Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Evie Hemphill

“St. Louis on the Air” Producer

Evie Hemphill joined the St. Louis on the Air team in February 2018. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 2005, she started her career as a reporter for the Westminster Window in Colorado. Several years later she went on to pursue graduate work in creative writing at the University of Wyoming and moved to St. Louis upon earning an MFA in the spring of 2010. She worked as writer and editor for Washington University Libraries until 2014 and then spent several more years in public relations for the University of Missouri–St. Louis before making the shift to St. Louis Public Radio.

When she’s not helping to produce the talk show, Evie can typically be found navigating the city sans car, volunteering for St. Louis BWorks or trying to get the majority of the dance steps correct as a member of the Thunder & Lightning Cloggers of Southern Illinois. She’s married to Joe, cat-mom to Dash and rather obsessive about doubt, certitude and the places where refuge and risk intersect.

Dr. Jessi Gold is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University.
Dr. Jessi Gold

It was one thing to navigate the initial stress and disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic. And early on, as people looked for ways to guard mental well-being amid big changes, many people realized that it helped to have a sense of horizon in sight.

“I can shelter in place for a month” and “One semester at home is manageable” were common — and useful — mindsets.

But as weeks turn into months and maybe even years of new normals, frustration and anxiety may be mounting. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Dr. Jessi Gold of Washington University offered strategies and insights for safeguarding your mental health at this time. 

Fitzpatrick political cartoon from 1946 Post-Dispatch
Washington University Libraries

With protests against police brutality and attention to systemic racism sweeping the nation in 2020, there’s renewed urgency surrounding the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization is also celebrating 100 years of existence, both at the national level and in Missouri — and a curator at Washington University Libraries has recently dug deep into records of that century’s worth of history.

As Miranda Rectenwald and a handful of student assistants have noticed during their research over the past three years, the ACLU’s beginnings intersect with St. Louis history in significant ways. At the center of that intersection is the late Roger Baldwin, one of the key founders of the national ACLU organization.

Inez Davis, Bill Callahan
DEA St. Louis Division

More often than not, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is associated with tracking drug cartels and arresting traffickers. But the law enforcement agency also ensures physicians and pharmacists are following the law with regard to prescriptions, a role that has become more critical as well as more challenging in recent months.

And in the DEA’s St. Louis Division, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more focus on community outreach, even as the opioid crisis continues to ravage the country. Earlier this month, the St. Louis County Department of Health reported a 47% increase in opioid-related deaths among Black men in 2019.

This spring, the division launched the website With You STL in an effort to help connect community members with critical resources for prevention, treatment and recovery. 

Michael Rozier
Michael Rozier

As an assistant professor of health management and policy at St. Louis University, Michael Rozier is used to thinking a lot about matters of public health — and finding plenty of reasons for hope. His research focuses on the shift toward preventative health care efforts, as well as how ethical and moral rhetoric can advance health care policy. But last week, with COVID-19 case numbers in the U.S. suggesting any end to the pandemic is still a long way off, he took to Twitter to offer some less-than-optimistic predictions.

“Sadly, I'm becoming convinced that #COVID is not far from taking on the characteristics of #gunviolence,” Rozier tweeted. “[The U.S.] will endure much higher, persistent negative effects from something that other countries have solved; we'll normalize it and convince ourselves nothing can be done.” The tweet was off the cuff, but it quickly gained traction online, with both those in agreement and those who found it too pessimistic weighing in.

Antigone Chambers Reed
Tiffany Sutton

At 17, St. Louis resident Antigone Chambers Reed is already a writer, actor and human rights activist. And earlier this month, she added yet another role to the mix when she was named the 2020 Jamala Rogers Young Visionary.

The award is given annually by the Youth Council for Positive Development, recognizing young adults who are working for social justice and making a difference in their community. The council is associated with the Organization for Black Struggle, which celebrated 40 years of existence earlier this year.

Reed’s project, Writing Through Trauma, impressed the selection committee with its vision to provide people in her community with a safe, creative space to process, heal and share lived experiences of violence. Making use of the $2,000 prize that accompanies the award, Reed expects to launch her free virtual workshop later this year.

Peter Raven is the president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
M. Jacob

In between all the news updates about the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against police brutality, a totally different story jumped out from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the other day. “Mass species extinctions are accelerating,” the headline began.

