Filmmaker first UAB alum to get lucrative graduate award

UAB alum gets Jack Kent Cooke graduate fellowship.

Ingrid Pfau, a May graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award. She is the first UAB alumna to receive this fellowship.

Ingrid Pfau. Download image.

“I was surprised,” said Pfau, who was about to accept a student loan for graduate school when she got the call that she won the award. “I wasn’t expecting it. I am so honored that they have faith in me.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was established in 2000 through the will of the prominent businessman, sportsman, philanthropist and self-made billionaire. The award is given to students with “exceptional artistic or creative promise and significant financial need” to pursue up to three years of graduate study in the United States or abroad. Awards can be as much as $50,000 annually. This year, 10 recipients were selected from a highly competitive, nationwide pool.

Pfau, a 22-year-old Birmingham native, received her bachelor’s degree in environmental science filmmaking, an individually designed major. She will pursue her masters of fine arts in science and natural history filmmaking at Montana State University in the fall. Her goal is to make films for National Geographic or the Discovery Channel and ultimately become an independent filmmaker.

“Ingrid is one of the most talented and creative students the University Honors Program has recruited in recent years,” said Michael Sloane, Ph.D., UHP director. “She has a unique sensibility that is communicated in her films, and she has a strong passion for nature.”

While at UAB, Pfau was awarded the University Honors Program’s William M. and Virginia B Spencer Scholarship and was the inaugural recipient of the Steven C. Smith Discovery Scholarship, which is given to a student who excels academically and serves in the community. She also received the prestigious Gilman International Scholarship for a UAB study-abroad program in which she completed the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail across northern Spain this past summer.

Pfau has worked on many notable film projects including ones about the Camino de Santiago, diamondback turtles with UAB biology professor Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., and on the effects of ocean acidification on adult sea urchins with James McClintock, Ph.D., UAB Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine Biology. Her film with Linh Tran on the endangered watercress darter fish premiered to great acclaim at the McWane Science Center’s IMAX dome theater, was noted in The Birmingham News and selected for screening at Birmingham's Sidewalk Film Festival. It was also highlighted as part of a lecture on the environment in connection with UAB's 2008-09 Freshmen Discussion Book on global warming.

Pfau received the Digital Community Studies Chair Award and was inducted into Phi Sigma Biological Honors Society and the Phi Kappa Phi International Honors Society.

Her parents are Ingrid and Louis Pfau of Birmingham.