Melissa Benmark

Morning Edition Host

Melissa Ingells Benmark is the host for Morning Edition and also produces features and interviews for the program, with an emphasis on the arts.

Melissa came to WKAR from WCMU in Mount Pleasant.


5:29 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Michigan lures anglers for bass

Michigan's environment contributes to a strong supply of healthy bass, says Mary Tate Bremigan.
Credit Flickr - Patrick Lewis

Fishing in Michigan is big business. The state DNR estimates that anglers spent $2.4 billion in trip-related expenses and equipment in 2011. Besides Michigan’s Great Lakes and rivers, our inland lakes attract considerable fishing as well. In fact, six Michigan lakes were recently included in a national fishing magazine’s “100 Best Bass Lakes of 2014” list.

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Politics & Government
12:18 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Cooley Law professor breaks down Hobby Lobby ruling

Schindler says the ruling may have some unanticipated consequences in the future.
Credit Flickr - American Life League

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled yesterday that the craft company Hobby Lobby can be exempted from paying for certain types of employee birth control.

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11:34 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Expert: Michigan mosquitoes 3x normal numbers this year

Credit Wiki Commons

If you live in Michigan it seems like every summer is a time to complain about the mosquitoes being really bad this year, but how bad are they, really?

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11:48 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Voices of Experience: Pauline Adams dedicates a lifetime to education

Pauline Adams with a portrait of her husband, former MSU president Walter Adams.
Credit WKAR/Nancy Kelly


 We all know Michiganians we feel are extraordinary --for their memorable life experiences or their sacrifices.  Maybe for their success or their service, and for the insights they produce. Getting acquainted with extraordinary people is the focus of Current State’s ongoing series, “Voices of Experience.”

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1:56 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

MSU's beepalooza offers education ... bee petting?

Credit Flickr-Janet Sharp

It was inevitable that Current State caught the buzz about Beepalooza. The free bee education event is this Sunday at Michigan State University’s Horticulture Demonstration Gardens. The main question is, why do we need to be educated about bees?

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Arts & Culture
2:44 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Broad celebrates legacy of Sun Ra

Sun Ra at New England Conservatory, February 22nd, 1992
Credit Pandelis Karayorgis- Wikimedia Commons

The Summer Solstice Jazz Festival takes place in East Lansing this Friday and Saturday. There will be live jazz downtown from a variety of groups and the Broad Art Museum is participating as well with a unique event.

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1:07 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

World Health Organization concerned about LGBT invisibility

The new WHO study shows that a lack of health information about LGBT people in the Americas has led to a poor understanding of their health needs
Credit Flickr - Eric Wagner

The World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization recently expressed concern about the lack of knowledge of the health problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Many people in these groups are essentially “invisible” to the healthcare community for a variety of reasons including the fear of negative consequences if they are honest with their health providers about their status.

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Lifestyle & Recreation
11:19 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Memoir explores couple's pursuit of agrarian dream

Credit Michigan State University Press

A new memoir from the MSU Press looks at what happens when a professional couple decides to get in touch with their agrarian dream of life in the country. Richard Gilbert teaches writing at Otterbein College in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He’s the author of “Shepherd”.

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12:00 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Raphael reviews "Impossible Exile"

WKAR's book reviewer Lev Raphael has a look this month at "The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World," by George Prochnik.

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Lifestyle & Recreation
2:30 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Finding balance in Lake Huron's fisheries

Credit Flickr - American Legacy Fishing Co.

About a decade ago, Lake Huron’s fishing game was not very abundant because of a steep decline in overall fish numbers. To see how the lake is doing now, Current State’s Melissa Benmark spoke with David Fielder, Fisheries Research Biologist for the Department of Natural Resources and a doctoral student at Michigan State University.

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12:20 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Lone shipwreck survivor shares his story

Dennis Hale tells his story of survival in his book 'Shipwrecked: Reflections of the Sole Survivor.'

