadership.

"To be clear, this does not signal a de-emphasis of research at WKU, rather it signals a greater engagement of the Division of Academic Affairs in the management of research activity at WKU," Ransdell said in his email. "With this action, undergraduate and graduate research will become a central function of Academic Affairs, reporting directly to the Provost. Effective immediately, the Provost will have signatory authority on research-related matters, and the Office of Sponsored Programs and other related research units will report to him.

Kevin Willis

The executive director of Owensboro’s International Bluegrass Music Museum is stepping down after a 12 year run.

However, Gabrielle Gray will maintain her presence in the region’s bluegrass community.

Gray will keep her position as the Executive Producer of ROMP, the annual bluegrass music festival in Daviess County, and she will also remain the museum’s primary grant writer.

Assistant Director Carly Smith, who has been at the museum since 2011, will serve as interim director while the search for a permanent replacement gets underway. That search will be led by Yale University President Peter Salovey.

A news release issued by the museum quotes Gray as saying that nothing gives her greater pleasure than helping to present ROMP at Yellow Creek Park each summer.

The Museum recently announced that legendary singer-songwriter John Prine will be one of the headliners during next year’s festival.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce wants a full performance audit of the troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Chamber President Dave Adkisson Thursday called on state Auditor Adam Edelen to look into KRS, which is rated as one of the most underfunded pension plans in the nation, with only about 45-percent of the assets needed to cover its retirement obligations.

Adkisson said his group is especially concerned about the burden placed on the actuary who advises the system.

“The assumptions they make lead to KRS recommendations, and a request for money that goes to the Governor,” Adkisson said during a conference call with reporters. “The Governor has to utilize that information to build his budget that goes to the legislature, and all of this is predicated on the assumptions of one actuary. And KTRS, the teachers’ retirement system, uses the same actuary.”

Adkisson says a KRS audit should also look into the amount of investment fees paid by the system, and how that compares to other states. An estimated 30-percent of KRS investments are held in hedge funds and private equity funds, which charge high fees and whose holdings KRS agrees not to reveal.

C.A.S.K.

Southern Kentucky volunteers over the age of 55 are being sought out to help with a number of service-related organizations in the region.

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program—or  RSVP—assists efforts such as food pantries, blood drives, and school mentoring campaigns in Allen, Barren, Logan, Simpson, and Warren counties. Kathy Trulock oversees the program, and says another way senior volunteers help is by getting people signed up for health coverage through the state’s benefit exchange, known as kynect.

“A lot of people don’t know they’re eligible for that. So we have that program here at our agency, and we need people to educate folks who qualify, and how they can sign up.”

RSVP volunteer coordinator Holly Vincent says the group has been critical in assisting a Thursday night soup kitchen in Bowling Green that serves 200-300 people a week. She says those involved in the effort often choose to assist agencies that reach out to other senior citizens.

But Vincent adds many older volunteers also want to help younger Kentuckians.

Ft. Knox

Veterans and their dependents are being encouraged to attend a military jobs fair at Fort Knox Thursday. The Hardin County military post is hosting about 70 organizations that are looking to hire veterans and their spouses.

Jake Hutchings is director of the group Civilianjobs.com, which is overseeing the event. He says veterans should be prepared to explain how their military service can translate into success at a corporate workforce.

“How do you take that 15-year, 20-year career—or even a five-year career with a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan--and compartmentalize that down to two minutes of, ‘hey, this is what I’ve done in the service, these are the skills I’ve learned, and this is the value I bring to your organization’? So if there’s a veteran out there listening, that’s the first place to start.”

Hutchings says many civilian employers have come to appreciate the leadership and technical skills many veterans possess. Hutchings is himself a veteran, and says employers are seeking out veterans out of respect, not pity.

Murray St. Athletics

A college basketball rivalry dating back to 1932 continues Saturday between two Kentucky programs.

The WKU Hilltoppers travel west to take on the Murray State Racers for the 152nd time.

Both teams enter tomorrow’s game with .500 records. WKU is 3-3 and coming off wins against Bowling Green State and Saint Joseph’s. The Hilltoppers are led in scoring by senior guard T.J. Price, who is averaging 13 points a game, with senior forward George Fant leading the team in rebounding at 7 per contest.

You can read more about WKU’s 2014-15 season here.

Murray State is 4-4, and has been a tough home opponent for WKU in recent years. The Racers have won the last three meetings they’ve hosted against WKU, with the Toppers’ last win in Murray coming in 2004. If WKU is to win Saturday, they’ll likely have to contain the Racer’s star sophomore guard Cameron Payne, who was picked as the Ohio Valley Conference preseason player of the year.

After Saturday’s game in Murray, the Toppers have a week off for finals. Then they travel to Ole Miss Dec. 13, before hosting games against Chicago State Dec. 17, and the Louisville Cardinals Dec. 20.

Governor Steve Beshear's image as a Democrat able to govern the red state of Kentucky has earned him a position on the newly appointed Democratic Victory Task Force.

The Democratic National Committee, which announced the group's membership Thursday, hopes it can help position the party to win future elections.

DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the initiative shortly after Democrats suffered significant losses during last month’s midterm elections. The group is being told to review and assess the Democratic Party and its related organizations, and find ways that the national and state parties can better perform during, but not limited to, future midterms.

Beshear has earned a national reputation as a conservative Democrat who has been able to win and govern in a state where President Obama remains extremely unpopular. In announcing his participation in the task force, the DNC lauded Beshear for implementing the statewide health benefit exchange known as kynect and cutting the state government workforce to its smallest size in 40 years.

The other nine members of the Democratic Victory Task are:

Abbey Oldham

The nationally-ranked WKU volleyball team is heading to a familiar location for its first-round NCAA tournament match.

The #24 Lady Toppers take on Iowa State Friday in Champaign, Illinois—the fourth time since 2008 that WKU has played an NCAA tournament contest in that town. WKU is 30-5 on the season and won the Conference USA tournament last weekend.

WKU head coach Travis Hudson says Friday’s matchup with Iowa State comes at an extremely exciting—and stressful—time of year for his players, given that finals week begins next Monday at WKU.

Kevin Willis

Students and staff at Franklin-Simpson Middle School are hoping to impact the less fortunate this weekend by offering thousands of donated items for free.

Over 750 students have helped collect furniture, clothing, toys, appliances, and household items that will be available Saturday morning during the second “Kids Caring for Our Community” event.

Sixth-grade teacher Cheyenne Brown spearheaded a similar effort in April that led to the collection of thousands of items that were given out to an estimated 500 people. She says the effort has been an incredible bonding experience for students from all different backgrounds.

“It’s really uplifting to see some kids who aren’t as fortunate as other kids, and then seeing how they’re all coming together to work—you can’t tell one from the other. Everyone is coming together to try to make somebody else’s holiday better.

Sixth-grade student Katie Bunch says she and her classmates have been busy over the last several months getting the word out about Saturday’s event.

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