Featured Changemaker: IHE M.Ed. Graduate, Mark Heimann

Before I met my wife, Lara, I had never even met a vegetarian. As our relationship evolved, so did my awareness. By the time we were married (10 years ago!) I had transformed from a comfortably unaware omnivore to a proud vegan. Meeting the right people makes all the difference! Over the years Lara has encouraged me to pursue a way of life more in keeping with my budding ethical beliefs. Eight years ago, we became involved with Farm Sanctuary’s effort to have New Jersey establish mandated “humane” standards for farm animals. We joined Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary, at meetings with the heads of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and watched him patiently, yet futilely, explain the importance of these standards. I realized that my temperament was not well-suited for politics and knew that I needed an alternative means to “make a difference.”

Once our first child, Olivia, was born, that path was quickly illuminated. Humane Education seemed like the perfect way to juxtapose my love for animals and children. At the time, I had no idea how I would use the information that I would learn from the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), but knew that, at the very least, I would be a more enlightened person and parent. As I progressed through the program, I never pressured myself to find what door the program would open; I was confident, however, that my new-found knowledge would lead me in a new direction. It took me quite a few years to complete my Masters program through IHE -- Olivia is now 9 and my son Jonah is 6 -- but those extra years that I spent marinating in my humane education studies certainly made me a better father than I would have been and helped me find my path.

For my Masters thesis, I wrote the first installment of a humane education early reader series that I hope to expand into a full fledged reading program. I also built a green home and regularly give tours to promote the advantages of green building. More directly, I am starting to go into area schools with humane education programs and presentations. Lara and I are also in the planning stages for opening a sustainable cafe in our area.

IHE has helped me not only realize my potential as a teacher, father, and husband, but also figure out how best to utilize that potential. Zoe Weil and the rest of the IHE staff, like my wife, are definitely the “right people” and have made a huge difference in my life.

Note: Find out more about IHE's five graduate programs, accredited through Valparaiso University, here.

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