The staff, faculty, and students of American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) are celebrating four decades of excellence in holistic health distance education this year with a student graduation ceremony, wellness-focused projects, activities, and events on the theme of “Building on Traditions.”
Dorene Petersen founded ACHS in Auckland, New Zealand in 1978. Before founding ACHS, Petersen was finishing up a four-year naturopathic program with South Pacific College of Natural Therapeutics (SPCNT) and raising two young daughters solo. She was selected to run SPCNT’s distance learning program, and when the college proposed shutting down the program in 1978, Petersen had other plans. She proposed a teach-out program for the current students, and with the blessing of SPCNT, founded the Australasian College of Herbal Studies.
“As a newly graduated New Zealand trained naturopath I founded the college with a passionate belief in the power of distance, experiential, wellness education reaching people from diverse locations and all walks of life long before the internet. Armed with a second-hand IBM typewriter, a fold-up table, and two cardboard boxes for student files, organic botanicals and essential oils for lab kits, I was initially a one-woman office,” Petersen recalled.
“Once students were empowered to take control of their health naturally without uprooting their family to get to school, the college continued to grow,” said Petersen. “My passion is truly helping people learn how to heal themselves and to witness the profound freedom and oftentimes career success that brings.
“Our slogan is live well, learn well, educate others for a reason. When we care for each other and share our collective knowledge—building on traditions!—we can accomplish anything and the last 40 years as ACHS’s President has shown this to be true.”
While running a busy naturopathic clinic and raising two young daughters on a remote island in New Zealand with limited resources, Petersen practiced what she preached through wild-crafting, organic gardening, and modeling a sustainable lifestyle for her two daughters. Both of Petersen’s daughters grew up learning how to run photocopy machines, perform bulk mailings, file color coded student files, bottle organic essential oils and herbs for the lab kits, and travel to various locations as workshop support personnel.
After 40 years, the ACHS has grown to 28 accredited online programs in holistic health and staff of over 75. With two campus locations one in Portland, OR, and another in Kona, HI, ACHS maintains a 99 percent student satisfaction rate and has been named to the top 10 of Oregon Business magazine’s 100 Best Green Workplaces three years in a row (ranking number two in 2017).
ACHS will see even more growth in the future. After 40 years of leading the college, Petersen is proud to be passing leadership to new President Erika Yigzaw.
For more information, visit https://achs.edu.