An interview with Natalie Amezcua, M.A., an alumna of the graduate programs we offer in partnership with Antioch University. Natalie is now integrating the learnings into her work with New Roots Institute and with RISE Travel Institute, which is run by another IHE alumna.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a humane educator working in the nonprofit sector. I love to travel and have lived, worked, and traveled in multiple capacities worldwide. Engaging in new cultures and communities is a crucial part of my work, and I enjoy unpacking the shared and unique qualities between cultures and understanding how education plays a major role in our personal and social development. I’ve found this to be paramount when studying new ways to create a solutionary and just world. Currently, at New Roots Institute, my role focuses on educating high school and college-level students – both in the US and abroad – about the interconnections of social justice issues embedded within the animal agriculture industry by inspiring critical thinking and thoughtful classroom discussion. Beyond the classroom, I train and prepare students to be effective leaders in the movement to end factory farming, focusing primarily on the Los Angeles region. My professional aspiration is to bridge gaps in equity and promote a healthier, solution-driven world for all through creative educational programs and writing.
What drew you to the field of humane education?
I didn’t know humane education was a thing until I heard about the master’s programs with the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) and Antioch University. Up until that point, I was living abroad and working as an educator, and I felt so lost. I had so many questions and so few answers. Why did society function the way it did? How could so many suffer under its systems while others didn’t bat an eye? I wanted to develop ideas to make the world a better place but had no roadmap for how to do that because I didn’t even understand the road I was living on. After three years of constantly searching online for a program that offered even a fraction of what IHE offers, I stumbled onto the IHE website. I remember reading the description of the master’s program, and within five minutes, I was applying. I was living in China at the time. It was the start of COVID, and I just remembered thinking, “Enough is enough.”
Can you recall a transformational course or experience within the graduate program that changed your perspective?
It’s hard to pull out one specific experience or course because the magic of this program is in the collective experience, from start to finish. If I had to choose one course or experience – a difficult task – it would be the community and profound inspiration to create through the creative writing course led by Kristine Tucker. Or the rich content of Dana McPhall’s Race, Intersectionality, and Veganism course. And, of course, the genius guidance of Mary Pat Champeau along the way.
What humane education or solutionary project are you working on now?
When you’re thinking like a solutionary, the creative ideas never fully stop. Apart from my day job at New Roots Institute, where I am currently training and preparing students to be effective leaders in the movement to end factory farming, I’m working on an online professional development program for educators called Teachers RISE: Educating for a Better World Through Sustainable Travel. I’m building the course in collaboration with RISE Travel Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire responsible, impactful, sustainable, and ethical travel through education. We are hoping to launch this program by the end of this year (2023) and aim to reach educators all over the nation, and hopefully the world. I also love writing and am slowly working on a poetry book inspired by the IHE program itself. I have a lot of thoughts, but I don’t want to add more to an already saturated field of sustainable living. I’m fostering ideas of a newsletter (to start) that focuses on the debunking of social constructs that serve as a detriment to humans, nonhuman animals, and the planet in the hope of shaking up our own unconscious biases in a playful and risk-free manner, guiding us to a more solutionary life. Right now I’m having fun finding my online voice through my personal blog.
How do you stay energized and motivated in this work?
It honestly comes in waves. This work – and the idea of being a part of the change we so desperately need – can be so overwhelmingly positive and motivating that it can fog up my strategizing because I’m so excited to get these ideas out there. If you can imagine a kid patiently and eagerly waiting to consume all that candy that sits in front of them, that’s kind of what this feels like. You know that if you eat all of the candy in one sitting it won’t be good for your tummy later. Or you forget that sharing the candy will bring you just as much joy. I’ve found managing motivation to be a bit like this. I’m constantly developing my ability to allow ideas to simmer, to invite others to give feedback, and to slowly refine ideas into something that will be impactful, refreshing, and effective.
Share something that has inspired you recently
There is a lot of inspiring material out there. So many individuals are doing amazing work; it’s hard to note just one thing. Apart from drawing inspiration from renowned advocates for animals, nonhuman animals, and the planet, I’m energized by seeing the advocacy work of the students I meet and mentor through the New Roots Institute. As an educator, seeing the growth and journey of individuals is extremely inspiring. Similarly, IHE colleague Christine Cook Mania’s journey in writing and publishing her new book Vegan Minded: Becoming a Steward for Animals People, and the Planet has also been a great accomplishment to witness and celebrate. All these are great reminders that if you are passionate about something, run, or better yet, jog with it.
Where can people keep up with you and learn more about your work?
People can keep up with me on LinkedIn where I keep my professional status updated and promote anything that I am published or interviewed in, as I have a few in the pipeline. LinkedIn is also where I plan to share any new passion projects that I publish. You can also keep up with my work at both New Roots Institute and RISE Travel Institute as I continue to strategize and learn best practices for solutionary education within these social justice spheres and empower students and teachers to create tangible change and positive impact for humans, nonhuman animals, and our planet.
Feel inspired? You can read more stories of humane educators in action here.