The Civic Nebraska Writers Group

A collection of community advocates across the Cornhusker State sharing their thoughts on topics related to civic life.

The Civic Nebraska Writers Group is a collection of community advocates across our state who share their thoughts on topics related to civic life — government, civil discourse, media literacy, community engagement, voting rights, and even democracy in general. Look for new Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns on Friday at and occasionally in local newspapers around Nebraska.

Charlyne Berens, Lincoln
Charlyne, a retired professor and associate dean of the University of Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications, is passionate about the First Amendment and freedom of expression. She also spent 14 years as editor and co-publisher of the Seward County Independent. She has published two books about the Nebraska Legislature and a biography of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). In addition, Charlyne is a member of the Civic Nebraska Board of Advisers.

Our unicameral was built with us in mind
6.14.19: The need for (and the eternal challenge of) separation of powers
8.9.19: Fake news: Much ado about nothing, and a problem for democracy
11.1.19: Retweet after me: Twitter’s ad decision doesn’t attack free speech
1.17.20: One nation, individual
4.3.20: In the age of coronavirus, what gives?
6.12.20: Breaking through and calling the Declaration’s bluff
8.21.20: Out of many, one?
10.30.20: Amid an avalanche of dread, let goodness snowball
1.29.21: In America, the active ingredient is us
4.9.21: Affection or affliction? Our civic choice is fundamental
6.18.21: Not for profit, but for people
Kevin Shinn, Lincoln
A chef, writer, and entrepreneur, Kevin was the owner and executive chef of bread&cup in the Lincoln Haymarket from 2007-17. He is a respected thought leader in Lincoln’s cultural, economic, and civic life. No matter the endeavor, Kevin finds he comes back to the same main pursuits: setting the table, having important conversations, and seeing ideas become reality.

3.8.19: On the menu or in life, change takes listening, learning
1.31.20: Hear, hear! How the simple act of listening builds democracy 
4.17.20: Don’t stop believing – and working to understand others
9.4.20: Beyond the chagrin of losing our smiles
11.13.20: The challenge of our age: moving past our rage
2.12.21: The wisdom of taking a Second Look
4.23.21: Keep the faith – change won’t happen without it
7.2.21: For a change in attitude, we need some altitude
9.17.21: Going to the source – not the symptoms – of civic pain
Astrid Munn, Omaha
Astrid is the Child and Family Managing Attorney at Immigrant Legal Center in Omaha. A native of Scottsbluff, Astrid began her career as a journalist before earning her law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She previously practiced immigration law in the D.C./Baltimore area and personal injury law in Western Nebraska.

3.15.19: ‘Doing a Thing’ only requires you and your ideas

6.7.19: The civic effect of psychological safety
11.21.19: Postcards from the southern border
4.24.20: Walking with the lone wolves, longing to howl with the pack
7.3.20: For community, swipe left on Memeland for a while
9.11.20: Home, grown: 19 years on, a sense of connection, place
2.19.21: Clayton Bigsby & Tusker Monsters: a BIPOC introduction to college
4.30.21: Girl, Plainsplained
7.9.21: Honest mistakes and states of grace
Ronda Graff, McCook
Ronda is a native of Omaha, a graduate of Creighton U. with a degree in journalism, and wife to Jon – a McCook native and high school English teacher. She has lived 25 years in McCook and Southwest Nebraska and is always looking for a word other than “newcomer.” She cherishes her roles as mother to seven children, coordinator for the McCook Community Foundation Fund, and unofficially McCook’s “chief instigator” by writing columns and working relentlessly to get people involved in the community.
2.26.21: Getting others involved, one person at a time



Liz Codina, Omaha
Liz supports local efforts to build thriving communities in the Omaha area. Previously, she worked for nonprofit agencies in program management and development roles. She is among the leaders of the South Omaha Business Association and is vice-president of the Metro Young Latino Professionals Association.

2.21.20: The census is coming. Get counted.
5.8.20: Give grace. We’re in a pandemic.
7.17.20: Overcoming bias and putting in the sweat equity
9.25.20: Midwest living
12.4.20: 2020: a year of resilience
5.14.21: Rolling with the tide
7.22.21: This is home


Dawaune Hayes, Omaha
Dawaune, an artist, journalist, and social entrepreneur, brings people, ideas, and resources together for positive change. Dawaune worked in arts advocacy and communications before joining forces with The Omaha Star, Nebraska’s oldest Black-owned newspaper, and 101.3 FM Mind & Soul Radio to develop NOISE – North Omaha Information Support Everyone – in 2018.
3.6.20: People-sized politics
5.22.20: It’s never too late: Let’s regenerate
10.19.20: Supplant the media slant
12.18.20: Bodies of evidence
3.19.21: The run is done, but the lessons are forever
8.6.21: Existence is enough
Carlos Barcenas, Grand Island
Carlos is a speaker, coach, and facilitator focusing on intercultural leadership development and helping community leaders create a deeper connection across differences and commonalities. He has been a Nebraskan since 1994 and has worked with people from all over the world who now call Nebraska home. He assists immigrants in transition to their new homes, offering English classes, citizenship classes, and leadership development opportunities to find the resources to succeed. He coaches community leaders across Nebraska in intercultural development as well as creating dialogue within organizations and communities about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
3.26.21: Talking about race means getting comfortably uncomfortable
8.22.21: The first steps on the journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion


Tammy Day, Norfolk
Tammy is a business owner and an active community philanthropist and change-maker. Her work focuses on innovative approaches to positive community change, such as Daycos4good, the Youth Philanthropy Contest, and the Philanthropy Council of Northeast Nebraska. Tammy is a mentor, speaker, and trainer who helps people, businesses, nonprofits, and communities learn new ways to give back and make a difference. She is sharing her approach to doing philanthropy differently in her upcoming book, It’s Not Just About the Money: A Practical Guide to Doing More Good.
4.19.19: Create a culture of giving in your community
7.12.19: Build your social capital and build your community
10.4.19: Redefining philanthropy: It’s not just the money
12.27.19: Doing good: Engaging employees in giving back
3.20.20: Engaging the next generation
6.5.20: Beyond the Three Rs: the importance of schools
8.14.20: Your community needs you
10.23.20: If your candidate doesn’t win, all is not lost
12.31.20: As the calendar turns, don’t look back – give back
4.2.21: Expanding, evolving, and redefining our post-pandemic worlds
6.10.21: Hooray for community giving days

Past columns


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