IHE M.A. graduate Stacey Newland was first drawn to humane education through her love of horses, but that passion soon expanded to other global issues. During Stacey’s graduate work, when she discovered there was no undergraduate program in humane education, she decided to create an introductory online course. Read more about Stacy & her work.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
SN: It was actually my love for horses. I was looking for an online program related to the human-nonhuman animal bond and came upon IHE’s M.A. in Humane Education program at Valparaiso University. After speaking with IHE’s director of education, Mary Pat Champeau, and learning a bit about humane education, I was immediately intrigued and decided to commit myself to the program.
IHE: How has your humane education experience influenced/affected you?
SN: Humane education immediately became the catalyst for spiritual, mental, and emotional growth in my life and continues to influence every decision that I make to this day. In fact, my desire to make MOGO choices only gets stronger and more determined the longer I practice, making the effects of this holistic education long lasting and concrete.
IHE: This summer you created and taught a six-week online humane education course for undergrads. What inspired you to do that?
SN: As soon as I was informed that there was not a humane education undergraduate program in existence, I became passionate about designing an introductory course for undergraduates as a way to jumpstart the beginning of a bachelor’s degree program in humane education at Valparaiso.
IHE: Tell us a bit about the course goals and content.
SN: The primary goals of the course include helping students to learn about humane education and humane issues, to begin to explore the far-reaching effects of their choices, and to become motivated to practice conscientious choice-making and engaged changemaking to create a better world.
The course is organized so that students are using readings, music, films, critical and creative thinking, self-reflective learning and research to develop an understanding and awareness of the global effects of their decisions on the environment, humans, and nonhuman animals and discuss whether these impacts accurately reflect their own personal values. In the final week, they have the opportunity to step out into their own communities and act as a solutionary toward an issue of their choice, thereby bringing the humane education message full circle and inspiring/empowering them to begin the practice of engaged changemaking.
IHE: How did students react to the course?
SN: I was amazed at the positive reactions and feedback I received throughout the course. I feel like I succeeded in striking the right chord in terms of introducing students to humane education in a way that motivated and inspired without overburdening them. This was my biggest priority (and greatest challenge) while designing the course and will continue to be as I move forward as a humane educator.
IHE: What was the biggest lesson you learned, and what from the course did you find most challenging and most inspiring?
SN: One of the most challenging aspects of teaching this course was making sure to stay at an introductory level with the students. Humane education in general covers such a vast array of in-depth and complex topics/issues that it is easy to delve deep very quickly. My goal in this course was to simplify and clarify the basic premise of humane education by introducing students to the idea that every choice they make impacts humans, nonhuman animals, and the planet in some way and to have them begin the practice of deciphering whether these impacts actually reflect their deepest values.
The most inspiring aspect of this course was seeing the changes in perspective as they began the practice of looking at their daily choices through the lens of humane education, followed by their immediate willingness to make changes once they became aware of the true consequences attached to their choices. Honestly, I was moved by the compassion, empathy, and personal responsibility that emerged over the course of the semester.
The biggest lesson I learned as a first time instructor is the virtue of patience. Just when I began to feel like the material may not have been sinking in, or that someone wasn’t doing the work, a student rose up and shared with me a piece of their new-found truth, and I realized the importance of stepping back and allowing for the seed of humane education to take root.
IHE: What are your future plans (and your future plans for the course?)
SN: I would love to design additional concentration courses in order to create a full undergraduate program in humane education. As far as my own course, I have just recently received the incredible news that I will be offering it to Valparaiso University students year round starting in Spring 2014!