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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. 

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SOC Palmer Scholarship Recipients 2013-2014

Scholarship Recipients

June 24, 2013 Announcement from Dean Jeff Rutenbeck: I’m pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship: Sarah Gulick and Erin Finicane.

The scholarship was recently set up by Professor Chris Palmer and his wife, Gail Shearer, to honor Chris’s parents. Chris and Gail made a $50,000 donation to SOC to establish 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, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking.

Sarah and Erin, both MFA students, have fellowships through the Center for Environmental Filmmaking with the National Park Service, and are completing their thesis work in partnership with the NPS. They have developed an award-winning web film series titled America's Wilderness that celebrates the diversity of ecological values and human experiences within wilderness designated areas, the highest level of federal land protection in this country. To see films from the ongoing series, visit youtube.com/NPSWilderness.

Sarah is also working with the National Park Service on a video series about natural sound and soundscape protection. She has recently returned from being a Center for Environmental Filmmaking media mentor with Ocean for Life, a NOAA program that engages youth from the USA and the Middle East in cultural exchange and environmental education. She has worked internationally creating a film celebrating the sea turtle conservation efforts of a small village in Belize, and is excited to continue working on projects using sea turtles as ambassadors for our oceans. Sarah is driven to create projects and share stories that inspire positive excitement, engaging local youth and communities in celebrating unique cultures and conservation success stories and role models.

Erin specializes in transmedia advocacy and outreach, using digital storytelling as a tool to raise awareness and impact positive social change on issues relating to the environment and social justice. Before her work on the NPS Wilderness series, Erin coordinated an outreach initiative on affordable housing in Washington, D.C., producing a series of educational videos on tenants’ rights, developing bilingual discussion guides, and facilitating public forums around issues relating to affordable housing in the city. She now hopes to apply her expertise in community engagement to environmental and wildlife conservation effort by producing media and developing outreach that encourages audiences to become agents of change in their own communities.

Congratulations to Sarah and Erin for earning the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships for this year.

Jeff Rutenbeck
Dean, SOC

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.