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 CivicNebraska.org 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.
2.22.19: 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
Jordan Martin, Crete
Jordan teaches social studies to seventh- through twelfth-graders at Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools. Jordan also moonlights as an assistant one-act drama coach in the fall and a speech judge in the spring. In his spare time, he enjoys ping-pong, video games, and traveling.
3.1.19: Happy Birthday, Nebraska – and thanks, George
5.24.19: Graduation is a declaration of independence, and hope
8.16.19: Optimism at the start of a new school year
11.8.19: Rejecting echo-nomics and crossing the political divide
1.24.20: Keep the fire burning. Register to vote.
4.10.20: In what feels like a helpless time, be helpful anyway
6.19.20: Confronting racism, from town to country
8.31.20: In our new normal, a new definition of ‘self-control’
11.6.20: Republican or Democrat, the vote has been a success
2.5.21: Begone, QAnon: Let’s augment reality
4.16.21: Finishing strong
9.10.21: It’s all on the line, Nebraska, and we can do better
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.
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