That’s the existentially disturbing takeaway from a new study co-authored by Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Examining the populations of nearly 30,000 vertebrates, and particularly the 515 species that are on the brink of extinction, Raven and his colleagues found that 20% of all species could be gone by the middle of the 21st century. From there, the numbers could grow far worse in the coming decades because of how “extinction breeds extinction.”

Dr. Joshua Swamidass, Kennedy Mitchum
Peaceful Science & Carolina Ramos

What’s in a word? The answer is a whole lot when it comes to words such as “race” and “racism.” And contemporary definitions of these terms can vary widely — both in dictionaries and in hearts and minds.

Florissant resident Kennedy Mitchum recently grappled with this in an unusual way, and with striking results. After noticing some of her day-to-day associates citing Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism as a kind of dismissive proof text in conversation with her, the Nerinx Hall High School and Drake University alumna reached out to the dictionary’s editors, asking them to update the entry to better reflect the historical context of systemic oppression.

Many emails later, the editors came around, ultimately telling Mitchum that changes to the entries on “racism” as well as related terms are now in the works.

Dr. Sameer Vohra
SIU School of Medicine

For Dr. Sameer Vohra and his colleagues, a focus on improving the lives of people in southern and central Illinois has long been at the heart of their work. But now, in the age of COVID-19, the urgency of their mission is more obvious than ever.

Vohra leads SIU School of Medicine's Department of Population Science and Policy as its founding chair, and the coronavirus pandemic has magnified many of the challenges that the region’s small cities and rural communities already faced.

As Vohra and crew continue their research, interventions and policy recommendations aimed at addressing existing health disparities and building stronger communities throughout the state, the impacts of the current crisis loom large.

For marriages already under stress, sheltering at home probably didn't help couples.
Reva G | Flickr

In many cases, real estate transactions are a happy occasion. First-time homebuyers smile and hold up keys. Families move from one locale to another and begin exciting new chapters. But for others, selling or buying a home can be an enormous headache that’s just one part of a bigger mess: a divorce. And with the COVID-19 crisis, some lawyers have reported an increase in inquiries from people thinking about splitting up.

St. Louis native Kathy Helbig has spent 25 years working in the region’s real estate industry. In that time, she’s helped many clients make these complex shifts as they try to work together — separately and as cordially as possible. And now, she’s Missouri’s first certified “divorce real estate specialist,” having recently undergone 40 hours of virtual training toward that end.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Helbig joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about what makes real estate transactions particularly tricky while divorcing. She also touched on the housing market trends she’s been observing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anna Blair setup
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Theater and restaurant workers have taken huge economic hits lately, and back before the coronavirus pandemic, Anna Blair was a busy member of both industries as an actor and bartender. Now theaters are closed, and restaurants and bars are seeing little traffic.

But after experiencing some initial deep worry, Blair came up with an idea for how she wanted to spend her time during this crisis. She calls it Curbside Cabaret Cocktails. People looking for “a jolt of joy” can book her to serenade them karaoke-style — and mix them a drink while she’s at it, all in socially distanced, contact-free fashion.

The other day, St. Louis on the Air stopped by one of Blair’s curbside performances in south St. Louis.

Ruth Harris was appointed the president of Stowe Teachers College in 1940.
Via Vanessa Garry

Vanessa Garry is passionate about preparing aspiring administrators to lead today’s schools. As an assistant professor of educator preparation and leadership at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, she often finds herself looking to the past for some of the most important lessons she teaches.

That history is not always easy to grapple with, and Garry knows its ugliness better than most. The Missouri General Assembly’s 1847 passage of an act making it illegal to educate people of color is just one early example. Even after that changed in 1865, public schools were segregated by law.

By the early 20th century, African American communities were leading the way in search of progress and reform. And one of those leaders was growing up in St. Louis’ Ville neighborhood: Ruth Harris.

Heather Mitchell
Heather Mitchell

When Heather Mitchell saw those viral Lake of the Ozarks images of not so socially distanced partying over Memorial Day weekend, she felt concern and frustration — like many people. But she also saw the situation as a clear example of the various ways humans respond when new information conflicts with previously held beliefs.

Mitchell is an associate professor of psychology at Webster University. She specializes in cognitive psychology, which includes attention to cognitive dissonance. And in the age of COVID-19, that means exploring how people deal with that psychological conflict — and the ways they rectify the uncomfortable disharmony between their beliefs and behaviors.

