JIS Employee Goes to Reading University on Chevening Scholarship

Photo: JIS Photographer Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Public Relations Officer, Shari-Ann Palmer.

Story Highlights

  • For the first three years as a student at Wolmer’s High School for Girls, Shari-Ann Palmer would struggle to maintain passing grades.
  • Today, Miss Palmer is preparing to commence a year-long stay in the United Kingdom, beginning September, where she will take up the UK Government’s Chevening Scholarship to read for a Master of Science Degree in Communication for Development, at the University of Reading.
  • “Before I applied, I did research on some of the lecturers and they have done significant work in Africa and some underdeveloped countries, and I am impressed with how their work has impacted communities. I think that through their hands-on experience, I can acquire knowledge that can be used in Jamaica, particularly in rural development,” Miss Palmer tells JIS News.

For the first three years as a student at Wolmer’s High School for Girls, Shari-Ann Palmer would struggle to maintain passing grades.

Improvement came with the support of her mother and her school’s guidance counsellor, but still she describes herself as having been just an average student.

Today, Miss Palmer is preparing to commence a year-long stay in the United Kingdom, beginning September, where she will take up the UK Government’s Chevening Scholarship to read for a Master of Science Degree in Communication for Development, at the University of Reading.

“I don’t think I have really come to terms with the magnitude of it, but I am elated, excited and ecstatic, but with a little tinge of anxiety about what lies ahead,” the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Public Relations Officer says.

She explains that while she did not recognise it at the time, the death of her father shortly before she started high school not only challenged her Christian faith but also significantly impacted her academic performance.

“I grew up in a happy family, and being an only child, I was the centre of attention. All of that changed with the death of my father, when my mother really struggled to even send me to school,” she adds.

However, drawing on an intrinsic drive to be successful, as well as on the support of her mother and church family, Shari-Ann excelled in her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and matriculated to the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), where she read for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication, with specialisation in Radio.

She was consistently an honours student and graduated cum laude in 2012.

She then accepted a summer intern position at the JIS, which later became full-time occupation as an Assistant Television Producer.

In 2014, having distinguished herself in the organisation, she was offered promotion to a Public Relations Officer, which included managing communication campaigns on behalf of government ministries, departments and agencies.

These roles, which she notes gave her a deep appreciation of the importance of media to the country’s growth and development, are what inspired her to pursue Communications in Development.

“Working at the JIS, being on the road, interacting with people at the grassroots level… seeing the whole work of Government and getting people to respond to programmes and policies and to understand how it translates to them and how it benefits them [made me want to focus on how communication can drive development],” she says.

The modules in the master’s programme will cover areas such as poverty and inequality, gender, governance and accountability, climate change and food security.

“Before I applied, I did research on some of the lecturers and they have done significant work in Africa and some underdeveloped countries, and I am impressed with how their work has impacted communities. I think that through their hands-on experience, I can acquire knowledge that can be used in Jamaica, particularly in rural development,” Miss Palmer tells JIS News.

One of her goals after completing the degree is to partner with the relevant stakeholders to start a communication for development degree programme at her alma mater, NCU, which she believes will be valuable in getting communicators to focus their skills at the community level locally.

Miss Palmer says she is looking forward to being exposed to the new and varied culture of the United Kingdom as well as the opportunity to travel to other areas in Europe.

She is a Sunday-school teacher and Home Bible Study Officer, and holds a place on the national body of the Regional Evangelism and Mission (REAM) Team with her church, Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic. She is also a member of the National Youth Committee of the organisation.

Miss Palmer is one of 14 Jamaicans who were selected for the 2017-18 Chevening Scholarships.

The British High Commission, in a statement, said the scholarships are awarded to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential, who also have strong academic backgrounds.

The scholarship offers full financial support for individuals to study for any eligible master’s degree at any UK university.

Miss Palmer believes her genuine passion and desire to be able to positively impact her home country is what earned her a place among the 14.

“What it means for me is that I am limitless. This, to me, was one of the major things on my to-do list, and the fact that I have accomplished it says to me that there is nothing I can’t accomplish once I put my mind to it and put in the work,” she says.

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