By Published: July 19, 2018

Growing up with pets who were considered special members of the family, Lindsay Scott jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the animal-human bond by taking the Animals and Society course at CU Boulder.

Taught by Professor Leslie Irvine, the course deepened Scott’s understanding of the ways that human and nonhuman beings are linked. Scott credits Irvine for then connecting her with the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, where Scott has worked for 10 years. 

A 2008 graduate in sociology with a psychology minor, Scott is director of development and community relations for the Humane Society. 

Lindsay Scott with a cat at Boulder's Humane Society

“The course introduced the topic of animals in society, and the social problems that involve animals, and the nonprofits that are helping them,” Scott said. “The better we understand the topic, the more positive our influence can be. Where I wanted to be involved was with that positive impact on animals.”

The Humane Society cares for 7,000 animals a year on a $6 million budget. Scott, who leads a team of five fundraisers, views her role as more than just fundraising.

“At the Humane Society, we develop and sustain relationships with individuals, businesses and foundations who care about animals,” Scott said. “We provide opportunities to connect to something that’s important to them. They say, ‘Yes, animals matter and I want to invest in that.’ What I do is fulfilling because I work with animals, and I work with people who love animals by helping them make a difference in the animals’ lives.”

Irvine created the Animals and Society Certificate in response to a growing interest from students, like Scott, who are passionate about animals, who want to learn about the roles of animals in history and society, and who want to have something to show for their effort. 

The first cohort of students in the new certificate was admitted in spring 2018. The certificate is designed for students pursuing careers or interests related to wild or domesticated animals, but who are not interested in becoming biologists, zoologists or veterinarians. 

With the creation of the certificate, CU joins the more than two dozen colleges and universities worldwide that offer majors, minors or certificate programs in animals and society, also known as animal studies.

For nearly two decades, Irvine’s research has focused on human/animal relationships. A professor of sociology, Irvine teaches Animals and Society, the required course for the certificate, and directs the certificate program. Other CU Boulder faculty members offer courses that complement Animals and Society. Creating the certificate was a way of bringing together their collective research and teaching interests for the benefit of students who are interested in working in animal-related fields. 

Program requirements for the new certificate emphasize scholarship from the social sciences and humanities but include elective options in the natural sciences. An interdisciplinary approach helps students explore the complexities of animals’ lives, human-animal relationships, ethical and moral concerns about animals, and the significance of animals in human evolution, history and civilization. 

Lindsay Scott plays with a kitten at Boulder's Humane Society. Experience in an animal welfare-related setting is a requirement for the certificate.

Career options are wide ranging and include management, policy work, research, environmental education, wildlife rehabilitation, lobbying, working in government agencies and more. Scott’s career at the Humane Society is a good example.

Certificates are valuable credentials in the work world, serving as documentation that a student underwent specialized training or acquired specific skills. This certificate provides students with specialized knowledge they can use to augment their major and pursue personal or professional interests in human-animal relationships. 

“I hope students who complete the certificate have learned to see nonhuman animals not just as resources for human beings, but as beings whose lives have intrinsic value,” Irvine said. “I hope they have begun to understand the many ways that human and nonhuman beings are connected. And I hope they have seen the potential to merge their passion for animals with their careers and their personal lives.”