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Dec 31, 2020 11:30:00 AM | end of year reflections President's Message: End Of Year Reflections | achs.edu

ACHS President and Founder Dorene Petersen looks back at all we accomplished this year and what we are looking forward to in 2021.

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The pandemic may be separating us physically, but we have stuck together and supported each other through it all. Let’s end the year on a positive note by taking a look back at all we have accomplished! Make sure to read all the way to the end for some inspiring messages from our faculty and staff.

Highlights from 2020:

A successful fully virtual graduation ceremony!

In 2020, we celebrated our biggest graduating class yet, with 368 graduates earning 479 certificates, diplomas, and degrees. We were so looking forward to seeing everyone in person this year, and although that didn’t happen, our virtual graduation ceremony was a very successful celebration of our outstanding students! Highlights included our Keynote Speaker, ACHS PAC member Dr. Koffi Dessou, the President's address from ACHS Founder and President Dorene Petersen, congratulations from our Program Chairs, and inspiring speeches from our graduates, including:

  • 2020 DEAC Famous Alumni Katja Evans: Katja graduated from her Master of Science in Health and Wellness program with honors. Katja's Capstone project focused on community initiatives that led to securing grant funding for a local elementary school to implement a Farm to School program. This program directly impacts the school’s nutrition, health curriculum, garden, and local food economy and is sure to have a significant impact on her community.
  • 2020 DEAC Outstanding Graduate Stephanie Petersen: Stephanie earned two Masters degrees with ACHS, a Master of Science in Herbal Medicine and a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition. As an herbalist, Licensed Nutritionist, Licensed Massage Therapist, and yoga instructor, Stephanie put her enthusiasm and passion for holistic health in motion by opening a unique business that educates and empowers community members with lifestyle diseases to reclaim their health.
Go down memory lane with our 2020 Commencement Program and recording: https://publications.achs.edu/achs-2020-commencement-program/introduction/

Making Information Even More Accessible to Students and Graduates

The new ACHS Student Information System, CampusNexus Student, launched in October 2020 and will be available to students in mid-January. The new student portal empowers students with one-stop, comprehensive access to application, academic, and financial information.

Charitable Giving & Community Support

This year, ACHS donated funds to several organizations to support community wellness and sustainability projects through our 2% Soil to Oil global education initiative and institutional giving programs, including: 

  • ACHS Foundation, our Foundation committed to expanding awareness and access to integrative health education and global sustainability practices. We'll be sharing more information about how to get involved in and support the ACHS Foundation in the new year.
  • American Botanical Council (ABC) to support their mission to promote responsible uses of herbal medicine. ACHS also provides an institutional subscription for ACHS students to access ABC's herbal medicine research database.
  • Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, a member-based organization working in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and POC (BIPOC) growers, policymakers, advocates, and educators to stabilize food systems infrastructure for marginalized communities in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Black Girls Cook, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization with a mission to empower and inspire inner-city adolescent girls of color through culinary arts and urban farming.
  • College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization that enables women with criminal justice involvement to earn their college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. 
  • Kitchen Commons whose mission is to foster community projects and leaders that bring people together to share food, resources, and relationships.
  • Mudbone Grown, a Corbett, Oregon-based, Black-owned farm that promotes inter-generational community-based farming with a focus on sustainable environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts in communities.
  • Neighborhood House, a Portland-based organization that supports access to a wide range of community services.
  • Ocean Matters, an organization known for marine science through service. 
  • Street Roots, an organization that publishes a weekly alternative newspaper sold by people experiencing homelessness and poverty to earn an income.

We know that there are many organizations that need help to support communities, this year more than ever. To broaden our outreach and connect with diverse organizations, ACHS also donated $50 to the charity of choice for each of our staff and faculty. We know it has been a hard year for everyone and wanted our donations to be spread throughout the community, locally, nationally, and abroad.

Staff and faculty selected the following organizations to receive their contributions. We invite you to learn more about these organizations. We'd love to hear from you also - tell us about the organizations you'd like to see your ACHS community support by replying in the comments.   

