In addition to being the founder of the Humane Education Committee and a leader in the comprehensive humane education movement, Megan is a colleague, friend, former IHE staff member, and student in our M.Ed. program. We are excited to feature this interview with her for our blog.
IHE: You created the Humane Education Coalition (HEC). What need were you seeking to fill?
Megan: My career began in 2005, and I’ve had the privilege of working for many organizations across the U.S. Along my professional journey, a few trends became apparent to me: the need for more research to support humane education and its efficacy; increased opportunities for collaboration and funding; and the importance of building credibility for the field. I thought there may be more effective ways for education organizations to thrive, especially when faced with such similar obstacles.
A few years ago, I met with several other educators and nonprofit colleagues to consider these trends. During our meeting, I asked the group, “Is there anything we can do better together?” Collectively, I think we felt compelled to collaborate with humane education organizations around the world, to further some common goals and potentially achieve a greater impact. Not long after this transformative meeting, in 2017, the Coalition was created with the mission of advancing the field of humane education. With this mission in mind, we’ve established a global network of more than 100 partners in 26 countries and developed several programs and initiatives to support the incredible work happening in this field.
IHE: You launched the first virtual Humane Summit, which we’ve highlighted here in our blog. Have there been outcomes from the Summit that you’re particularly excited about and want to share?
Megan: Our first Humane Summit was a great success. It was a pleasure learning, sharing, and connecting with a global community of nearly 600 participants. This free speaker series featured 27 sessions from 46 education experts in animal protection, social justice, and environmental ethics. Participants found our short sessions to be highly concentrated, diverse, and inspiring.
The Summit provided a platform for humane educators to connect, share ideas, and collaborate to further our unified goals. I think we can feel detached or isolated in this field, and the Summit built a virtual bridge to bring us together and remind us of all the good happening around the world—brilliant work, passionate people, and positive change for all living beings and the planet we share.
The rich conversations that took place at the Summit helped us understand what humane educators need and how we can continue to produce meaningful events at HEC. Participants at future Summits can expect more of the engaging panel discussions as well as relevant speaker session, with themes including how to create stronger programs, the importance of humane education in higher education, research priorities, and building connections among humane education sectors. Additionally, because accessibility is a core value at HEC, we intend to keep this unique event free for participants.
A special thanks to Zoe for joining us on the panel discussions and sharing her expertise and insight with our participants!
IHE: What are your short-term and long-term goals for HEC? What accomplishments are you most excited about?
Megan: We’re currently in our second year of a five-year strategic plan that serves as a roadmap for our programs, support, and organizational development. In our founding year, we conducted an extensive feasibility assessment and environmental scan to help us understand the challenges and needs of prospective partners around the world. This seven-month assessment period helped lay the foundation for HEC to build a global partner network and establish programs and initiatives that we believe will be most beneficial for our partners.
Following our feasibility assessment, HEC developed its four-pillar approach to advance the field of humane education. This approach guides our work and helps us maintain strategic coherence:
- Collaborate: We work with a global partner network to achieve groundbreaking initiatives and support their work.
- Educate: We provide quality educational opportunities that help improve the practice of humane education, including the Humane Summit and video series.
- Empower: We provide resources to assist partners with developing humane education programs, including grants, consulting, an academic journal, and our resource toolkit.
- Inspire: We recognize distinguished contributors to the field of humane education and generate awareness through strategic public relations activities, including accreditation, excellence awards, and our podcast.
Although some of these programs are still in development, I’m pleased with the significant progress we’ve made in our first two years. There is so much to look forward to as we continue to grow.
One initiative I’m particularly excited about is a research study we’re conducting with several partners, including the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) at the University of Denver. We’re seeking to assess the state of humane education in United States schools by disseminating a nationwide survey for PreK-12 teachers and administrators. More than 800 teachers have responded so far, and the preliminary findings are fascinating. While we aren’t able to share the final results just yet, we can share that the trends from this study will certainly inform our collective work in the field of humane education. We hope to wrap up the study soon, with the goal of sharing a summary of the results later this year.
IHE: In addition to your daily work in humane education, you’re also a student in our graduate program. How has your experience in IHE’s graduate program helped and informed your work?
Megan: The IHE graduate courses have been directly applicable to my work at HEC. The meaningful learning experiences at IHE inform my work at HEC by helping me view global challenges from multiple perspectives and consider new approaches to solving those challenges. I’m consistently impressed with the quality of the courses and the insight of the IHE faculty. The thought-provoking reading list and engaging salons encourage deep reflection and systems thinking. These systems-thinking skills are relevant to my work as a humane educator as well as a nonprofit leader.
I’ve also cultivated meaningful relationships with fellow IHE students and have found exciting opportunities to support the work of humane educators on a global level. I’m confident this program will continue to promote my professional growth and embolden a more purposeful, values-driven life. I appreciate this opportunity to join many of my colleagues and friends on the IHE journey, and I look forward to furthering our collective work to create a more compassionate, just, and sustainable world through education.
IHE: Where do you see humane education heading in the coming decade?
Megan: I see the coming decade as a period of growth and strength for the field of humane education. We know the need for humane education is urgent, given the unprecedented global crises we face. In working with hundreds of humane educators around the world, however, I have a rare perspective of our field and can recognize both the complex challenges we all face as well as the tremendous global progress and a widespread sense of hope. Humane educators are resilient, committed, and deeply passionate. That energy is contagious, and it can be felt in all aspects of our work at HEC.
So what’s next for humane education? I think we’ll see an increase in research supporting humane education, including the development of evaluative metrics we can all utilize to support our programs. I’m also hoping we start to see the growth of humane education in undergraduate-level teacher preparation programs and other such disciplines. Additionally, I think we’ll see a shift toward in-school programs, such as IHE’s Solutionary Program, that equip educators with the tools to teach students about interconnected issues and empower them to develop healthy, just, and humane solutions. Finally, I’m confident we’ll experience a rise in collaboration among organizations working in this field as we discover the power and benefits of working together to achieve our common goals.
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