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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. 

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Scholarship Recipients

July 16, 2015 Announcement from Dean Jeff Rutenbeck: I'm pleased to announce this year's recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships: Shayna Muller and Sam Sheline.

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.


Shayna Muller is currently pursuing her MA in Film and Video. With a bachelor's degree in Natural History and Interpretation from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, she hopes to pursue a career creating environmental media to educate and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship in her audiences. Shayna co-produced the documentary Chesapeake Villages,which has been aired on Maryland Public Television and has received many distinguished honors including a Student Emmy from NATAS National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter. Shayna accompanied the Cross-Cultural Film Production class on a trip to witness the awakening of the monarch butterflies from torpor in Mexico. This experience is one she will always remember as she continues to work on her thesis project, an animated short in the narrative style of Disney's Fantasia about monarch butterfly conservation. 


Sam Sheline will be starting his second year of the MFA in Film and Electronic Media at American University in the fall. He came to filmmaking as an ardent film lover, environmentalist, and biologist. He believes firmly in the power of film to inspire people of all kinds to protect the imperiled natural world on which we all depend. Sam is currently working on two documentaries: one about an ill-conceived American history theme park Disney planned to build in the early '90s and another about amphibian extinctions in Central America. He will fly to Panama in August to shoot for this second project. Sam's short film on oyster aquaculture, Add One Back, was featured in the 2015 DC Environmental Film Festival, and he recently helped teach the first ever Documentary Film class at a Duke University summer camp for gifted high school students.

Congratulations to Shayna and Sam 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.