CXCS' WINHEC Accreditation


The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies (CXCS) has received 10-year accreditation (2023-2033) by the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). After submitting a comprehensive self-study report and hosting an intensive program site visit in March 2023, the official recommendation for ten-year unconditional accreditation was awarded to CXCS during the 2023 WINHEC Annual General Membership meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, in mid-July.

WINHEC accreditation considers and supports the diversity which exists among Indigenous-serving educational institutions, schools, and programs throughout the world. Quality is evaluated in terms of the goals the CXCS program seeks to accomplish.

CXCS is still accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) as a program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. NWCCU is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit postsecondary institutions.

The WINHEC Accreditation Handbook states:

What differs between this process and others is that accreditation by the WINHEC Accreditation Authority means that an Indigenous-serving [program’s] work:

    • is framed by the Indigenous philosophy(ies) of the Native community it serves;
    • embeds Indigenous practices into the programming that fosters the well-being of the population it serves;
    • is soundly conceived and intelligently devised;
    • integrates Indigenous culture, language, and worldviews into programming;
    • is purposefully being accomplished in a manner that should continue to merit confidence by the Indigenous constituencies being served.

The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies (CXCS) addresses research, development, and instructional issues associated with educational policies, programs, and practices in culturally diverse contexts, with an emphasis on Indigenous Peoples worldwide, and rural and distance education. The Center houses the Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN) and offers an MA and PhD in Indigenous Studies with an emphasis on Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing.

ANKN was established through the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI), funded from 1995-2005, and whose co-directors included Drs. Ray Barnhardt and Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, both founding and long-term faculty of CXCS.

The Master of Arts degree in Cross-Cultural Studies (later renamed Indigenous Studies) with an emphasis on Indigenous knowledge systems was approved by the UA Board of Regents on March 9, 2001. The program is designed to provide graduate students from various fields of interest an opportunity to pursue in-depth study focusing on the role and contributions of Indigenous knowledge in the contemporary world.

In 2009, the doctoral degree program in Indigenous Studies was approved and continues to be housed in CXCS. The PhD in Indigenous Studies draws upon long-standing academic and research capabilities at UAF to offer an integrated, cross-disciplinary course of advanced graduate study. The program objectives and its curriculum center around six areas of concentration: Indigenous Studies and Research, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Indigenous Education and Pedagogy, Indigenous Languages, Indigenous Leadership, and Indigenous Sustainability.

“CXCS’ Director was Dr. Ray Barnhardt (now fully retired), who is one of the founding members of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium and was the Chair of WINHEC Board of Accreditation.” said Dr. Asikłuk Topkok, the current CXCS Director and newly elected WINHEC co-chair. “Drs. Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley and Ray Barnhardt developed CXCS and ANKN, and their philosophy and legacy continues. The decision to seek WINHEC Accreditation for CXCS is a natural choice. Through their guidance, CXCS has already established cultural and academic rigor through decades of continuing partnerships.”

“What differs between this review process and others is that accreditation by the WINHEC Accreditation Authority recognizes that our college and programs are framed by the Indigenous philosophies of the Native communities we serve,” said Roxanne DeLille, newly elected WINHEC co-chair.

One of the site visitors stated, “There was a time that you just went to school, and you didn’t have a say in what was taught to you. It wasn’t about us, it was about the Western way. However, this program connects Indigenous students to life from their own world with their own perspective, and doing a project that will impact their community for the good of all. Instead of meeting everyone else’s requirements and not their own community, now they have something to make them visible and help them work for themselves and their community’s outcomes.”

CXCS is the first in the Alaska Nation to earn WINHEC Accreditation. CXCS would like to thank the students, staff, faculty, and community members for their support in achieving this prestigious goal. 

More About WINHEC:
Recognized as an international accrediting authority, WINHEC strengthens and validates Indigenous higher education institutions and programs by promoting and acknowledging Indigenous epistemology and pedagogy. WINHEC provides an international forum and support for Indigenous Peoples to pursue common goals through higher education. WINHEC is founded on principles and values as outlined in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Accelerate the articulation of Indigenous epistemology (ways of knowing, education, philosophy, and research); protect and enhance Indigenous spiritual beliefs, culture and languages through higher education; advance the social, economic, and political status of Indigenous Peoples that contribute to the well-being of indigenous communities through higher education; create an accreditation body for Indigenous education initiatives and systems that identify common criteria, practices and principles by which Indigenous Peoples live; recognize the significance of Indigenous education; create a global network for sharing knowledge through exchange forums and state of the art technology; and recognize the educational rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For more information about WINHEC Accreditation, please visit: