Center Scholars

All undergraduate and graduate students who are actively involved in furthering the Center’s mission are eligible to become Center Scholars. The Center's mission is to create award-winning films, innovative media, and research that raise awareness, amplify diverse voices, promote solutions, and inspire action. Center Scholars are outstanding, passionate, diligent, creativity emerging leaders in the field. Everyone who is interested in wildlife, nature, environmental, conservation science, and climate justice is welcome. Part-time students are also eligible. Grants may be available on a rolling basis for use on capstone and thesis film projects.

To apply, email: For more information, contact Executive Director Maggie Burnette Stogner,

Current Scholars

Crystal Berg

Crystal's thesis documentary will explore climate-induced polar/grizzly bear hybridization in the Canadian Arctic. Working alongside biologists and local guides, this film sets out to examine this rare, yet growing phenomenon, and what is means for the future of polar bears. 

Robert Boyd

Robert's producing a short documentary about the abundant microbial growth, flourishing in kitchens and bathrooms, due to water wastefulness. His film, Table to Toilet: Fueling a Microbial Bonfire, will hold a microscopic mirror up to viewers, showing them the immediate, and close to home effects, of their wasteful water usage.

Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal

Sirjaut is producing a short documentary on the depleting water resources in Punjab, India, where the farmers are struggling to maintain the ecosystem that once was. Covering only a small fraction of the country's land, Punjab provides India with majority of their wheat and rice. This film will delve deep into historical eco-friendly farming practices and explore options for future water conservation.

Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath

Elizabeth's film follows the story of artist Toni Lance who is known as "the bird lady" on the island of St. Croix. She is a strong and committed person and she's really carved out her niche on the island, but the responsibilities and overwhelming nature of caring for such fragile, wild creatures is wearing on her. The looming thought of who will do this when she can't lingers.

Gaby Krevat

Gaby's producing a film about a small community in Montana uniting to oppose two proposed gold mines located at the doorsteps of Yellowstone National Park. The film will discuss the intrinsic and economic value of the Paradise Valley's land, water, and wildlife that attract millions of visitors each year.

Ashley Luke

Ashley's producing a short documentary about the climate refugees of Louisiana's bayou. An area still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Katrina more than 10 years later caused alarming displacement of the coastal region. The documentary will examine how these refugees have adapted to the natural and manmade threats to their environment.

Amelia Tyson

Amelia's film Alabama Water Wars investigates the forces preventing an Alabama state-wide water management plan from being implemented and the women behind the efforts to put one in place. Though the work to put a plan in place is gaining traction, the question remains: will the stakeholders and interests groups be able to come together in time to save the vast and beautiful waterways of Alabama? 

Kent Wagner

Kent is making a film about deforestation in Borneo. It examines the loss and exploitation of the island's natural resources through the eyes of the indigenous Dayak people who have inhabited the rainforests of Borneo for thousands of years. It includes commentary with ecologists, activists, and Dayak elders. The shooting is complete and the film is currently being edited.

2017 Center Scholars
Emma Dacol, Sirjaut Kaur Dhariwal, Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Ashley Holmes, Megan King, Dorian Russel, Sam Sheline, Crystal Solberg, and Kent Wagner
2016 Center Scholars
Vanina Harel, Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Sam Sheline, Kent Wagner, and Nick Zachar
2014-2015 Center Scholars
Vanina Harel, Jamey Warner, and Nick Zachar
2012-2013 Center Scholars
Maria Arreguin, Erin Finicane, Sarah Gulick, Sylvia Johnson, Brian Kelley, Ana Sotelo, Jenny Stratton, and Corin Wilson
2011-2012 Center Scholars
Sarah Gulick, Helenah Svedberg, Jennifer Stratton, Aditi Desai, and Sylvia Johnson
2010-2011 Center Scholars
Aditi Desai, Kai Fang, Jeremy Polk, Irene Magafan, and Sylvia Johnson
2009-2010 Center Scholars
Ellen Tripler, Danny Ledonne, and Shanon Sparks

Kent WagnerKent is making a film about deforestation in Borneo. It examines the loss and exploitation of the island's natural resources through the eyes of the indigenous Dayak people who have inhabited the rainforests of Borneo for thousands of years. It includes commentary with ecologists, activists, and Dayak elders. The shooting is complete and the film is currently being edited.