“Human beings, we really want to be consistent, and, in fact, a really important motivation for us is to maintain that consistency with the way we’re thinking and feeling and behaving,” Mitchell explained on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Eric Strand on the trail
Eric Strand

Longtime St. Louisan Eric Strand has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years, doing many different jobs before becoming the chief operating officer for Drury Hotels. And when the COVID-19 crisis left many frontline hospitality workers in the lurch, Strand wanted to do something to help them out.

Anne Austin working with ancient tattoos
Anne Austin

As a scholar who works with human remains, Anne Austin had long looked closely at bones. Her training is in osteology and Egyptology, and for many years she worked to expand the world’s knowledge about the health, medicine and disease of past civilizations. 

But in 2016, her focus suddenly turned from bones to ancient skin — and body art.

“As I was doing my research, I accidentally came across this really heavily tattooed mummy — minimum 30 tattoos, on her arms, her shoulders and her back,” Austin recalled. “That discovery literally rewrote what we understand about tattooing in ancient Egypt. And since then, I’ve been able to go back and find more tattoos at the site [where] I work.”

Struggling with stress, isolation and economic upheaval
Kristen Uroda for NPR

The current era of social isolation and job loss is challenging for most everyone. But for people with a substance use disorder or who are in recovery, the COVID-19 crisis can present even more difficulties.

Daily life in the age of coronavirus is riddled with stressors, and stress can lead to an increase in substance use — as well as the possibility of relapse for those working to stay sober. And while virtual versions of critical support systems are still possible in many cases, face-to-face accountability and social opportunities are indeed diminished.

But along with those concerns, there’s also reason for hope. Jenny Armbruster of the St. Louis-based organization NCADA sees what she’s described as some “unintended positive side effects” of all of this, too.

Barr branch library
File photo | Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Mere months ago, the two largest library systems in the St. Louis region kicked off the year 2020 with a major announcement: that their libraries, moving forward, were officially fine-free.

“We’re not about fines,” St. Louis Public Library’s CEO Waller McGuire said at the time. “We’re not about rules. We’re about helping people learn. Helping people enjoy themselves. Helping people gain access to information, which is vital to their lives.”

Weeks later, the change proved to be an unusually prescient one. As both the city and county library facilities closed their doors indefinitely amid the COVID-19 shutdown, both systems were quick to assure patrons that they needn’t worry about returning overdue items during the crisis.

Webster University commencement in 2015
U.S. Embassy Vienna | Flickr

In a job market characterized by furloughs, layoffs and rescinded internship and job offers, this spring’s university graduates face challenges beyond their canceled graduation ceremonies.

For St. Louis native Chase Kohler, a self-described “Boeing boy,” the COVID-19 crisis has meant a quick pivot within an industry he’d been hoping to enter for years. When the pandemic hit, he was extremely worried about the sudden change in his career prospects. Several companies he had applied to work for after graduating from the University of Missouri-St. Louis this spring froze their offers to him or stopped the interview process.

“I was interviewing with several airlines and a couple aerospace manufacturers,” Kohler told St. Louis on the Air, “and it pretty much all ended in the same week. … The aviation industry in particular has been hit really hard during this pandemic, so obviously their hiring is not going to pick up for, I would say, several more months.”

Glen Anderson ear saver design
Glen Anderson

Back in March, when officials at the University of Missouri-St. Louis sent out a universitywide call for anyone on campus with 3D printers to try to print face masks, Glen Anderson wanted to help. An associate professor of three-dimensional design, he hoped his academic department's three 3D printers might work well.

After more research, Anderson found that printing masks with these particular machines just wasn’t feasible. But he wasn’t finished brainstorming. He thought there had to be a way to contribute, and soon enough he happened on an idea for a useful product that he is now manufacturing — and donating — by the thousands: surgical mask ear savers.

All that's required to participate is some sunshine, a camera and some brief virtual training.
Nicole Miller-Struttmann

Reading the headlines of 2020 can be pretty overwhelming. Between a pandemic, an economic crisis and even a much-hyped sighting of “murder hornets” in the Pacific Northwest, it can all leave one feeling pretty helpless about attempting to be a force for good in the world.

But on an ecological level, at least one such attempt can take place right in one’s own backyard — and Nicole Miller-Struttmann and bee experts everywhere will be grateful for it. Miller-Struttmann and fellow biologists at Webster University and St. Louis University are launching Shutterbee, a collaborative project powered by citizen scientists.

