Anita Rao

Producer, "The State of Things"

Anita Rao is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina. She fell in love with interviewing and storytelling as a Women's Studies and International Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began her radio career at WUNC as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. From 2011 - 2014, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps Production department, where she pitched, edited and produced conversations from across the nation--from Chicago, IL to Pineville, North Carolina.  

Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest. She loves excessively-long dinner parties and hopes to one day live up to her mom's nickname, "Sheila, The Chocolate Eater."

Ways to Connect

photo of Rissi Palmer
Rissi Palmer

Singer-songwriter Rissi Palmer exploded onto the country music scene in 2007 with a self-titled album. She sang alongside Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, and her single "Country Girl" was the first song by an African-American woman artist to make the country Billboard charts in almost two decades.

photo of Honest Pint Theatre Company
Megan Dohm

Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" is now more than 400 years old. And while many theatergoers are familiar with its plot lines about murder, death and betrayal, each new staging of the production has the opportunity to highlight a different theme or lesser-known aspect of the story.

Host Frank Stasio previews two different interpretations today. He is joined first by 14-year-old Leo Egger, a student at Durham School of the Arts, whose passion for Shakespeare led him to direct and produce a community production in his neighborhood.

photo of "Asperger's Are Us"
Asperger's Are Us

Asperger’s Are Us’ is a four-member comedy troupe that is quickly gaining national traction. While all four men are on the autism spectrum, their comedy is not all about their condition.

In fact, the group says it has no interest in poking fun at Asperger’s, and the men do not make light of their behavioral differences. They get on stage every night to enjoy one another’s company with the hope that their absurd and satirical sketches will make their audience laugh.

photo of Violet Bell
Lizzy Ross

After spending four years making music in Nashville, singer-songwriter Lizzy Ross began to feel homesick.

Ross grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC-Chapel Hill and started her career in the Triangle music scene. While Nashville was filled with passionate and impressive musicians, she missed being part of a community that she felt really embraced diverse creative expressions.

Book cover of "Magic in Islam"
Michael Muhammad Knight

People of faith will argue that magic and religion are not the same thing; magic is often condemned as dark and unsacred, while religion is characterized as morally sound and pure. In his new book “Magic in Islam” (Tarcher Perigee/2016), Michael Muhammad Knight resists the notion that the two are incompatible.

He argues that through looking at the histories of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, it is clear that the boundary between magic and religion has been blurred time and time again. He looks at examples including the use and interpretation of the Quran, astrology, and mythological figures of multiple religions.

photo of Alexis Pauline Gumbs, her nephew, and stepsister
Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Some scholars are criticized for staying within the ‘ivory tower,’ and creating work that’s only accessible to a highly-academic audience. Alexis Pauline Gumbs does not receive that criticism.

She identifies as a community-accountable scholar and puts that identity into practice by intentionally bringing scholarly ideas into non-academic settings. This manifests in online educational projects like ‘Eternal Summer of The Black Feminist Mind,’ which creates accessible curricula from black feminist work.

Travis Mulhauser

Note: this program is a rebroadcast.

For a number of years, there was one particular image that continued to haunt Travis Mulhauser: a young girl in a hooded sweatshirt who comes across an abandoned baby. He eventually decided to let his imagination play out her story, and it resulted in his debut novel “Sweetgirl” (Harper Collins/2016). The book follows 16-year-old Percy James, whose search for her mother in the dead of winter takes her on an unexpected journey.

Photo of Dominique Witten
Dominique Witten

Comedian Dominique has performed alongside Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle. But she says her comedic inspiration doesn’t come from these comedy all-stars, it comes from her mother.

She was raised by a straightforward woman who encouraged her to ‘tell the truth’ and ‘call it as you see it,’ and that’s exactly what she does on stage.She has appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” was a finalist in last year’s “Last Comic Standing,” and currently stars in the hit TV series “Black Jesus” on Adult Swim.

Photo of a ball and chain with "student loans" written on it
thisisbossi / Flickr

Forty-two million people in the United States owe $1.3 trillion in student debt, according to a recent report from Reveal radio program in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

In 2014 in North Carolina, 61 percent of students graduating from public and private four-year institutions graduated with loans amounting to an average of $25,000 per individual, according to The Project on Student Debt. The privatization of Sallie Mae and the continued disinvestment in public higher education at the state level contribute to the problem.

Book Cover For 'In A Different Key'
Crown Publishers

Note: This program is a rebroadcast.  

The term "autism" dates back to the 1930s when a pediatrician named Hans Asperger coined it to describe young boys he was treating who had high intelligence but limited social skills.

The new book, "In A Different Key: The Story of Autism" (Crown/2016) looks at the term and documents how scientific and popular understanding of the disorder have shifted and evolved tremendously in the past century.

Aminatou Sow

Note: This program is a rebroadcast.