On November 29, 1966, 28 men lost their lives on Lake Huron when the freighter, the SS Daniel J. Morrell, broke apart in a storm. One man survived, and he joins us on Current State today.

Dennis Hale is in Lansing to talk about his book, “Shipwrecked: Reflections of the Sole Survivor.”

Hale says he never questioned the ship's seaworthiness before what was to be the last voyage of the season that  year. 

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12:53 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Physician examines doctor-patient communication

Improving doctor-patient communication is the subject of Dr. Leana Wen's book 'When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests'.
Credit Flickr - Mercy Health

Now that the Affordable Care Act has more or less settled into place, people may be in the position of choosing new doctors for themselves. A recent book by Dr. Leana Wen looks at ways to improve communication between doctors and patients.

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Lifestyle & Recreation
1:37 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Study links children's spirituality and the outdoors

Dr. Gretel Van Wiren

With more daylight and the end of school, lots of kids will have the opportunity to play outdoors more in the coming weeks and months if they choose to. Outdoors time has decreased drastically for children. A new MSU study indicates that there are benefits to outdoor free play besides the physical exercise.

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11:33 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Deadly piglet virus hits farms statewide, nationally

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus causes diarrhea in suckling piglets.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Pig farmers in Michigan and around the nation are losing piglets to a virus that is easily spread and almost always lethal to very young animals. So far, it’s killed over six million piglets.

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10:56 am
Fri May 9, 2014

The risks and rewards of unpaid internships

Dr. Phil Gardner

As the university school year winds down, many students are preparing for summer unpaid internships, hoping to improve their employability.The practice of not paying interns has become increasingly widespread.

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4:04 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Pomp and Circumstance: How a British march became an American tradition

file photo
Credit Michigan State University

Commencement season is upon us. MSU is sending new graduates into the world this weekend in East Lansing. The only thing more ubiquitous than caps, gowns, and cameras is a military march written by a British guy in 1901. 

Seriously, why do Americans graduate to a tune that across the Atlantic Ocean essentially has become an unofficial English National Anthem? Current State’s Melissa Benmark explores the song that’s helped “commence” graduates for over a century.  

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1:03 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Feeding the Yanks: MSU historian explores Civil War era cookbooks

Veit specializes in American history in the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on the history of food and nutrition.
Credit courtesy of

A new book from the MSU Press looks at the cookbooks and foodways of Americans in the 1860s. “Food in the Civil War Era: The North” is officially out this week. It’s  part of a planned food history series from the MSU Press.

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12:47 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

LSO season finale features Brahms

Muffitt says the LSO is proud of their association with the Gilmore competition here in Michigan. It's one of the major piano competitions in the world.
Credit Flickr - texasgurl

The Lansing Symphony Orchestra closes out its regular season with an unusual Wednesday night concert tomorrow. It features Brahms’ final symphony, a near-viral modern composition, and a piano concerto played by Andrew Hsu, a Gilmore Young Artist competition winner.

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2:01 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Volunteers guard Michigan's spawning sturgeon

"Sturgeon for Tomorrow" will be guarding the banks of the Black River from poachers to ensure that lake sturgeon will be able to spawn.
Credit Flickr - USFWSmidwest

From now through early June, some volunteers will be standing guard over the Black River in Northern Michigan. They’ll be on the banks of the river making sure that the lake sturgeon, a rare and threatened species in the state, are able to leave their homes in Black Lake and successfully spawn in the Black River. Why do the fish need guarding?

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Lifestyle & Recreation
11:53 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Turkey love: Even birds need a wingman

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Here in mid-Michigan we’re finally starting to see signs of spring after the long winter. Current State’s Melissa Benmark has been enjoying the humor, and hopefulness, of a spring ritual she’s been witnessing in her back yard.

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12:27 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Autism's mysterious, complex past

Dr. Jeffrey Baker says autism appeared on the medical scene in 1943.
Credit Courtesy of

April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s a condition that’s much examined by the medical community, but still elusive in its causes and treatments. 

