Rural Human Services

Rural Human Services

The Rural Human Services 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, offered at both the Interior Alaska Campus (IAC) in Fairbanks and the Kuskokwim Campus (KuC) in Bethel, integrates Alaska Native cultures, traditional values, and learning styles blended with appropriate Western approaches to deliver a world-class education. RHS is taught with an emphasis on Indigenous ways of knowing and learning. The learning environment is holistic; students are encouraged to learn through their own life, community, cultural knowledge, and experiences.


Our Certificate Program

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.

In this classroom environment students are empowered, and as one student said, "RHS was the first time in any school I felt proud to be a Native woman."

  1. RHS students must set their University of Alaska credentials (username and password). View NTS website for additional information on this process.
  2. After UA credentials are set, RHS students must login to their UA email account at RHS students will need to use this email account for all academic communication. 
  3. Students flying or staying in a hotel / dorm must submit an expense report after these expenses are incurred. RHS students need to know their UA credentials in order to login to Concur and submit expense reports on their student profile.
    1. RHS students will not be able to travel again until these expense reports are submitted.

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 Alaska 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.

Developing a clear sense of personal and community well-being are built into our curriculum.



Students 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. Personal and community healing and well-being


RHS students at the IAC
RHS students at the Interior Alaska Campus (IAC)

Our Voices

After going through RHS, I feel like part of the solution a puller instead of someone stuck in the sled.  Like when they have traditional meetings or tribal council meetings, I found that I could voice my opinions and concerns...and it's part of the continuing benefits to my community.From an RHS graduate
What we learn in life and in college does not belong to us.  Knowledge is not a possession that you keep for yourself or that you own.  It must be shared with your people, your community.  It must be given away.   Esther Green, an Elder with the RHS program
Looking at our history helped me feel there are other ways to heal, not just western ways.  It gave me a spark of hope that if I could learn all of this and use my life to learn, then I could pass that on..I thought, "we (Alaska Natives) are not as bad as we have been thinking," because of the way RHS was taught...maybe there is hope if we learn and pass it on in our communities and that way others will feel that hopefulness.From an RHS student
In the RHS model of education, I see students taking risks, and they find out who they are and where they came from .  They see how being Yup'ik or Cup'ik or whatever their culture is OK.  As a matter of fact in RHS cohort program, our life experiences, lessons we were taught, cultural practices we have are all part of hte foundation for learning new information.Esther Green, an Elder with the RHS program
My community's pain is inside me so I have to go there first (my own self) to deal with that...I guess that makes it not just 'bout me.  In a way, when I heal and learn, my village does too.From an RHS student
Walking in and just seeing Elders sitting there, I already felt calmer.  Sometimes I would look at them and feel relieved.  It's their presence, just their quiet nature, that respectful quiet nature.From an RHS student

Our Learning Methods

RHS students craft drum sticks in a workshop

Learning and healing happen together in a holistic classroom


An RHS student and an Elder work together to build a skin drum

Skill application

RHS Elder teachers

Indigenous pedagogy


RHS Elder teachers smiling

Honoring Indigenous approaches to community and personal well being

Our Partners



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 Advisory Council who work closely together to best meet the needs of rural Alaskans.


Our Graduates

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.

Our Team


For more information, contact:

Toni Abbey

Toni Abbey

Program Administrator

Rural Human Services



Interior Alaska Campus (IAC) Faculty


Robyn Henry, MS

Robyn Henry, MS


Lead Faculty, IAC RHS

Kuskokwim Campus (KuC) Faculty


Diane McEachern, PhD, LCSW, MSW

Diane McEachern, PhD, LCSW, MSW


Program Head: UAF RHS & HUMS AAS


DeShan Foret, MPH, MSW

DeShan Foret, MPH, MSW

Assistant Professor, KuC Counselor and Wellness Coordinator