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Michael Benson

Michael Benson

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Michael Benson

Dr. Michael Benson, president of Eastern Kentucky University, discusses the budgetary challenges the university has faced and his new book College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy.
S14 E16 Length 27:32 Premiere: 1.18.19

EKU President Michael Benson on Higher Education Challenges and His New Book

In the book “College for the Commonwealth,” co-author Michael Benson makes the case that higher education is crucial to fostering an informed, engaged, and productive citizenry that benefits all Americans, not just the one who attend a college or university.

That’s especially true in Kentucky, which Benson says is fortunate to have a robust system of higher education, from highly regarded private institutions like Transylvania University and Centre College, to the network of public research universities, regional universities, and community college campuses.

“It should be something we should appreciate and cherish and promulgate and support,” says Benson, “and we’ve got to do a better job of making that case.”

Benson is the 13th president of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. He appeared on KET’s Connections to discuss the contributions of higher education to a civil society, and the challenges EKU and other schools in the commonwealth face today.
 

A School for All of Kentucky
EKU began as the Eastern Kentucky Normal School in 1906, but its roots go all the way back to a private college called Central University, which was founded in Richmond in 1874.

Now the school has an enrollment of more than 14,000 and a service region of 22 southeastern Kentucky counties, but Benson says the school attracts students from across the commonwealth.

“Ninety-two percent of our freshman class this last year was from the state of Kentucky,” he says. “While we say Eastern Kentucky University describes who we are, it doesn’t define who we are. We really, in a lot of ways, are Kentucky’s university in that we have the highest percentage of Kentucky students at our institution than any other place.”

Another key characteristic of EKU students, according to Benson, is that 51 percent of them are eligible for federal financial aid called Pell Grants. Those are need-based grants to low-income students which do not have to be repaid. That assistance puts higher education within reach of people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to college.

“We service a certain population [for whom] college is that one opportunity that is going to change their lives more than anything else,” he says.

In Benson’s five years as president of EKU, the school has seen record enrollments and improved student retention and graduation rates. He attributes some of that success to upgraded campus facilities that promote student safety and comfort.

“Students today are pretty sophisticated,” Benson says. “If they show up with their mom and dad… and you don’t have what they want in terms of a residence hall, academic space… a dining hall and a [recreation] center, their money is portable.”

Life Under Performance-Based Funding
But the past decade has not been easy for EKU and Kentucky’s other public universities. The schools have faced multiple rounds of state budget cuts, rising pension obligations, and staff and faculty downsizings.

There’s also the new performance-based funding model, which ties an institution’s state appropriation to achieving certain metrics like the number of degrees awarded, the type of degree produced (such as science and technology versus liberal arts), and whether the school is closing achievement gaps between various student groups.

Critics argue performance-based funding could benefit larger schools at the expense of smaller, regional universities like EKU that tend to serve students from rural communities that may have more economic and academic disadvantages. Benson says performance funding is here to stay, although he expects it to be adjusted over time. He credits the model with forcing schools to focus – in a positive way – on important performance outcomes.

“There’s an investment that the state of Kentucky makes in our institutions,” he says. “So are we being accountable, are we producing right degrees, are we doing it in a timely way, are we being efficient with what I would consider really sacred funds that the taxpayers of the state of Kentucky give us?”

Despite the funding obstacles, Benson says Kentucky’s higher education system is performing well, earning a B or B-plus, in his opinion.

The Case for Higher Education
State officials are also pushing the colleges and universities to better prepare students for the thousands of jobs currently available in Kentucky and positions that are expected to open in the future. That includes a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and health-related degrees.

But that doesn’t mean liberal arts degrees are going away. Benson says those programs will continue to be important because of the benefits they offer students as they transition from school to the job market.

“It’s more than just getting job training, it’s more than just filling that cog in the machine for workforce needs,” he says. “It’s… the ability to get along with other people, to reason, to think, to write, to argue cogently… That’s what college should be about.”

