An interview with Christine Cook Mania, M.A., an alumna of the graduate programs we offer in partnership with Antioch University. Christine recently released the book she started writing as her master’s capstone project, Vegan Minded: Becoming a Steward for Animals, People, and the Planet.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Currently, my life centers around just a few things: my family, friends, yoga, good vegan food, and my three furry friends. During the pandemic, my husband and I moved to the Seattle area where we didn’t know a soul, so I have spent a lot of time making friends in our neighborhood and building a strong community over the past couple of years. My dog, Munchie, has helped with this tremendously. We meet people all the time when we walk because he loves people and other dogs. Another way I have built community in my new hometown is by teaching yoga at the local YMCA, which is very much a community-oriented place. I’m currently at a crossroads professionally as I just published my first book, and now I’m considering my next project or position.
What drew you to the field of humane education?
Curiosity. Community. Professional development. I’m a lifelong learner and was feeling stagnant—craving knowledge. I wanted to deepen my understanding of the world. Just by reading the description of the foundational courses (Animal Protection, Environmental Ethics, Human Rights, and Culture and Change), I knew I wanted to enroll, particularly because the program included animals in the curriculum. The electives were equally interesting to me, especially the Writing for Social Change & Personal Transformation and Just, Good Food courses. It took me a few years to get the timing lined up before I could apply. I also wanted to be a part of a community with folks who were committed to learning and growth. Bringing all this together made for a meaningful and rewarding experience. Not to be cliché, but the humane education master’s program is life-changing in the best way.
Can you recall a transformational course or experience within the graduate program that changed your perspective?
The Writing for Social Change & Personal Transformation was transformative! It was in that class that I found my voice, not only for writing but for speaking my truth and following my heart. When you are receiving a lot of different feedback on your writing, it can be confusing, perplexing, and overwhelming. It’s easy to make changes based on the feedback—the path of least resistance. It is more difficult to sift through the opinions and find what resonates—keeping those nuggets and letting go of the rest. Mary Pat Champeau, the Director of Graduate Programs, was instrumental in helping me to discover what was true for me.
What humane education or solutionary project are you working on now?
While in the program, I started to write personal essays related to each course’s theme, which turned into a capstone project of compiling the essays into a book. I recently self-published it, and it’s titled Vegan Minded: Becoming a Steward for Animals, People, and the Planet. I’m really excited to get the book out in the world.
Vegan Minded is a book about change and my journey to finding and following my north star—veganism. Along the way, I met my husband and became an environmentalist, too. In this book, I examine behavior change—mostly my own—as it relates to the food we eat and how what we eat affects animals, the planet, and people. Vegan Minded is “food for thought.” It is about shifting our mindset so that we live in harmony with everything around us.
Part memoir, part informative guide, Vegan Minded covers topics ranging from vegetarianism to veganism to yoga to diets to dating to climate change to pets and finally to activism. Each topic circles back to looking at the world through a vegan lens.
How do you stay energized and motivated in this work?
Self-care is critical. Of all the things we can do to take care of ourselves, getting a good night’s sleep consistently is important to me. In chapter 19 of Vegan Minded, I write, “Rest when you need it, and act when you are well rested.” When I’m not well rested, I lack energy and motivation. I can’t do my best work when I’m tired. I’m very regimented in my sleep routine because I know how important it is to my well-being. I also practice yoga, walk daily in nature, and eat healthy vegan food.
Share something that has inspired you recently
Lately, I have been inspired by the idea of imagination and practicing it. During the first semester at IHE, we read Sapiens, which changed me. It was by reading that book I had an epiphany about how the world was created—by that I mean, how humans created the world we live in today. I read a lot about the climate emergency and know that we need to do things differently if we are to address climate change. Using my imagination to create something different does not come naturally to me, so I need to practice imagining solutions and different outcomes than the ones often reported in the media. So, I’m inspired by reading and listening to anyone actively using their imagination to make the world better for everyone—animals, people, and the planet.
Where can people keep up with you and learn more about your work?
Feel inspired? You can read more stories of humane educators in action here.