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By Margo DeMello,
Animals and Society Institute (ASI)
This interdisciplinary program brings together faculty from animal behavior, law, religious studies, anthropology, psychology, media arts, and more to teach a diverse group of students who all have a commitment to understand animals and their relationships with humans, and improve their lives.
I just got back from the on-campus component of the Fall 2013 semester of Canisius College's Anthrozoology graduate program, the first such M.S. program in the United States, headed by biologist Mike Noonan with major support from religious scholar and law professor Paul Waldau. This interdisciplinary program brings together faculty from animal behavior, law, religious studies, anthropology, psychology, media arts, and more to teach a diverse group of students who all have a commitment to understand animals and their relationships with humans, and improve their lives.
Students can take courses ranging from Introduction to Anthrozoology, to the Mental Lives of Animals, to Humane Education, to Animal Protection as a Social Movement, to Understanding Indifference and Animal Abuse.
With such a broad range of courses, and the choice of committing to an internship at the end of their two year program, a quantitative research project culminating in a thesis, or a qualitative project culminating in a publication-worthy thesis, these students are exposed to an incredibly rich variety of material on the vast and complex human/non-human animal relationship.
Some will journey this year to Tanzania to Gombe Stream National Park with Dr. Noonan to study the chimpanzees made famous by Jane Goodall, while others will travel with Dr. Christy Hoffman to Puerto Rico as part of her Shelters, Pounds, and Rescues class to study the problem of stray dogs on the island, and students have a variety of other travel and research opportunities as well.
This year's students, whom I am privileged to be able to teach in a brand new course called Cross-Cultural Anthrozoology, come from a wide range of backgrounds, including those with a background in dog training, animal protection work, zoo work, animal research, dolphin training, and even a philosophy professor. Others don't have a formal background working with animals, but have a deep interest in and commitment to animals, and once they discovered Canisius' program, jumped at the chance to put their interest to work.
Canisius' program is part of a growing movement in the United States and around the world of animal studies, anthrozoology, and human-animal studies programs on the undergraduate and graduate level that simply did not exist ten years ago. These programs are allowing students to pursue their interests in non-human animals in ways that will ultimately change our relationship with those animals in terms of public policy. These programs are not just a testament to the continuing importance of animals' in humans' lives but to the fact that we simply can't continue to ignore that importance, or trivialize and minimize it.
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