Yet higher education in the United States continues to come under attack by some. Benson says some of those criticisms arise from problems the system itself has created, such as athletics scandals or problems with financial mismanagement.

Some states have also looked at reevaluating or even scrapping tenure for college faculty. Benson says tenure is core to academic life because it enables professors to be bold and outspoken without fear of losing their jobs. He also says it’s critical for smaller schools like Eastern.

“You’re going to have a hard time attracting faculty without any sort of guarantees of tenure at a place like EKU if it were to go away,” he says.

Given these criticisms, Benson says it’s incumbent for college and university leaders to make the case that higher education is fundamental, even critical, to a civil society. That’s what he does in “College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy,” the book he co-authored last year with Hal R. Boyd.

Benson and Boyd explored the origins of the U.S. system of higher education, and explore the benefits of postsecondary learning to students, communities, and the nation. Benson says President George Washington was among the first people to call for a national university even though he never attended college.

“He saw the inherent value in an educated citizenry,” Benson says, “because a more educated citizenry is going to be a benefit to all of us.”

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Betty Baye - S9 E1

Former Louisville Courier-Journal columnist and editorial writer Betty Baye discusses her career and columns, new paradigms of journalism, the impact of digital media, and her future projects.

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Roszalyn Akins - S9 E3

Roszalyn Akins is dean of the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington. The college preparatory school for promising males opened in 2012 and this year is serving young boys grades six through 10.

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Malcolm Ratchford - S9 E4

Renee talks with Malcolm Ratchford, executive director of Community Action Council, an organization that helps thousands of low-income Central Kentuckians each year work toward greater economic security.

  • Wednesday January 29, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Ruth Brinkley - KentuckyOne Health - S9 E5

Ruth Brinkley, president and CEO of KentuckyOne Health, a coalition of leading health care providers in Kentucky, discusses the health care system, Medicaid expansion enabled by federal health care reform, and more.

  • Thursday January 30, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Pop Culture and Commodification of Women - S9 E8

Renee talks with women and others about the influence of popular media on body image and the stereotypes perpetuated throughout the entertainment industry.

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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron - S15 E18

Renee speaks with Attorney General Daniel Cameron about his priorities for the legislative session and other topics.

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Connections - S15 E19

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Innocence Project - S9 E9

Renee's guests are Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom and prison exoneree Calvin Johnson. In 1983, Johnson was falsely convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. The Innocence Project took his case and arranged for forensic testing that proved his innocence 16 years later. Renee talks with Johnson about his experience and with Saloom about the work of the Innocence Project in all 50 states.

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Diabetes Prevention and Control - S9 E10

Experts discuss the statewide education and prevention methods being dispatched and the changes individuals can make to avoid diabetes.

  • Tuesday February 4, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Human Trafficking - S9 E11

Renee talks with guests about recent legislation that strengthens Kentucky's human trafficking laws and provides more services to victims and other topics.

  • Wednesday February 5, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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The Forgotten Minority - S9 E12

Renee talks with advocates for Kentuckians with disabilities about the challenges facing those with mental and physical limitations and illnesses, the resources available, and the policy changes needed to better serve this population.

  • Thursday February 6, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Middle Class Struggles and Poverty - S9 E13

Renee's guests are Ron Crouch, demographer and director of research and statistics in the Office of Employment and Training for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Myrdin Thompson of Louisville, an activist with RESULTS, a nonprofit whose mission is to fight hunger and poverty.

  • Friday February 7, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S15 E20

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Tuskegee Airmen Historians - S9 E14

Renee interviews a trio of men who are either making history or working to preserve it: Reginald "Reggie" Thomas, the third African American in Kentucky history to be elected to the Kentucky Senate; Ron Spriggs, Tuskegee Airmen historian; and Bobby Scroggins, art professor and sculptor.

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Sabrina Butler and Kate Miller - S9 E19

Renee talks with Mississippian Sabrina Butler, the only female death row exoneree, about her wrongful conviction and her quest to end capital punishment, and with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky spokesperson Kate Miller.

