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.
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?

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 this winter. Register to vote.
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, voting has been a success

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

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

Andy Long, McCook
Andy, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp., leads community efforts to facilitate the formation, retention, attraction, and expansion of businesses in the McCook area. He served five years as vice president of McCook Community College, where he helped restart the Hormel Entrepreneurship Program and launch the McCook College Leadership Program. He also is the director of Cultivate Rural Leaders, a nonprofit organization providing rural communities and organizations with leadership education.
3.22.19: A devotional for democracy
5.17.19: Here’s how to supercharge civic education in Nebraska
9.6.19: Leadership beyond agendas and the status quo
11.28.19: Shopping locally: A source of civic power
George Norris, the Great War, and political courage
Confront this brutal reality – but have faith in the story’s end
7.10.20: This election year, take action beyond the factions
9.18.20: My country, right or wrong?

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.
Give grace. We’re in a pandemic.
7.17.20: Overcoming bias and putting in the sweat equity
9.25.20: Midwest living

Rebecca Svec, Milligan
Rebecca, the marketing coordinator for Fortify Group of Shickley, Geneva, and North Platte, grew up on a dryland farm in Gage County and now enjoys life on a farm near Milligan. Her career in journalism, communications, and marketing has put her in the middle of interesting stories in communities around the state. Rebecca spent the first part of her career in newspapers, including the Hastings Tribune and Lincoln Journal Star. She then served as director of communications at Doane University before joining Fortify Group in 2013.
4.12.19: Civic service in the sharing of grief (and pie)
7.5.19: For this future, no DeLorean necessary
In Exeter-Milligan’s ‘electoral college,’ lessons in civic health
An echo in time and a march through history

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
It’s never too late: Let’s regenerate
Supplant the media slant: Identify, verify, and diversify your news

Melissa Garcia, Broken Bow
Melissa, community affairs manager at Black Hills Energy, is a native of Broken Bow. She has taken on a number of roles in her community, including leading in the area’s economic development that has included the creation of over 200 new jobs and over 30 new businesses through a community-oriented plan. Melissa has contributed to TEDxLincoln, the University of Nebraska System President’s Advisory Council, and the Rural Futures Institute Community Innovations project.
3.13.20: The third ecosystem
Atop our voice: Listening, learning, and acting for community
8.7.20: How change hangs in the balance (and the imbalance)
10.16.20: Confronting change: Lessons from a brave and proud people

Tammy Day, Norfolk
Tammy and her husband Brandon own and operate Daycos Inc., which provides revenue management for transportation service providers across the country. Tammy’s work focuses on Daycos4Good, which uses the business as a force for good in the world.  She is a member of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and is active in the Connie Fund, Stand for Schools, and Women’s Network of Nebraska.
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
Everyone can make a difference: engaging the next generation
Beyond the Three Rs: the importance of schools in a community
Your community needs you
If your candidate doesn’t win, all is not lost


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