7 Elements Feed the Kitty Oregon Food Bank
Against Malaria Foundation Forward Assist Oregon Humane Society
American Cancer Society Friendly House Oregon Saint Bernard Rescue
American Red Cross Habitat for Humanity Oregon Outside In
ASPCA Hayden's Helping Hands p:ear
Australian Koala Foundation Holt International PGLAF
Bat Conservation International Hopeworks: ending homelessness since 1985 POIC + RAHS
Birthing People Foundation Humane Society of Central Arizona in Payson Primavera Foundation
Boys & Girls Club of Metro Richmond Les Turner ALS Foundation Q Center
Cat Adoption Team LoveOne Recycling Advocates
Central Oregon LandWatch Magicats SCRAP PDX
Christopher House Chicago Meals on Wheels Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC)
Community Transitional School Mt. Hood Camp Kiwanis Shepherd's Door
Equitable Giving Circle NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc The Trevor Project
Family Promise of Washington County Natik Women in Science!
Fanconi Anemia Research Fund Neighborhood House Wounded Warrior Project

Sustainable To Our Core

ACHS achieved #5 among Oregon Business Magazine's Top 100 Green Workplaces. We couldn't do what we do without the incredible hard work and commitment of our staff and faculty, including their daily efforts to make ACHS not just a great place to study but also a great place to work!

We also participated in the Plastic Free Ecochallenge, where we ranked 9th place nationally, 2nd place among schools, and 1st place in Oregon.

"At ACHS, we are continuously inspired to create positive impacts worldwide, through education and focused sustainability, with a people-centric lens on holistic health and wellness education. We’re proud to stand for transparency, accountability, and accessibility, building a legacy towards a finer future."

-ACHS President and Founder Dorene Petersen

Sharing knowledge

In 2020, ACHS shared over 8,000 hours of free holistic health education to our community through helpful webinars on a variety of topics. You can rewatch all of them for free at any time here. We believe that knowledge should be accessible to everyone, and we look forward to offering even more free resources in 2021. 

You can join our first webinar series of 2021, Healthy New Year: Foundations of Wellness, here.

Celebrating Our Students

Despite everything that has happened in the past year, our amazing students have persevered and worked hard in their studies, and we are so proud of them! Many have even opened new businesses or are planning to do so in the upcoming year. You can read our student and alumni highlights on the blog here. Our students and alumni offer some great advice on goal setting, time management, business planning, and more, so I would highly recommend reading their interviews!

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Introducing the new ACHS Foundation

2020 welcomed the new American College of Healthcare Sciences Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is to expand awareness and access to integrative health education and global sustainability practices. Our goal is to empower people to lead positive lives while encouraging individuals to engage in teaching, advocacy, and service. Look for more information, including ways to get involved in 2021

All of you, including our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our partners are what make ACHS a leading accredited integrative health and wellness institution committed to promoting sustainability, environmental stewardship, and wellness.

I asked our faculty and staff to share some of their thoughts about 2020 and what they are looking forward to in 2021. Here’s what they said:

“I interview students and alumni for the ACHS blog, and I’m really proud of how they have persevered during this pandemic. Many of them are in the process of opening new businesses and say that the extra time at home has given them more time to plan. Many also say that practicing holistic health in their daily lives has helped them endure the events of 2020.” -Gillian Turner, Social Media & PR Specialist


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“Hands down the biggest win I had with a student was working with Ashley Wales for her Ecochallenge webinar. This year I worked with a ton of different presenters with different levels of experience when it comes to being live on camera. From seasoned vets such as faculty members to complete novices and everything in between. But this was Ashley’s first webinar and she seemed quite nervous and scared. I recognized it was a lot to overcome and she did a spectacular job. Huge win for her and myself and for the college in general to have given her that platform to succeed!” - Andy Pierson, Director of Online Media


