Core Courses

The core graduate level courses in humane education include coursework in Education, Environmental Ethics, Animal Protection, Human Rights, and Culture and Change, as well as a one-week intensive Summer Residency held at IHE’s oceanfront campus in Surry, Maine.

Students see themselves as transformational leaders and educators, seeking to create long-lasting change through a solutions-oriented approach. They are passionate about the roles of education and changemaking in the 21st century and want to contribute to redefining the purpose of education and to creating systemic change.
The following core courses are a required part of all humane education programs:

Introduction to Humane Education (3 Credits)

An introduction to the field through exploration of innovative educational philosophies and methods, effective ways to approach teaching and learning, and positive communication skills and conflict resolution. As a foundational course, students examine how they can more fully model their message as an educator and citizen and bring the underlying concepts of good communication and teaching to bear on important issues of human rights, environmental ethics, animal protection, and changemaking.

Environmental Ethics (3 Credits)

This course covers a wide range of environmental issues, including global climate change, population, endangered species, pollution, and resource and energy use. The course offers a solutions-oriented approach, balancing the study of environmental problems with positive ideas for creating sustainable and restorative systems that benefit people, animals, and the earth. The course examines how we might learn and teach about environmental issues in a manner that encourages people to approach challenges in ways that foster solutions that work for all.

Animal Protection (3 Credits)

This course covers a wide range of animal issues, including animal agriculture, experimentation, hunting and trapping, companion animal concerns, and wildlife trafficking. The course explores different philosophies regarding the inherent rights of sentient animals to be free from exploitation and abuse and encourages students to grapple with and determine their own ethics regarding nonhuman animals. The course further examines ways in which humans, animals, and ecosystems can be protected for the good of all and helps students develop techniques for learning and teaching about complex issues in a positive manner that invites dialogue and positive solutions.

Human Rights (3 Credits)

This course examines a broad range of human rights issues, including modern slavery, child and sweatshop labor, genocide, racism, and civil rights. This course also examines acts of human courage, compassion, and kindness. It invites students to find in themselves, and others, sources of deep and abiding humaneness, both as models of human goodness, and as examples for exploring how we can solve our conflicts and thrive without oppressing and exploiting others. Finally, the course examines links between forms of cruelty and oppression and uncovers solutions that will benefit humans, nonhumans, and all people, while also benefiting the environment and other species.

Culture and Change (3 Credits)

This course explores the many ways in which cultural norms influence ideas, beliefs, and actions and explores how changemaking happens. Covering social psychology, consumerism, media, marketing economics, and politics, this course provides a foundational overview for understanding the ways in which people are shaped by their culture. This course enables students to become aware of the influences in their own lives and to become effective at giving others the tools to think critically and creatively. By recognizing the ways in which our thoughts and behaviors are often molded by culture, students gain the ability to determine more consciously their behaviors and actions and to create positive change.

Master's Thesis

In addition to completing the Core Courses and Summer Residency, students in the M.Ed. and M.A. programs must also complete a master’s thesis. The thesis represents not only the culmination of the student’s studies, but also a creative, professional, and/or research-based contribution to the field of humane education. The topic must be professionally and socially relevant, challenging, and appropriate for the student’s vision. The thesis project will also demonstrate the ability to integrate theory, research skills, academic course work, professional experience, and goals.

Non-Degree Option

Students interested in taking a single humane education graduate course can apply as a “non-degree student.” For details, please contact


Two three-credit electives are required in the master’s degree programs. Elective options offered by IHE include Creative Activism, Just, Good Food, and Writing for Social Change. Valpo electives are also available options.