FB Pixel Skip to Main Content
Rural Community Health

Rural Community Health

Master of Behavioral Science in Rural Community Health

Degree Type

Master of Behavioral Science (MBS)


Master of Behavioral Science in Rural Community Health

The Rural Community Health MBS program compels students to develop expertise in behavioral science approaches to human health. Using insights from psychology, anthropology, sociology, political science, and geography, students are trained to understand complex rural health issues, engage with diverse organizations, and work towards health equity related to youth development, mental health, suicide, violence, isolation, food insecurity, climate change and environmental health, and addictions. Western Colorado University’s dedicated faculty facilitate rich opportunities for sharpening students’ skills with problem-framing, focus group interviewing and quantitative analysis. Graduates will be prepared to contribute at a high level in many organizations including government entities, nonprofits, healthcare and other service-oriented organizations, community foundations, planning agencies and public-private partnerships.

Program Overview

Rural Community Health

Sharpen your skills in behavioral science to enrich community health.

The Master of Behavioral Science (MBS) in Rural Community Health program prepares students for work in behavioral and social science fields including substance abuse prevention, health promotion, climate change and health, elder care, youth health and empowerment, early childhood interventions, violence prevention, as well as education and advocacy around a range of community issues. Students will sharpen their awareness about suicide prevention, school violence, addictions, trauma-informed interventions, environmental justice, stress and social isolation, reproductive health, poverty and much more. The program emphasizes culturally sensitive and multiscale definitions of “health” and “health equity” that include evidence-based practices and a variety of strategies for healing, advocacy, education, assessment, research and consultation.

Creating Community Wellness

Community-level education about nutrition is key to health and well-being. The Rural Community Health MBS prepares students to apply behavioral and social science principles (theories and methods) to develop, implement and evaluate programs oriented around various prevention and promotion models for community health.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

The Master of Behavioral Science (MBS) in Rural Community Health program prepares for work in various behavioral and social science fields including health psychology, substance abuse prevention, elder care, youth health and empowerment, sociology, education and advocacy, training and technical assistance, and program evaluation. MBS students develop applied behavioral science projects that respond to the needs of local organizations, academic institutions, and practitioners. Topically these projects include issues such as suicide prevention, school violence, substance addictions, trauma-informed early childhood interventions, elder care, and family poverty. The program encourages students and practitioners to embrace culturally sensitive and multi-scale definitions of "health" that include evidence ­based prevention practices along with a range of other strategies for healing, outreach, education, advocacy, assessment, and research. The MBS aligns with Western's liberal arts commitment by involving several disciplines (including Psychology, Sociology, and Geography) and providing a formal venue for students to develop applied experiences that generate scientific insight about community health­ related problems. The MBS is a 39-credit program that includes topical coursework in community health, violence and trauma, health disparities, geospatial analysis, psychopathology, health psychology, and evaluation methods. After successfully completing a practicum proposal, MBS students must complete a major research-based practicum project. 

Program goals include: 
  • Improving students' understanding of behavioral and social science, especially with the most current research related to the determinants and effects of childhood trauma, the psychological and social dimensions of addiction, strategies for preventing violence in schools and households, the effects of chronic poverty, and the role of trauma-informed interventions in contributing to community health.
  • Developing students' capacities for applied research in behavioral and social sciences, including the use of appropriate methods, research designs, sampling techniques, data collection, management and analysis, training and technical assistance, collaboration, health promotion, and communicating science to public audiences.
  • Advancing the role of behavioral and social science in rural communities by preparing practitioners to increase capacity and collaboration among agencies, organizations, and communities to address problems of community health in rural communities.
  • Fostering student capacities to work with rural and Native American communities on issues related to health promotion, healing practices, cultural trauma, youth suicide and substance use, and youth­-oriented solutions for health and empowerment.
  • Enhancing students' opportunities to pursue private and public sector careers, or doctoral-level study, in a range of behavioral and social science fields, including health psychology, prevention, elder care, youth health and empowerment, sociology, education and advocacy, training and technical assistance, and program evaluation.
Program Prerequisites: 

BA or BS degree from an accredited institution of higher education is required. Preferred qualifications include a BA or BS in fields such as psychology, sociology, social work, health sciences, public health, Native American Studies, anthropology, regional planning, or communications; completion of an undergraduate course in statistics or quantitative research methods or evidence of a working knowledge of statistics or quantitative methods. 

Admissions Criteria: 
  • Admission will be based on an overall package that considers academic excellence as well as relevant work experience, research, and community involvement. Admissions materials must be submitted online and must include: academic transcripts showing a recommended minimum 3.2 GPA from the degree-granting school; a resume or Curriculum Vitae outlining related research, leadership, outreach, professional experience and /or volunteer work; a letter of purpose describing the student's interests and goals regarding behavioral science and/or community health; a writing sample ( course paper or professional report) of at least 3 single-spaced pages; and two.letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors in related fields.
  • GRE scores will be accepted but are not required for admissions consideration. International students must submit their score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IETLS. Students with a degree from a college or university where English is the language of instruction are not required to submit the TOEFL/IETLS score.
  • Applicants are expected to have been in contact with an MBS program faculty member prior to submission of application. Documentation of this will be included as a formal expectation in the application process.
Provisional Admittance Policy 

Students who have some deficiency in undergraduate training or incomplete credentials may be approved for provisional admission into the MBS in Rural Community Health program upon the recommendation of the Director of the MBS and approval by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. 

