Friday, May 4, 2012
Featured IHE Student: Mariah McConnaughey
Now Mariah is in IHE's M.Ed. program and looking forward to bringing her humane education work to a new level. Read Mariah's essay about her experiences with IHE's program so far:
"Looking back on the various experiences I have had in my life, it makes perfect sense that Humane Education would be what I would ultimately decide that I want to 'do'. Everything I have done indicates that humane education is perfect for me.
I have had a great interest in working with children for years now; it started with coaching downhill skiing when I was in high school, after years of racing. Following that I had various job teaching kids in informal settings, such as summer camps while attending UC Santa Barbara, ski instructing and leading an after school program in Utah, and teaching English while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh. This latter experience was probably the most defining in helping me realize that teaching others about humane messages was something I wanted to do for good; but I still didn't know that humane education was something to get into!
Following Bangladesh and a fairly circuitous route, I ended up in London pursuing an MSc from Oxford Brookes University (in Oxford, but not the Oxford) in Primate Conservation, having developed a passion for non-human primates somewhere in my learning and travels. I realized through this program that my passion, rather than lying in the more traditional avenues of in situ work with primates in far off jungles, was more in working with communities to help ensure sustainable methods to protect all precious creatures.
I decided to do my thesis back in Bangladesh with the students I had taught the year before; I devised and carried out an environmental education program with them. I feel now that there is little so humbling as trying to teach 13-year-old Bangladeshi girls about the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation when they live in the country that saw the first 'climate change refugees' displaced from their homeland and when the impacts are largely due to Westernized nations such as my own; it was a challenge. Still, they were welcoming students with a passion to learn to think outside the box in ways quite unconventional for the dominant culture and to absorb information and skills. It was an incredible learning experience.
After completing my masters, I decided to put off my return to the States and spent four years working at the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA); this was the experience most directly pointing me toward humane education. It is through this role that I have been able to effect change in various audiences with regard to animal welfare and to realize the benefits of teaching it in formal and informal situations. It is also through this role that I had the joy of learning about the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), an organization whose work I find most inspiring and at the heart of my core values. It was here that I learned about humane education and the doors it can open for my personal passions.
Through IHE's graduate program I hope to learn more about the realities of today's world and the demands on all living beings. I hope to be linked in with a network of like-minded people who want to make the world a better place by passing on messages about justice, peace, and interconnectedness. I plan to find out how I can be the best I can be and how I can help all those around me to do the same, while living in harmony with one another. I am working through my first few courses, and already I am amazed by the growth and learning I see going on in myself, and am inspired by my fellow course-mates and the faculty; it is an amazing opportunity for me. I know that I will continue to be inspired, and I can't wait to discover my own path for how best to educate those around me."
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