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.


12:32 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Michigan vineyards stressed by cool, wet weather

Credit Flickr - Amy

Strange weather in Michigan continues to affect various kinds of agriculture. Current State’s Melissa Benmark has been checking into the effects of a hard winter and a cool summer on the wine industry in the state.

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10:25 am
Mon September 15, 2014

NPR's Michele Norris brings Race Card Project to MSU

Michele Norris speaks at MSU tonight.
Credit - Mary Noble Ours

To longtime NPR listeners, Michele Norris is a familiar voice. She’s the former co-host of All Things Considered, and is the curator of the Race Card Project. Her memoir, “The Grace of Silence,” is one of the offerings in the most recent “One Book, One Community” program.

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1:23 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Cleaning up the Grand River, one tire at a time

A willow tree lies in the Grand River near Reed Road in Jackson County.

Here on Current State we do lots of reporting on environmental programs and policies in the Great Lakes region, but it’s always good to remember that taking care of our waters often happens because someone decides to fight pollution one empty bottle at a time. That’s happening in Jackson this coming weekend.

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12:21 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

MSU study looks at gender and 'image management'

An MSU study looked at how women should present themselves in job interviews for traditionally male-dominated fields.
Credit Flickr/Steve Wilson


Say you’re a woman, and  you’re interviewing for a job in a traditionally male-dominated field like engineering. What qualities about yourself should you highlight in your interview? A new MSU study offers some ideas.

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11:58 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Breast cancer forges bond between Israeli from MI, Palestinian

Ruth Ebenstein

What is sisterhood? One Michigan woman’s experience suggests the path to acquiring a loving sister can be unexpected and extraordinary. Ruth Ebenstein belongs to a diverse group of breast cancer survivors whose mission is to support women with the disease who live in conflict zones.

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12:17 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Questionable additive okay for toothpaste but not hand soap?

Triclosan has been taken out of many antibacterial soaps but continues to be used in products such as Colgate Total toothpaste.
Credit Flickr - Brooke Singer

Starting in 2017, the state of Minnesota will ban the use of an antibacterial chemical in consumer products. Triclosan has been found in the waters and fish of the Great Lakes, and a number of health organizations in Canada are urging their government to ban the chemical as well.

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1:29 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

New NWF chief to focus on education, outreach

Collin O'Mara, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation.

The National Wildlife Federation has a new president and CEO. Collin O’Mara was recently in Michigan for an environmental tour of the Detroit Area, and stopped by Current State. For a CEO, he’s fairly young at 30 years old. Current State’s Melissa Benmark asked him what environmental values he brings to this position that might be different than someone in their fifties or sixties.

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3:14 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

LIVE MUSIC: Lansing's Heartland Klezmorim

From left: Ben Godoshian, Chris Hamilton, Drew Howard and David Klein.
Credit WKAR

The Great Lakes Folk Festival kicks off next weekend in East Lansing. One of the musical attractions is the traditional Klezmer group Heartland Klezmorim from the Lansing Area. They join us today as part of our Live Music Fridays series.

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12:05 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Raphael reviews "Headhunters"

Author and book reviewer Lev Raphael.
Credit Joan Young

Our reviewer Lev Raphael has been reading a tale about supplementing one’s income…with art thefts. The book is “Headhunters” by Jo Nesbo.

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12:55 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Great Lakes Month in Review: Detroit water shut-offs and Asian carp litigation

People standing before one of the largest bodies of water in the world in solidarity with the people of Detroit as they shut off water to some citizens and businesses in the city.
Credit Flickr- Light Brigading

At the end of each month we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. 

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11:31 am
Mon July 28, 2014

A look at the changing face of pensions

Credit Flickr - 401(K)_2012

From the Detroit bankruptcy to a high-profile lawsuit against phone giant Verizon, pensions are in the news lately. With all the talk about pensions being frozen, or reduced, or bought out, we wanted to get kind of a “Pensions 101” perspective.

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12:24 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

MSU study: Brand awareness linked to overweight kids

The study found a correlation between the amount of familiarity each child had with certain food brands and the child's BMI.
Credit Flickr - Ian Muttoo

A recent Michigan State University study indicates that the more familiar young children are with the brand names of less healthy foods, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese. The study is interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is how you get a bunch of 3 to 5 year olds to express themselves on ideas like brand identification.

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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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