  • Tuesday February 11, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Vershawn A. Young - S9 E20

Renee talks with University of Kentucky professor Vershawn A. Young (aka Dr. Vay), an expert of the contemporary African American experience, about his latest published work, Other People's English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy.

  • Wednesday February 12, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker - S9 E21

Frank X Walker, named Kentucky's 2013-14 poet laureate, talks about his latest collection, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, and other works and projects.

  • Thursday February 13, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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50th Anniversary of the March On Frankfort - S9 E22

Renee discusses the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1964 March on Frankfort with historians and participants including: NAACP Louisville leader Raoul Cunningham and former state Senator Georgia Davis Powers.

  • Friday February 14, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S15 E21

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Aaron Thompson - S9 E26

Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, discusses the state budget for higher education and the impact on student tuition.

  • Monday February 17, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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MaryLee Underwoood and Chastity Ross - CCDD - S9 E27

MaryLee Underwoood and Chastity Ross with the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities (CCDD) discuss recent legislation to protect vulnerable adults against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

  • Tuesday February 18, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Janet Taylor - S9 E29

Renee speaks with Dr. Janet Taylor, psychiatrist, certified life coach, and national commentator on work-life balance and mental health issues.

  • Wednesday February 19, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Djuan Trent - S9 E30

Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent talks about her decision come out as a gay woman, reaction from family and friends, her activism in advancing gay rights and marriage, and more.

  • Thursday February 20, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Hasan Davis - S9 E31

Renee speaks with former Kentucky Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Hasan Davis, about recent juvenile justice reform. Davis was featured in the recent PBS Frontline program "Prison State," about Kentucky's correction system, and interviewed for KET's follow-up program, Prison State: A Kentucky Community Conversation.

  • Friday February 21, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S15 E22

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  • Wednesday February 26, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
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Prison Reform In Kentucky - S9 E32

Renee continues the discussion about Kentucky prison reform recently highlighted on the PBS Frontline program "Prison State." Her guests are: Mark Bolton, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections; Sheila Schuster, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and mental health advocate; and Ray Larson, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney.

  • Monday February 24, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Ted Strader - COPES - S9 E33

Ted Strader, the director of the Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Inc. (COPES) in Louisville, discusses how partnering agencies with the corrections system can help former inmates with successful re-entry into society.

  • Tuesday February 25, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Colene Elridge - S9 E34

Renee speaks with human resources professional and life coach Colene Elridge, better known as Coach Colene, owner of Be More Consulting.

  • Wednesday February 26, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams - S15 E17

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Food Security (Part 2) - S8 E39

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Food Security - S8 E38

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Shevawn Akers - S8 E37

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Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins - S15 E16

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Dana Branham - S8 E36

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Frank Minnifield - S8 E35

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  • Thursday January 16, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 16, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 16, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Jakobi Williams - S8 E34

  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 15, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Beth Dotson Brown - S8 E31

  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 14, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Lexington Artists - S8 E28

  • Monday January 13, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 13, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 13, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 13, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 13, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 13, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Ashli Watts - Kentucky Chamber of Commerce - S15 E15

  • Saturday January 11, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 11, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 11:00 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 5, 2020 7:00 am CT on KETKY

Byron Hurt - S8 E25

  • Friday January 10, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 10, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 10, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 10, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 10, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 10, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Janet Steele Holloway - S8 E24

  • Thursday January 9, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 9, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Jane Beshear - S8 E21

  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 8, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dr. Alexandra Bradner - S8 E20

  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 7, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Thrivals 5.0 - S8 E19

  • Monday January 6, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 6, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 6, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 6, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 6, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 6, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dayna Seelig - S15 E12

  • Saturday January 4, 2020 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 4, 2020 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 1:30 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 12:30 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday December 29, 2019 7:00 am CT on KETKY

Derek Anderson - S8 E18

  • Friday January 3, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 3, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 3, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 3, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 3, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 3, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Bianca Spriggs - S8 E16

  • Thursday January 2, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 2, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 2, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 2, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 2, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 2, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Cathy Holloway Hill - S8 E15