It requires only some sunshine, a camera and completion of a single virtual training session on May 20, 21 or 23. Shutterbee’s organizers are intent on reaching a real scientific goal: to discover how landscape features and land management decisions affect bee diversity and behavior.

Nancy Morrow-Howell is the director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging and a professor at Washington University.
Washington University

Even the quickest scan of statistics related to the coronavirus pandemic makes it painfully obvious the disease has hit some communities and segments of the population much harder than others. And to an expert on aging and social policy such as Washington University’s Nancy Morrow-Howell, those troubling realities come as no surprise.

But as the crisis shines fresh light on longstanding disparities on a multitude of fronts, along with the everyday impacts of systemic racism and ageism, Morrow-Howell also has some hope for real improvement — particularly when it comes to a deeper understanding of older adults as the diverse individuals that they are.

Alana Woodson, who goes by Alana Marie professionally, interviews John Wright, former superintendent of the Kinloch School District, for her film project.
The Kinloch Doc

The story that Alana Woodson has devoted so much of her time over the past few years to telling is far from a simple one. After all, it’s about Kinloch, Missouri, a once-thriving suburb that has nearly disappeared. Her father’s childhood home there is no more. And what was once a community of 6,500 black St. Louisans has dwindled to less than 200 residents today.

But Woodson, who goes by Alana Marie professionally, has stayed the course, interviewing dozens of people and gathering countless hours of footage for her ongoing documentary project, “The Kinloch Doc.”

A short version of the film was screened at festivals in 2018 and 2019 and is available to view online. The feature-length iteration is currently in its rough-cut stage, and Woodson has been crowdfunding to help cover post-production expenses. She and her team launched a Kickstarter campaign April 10, and with just a handful of days left to raise funds, they’ve now surpassed their goal of $20,000, drawing support from several hundred backers.

Two Wash U students protest the Vietnam War following the Kent State shootings. The placard at left reads in part, "Four students were killed yesterday."
Washington University Photographic Services Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

As a high school student and budding photojournalist years ago, Mike Venso first took an interest in what occurred at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, through the lens of another photographer: John Filo. Filo was a student at Kent State when he captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Mary Ann Vecchio grieving Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed by Ohio National Guard troops during a campus protest 50 years ago Monday.

Venso, who would later meet Filo, eventually left photojournalism and entered the museum field, where he now works as the Missouri Historical Society’s military and firearms curator. His interest in the Kent State shootings and related Vietnam War-era protests at colleges and universities across the country, including Washington University in St. Louis, has stayed with him.

Hemingway images
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Nearly a century ago, long before Ernest Hemingway married St. Louis native Martha Gelhorn, he found himself quarantined with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, who was also from St. Louis.

In the summer of 1926, as Hemingway and Richardson’s young son, Bumby, battled a highly contagious respiratory illness, doctors ordered them into isolation. And if you have to be quarantined, the location doesn’t seem so terrible at first glance: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s place on the French Riviera. But the mix of company could have been better in terms of keeping the household peace: In addition to the Hemingways and their nanny, the quarantined bunch also eventually included Ernest’s lover, Pauline Pfeiffer, who later became his second wife. 

And if you wondered whether Pfieffer was a St. Louis native — yes, Hemingway ultimately married three St. Louis women. Only two, thankfully, joined his quarantine.

Three-year-old Auggie helps take care of school parakeets Copernicus and Galileo.
Samantha Clarke

When Dani and Logan first broke up last year, they weren’t in a place financially or otherwise where it made sense to separate their lives completely. They shared a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in St. Louis’ Tower Grove South neighborhood, and their breakup was a pretty amicable one as far as breakups go. So they stayed put for the time being and made it work.

In February, they talked things through and ultimately decided to extend the lease a while longer. But then a pandemic hit. And while it’s one thing to share living space with an ex, it’s quite another to have to shelter in place together for weeks on end.

Actors Garland Scott and Linda Kennedy
The Ghost Who Walks

When Cody Stokes decided to shoot “The Ghost Who Walks” in his native St. Louis, it wasn’t because he was trying to make the city itself a character or was set on showcasing certain regional icons. In fact, the Gateway Arch doesn’t make a single appearance. But Stokes did choose St. Louis as his backdrop with good reason — and for viewers who know the region well, there’s plenty of local imagery to enjoy over the course of the fast-paced, 106-minute film.