To be admitted provisionally into the MBS in Rural Community Health program, applicants must demonstrate: 

  • some formal background or training in community health, psychology, sociology, or related field (e.g. coursework, internships, work study), and:
  • ability to manage the assigned graduate courses while completing their undergraduate program or other provisions (e.g. the personal statement and references should indicate the candidate's ability to undertake such an academic load and course work at the graduate level).

In accordance with School of Graduate Studies Admissions Policies, a provisionally admitted student will have a maximum of one calendar year to complete any prerequisite academic coursework. 

The MBS Program Director will assess provisionally admitted student progress towards completion of prerequisites and success in all MBS program and course work through meetings scheduled monthly and at the end of each semester within the required completion timeline. 

Conferral of the MBS degree requires a total of 39 credits of 600-level coursework with a grade of B- or above, including the successful completion of a 6-credit practicum.

All students must complete the following:

Course List
Code Title Credits
Core Courses
12 credits from the following:12
MBS 601
Behavioral Science and Community Health
MBS 602
Quantitative Methods and Research Design
MBS 603
Quantitative Analysis in Behavioral Science
MBS 604
Qualitative Methods and Analysis
MBS 605
Health Disparities
Elective Courses
18 credits from the following:18
MBS 611
Program Planning and Evaluation
MBS 612
Violence and Trauma
MBS 613
Lifespan Development I: Childhood to Emerging Adulthood
MBS 614
Lifespan Development II: Adulthood to End of Life
MBS 640
Geographic Information Systems
MBS 660
Geospatial Analysis
MBS 668
MBS 669
Health Psychology
MBS 692
Independent Study
MBS 697
Special Topics in Rural Health
Practicum Coursework
minimum of 9 credits required9
MBS 698
Community Health Practicum Proposal
MBS 699
Community Health Practicum
Total Credits39


Take the first steps toward your dream career.

Career preparation is the primary focus of every academic program at Western. Our professors and Office of Career Services will help you identify your strengths, hone your skills, define your goals, and prepare for a fulfilling role in hundreds of professional fields after graduation.

Ready to apply or learn more about Western today?

Apply Request Info

Find Your Career

The data is automatically collected by Lightcast, a firm that sources job market data. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.


Rural Community Health

Get involved and gain experience.

Your student experience doesn’t end in the classroom at Western. Learn more about opportunities you can pursue to enhance your understanding of content, make peer and professional connections, and build your resume before graduating.

  • MBS Spring Colloquium: Coming Spring 2022!

Empowering Generations

Children’s social and emotional health is crucial for their later-life outcomes, and it can be challenging to rigorously investigate how these are linked. The MBS program trains interested students to pursue a range of youth-oriented research, especially regarding the long-term payoffs of creative expression, social-emotional skills, and positive youth development strategies.

News & Research

experiential learning mba programs

Experiential Learning MBA Programs & Outdoor Education Grad Programs

Read More about Experiential Learning MBA Programs & Outdoor Education Grad Programs
masters program connects with community

MBS Program Connects with Community to Teach Rural Behavioral Health

Read More about MBS Program Connects with Community to Teach Rural Behavioral Health

Additional Resources

About the Program

Western’s MBS in Rural Community Health is here, and we’re about you. Our mission is meant to provide a creative, academically rigorous space so students can: Refine their research talents and …

Learn More


MBS in Rural Community Health – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) I don’t have much research experience. Is this important for my application? Having conducted original research (scholarly/ …

Learn More

Tuition and Fees

MBS in Rural Community Health Tuition & Fees MINIMUM Total Program Cost $28,094.40 (minimum of 39 credits @ $780.40 per credit) Time Period Credits Tuition/credit Other Fees/credit TOTAL Fall 9+ $ …

Learn More


Matt Aronson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Administrative Assistant

Deanna Banker, B.S.

Graduate Database Administrator & Analyst

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Kelley Hall 220
Gunnison, CO 81231

Take the Next Step

Apply to
Western Students campus

Apply to

We understand that applying to a university can be daunting, which is why we make our admission process as simple and straightforward as possible. Learn more about applying to your program of choice at Western.

Western campus tour


The best way to find out what makes Western such a special place is to experience it for yourself. Our student-led tours give you an insider’s perspective on everything from academics to student life.

Western Campus


We keep the Mountaineer spirit going strong within our alumni community. Whether getting together with friends at an annual event, making a donation or mentoring a student, graduates continue to play an important role in the Western community.

Rural Community Health


Want to discover more about Western? Request information today to get in touch with the admissions team.