  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 1, 2020 4:30 am CT on KETKY

M.A.D.E. (Motivating Youth All Day Everyday) - S8 E13

  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 31, 2019 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Susan Pope - S8 E12

  • Monday December 30, 2019 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 30, 2019 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday December 30, 2019 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 30, 2019 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday December 30, 2019 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 30, 2019 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Pastor Edward Palmer - Racial Bias and Juvenile Justice Reform - S15 E2

  • Saturday December 28, 2019 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday December 28, 2019 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 10:30 pm CT on KET

Mimi Pickering and Dr. Catherine Fosl - S8 E7

  • Friday December 27, 2019 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday December 27, 2019 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday December 27, 2019 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday December 27, 2019 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday December 27, 2019 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday December 27, 2019 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tara Betts - S8 E6

  • Thursday December 26, 2019 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday December 26, 2019 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday December 26, 2019 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday December 26, 2019 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday December 26, 2019 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday December 26, 2019 4:30 am CT on KETKY

dream hampton - S8 E5

  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 25, 2019 4:30 am CT on KETKY
Top

Season 14

The 'I Was Here' Project

S14 E36 Length 27:42 Premiere Date 8.4.19

Mike Runyon and Sherita Miller; Wendy Kobler

S14 E35 Length 26:57 Premiere Date 7.28.19

Filmmaker Lynn Novik

S14 E33 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 7.14.19

Brent Hutchinson; Christine Thompson - Education

S14 E32 Length 27:37 Premiere Date 7.7.19

Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton - Youth Mental Health

S14 E31 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 6.2.19

Julie Cerel - Youth Suicide Prevention

S14 E29 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 5.19.19

Dale Suttles - Sunrise Children's Services

S14 E28 Length 27:33 Premiere Date 5.12.19

Education in Rural Eastern Kentucky

S14 E27 Length 28:13 Premiere Date 5.5.19

Joshua A. Douglas - Voting Rights Reform

S14 E25 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 4.21.19

Jay Box - Ky. Community & Technical College System

S14 E24 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 4.14.19

Author and Life Coach Colene Elridge

S14 E23 Length 26:19 Premiere Date 4.7.19

FIRST STEP Act - Criminal Justice Reform

S14 E22 Length 27:44 Premiere Date 3.31.19

Cheryl A. Oldham

S14 E21 Length 26:38 Premiere Date 2.22.19

Linda Hampton - Early Childhood

S14 E20 Length 29:47 Premiere Date 2.15.19

Donald Mason

S14 E19 Length 26:34 Premiere Date 2.8.19

Community Action Council; First 5 Lex

S14 E18 Length 28:53 Premiere Date 2.1.19

Seamus Carey

S14 E17 Length 26:57 Premiere Date 1.25.19

Michael Benson

S14 E16 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 1.18.19

Dr. Aaron Thompson

S14 E14 Length 28:13 Premiere Date 1.11.19

Mary Todd Lincoln and Lincoln Lexington Walking Tour

S14 E13 Length 28:55 Premiere Date 12.14.18

Youth Suicide

S14 E12 Length 29:22 Premiere Date 12.7.18

Jean Schumm and Amanda Gale

S14 E11 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 11.16.18

M. Christopher Brown II

S14 E10 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 11.9.18

Frank Harris

S14 E9 Length 25:17 Premiere Date 11.2.18

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr

S14 E8 Length 29:16 Premiere Date 10.26.18

Amy McGrath

S14 E7 Length 29:02 Premiere Date 10.19.18

Kevin Chapman - Youth Mental Health

S14 E6 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 10.12.18

Carol Cecil; Resa Gonzalez - Youth Mental Health

S14 E5 Length 26:03 Premiere Date 10.5.18

Joe Bargione - Youth Mental Health

S14 E4 Length 28:57 Premiere Date 9.28.18

WKU President Timothy Caboni

S14 E3 Length 28:40 Premiere Date 9.21.18

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi

S14 E1 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 9.14.18

Explore KET