“I think that the advantage is this is just an untapped visual landscape,” Stokes told St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl last summer during the 19th Annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. “There’s really not a lot of films shot here that make it to a wider audience or get seen by many people at all.” And now, “The Ghost Who Walks” has indeed reached movie lovers near and far. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Phoebe Judge, at left, at Lauren Spohrer are the co-creators of "Criminal" and "This Is Love."
Justin Cook & Liz Clayman

Since its inception in 2014, "Criminal" has never been just another true crime podcast. Where some shows spin their speculative wheels or endlessly whip listeners back and forth between evidence of innocence or guilt, "Criminal" has a reputation for pointing its microphone at the deeply human moments and stories that lurk behind the headlines — and consistently premiering a fresh, tightly crafted story two Fridays each month.

And over the years, a handful of "Criminal" episodes have brought the podcast’s co-creators, Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, to the St. Louis region for interviews and research — putting them in conversation with everyone from convicted aircraft hijacker Martin McNally to local historians and journalists.

In 2015, for instance, Judge interviewed Ferguson protestor Ed Crawford, the subject of an iconic photo taken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Robert Cohen. A year later, the podcast team dug into the history of the Evening Whirl, a crime-focused newspaper that first began publishing in St. Louis in 1938. And in January of this year, Criminal brought new attention to a horrific massacre that occurred in southern Illinois nearly a century ago.

The Mexican wolf is one of the most endangered wolf species in the world, with only a few hundred left in the wild.
Endangered Wolf Center

Back in January, long before most Americans were suddenly stocking up on groceries and other essentials, Regina Mossotti and her colleagues were already paying close attention to COVID-19 headlines. They decided to order several months’ worth of food — for their wolves, that is. And now, they’re glad they did.

Mossotti, a wildlife biologist, is director of animal care and conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri. While some staff members now work from home, Mossotti and other animal caregivers are continuing their essential on-site roles, even as they’ve had to temporarily shut down the educational programs so critical to the nonprofit’s revenue.

“We won’t let the care of our animals be affected,” she has said. 

Kristin Sobolik was appointed chancellor April 9.
University of Missouri-St. Louis

About a week ago, the University of Missouri-St. Louis announced it had a new chancellor: Kristin Sobolik. Her selection followed a national search that ultimately led right back to campus. Sobolik has been part of the UMSL leadership team since 2017 — first as provost and most recently as interim chancellor.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sobolik joined host Sarah Fenske to share how she plans to lead the university in the uniquely challenging months ahead.

Joe Roberts (at left) and Rob Connoley joined Friday's show.
Joe Roberts & St. Louis Public Radio

Like so many restaurateurs and other local business owners, Rob Connoley has directly felt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s the chef/owner of Bulrush in Grand Center, and, suffice to say, the acclaimed restaurant and its talented staff aren’t currently able to connect diners to the culinary riches of the Ozarks.

But Connoley reached out to St. Louis on the Air the other day with some genuinely good news to report: He’d successfully applied for a forgivable loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration and, in a matter of days, had also received the money.

On Friday’s show, Connoley joined host Sarah Fenske to share his experience and some lessons he’s learned from going through the process. The conversation also included Joe Roberts, who directs Webster University’s Entrepreneurship Program and frequently collaborates and consults with St. Louis’ Cortex community.

Mike Clark set out in a canoe nearly a month ago to an undisclosed, isolated location on the Mississippi River.
Big Muddy Adventures

For most people, the main ingredients of social distancing and self-quarantine include the walls of one’s dwelling, a solid stash of groceries and a comfy couch. But Mike Clark isn’t most people. And when St. Louis-area officials began urging residents to shelter in place, the founder of Big Muddy Adventures and his dog Dolly headed for an unusual place: a spot he’s dubbed “Quarantine Island.”

The experienced canoeist and adventurer has lived on the remote island in the Mississippi River for nearly a month now, doing his part to flatten the coronavirus curve — and benefit the Gateway Resilience Fund while he’s at it. Big Muddy Adventures is encouraging people to pledge $1, $5 or maybe even $10 to the local COVID-19 relief fund for each day Clark stays put.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, he checked in with host Sarah Fenske from his temporary home. He started by describing the scope and characteristics of his wild surroundings.