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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 prepares students to apply behavioral and social science principles to develop implement and evaluate programs oriented around community health.

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


Headshot of Cole Cooper

Cole Cooper


"I am currently leading a community research project in partnership with our local hospital, Gunnison Valley Health. Through GVH’s supportive funding, we have been able to do a collaborative exploration of the health beliefs and needs of our Indigenous Hispanic community, the Cora. Our approach involved active dialogue with diverse stakeholders, including Cora community members, traditional healers known as Curanderos, and hospital staff (including Indigenous Medicine Practitioners in Nayarit, Mexico). Our primary objective is twofold: firstly, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare disparities faced by the Cora; and secondly, to honor their needs by exploring ways to integrate their cultural beliefs into culturally-tailored interventions. Our ultimate goal is to develop healthcare solutions that are accessible, culturally relevant, and of high quality, benefiting all members of our Gunnison community."

Headshot of Spencer Smith, MBS alumnus

Spencer Smith ’23


My last year of graduate school led me to some incredible opportunities. I wrote and received my very first grant from the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Injury and Violence Prevention Center. This funding went directly towards my Master's practicum and thesis on Suicide Prevention. I flew to Seattle to become a certified trainer in SafeTALK, which is a four hour training on Suicide Prevention. With this certification I was able to train 46 students, staff, and faculty on WCU's campus as part of my practicum. Lastly, I successfully defended my thesis, graduated with my Masters in Behavioral Science (MBS), and received the "Impact Award" from Western's Graduate Studies. I am beyond grateful for these past 6 years at Western, and am excited to see where my education takes me!


Top Skills

  • Care Coordination
  • Community Health
  • Cultural Competency
  • Public Health
  • Remote Healthcare
  • Social Work

Career Pathways

  • Community Health Worker
  • Health Education Specialist
  • Healthcare Social Worker
  • Public Health Specialist
  • Rural Health Administrator
  • Rural Health Educator

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.


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.

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.

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Additional Resources

Rural Community Health Scholarship/Fellowship

Western’s MBS in Rural Community Health program offers scholarships for incoming graduate students and fellowships for continuing students to help offset expenses. Click the link below to learn about funding opportunities.

Learn More

Program FAQs

We’re here to answer your frequently asked questions about the MBS in Rural Community Health program. Click the link below for additional information about application requirements, funding opportunities and more.


Matt Aronson, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

Administrative Assistant

Deanna Banker, B.S.

Graduate Database Administrator & Analyst

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Kelley Hall 220
Gunnison, CO 81231

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