About five years ago, Aminatou Sow was working for a technology company in Washington D.C. and came across an article detailing how few women work in tech. The statistic did not match her personal experience as she knew of a number of women working in tech-related fields, from NASA to the National Security Agency.

Ryan Gibson of Raleigh is among the hundreds of people who filled a parking lot outside of the gay night club Legends in downtown Raleigh to support the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Just one day after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, many questions remain.

Thus far, investigators have confirmed that on Sunday morning, alleged shooter Omar Mateen attacked a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. According to reports, Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call during the attack but no direct link has been confirmed between him and the terrorist group.

photo of Stuart Albright
Stuart Albright

Why do some students succeed while others do not? This question has stumped teachers, school administrators, and education policy professionals who try to stop students from falling through the cracks.

photo of Revolution Mill
Raymond Wyrick / Flickr

In the early 1900s, Greensboro quickly became a global hub for denim and flannel. Textile manufacturing company Cone Mills Inc. built several factories and transformed the surrounding areas into mill villages complete with churches, schools, community centers and company stores.

photo of Clyde Edgerton
clydeedgerton.com

Famed North Carolina author Clyde Edgerton is best known for his witty, character-driven novels about Southern life, like “Raney” and “Killer Diller.” He is now in the headlines for being banned from all public schools in New Hanover County where two of his children attend elementary school.

photo of FRANK Gallery Karen Youth Art Group
Karen Youth Art Group

North Carolina is home to a growing Karen community, an ethnic minority from Burma that has been forced out of their country due to war. Many of these refugees call the Triangle home, and for the past six years, they have been incorporating their traditional farming techniques in growing both local and Asian produce at the Transplanting Traditions Farm, a five-acre plot of land in Chapel Hill.

photo of a unisex bathroom sign
Tombe / Wikipedia

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 has stirred up numerous conversations about the lives of transgender Americans. It has also illuminated many misconceptions about what gender identity is and how it is formed.

Groups of scientists have stood up in opposition to HB2, arguing that there are genetic and biological causes of gender differences, and for the vast majority of trans individuals, their gender identity is not a choice.

Mayor Alice Butler points to a map hanging in Roseboro Town Hall.
Patrick Nichols

Second to Pennsylvania, North Carolina has the most small towns in the United States. And it has been able to remain the so-called “small town state” because of the many miles of state highways connecting dispersed towns to one another.

The Last Good Girl

May 26, 2016
photo of "The Last Good Girl" by Allison Leotta
Allison Leotta

The statistics about campus sexual assault are staggering: one in five women is assaulted during her time on campus, and the vast majority of these assaults go unreported.

Advocates and survivors across the country have pushed to bring the issue to the forefront, and in the past few years, there has been increased attention paid to how universities are responding to students' needs.

Still From documentary
Erin Derham

Julian Price was born into money but spent most of his life giving it away.

A new documentary looks closely at how his social and entrepreneurial vision shaped downtown Asheville.

photo of a spread at Grady's Barbecue in Dudley, N.C.
Rien Fertel

North Carolina is the number two producer of pigs in America, and barbeque is by most accounts the state’s food. But historian Rien Fertel argues that most barbecue writing is hyperbole. 

In his new book “The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook The Whole Hog,” (Touchstone/2016) he examines the history of the southern barbecue art, and the wide range of mythology surrounding the meat and those who tend to it.

Image of Eugene from the new opera Body Politic
Scott Bump

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 has been making national headlines for the past two months and has inspired a wide range of social action. There have been both pro and anti-HB2 rallies on Jones street, businesses have left the state, and performers have canceled appearances in protest. The law inspired a different response in two UNC School of the Arts alumni who were inspired to bring their artistic work to the state.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Two environmental groups could be on the hook for $10 million if they want to continue their battle against Duke Energy. Last week’s ruling by the state Utilities Commission against The Climate Times and North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN) used a state law provision that has never been used before. The money is slated to cover costs incurred by Duke Energy because of the delay caused by the appeals process.

Alex Prolmos / Flickr Creative Commons

The latest numbers from the Pew Research Center show that the number of Americans who say they believe in God has declined in recent years. And millennials are much less likely than older Americans to belong to any religious faith.
 

But despite these trends, psychiatrist and researcher Harold Koenig argues that science shows that religious belief is good for mental and physical health.

State of Things Host Frank Stasio hosts a broadcast at the Duke Chapel on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 to commemorate the chapel's reopening.
Duke Photography

Duke University has reopened the iconic chapel at the center of its Durham campus after a $19 million renovation.

Crews have been working for a year to restore the limestone walls and ceiling that define the chapel's Gothic architecture. 

In a special broadcast at Duke Chapel, university archivist Valerie Gillispie told WUNC’s "The State of Things" the chapel has served as an institutional icon at Duke for nearly 90 years.

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