Rural Human Services

Rural Human Services

The Rural Human Service (RHS) program is offered at the Interior Alaska Campus (IAC) in Fairbanks and the Kuskokwim Campus (KuC) in Bethel. 
RHS is a closed cohort with 16-25 adult primarily Indigenous students starting together and taking all courses as a community of learners.  Students participate in monthly weeklong intensives (RHS) for two academic years.
Adult learning and Indigenous epistemology form the pedagogy.  This means holistic/ experiential activities, Indigenous Elders as part of the instructional team, and cultivation of a community of learning.  Critical to the success of this model is how content is taught along with the imperative that cultural interpretations and practices provide a foundation for learning.

Students who complete all 34 credits accomplish most of the requirements for the Behavioral Health Aide (BHA) I and/or II and Chemical Dependency I (CDC I) certificates.

Graduates will also have ASIST suicide intervention certification, Positive Indian Parenting (PIP) certification, and certification in Mental Health First Aid

Most of the RHS course credits will also count towards an Associate degree in Human Services (HUMS AAS) if the student continues beyond RHS.  Upon completion of RHS they will be halfway done with an AAS in Human Services.


Rural Human Services (RHS) Certificate Program

The RHS certificate is a 34-credit University of Alaska academic program that offers a culturally appropriate university program designed for rural, village-based human service workers, natural helpers, and healers in their communities.  

Our program relies upon and validates Alaska Native cultures, traditional values, and learning styles blended with appropriate Western approaches to deliver world-class education. RHS is taught with an emphasis on Indigenous ways of knowing and learning. The learning environment is holistic, that is, students are encouraged to learn through their own life, community, and cultural experiences.

The certificate program is a concentrated course of study focused on rural behavioral health services. Both the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium have designated many of the credits earned through the RHS program as satisfying credentialing training requirements.

The certificate program provides additional credentials for service providers who work in related fields and would like additional training in rural behavioral health services. Providers who may want such training could include health aides, family service workers, correctional workers and teachers. The RHS program is offered as a closed cohort with monthly, week-long intensives for two academic years.

Admission is open to anyone employed by a regional Native health corporation or local entity providing village-based human services, or to individuals recognized by their communities as natural helpers/healers. A high school diploma or GED and/or previous training or work experience in the delivery of village-based human services are recommended but not required.

This degree program is delivered collaboratively within the UA system.


Personal growth and developing a clear sense of personal and community well being are built into the curriculum.

Receive training in services like:

      1. Crisis intervention

      2. Suicide prevention

      3. Community development

      4. Counseling in mental health

      5. Counseling in substance abuse

      6. Interpersonal violence education

      7. Grief counseling

      8. Healing

Our learning methods include:


Oral communication

Hands-on experience

Skill application


The Rural Human Services (RHS) program is a statewide effort that embraces the Alaska Mental Health Board's goal to have at least one trained rural human service provider employed in each of Alaska's 171 villages.

Our program represents successful partnerships and collaborations between rural Alaskans in villages within UA service regions, faculty from the University of Alaska, representatives from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, Alaska Native elders, Alaska Native Health Corporations, rural mental health centers, and the RHS Council who work closely together to best meet the needs of rural Alaskans.



For more information, contact:

Toni Abbey

Toni Abbey

Program Administrator

Rural Human Services


Interior Alaska Campus (IAC) Faculty 

Kuskokwim Campus (KuC) Faculty

Robyn Henry, MS

Robyn Henry, MS


Rural Human Services

Diane McEachern, PhD, LCSW, MSW

Diane McEachern, PhD, LCSW, MSW

Program Head RHS & HUMS AAS

Professor RHS & HUMS AAS

DeShan Foret, MPH, MSW

DeShan Foret, MPH, MSW

Assistant Professor