The Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship

Former Professor Chris Palmer, Founder of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and his wife Gail Shearer established a $50,000 endowment at American University to support the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship, which was set up in 2013. The scholarship honors Chris's parents, Mavis and Sidney John Palmer.

In order to be considered, applicants should send the following in to Professor Maggie Stogner by July 1:

  1. The completed application form.
  2. A one page essay detailing your aspirations and interest in the field of environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking.
  3. A recent/most updated resume.

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.

The History of Mavis and Sidney Palmer

(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.

2018 Scholarship Recipients

This year's recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarships are Robert Boyd, Mary Alice McMillan, Shannon Shikles, and Amelia Tyson.

Robert Boyd is a second year graduate student in American University's MFA film program. He will apply his monetary award towards furthering his filmmaking education at American University. Robert has filmed wildlife for organizations including the Department of Interior, Ocean Exploration Trust, and the National Park Service. As a filmmaker, Robert is interested in all types of life, with a particular interest in microorganisms.

Mary Alice McMillan is an MFA candidate in American University’s Film and Media Arts program. A North Carolina native, she is passionate about stories of rural America and the intersection between the environment and health. She is developing her thesis film about breast cancer-related genetic disorders and the role that environmental factors play in the study of genetics. Mary Alice hopes to pursue a career as an independent documentary filmmaker and share stories to create positive change.

Shannon Shikles is pursuing her MA in Environmental and Wildlife filmmaking striving to work as a cinematographer on conservation films. She was privileged to work with Audubon Society on avian surveys and hopes to focus on the ocean in future projects. Offering her perspective on human interaction with the natural world incites the passion motivating her in the Film and Media Arts program.

Amelia Tyson is a documentarian who aims to infuse heart and a message of stewardship in the films she creates. She is primarily focused on stories of an environmental nature, hoping to both educate and awaken in viewers a desire to truly care for the earth. This past summer she had the great privilege of being a fellow with the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship program in Alabama, where she produced a short film looking at why Alabama does not have a water management plan and what that means for the state, in the short and long term.

2017 Recipients
Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal and Crystal Solberg
2016 Recipients
Ashley Holmes, Megan King, Kent Wagner and Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath
2015 Recipients
Shayna Muller and Sam Sheline
2014 Recipients
Vanina Harel, Marilyn Stone, Jamey Warner, and Nick Zachar
2013 Recipients
Sarah Gulick and Erin Finicane