Tracey Katof, IHE M.A. student, is passionate about becoming a leader who inspires change for a more peaceful global community. Tracey has made her impact through the fitness and performing arts communities in New York City as a choreographer, dancer, personal trainer, and now bodybuilder. She is specifically dedicated to passing on the knowledge that a plant-based diet is not only optimal for the health and happiness of humans, but is also a critical first step to facing the world’s most pressing environmental and ethical issues. We asked Tracey to tell us about her humane education journey.
IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?
TK: There have been so many of these moments and experiences in my life where I learn something that completely contradicts society’s common knowledge, ideas, concepts, and norms. I have come to realize that inaccurate information is everywhere, and it has resulted in massive societal fallacies. Fortunately, I have also begun to learn that the innovation of sustainable ideas, practices, and methods are being developed worldwide to create positive change. These innovations, or solutions, are relevant to every problem that we face today and every economic, political, and social practice that no longer serves us. I am led down this path of humane education because it provides the tools to implement these solutions in any and every industry on earth. What else would I want from my education? Someday we won’t call it “humane education.” It will just be “education.”
IHE: Share one or two of the ways that you’re currently manifesting humane education.
TK: As a vegan athlete and dancer, I hope that I am representing how one can thrive on a plant-based diet. Also, as a choreographer my creative projects focus on video and stage productions that relate to social, environmental, and animal protection issues. I have had the great pleasure of collaborating with amazing solutionary artists, especially choreographer/producer James Koroni and director Terri Muuss.
IHE: Share a success story.
TK: After graduating with a B.A. in dance from Hofstra University, I set off to start my dance career. Within my first summer in the “real world” some back and hip discomfort that had started while in school developed into agonizing pain. The pain turned out to be caused by a stress fracture and bulging disc in my lumbar spine. Determined not to give up, I met with one of the best spine doctors to help me recover. I was told that I would “be in pain every day” for the rest of my life and that I should stop dancing and refrain from intense activity … second opinion please! A few weeks later, I received the same diagnosis from another respected doctor. I decided to do the exact opposite of their advice. I was on a mission to rehabilitate myself through core strengthening, Pilates and weight training. I have definitely had my ups and downs the past few years, but slowly, I slipped out of the chronic pain. I am grateful to be a strong plant-based athlete and dancer. Currently I am preparing for my first body building competition in April of 2015!
Despite discouraging circumstances, I knew that there was a way to pursue my dream by listening to my body, changing my lifestyle to a plant-based one, and improving my physical fitness. Ultimately, as a humane educator I hope to help others discover that similar lifestyle changes can make all the difference for our health.
Here’s a broader success story: a personal training client was recently referred to me after having a knee replacement. I was her first trainer after not working out much for the majority of her adult life. In addition to training, she started cutting down on certain foods, specifically dairy. After only a few months of working together she has increased her balance, mobility, flexibility, and strength. In fact, her fitness level is better than before her surgery. I love the surprise when people realize that lifestyle habits are the key to rehabilitation and overall health.
IHE: What gives you hope for a better world for all?
TK: The question is not “what” gives me hope; it’s “who.” They are the educators, authors, scientists, anthropologists, athletes, journalists, photographers, videographers, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, and doctors who are discovering and implementing sustainable, just, and peaceful practices in their fields. They are the hope of tomorrow, showing up today.
IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?
TK: Humane education is relevant and necessary for any career. IHE cares about customizing the educational experience and curriculum to fit every student’s needs.