Antioch New England launched several new programs in partnership with the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) in early 2020. These programs are attracting a wide range of students, with current enrollment exceeding thirty students. The centerpiece degree is an MEd in Humane Education, which helps educators build relevance, excitement, awareness, and compassion into their teaching practice.
The methodology of humane education sees the education system as underlying virtually all other systems, so educating teachers in this methodology is the best way to “educate people to bring critical systems, and creative thinking to the challenges we face in our communities and world.” So says Zoe Weil, the co-founder and president of IHE. She explains, “Our programs prepare students to teach about the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection and to help others become solutionaries for a just, healthy, and humane world.”
This word, “solutionary,” is at the core of the philosophy for which IHE has spent the last 24 years advocating. They define a solutionary as “a person who identifies inhumane, unsustainable, and unjust systems and then develops solutions that are healthy and equitable for people, animals, and the environment.” Humane education rests on the twin beliefs that an equitable, humane, and sustainable world is possible—and at the same time, we cannot create such a world without recognizing that people, animals, and the environment are interconnected and all deserve respect.
This is part of what led the organization to want to partner with Antioch for its educational programs. As IHE’s Director of Graduate Programs Mary Pat Champeau explains, “Our goals are supported by Antioch, which recognizes educators as transformational leaders in society.”
The new MEd in Humane Education is offered primarily online, but a highlight of the program is an optional (but highly recommended) one-week Humane Education Immersion class at IHE’s 28-acre oceanfront campus in Surry, Maine. On the campus—which offers flowering meadows, forest, two miles of trails, a pond, and abundant wildlife—students participate in a week of hands-on humane education coursework, indoor and outdoor activities, and many chances to connect with each other, faculty, and the natural world.
The partnership with Antioch came together in 2019 when IHE began looking for a new academic partner for their graduate and certificate programs in humane education. They met with an AUNE team led by Education Department Chair Susan Dreyer Leon and Provost and Campus CEO Shawn Fitzgerald and engaged in discussions about the possibility of a partnership. Champeau explains that she and her colleagues “knew right away that Antioch would be a great fit for IHE because of its commitment to social justice, progressive higher education, and the student-centered experience.” They decided to launch the program, and in its first semester, it enrolled nine new students as well as fourteen transfers from IHE’s graduate programs at Valparaiso University. Champeau says that setting up this program “has been an exceptionally rewarding process from beginning to end.”
Moving forward, IHE hopes to continue building the strength of these programs and, through their students, reaching the wider world. Says Champeau, “We hope to build our programs steadily and wisely until there are trained, credentialed humane educators working in every sector of society, beginning with education.”
The long-term dream is to nurture a society that valorizes net-positive solutions instead of seeking out conflict. “Too often we pit interests against one another: people v. the environment; protecting individual animals v. protecting species; human rights v. animal rights,” says Weil. “Humane education, and its focus on solutionary thinking and action, asks us to consider all stakeholders when addressing problems and to seek out solutions that do the most good and least harm for everyone. Imagine the world we can create if we collaborate to solve problems in this way!”