Challenge Prize: Overcoming Adversity

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking Challenge Prize is an annual competition open to second year SOC graduate students who have overcome (or are overcoming) challenges and adversity in their lives (such as poverty, marginalization, racism, or personal tragedy) and plan to use environmental and wildlife media to make the world a better place.

Three to five graduate students will be selected. Successful applicants will each receive a $3,000 prize. The intent of this prize is to provide funding for the creation of environmental and wildlife media.

Applicants must be in good academic standing in a SOC graduate program (min. 3.5 cumulative GPA), and be committed to making environmental media that aim to influence personal behavior or public policy.

To apply, applicants are required to:

  1. Submit a resume.
  2. Submit a letter of recommendation from an AU faculty member.
  3. Provide a personal statement up to two-pages double spaced that addresses the adversities that they have overcome (or are currently facing).
  4. Provide a synopsis (no more than 300 words) of their envisioned media project.

A condition of the award is that all awardees give an inspirational five-minute presentation in the Doyle/Forman Theater at a Center for Environmental Filmmaking event reflecting on how they will use media to change the world. Awardees will have the opportunity to work with Professor Chris Palmer to develop their presentation. Each one will be videotaped and posted on the Center's website. The goal is to practice effective public speaking and inspire other students.

This prize is non-renewable, and the deadline each year is October 1. Winners will be announced every year by October 21. A faculty committee will judge the entries and grant awards based on the criteria outlined above.

Challenge Prize Winners 2017

Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal (left), Professor Chris Palmer (middle), Crystal Solberg (right)

Congratulations to School of Communication graduate students Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal and Crystal Solberg, for each winning a Challenge Prize from the Center for Environmental Filmmaking for combating adversity.

Sirjaut and Crystal will receive $3,000 each.

Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal is a second-year MFA candidate pursuing a degree in Film and Electronic Media, with a concentration in Environmental and Wildlife Filmmaking. Her goal is to change the face of the natural history and wildlife film industry by bringing more voices to the forefront of storytelling. This is an industry that celebrates different voices, human and animal, but there is a lack of diverse filmmakers. In a Caucasian male dominated world, Sirjaut hopes to break the norm and show young girls with all different backgrounds that their stories about their environments are worthy of being told, and worthy of being told by themselves.

Crystal Solberg is a second-year MFA candidate pursuing an MFA in Film and Electronic Media with an emphasis on environmental and wildlife filmmaking. In the past, she has had the pleasure of producing work for the Humane Society of the United States, and is currently an associate producer for National Geographic. Growing up in Minnesota with her six siblings, Crystal developed a love for dense forests, lakes, and the wildlife that share these spaces. Her free time is spent exploring and attempting to capture the beauty of the wild world through stills and moving images.

Their selection is a testament to their hard work, tenacity, and perseverance, as well as to their determination to make creative films on conservation that matter, that make a difference, and that make the world a better place.