Research Fellows

Our goal with the Research Fellows program is to recognize and honor
distinguished professionals whose work exemplifies the Center's mission: to inspire a new generation of filmmakers and media experts whose commitment to environmental stewardship drives them to produce creative work that is
informative, ethically sound, entertaining—and makes a positive and measurable difference. The Research Fellow award is accompanied by a $5,000 stipend. 

The Research Fellow will have the following responsibilities during the 12 months following the award: 

  • Give a guest lecture
  • Mentor our current grad students
  • Host events, working closely with Leena, with students/and industry professionals to discuss diversity in environmental filmmaking with an eye toward creating a more inclusive space for future filmmakers

2018 Research Fellow

Aditi Desai

Alum Aditi Desai is the recipient of the Research Fellow award for 2018 at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Aditi is the Director of Multimedia and Assistant Director of Communications at American Bird Conservancy

Aditi has helped fulfill the Center's mission by serving as a role model for emerging environmental filmmakers, facilitating internships with current AU students, and working with students on films for the Center and its partners. 

Aditi is a digital storyteller skilled in producing, editing, and shooting documentaries. She has worked for clients such as The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Prince Charitable Trusts, the National Park Service, and Blue Bear Films. Aditi holds an MFA in Film and Electronic Media from AU and a BA in Psychology from Smith College. She is honored to share stories about passionate people working to manage and protect wilderness and wildlife for future generations.

She is a recipient of the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service, the Pew Leadership Year Fellowship, the Women in Film and Video Carolyn's First Decade Fund Grant, and has won a CINE Golden Eagle, TIVA-DC Peer Awards, and other industry awards. The Culture of Collards, which she produced for the Center, was recently a finalist for Saveur Magazine's best food video. Her films have screened in numerous festivals including the DC Environmental Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival. 

Previous Scholars

Sandy Cannon-Brown

Sandy Cannon-Brown has helped fulfill the Center's mission by serving as a role model for emerging environmental filmmakers, mentoring countless students and young professionals, building Center partnerships with media and non-profit organizations, and working with students on films for the Center and its partners. She is the president of Video Takes Inc. and is an associate director of the Center.

Cannon-Brown taught Environmental and Wildlife Production at American University for six years. Her students won many awards for the work produced under her tutelage, including five student Regional Emmys. In 2011, Cannon-Brown received a University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in an Adjunct Appointment. She currently is assisting former SOC Dean Larry Kirkman on an interdisciplinary initiative that focuses on water issues.

Through her company, VideoTakes, which she founded in 1985, Cannon-Brown has accumulated dozens of top awards in prestigious festivals, including six CINE Golden Eagles. Her personal honors include a Woman of Vision award from Women in Film & Video and individual recognition for scriptwriting and directing from ITVA/TIVA. She currently is working on a film about oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. She'll show a sneak preview of the film on November 19 in the Wechsler Theater as part of Center's 9th Annual Fall Film Series.

Challenge Award: Overcoming Adversity

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking Challenge Award 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 award 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 Maggie Burnette Stogner to develop their presentation. Each one will be videotaped and posted on the Center's website. The goal is to inspire other students, environmentalists, donors and the public.

This prize is non-renewable, and the deadline each year is November 1. Winners will be announced every year by November 15. A faculty committee will judge the entries and grant awards based on the criteria outlined above.

Challenge Prize Winners 2017

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.

2016 Recipients
Doaa Nour, Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath, and Kent Wagner
2015 Recipients
Shannon Lawrence, Will Reid, and Sam Sheline