Civil Society and Media in the Urban Landscape
B.A., June 2010, Summa cum Laude
Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship
Diego Hidalgo Scholarship for Political Science/International Affairs
Belle Zeller Scholarship
John Jay College’s Interdisciplinary StudiesProgram Award for Excellence, Distinguished Service Award, and Keith L.T. Wright Service Award
In 2007, frustrated by the hour-long commute to go only eight miles from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to the city’s Murray Hill section, Heather McCown initiated a campaign to restore ferry service and established a grassroots, community-driven, nonprofit organization called Sunset-Ridge Waterfront Alliance, saying, “I am dedicated to bringing back sustainable transportation in the form of ferry service to the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge. With proper access and community support, we will have a sustainable waterfront culture that will transform our city’s waterline.”
In fall 2009 she was not only appointed as a member to Brooklyn’s Community Board 10, but her hard work paid off: Bay Ridge’s 69th Street Pier is on its way to becoming a boating destination and transit hub thanks to a $300,000 allocation. The city will acquire a floating dock and rig it to the pier, welcoming kayakers and boaters, and eventually the “Eco Dock,” as it is now being called, will offer ferry service to and from Manhattan.
McCown was a professional dancer performing all over the country and parts of Europe before she hung up her pointe shoes and returned to college in 2006. She designed her unique concentration with Prof. Amy Green, Interdisciplinary Studies, John Jay College using undergraduate and graduate courses from Hunter, John Jay and the CUNY School of Professional Studies, in anthropology, geography, history, speech, urban studies and women’s studies. In addition to courses from John Jay’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, she included two independent studies, one called Afloat: Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Ferry Service in NYC, the other Public Transportation, Public Discourse.
Aside from her work on sustainable transportation, McCown has been organizing CUNY events to support the people of Darfur. For this she was awarded John Jay’s first Keith L.T. Wright Service Award. In 2009, she was also named a Belle Zeller Scholar: the Belle Zeller Scholarship is awarded to full-time CUNY students with GPAs of 3.75 or better who have extensive records of service to the community and exhibit leadership potential.
In her last semesters, McCown turned her focus to media courses, including an independent study in advanced reporting; some of her stories were published in the John Jay Sentinel. Because she believes that the future of advocacy will be digitally-driven, she has been using Hunter’s resources for video production, post-production and media theory to develop skills in using media as a tool to connect her ideas of social responsibility with a larger audience.
McCown does not consider the achievement of the Eco Dock as the end of her work, but the beginning; she continues to work for sustainable transportation in the city and elsewhere, and has worked to have it be part of the city’s PlaNYC 2030. After graduation, she sees herself working to integrate media studies with grassroots initiatives in order to help build a dynamic network that allows a real-time connection with education, funding and volunteers to create a cohesive global community.
She says: “CUNY Baccalaureate has been invaluable to me; it gave me a CUNY-wide lens with which to view the world and transform it.”