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Palmer Scholarship

The Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship

Professor Chris Palmer, Director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and his wife Gail Shearer have established a $50,000 endowment at American University. The scholarship honors Chris's parents, Mavis and Sidney John Palmer.

Merit scholarships will be awarded annually, to an outstanding graduate student in SOC with an interest in environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Scholarship recipients will be selected by a faculty committee. Committee members will review and evaluate a one-page essay from applicants, detailing the student's aspirations and interest in the field of environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Based on this information, the committee will select a recipient. Applicants should send their resume and a one-page essay (as described above) to Professor Chris Palmer ( by July 1.

Apply for Scholarship | Download Application Form | Past Recipients

Chris Palmer

Scholarship Recipients

This year’s recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships: Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal and Crystal Solberg. Both of these award winners are about to begin the second year of their MFA.

The scholarship was set up in 2013 by Professor Chris Palmer and his wife, Gail Shearer, to honor Chris’s parents. Chris and Gail established an endowment to support the scholarship. Income from the fund is awarded annually, based on merit, to outstanding SOC graduate students with an interest in environmental and wildlife filmmaking. More details here.

Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal is a zoologist and is pursuing her MFA in Wildlife and Environmental Filmmaking in order to bring science and conservation to the forefront of conversations and everyday life. She is interested depicting stories in order for human and wildlife interactions to be environmentally sustainable for future generations. Her past work has included filming bird migrations with field researchers, a short for the Wildlife In Need Center, and is currently directing and producing a film about agriculture practices in Punjab, India.

Crystal Solberg is a visual storyteller who strives to create work of environmental and social significance through creative camerawork, editing, and persistence. Over the past year, she has had the privilege of producing videos for The Humane Society of the United States; working alongside thesis students as they develop their passion projects; and interning as an assistant editor for The Investigative Reporting Workshop. Crystal plans to continue to collaborate on purpose-driven environmental films and greatly expand her own body of work in the years to come.

Congratulations to Sirjaut and Crystal for earning the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships for this year.  


Previous Winners:

2016: Ashley Holmes, Megan King, Kent Wagner and Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath

2015: Shayna Muller and Sam Sheline

2014: Vanina Harel, Marilyn Stone, Jamey Warner, and Nick Zachar

2013: Sarah Gulick and Erin Finicane

The History of Mavis and Sidney John Palmer

SOC Palmer Scholarship Parents

Chris Palmer's parents at Buckingham Palace in 1973 where Chris’s father received a high award from the Queen.

written by Chris Palmer and Gail Shearer
My parents had challenging childhoods, yet they transcended those deprivations and became very successful.
My father, whose father died when he was six, went from being an impoverished child of “working class” parents in Pembroke, Wales, to one of the most powerful men at the top of the British Admiralty. This was no easy accomplishment, especially in such a class-ridden society. He served as head of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, which designs and builds all the warships and submarines for the Royal Navy.
When our three daughters were growing up, my father (their grandfather) told them inspiring stories of his remarkable service in WWII. He used his engineering skills to head a team that solved numerous ship and submarine-related challenges.
My mother was a young woman during WWII and put her brilliant skill at languages to support the war effort. She also served as a volunteer fire warden during bombing raids in Plymouth on the south coast.
She raised four small boys, including my twin brother and me, during post-war rationing in England without today’s modern conveniences. She became a central part of my father’s work community, welcoming with open arms a series of American naval families who were posted to Bath, England, where we lived. Though naturally shy, she learned how to overcome that and became a deeply loved hostess and friend to scores of visiting families.
My parents instilled in me the same values we hold dear at AU—integrity, service, courage, self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, generosity, hard work, creativity, and tenacity.