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“I have had several wins this term.  I was able to help students stay on course with completing their course assignments when many of them felt like giving up due to the stress from the pandemic, family concerns, juggling work schedules all the while having children at home learning virtually.  I have been impressed with their determination to stick with it.  I was able to help more students complete the term than I expected.  It was great fun to be a presenter in the Aromatherapy Department webinar series.  I want to thank Amanda Lattin for inviting me to participate.  Lastly, having the support of the best student services team to help me reach students who were not responsive to my weekly check-ins.  This year has taught us all what we can achieve when we work together as a team (or as a family in our case) and I think whatever lies ahead for us in 2021, ACHS will be able to handle anything it throws our way.” – Margaret LaPierre, Professor


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“Hearing students from all over the world talk about their experiences in this challenging year has been inspiring to say the least. Whether a student has lost their job, lost their business, or just had some free time during the pandemic that they wanted to use productively, it inspired me to see how they push through the negatives to find the positives. Often, those positives would be starting classes with us or just realizing that ACHS is where they want to be. I think many of us felt challenged at some point throughout this year, but speaking with such an amazing, diverse student body has truly helped me stay confident and humble. I look forward to 2021 calming down a bit in the world. I am grateful for the last 12 months at ACHS and cannot wait to continue gaining knowledge and experience over time.” - Brady Huffman, Admissions Advisor


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Anisa-Kassim“It has been a humbling year teaching at ACHS. We were with students throughout the pandemic and heard the fear, concern, and uncertainty from students. One of the highlights for me, as a teacher, was when I led Herb week just as the pandemic was starting. We were in lock down and had all the time in the world to bake, clean, and try new things. I had a record number of enrollees and I remember the enthusiasm of those on the call who were excited to ‘bake bread.’ Pre-pandemic, who had time to bake bread?  Baking bread was symbolic of what was going to be a long year ahead of us - individuals being home, with their family and finding new ways of doing things, thinking about things and turning inward for peace.

The year has been challenging because what was normal is now redefined. Our students at ACHS have gone through a lot and as an institution, we continue doing what we do best - online learning to help many passionate and motivated students, learn the intricacies of holistic health. There has been no time, like the present, to learn about the importance and strategies to increase wellness. Cheers to a healthy and happy 2021. I am sincerely happy to be part of your journey.”  - Anisa Kassim, Professor

Even though this year was hard, we all came together to help and support each other to do the very best we can - in school and in life. Let's celebrate how we navigated the ups and downs of this year and look forward to wellness, growth, and joy in 2021!

Now it's your turn. In the comments below, tell me one positive thing that happened this year or one thing that you are looking forward to in 2021.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I am President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

About American College of Healthcare Sciences

ACHS Founding President Dorene Petersen with three studentsAmerican College, founded in 1978, is a fully online accredited institute of higher education specializing in holistic health. Based in Portland, OR; our goal is to make research-driven and science-based holistic health education taught by industry-leading experts accessible to anyone anywhere while still giving students a hands-on experiential learning experience like a traditional college and a strong sense of community, school pride and student bond.

This commitment to our students and graduates reflects in our current survey results that reflect 98% of our students would recommend ACHS to a friend or family member.

We believe education is the most powerful tool for changing an individual and the world around us. 

When a person enrolls as ACHS, it is vitally important that they graduate with tools they need to forge their own holistic and sustainable missions, build up their communities confidently and changing the face of healthcare with knowledge.

Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Written By: Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Dorene is the Founding President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). She has over 45 years of clinical teaching and lecturing experience in aromatherapy and other holistic health subjects. She has presented papers on essential oils and clinical aromatherapy at the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades Annual Conference (IFEAT) in California, USA; the Aroma Environment Association of Japan (AEAJ) in Tokyo, Japan; the Asian Aroma Ingredients Congress (AAIC) and Expo in Bali, Indonesia; the International Center of Advanced Aromatherapy (ICAA) at the WonGwang Digital University in Seoul, Korea; as well as the AAIC Expo in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Dorene is a founding member of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) and served as its chair until 2023. Dorene is also involved in the distance education community and has served as a volunteer, committee member, and standards evaluator for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Dorene is a travel junkie, and has led ACHS Study Abroad programs to India, Indonesia, Greece, and Hawaii!