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12:17 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Returning to run the Boston Marathon

The 2014 Boston Marathon begins at 10:00 this morning.
Credit Flickr - Paul Goodman

The 2014 Boston Marathon is being run today. This longstanding tradition in the running world is even more significant to its participants this year, in light of last year’s bombing of the event. A number of people from mid-Michigan are participating, and Current State's Melissa Benmark catches up with one of them.

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1:58 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Saranac syrup-maker sticks to tradition

Last year, John Smith produced 361 gallons of maple syrup, compared to 250 gallons this year.
Credit Flickr - Wigwam Jones

As you drive west from Ionia, Michigan, you’ll come to the little town of Saranac. Its streets are lined with a bountiful number of large old maple trees. And this time of year, it’s not uncommon to see many of them with pails and spouts attached to collect sap for maple syrup.

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Arts & Culture
4:44 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

'Mobile in Black and White' film encourages racial dialogue

Video courtesy of


The Capital City Film Festival starts tomorrow and runs through the weekend. On Saturday, a film about race relations in America will air at Dart Auditorium in Lansing. It’s called “Mobile in Black and White”. The film, which originally featured four shorter segments broken up by discussions, is directed by Robert Gray.

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Science & Technology
11:56 am
Fri April 4, 2014

NPR's Krulwich cultivates the beauty in science

Krulwich's 7 p.m. talk is called 'Talking Science to Non-Scientists: Saddam Hussein’s Secret Octupus and Other Stories'.
Credit Flickr - Jared Kelly

The Michigan State University Science Festival continues through this weekend. A familiar voice will speak at Kellogg Center as part of the festival: Robert Krulwich. Current State’s Melissa Benmark spoke with him earlier this week.

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9:12 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Lev Raphael reviews "A Darker Shade"

People who really got into reading “The Millenium Trilogy” are going to have to face up to the truth: most likely no more Stieg Larsson books are coming out in the future. But if you still have a fever for Swedish crime fiction, our book reviewer Lev Raphael has your prescription. The book is “A Darker Shade: 17 Swedish stories of murder, mystery and suspense including a short story by Stieg Larsson.”

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12:42 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

MSU Museum looks at 'Turtles in Trouble'

The exhibit runs through Sept. 21 in the MSU Museum's Art-Science-Creativity Gallery.
Credit Flickr - Alexandra MacKenzie

A new exhibit at the MSU Museum focuses on the plight of turtles around the world. “Turtles in Trouble” is meant to boost awareness of the impact humans have on turtles populations worldwide.

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12:11 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

LSO to feature American composers Copland, Bernstein

In Bernstein's 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story', the composer sought to remove the pieces from the pit orchestra setting.
Credit Flickr - Greater Lansing Convention & Visitor's Bureau

The Lansing Symphony Orchestra’s next MasterWorks concert is Saturday night at Wharton Center. It features music from American composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

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Arts & Culture
12:56 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Lights, camera, pie: film documents town devoted to pie

Longtime mid-Michigan artist Jane Rosemont is making a documentary called, "The Pie Lady of Pie Town."
Credit Flickr - oh estelle

Art, like life, goes through phases and changes. A longtime mid-Michigan artist who relocated to New Mexico a few years ago is exploring the inspirations there and has just come out with her first short film. Many listeners will be familiar with Jane and Dick Rosemont. He was one of the forces behind Flat Black and Circular, an East Lansing record shop, and she was a fine arts photographer.

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Politics & Government
1:40 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Law enforcement acclimates to pursuing drugged driving

Officer Wes Evans says recognizing and arresting those who are impaired by substances while driving will make our streets safer.
Credit Flickr - neoporcupine

Drunk driving has been a public safety problem for years across the United States. A similar and growing threat is that of drugged driving. Some new law enforcement programs are targeting people who get behind the wheel under the influence of various drugs, sometimes in combination with alcohol.

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