Throughout college and my professional life in public health, a voice in the back of my mind nagged me about working with nonhuman animals. I was never interested in practicing animal medicine. I was more interested in the psychological and physical lives of nonhumans themselves and how we as humans relate. I could never articulate it very well – it wasn’t animal science; it wasn’t animal behavior; it wasn’t human psychology, and it wasn’t anthropology. I eventually discovered that the field I wanted to study had a name – Anthrozoology – and badly wanted to study it, but the programs at that time were only in Europe and Australia.
In April 2011, I was perusing Facebook, and the Animals and Society Institute happened to post about a new Master of Science program – 90% online, 10% in-person – at Canisius. I could physically feel the excitement coursing through my body and felt my breath catch as I read the program’s website. My heart pounded as I wrote a passionate 2-page e-mail that I sent to my husband and my mother, telling them that despite having just graduated with a Master of Public Administration degree, I had found something that would change my life forever. I decided to apply to the program immediately. I’m a very cautious person who rarely jumps in with both feet without examining all ramifications of a situation, but I can truly say that doing so in pursuit of this degree has been one of the best decisions of my life.
In his opening post, Paul discussed the diversity of students in the Anthrozoology program. I was one of those students who worked full-time and went to school part-time, two classes per term. The Anthrozoology faculty are remarkably accommodating and respectful of the fact that many of their students are returning to school and have responsibilities with employment, family, and other commitments. The ability to move at your own pace is one of the standout features of this program and allows a wide variety of talented and fascinating individuals to pursue this degree. Even if you have competing priorities, I’ve found that when you truly love the subject you’re studying, completing assignments is a joy rather than a burden – something that was foreign to me in my previous schooling. I entered this program at age 31 and never felt out of step with my fellow students; in fact, I’d estimate that my age was right around the average for my class. Returning to school is no doubt intimidating, but the environment of flexibility and camaraderie in the Anthrozoology Master of Science program is a perfect landing spot.