The Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development (DANSRD) came about as a result of the 1996 merger between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Rural Alaska's Alaska Native Human Resource Development Program (ANHRDP) and the Department of Rural Development. Previously, ANHRDP was a service program of CRA providing nontraditional education and programs through specialized workshops and seminars and Alaska Native leadership programs. The Department of Rural Development was the academic arm of CRA providing a baccalaureate degree in rural development. The merger created an entity that provides both academic and nonacademic education and training.
The Alaska Native Human Resource Development Program was established in 1973 as a component of the University of Alaska system. It was created as a collaborative effort between the university and the Alaska Native community in response to the need for the development of leadership and management skills for implementation of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. ANHRDP was originally funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and had several other grants from Kellogg, primarily for leadership development. ANHRDP evolved over the years to include technical assistance to Alaska Native villages, local education systems, and over a decade of Alaska Native Leadership Programs. In 1994, 25 participants graduated from the Alaska Native Leadership Project, bringing to 140 the total number of graduates from eight leadership training programs over 14 years.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, ANHRDP was instrumental in pioneering the spirit camp model of personal development retreats. ANHRDP sponsored numerous workshops and seminars on a wide range of topics including several on cultural preservation issues, grantwriting and other fundraising techniques, and computer training. The program also sponsored three students for international internship experiences.
The Department of Rural Development was created in 1984 with a focus on providing a degree opportunity for rural Alaskans. Over the past 25+ years, more than 170 students have graduated with Bachelors Degrees in Rural Development. The department's Applied Field-Based Program makes the RD degree available to students living in remote rural Alaska. The students work with a faculty advisor to develop a program concentration in one of five areas: Community Business & Economic Development, Tribal & Local Government Administration, Rural Health & Human Services Management, Community Research & Indigenous Knowledge, Land Resources & Environmental Management. The BA degree in Rural Development provides a broad understanding of development processes in Alaska and the global community.