CoJMC alums lead Lincoln Rotary Club

CoJMC alums lead Lincoln Rotary Club

Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 11:15am
Mark Stephens
Stephens is a 1983 advertising alumnus.
Jennifer Brinkman
Brinkman is a 1993 broadcasting alumna.

by Molly Chapple

One College of Journalism and Mass Communications alum has followed another as leader of the downtown Lincoln Rotary Club.

Jennifer Brinkman, a 1993 broadcasting alumna and 2017-2018 club president, follows Mark Stephens, a 1983 advertising alumnus and the previous year’s president who was awarded outstanding club president at the Rotary District Conference this past August.

The Rotary Club is part of a network of nearly 35,000 clubs worldwide. Together they work on global initiatives such as eradicating disease, providing literacy and education and bringing peace globally.

“We had a very successful year in our club,” Stephens said. “We got a lot of things accomplished. I think we had some great momentum and enthusiasm, and of course when you receive an award like that, that is a reflection on the club as a whole.”

As the current Rotary Club president, Brinkman is responsible for setting the goals and vision of the 245-member group that meets at noon each Tuesday at the Nebraska Club.

At a local level, Brinkman said, the Lincoln Rotary Club #14 tries to promote peace through programs such as the Rotary Youth Exchange, in which community members host students from different countries around the globe. The club also hosts an international student picnic where international students from Nebraska colleges enjoy an American cookout and get to know other international students from around the state.

The club has developed a long-term partnership with Everett Elementary School in Lincoln., where Rotary sponsors a ukulele club and members visit the school on Thursdays to have lunch with the students, offering them advice and answering questions.

“We are really trying to give them some life skills and introduce them to some things that they would never have been introduced to before,” Stephens said.

Brinkman said vocational networking is extremely important to the club. Initially in the early 1900s, the Rotary Club began as a network of people who each represented a different profession, allowing them to make connections with each other.

“By joining the club, you are serving with people who have a wide variety of vocations and careers,” she said. “We still pursue the idea that having those connections to others in different careers could be a good way to advance your own profession.”

Brinkman took an interest in her community when she was an undergraduate at the CoJMC. She was an intern at the Nebraska Legislature and worked part time for then-Sen. Don Wesely, who later became mayor.

“I found those issues working with the senator and mayor interesting and always felt I was making a difference,” Brinkman said. “That interest in community issues has also led me to be a volunteer with organizations in Lincoln.”

In addition to serving as Rotary Club president, Brinkman has served as a Lancaster County Commissioner since January.

Brinkman said her biggest takeaway from the CoJMC was learning how to speak to the public about issues that affect their daily lives.

“From a broadcast perspective, being able to do that in 30 seconds or less has helped me out a lot,” she said. “People’s attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter and we must communicate in short time frames. That’s a skill almost anybody would want to master.”

“We are incredibly proud that our college’s graduates are in leadership roles in Rotary and various other civic organizations,” said CoJMC Dean Maria Marron, also a member of the club. “Jennifer and Mark are amazing leaders and also are incredibly talented and creative individuals who can entertain the entire club with song, dance and other activities. And lots of other CoJMC graduates populate the club. Frosty Critchfield, Randy Hawthorne, Eric Drumheller, and Ryan Dobesh immediately come to mind.”

Stephens now works at his family’s business, Bob Stephens & Associates, where he helps create promotional material for local businesses. Stephens said the courses he took at the CoJMC provided him with a very well-rounded approach to the business world.