Writer • Educator • Theater Artist • Public Speaker • Activist  - Company Message
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Please send e-mail to mstephens AT ithaca DOT edu







Bio
Maura Stephens writes for independent media and speaks on varied subjects including journalism and media, human rights, Iraq, sustainability, international affairs, corporate malfeasance and control, Burma, social justice, theocracy, entrepreneurship, organic farming, food, urban lot reclamation, writing, editing, publishing, and health policy. Since 2008 her primary concentration has been on fracking, the intensely violent industrial activity that is sweeping the planet, spurred by corporate-state collusion and greed and further hastening catastrophic climate change while fracturing Nature and human communities.

An independent writer, theater artist, educator, and activist, Maura began her professional life as a New York City actor, working off-Broadway and off-Broadway and studying at several studios.

Later she learned the craft of journalism during 19 years in various editorial positions at Newsweek and Newsweek International, while simultaneously operating an organic sheep, poultry, and crops farm called Isle of Ewe in central New York State. For many years her climb up the ladder at the magazine was a journalistic dream, and would prepare her well for running later editorial ventures. She worked on stories as varied as the wars in Lebanon and Central America, the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, apartheid and its dismantling in South Africa, the quincentennial of the arrival of Europeans in the "New World," the Japanese stock market, and ongoing feminist struggles in the USA and elsewhere.

During her years on the farm, she grew or traded with neighbors for almost of all her family's food (except rice, spices, and tropical fruits). When she had to leave the farm to live in cities for a while, she studied horticulture and landscape design at Philadelphia's Morris Arboretum (through University of Pennsylvania) and then the New York Botanical Garden.

At NYBG she had the great good fortune (and timing) to become one of the original shapers of Bronx Green-up. This program helped neighborhood residents reclaim trash-strewn, dangerous, abandoned city-owned lots and turn them into urban oases of crops, flowers, trees, songbirds, beneficial insects, and tranquility; to grow and preserve food; and to bring intergenerational neighbors together in healthful exercise and community-strenghthening, property-enhancing, invigorating, rewarding collective work. The program became a model for other such urban gardening programs around the country, and it continues to thrive today.

After leaving Newsweek, Maura cofounded an innovative and financially successful early Internet "e-zine,” raising the launch funding via venture capital investments through personal contacts who believed in her abilities. She also benefited from the professional expertise, enthusiasm, and investment of members of Binghamton (NY) SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a service of the Small Business Administration. She enjoyed this entrepreneurship -- which she describes as the "equivalent of earning an MBA."

From 1997 until mid-2010, Maura was publishing editor of ICView, the magazine of Ithaca College (IC), where she also guest lectured in classes from anthropology to writing, hosted 42 research-writing interns (some of whom are now running their own media ventures), served on numerous committees, and programmed or coprogrammed the visits of distinguished filmmakers, writers, humanists, activists, and alumni in various fields of endeavor. 

In May 2010 she began a new chapter when she was named associate director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, home of the Izzy Awards. She is thrilled to work with founding executive director Jeff Cohen, a champion of independent media, to be collaborating with many dedicated independent newshounds around the country, and to be mentoring students toward careers as non-corporate-tethered journalists. In spring 2011 she taught Multimedia Journalism in the Park School at Ithaca College.

Maura often teaches Participatory (aka Community or Citizen) Journalism, which she prefers to call Witness Reporting. Other teaching experience includes stints at Ithaca's Lifelong Learning (magazine writing) and many community education courses on a variety of subjects.

Weeks before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Maura and her husband, playwright-director-photographer-teacher George Sapio, first visited that country. They fell in love with the people and their culture and published a book, Collateral Damage, about them. Since then Maura has worked to help Iraqi people who have been endangered and misplaced because of this misguided invasion and subsequent occupation. With Rosemary Nuri she cofounded Iraqi Refugees Assistance Connection, dedicated to helping imperiled Iraqis find safe haven and new communities in the USA. Although the organization closed after a few years, both women continue to help Iraqis who made it to the USA and others who are still waiting in Iraq, Jordan, or Syria to be granted asylee status.

After publishing a story about IC janitor Han Lin (left,center) and his brave, inspirational fight for freedom in his homeland, Maura became the chief policy strategist and US spokesperson for the International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma, in which capacities she volunteered several years. Maura is pleased to be an "honorary Burmese" and to have many Burmese colleagues around the globe. (Sadly, the courageous Han Lin passed away in 2008, but his friends and comrades continue the struggle. Aung San Suu Kyi was "freed" in November 2010 after a lengthy incarceration, but many more political prisoners still languish in Burmese jails. Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of the Burmese Parliament and faces a new series of challenges since the USA decided in May 2012 to lift sanctions on the country [for imports but not exports!], freeing the military regime to continue its egregious human rights abuses unchecked and freeing multinational corporations to rush in and begin their own regime of abuse.)

Also in 2003, Maura was fortunate to hear the visionary Joan Bokaer speak. Longtime nuclear disarmament activist and national speaker, founder of Ecovillage at Ithaca, organizer extraordinaire, and gifted researcher, Bokaer founded TheocracyWatch to expose the way the Republican Party politicized the radical religious right. Maura became deeply engaged in this work as well, and served as TheocracyWatch vice president and active member of its speakers bureau for several years. She cautions that although they may not be quite as blatantly visible as during the Bush years, the radical religious rightwing of the GOP is as powerful as ever, or more so.

Maura Stephens as Fern, Robin L. Booth as Holly, Arthur Bicknell as Len, Rachel Hockett as Blossom in Maura still works as a theater (and occasional film/TV) actor, director, and producer and as a voice-over artist. She is a member of Wolf’s Mouth Theatre Collective and other troupes and was a founding member of Icarus Theatre Ensemble (photo, left, as Hazel Hall in Monograms, with Karim Muasher). In spring 2013 she played the part of Theresa (written for her) in the world premiere of George Sapio's play Fault Lines, produced by Wolf's Mouth, and the part of Fern Gold-Dumas in the Homecoming Players' concert reading production of Joni Fritz's In the Car with Blossom and Len (photo, above right). In June 2014 she will reprise that role in a full production. More exciting news for 2014: the Ithaca Fringe Festival is debuting April 24-27, directed by none other than George Sapio, Maura's favorite playwright.

Maura’s community involvement has included Ithaca Rape Crisis/Crime Victim and Sexual Assault Services of Tompkins County (now defunct); the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County; Finger Lakes Progressives; Sustainable Tompkins; the Sustainable Enterprise and Entrepreneur Network; Sustainability Center; Democracy New York; and several independent media alliances and democracy alliances.

Maura is currently busy working alongside grassroots activists in the Coalition to Protect New York, FrackBustersNY, RAFT (Residents Against Fracking Tioga), SAVE S-VE, and other groups to keep unconventional shale-gas drilling (fracking) from poisoning the water, polluting the air, and destroying the health of people and our natural world, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and essentially ruining our chances for survival on the one and only planet we share. Not to get too heavy on ya, but we all need to be paying attention to fracking and fossil-fuel extraction, and working to conserve (use less) energy in our own lives and to press for policies that help us do so (such as more mass transit options, incentives and assistance for insulating our homes, mandating geothermal for new construction, and much more).

A lifelong learner, Maura studied theater arts and creative writing as an undergraduate and horticulture, landscape design, and communications as a grad student. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. In 2010 she was accepted into the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at Union Institute and University. She is a three-time graduate of Democracy School

Media kit with short bios and headshot available at bottom of "Media and Presentations" page.
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