July 5, 2018—The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) has announced that Erika Yigzaw, B.Com, LL.B. (Hons), has been appointed college president effective June 15, 2018. Yigzaw formerly served as chief strategy officer and chief compliance officer. She will utilize her development and strategic planning acumen to usher ACHS, which this year celebrates 40 years of operations, into its next generation of growth with a continued emphasis on innovation, sustainability, service and student success.
“I firmly believe that education can save the world,” says Yigzaw. “And composting. I’m a big believer in compost. But seriously, over my many years in higher education, I have seen so many students’ lives transformed through their studies; it is truly heartwarming. A tech geek, I love to see how we can use technology and learning research to expand what is possible in terms of the neuroscience of learning. Online learning gives us the huge advantage of being able to study with industry experts from the comfort of our own home, while still giving us time to get outside and dig around in the dirt—whether that is a flowerpot on the windowsill of your apartment or acres of farmland.”
“I want to help push the higher education community to continue to move the needle on helping students achieve deep learning—transformative learning—while still keeping access and affordability in mind,” adds Yigzaw. “As a mother of three, I am strongly committed to running ACHS sustainably, using the best innovations from technology to help empower our students and graduates to live their best lives while preserving the age-old wisdom and knowledge of botanical sciences and the natural world. I am so excited and honored to be taking over the reins here at ACHS and continuing the inspiring work of our founding president, Dorene Petersen.”
Yigzaw holds a Bachelors (B.Com.) in Commerce (Economics major) from the University of Otago and an LL.B. (first professional law degree) from the University of Otago Law School. She practiced law at one of New Zealand’s largest law firms, Bell Gully Buddle Weir, before moving to the U.S. in 1997, specializing in mergers and acquisitions for large international clients. She has actively served on many Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) (the college’s accrediting body) committees and task forces for 18 years and was an active member of the DEAC Business Standards Committee from 2008 to 2014. She also is a DEAC site evaluator and has been recognized with both the 2017 DEAC Annual Innovation Award and the 2012 DETC Distinguished Recognition Award for her contributions to the field of Distance Learning.
Yigzaw completed the Western Senior Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Leadership Assessment Academy in March 2018, a highly competitive year-long program, where she presented on competency-based education. She is currently completing a Masters of Education in Instructional Design with Western Governor’s University that she started as research into the world of competency based education. She regularly presents on higher education and compliance topics at national conferences including keynote presentations on technology in education.
Additionally, Yigzaw has extensive experience in health and wellness, the industry in which ACHS is widely recognized as a leader in accredited higher education including certificate, diploma and bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She is a sustainable lavender farmer, essential oil distiller, a fourth generation aromatherapist and herbalist, a Primal Blueprint Certified Health Coach and formerly served as an advisor to the Aromatherapy Registration Council.
Before having her twins, Yigzaw served as a Master Gardener, training with Oregon State University and then volunteering for five years throughout the Portland area. Yigzaw has been a speaker at International Herb Association and Herb Growers and Marketers Network conferences on legal issues in the natural health industry. She has also served as the elected parent representative on her local elementary school site council and on the board of the elementary school parent advisory committee. In her spare time, Yigzaw raises Shetland sheep, a rare breed from the isles of Scotland, for their wool and brush eating skills, in Sherwood, Oregon.
ACHS evolved from the distance education department of the South Pacific College of Natural Therapeutics (SPCNT), an on-campus naturopathic college in Auckland, New Zealand. ACHS Founding President Dorene Petersen, a naturopathic graduate of SPCNT, was hired to develop and head this department in 1976. In 1978, SPCNT closed the department and with SPCNT’s blessing Petersen founded ACHS (formerly called the Australasian College of Herbal Studies) to teach-out SPCNT distance-learning students. In 1989 Petersen moved to the United States and opened a U.S. branch of the school, which became a separate entity providing high-quality, affordable integrative health education.
Under Petersen’s more than 40 years of dedicated leadership, ACHS has grown to currently encompass more than 27 programs and diverse continuing education opportunities—from on-campus workshops in Portland, Oregon and Kona, Hawaii to webinars to short on-demand online courses to experiential study abroad programs—serving part- and full-time students in more than 70 countries worldwide. Areas of emphasis include modalities like aromatherapy, herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, holistic spa management and integrative health and fitness training, among others.
“Demand for integrative health and wellness choices is increasing exponentially, which means there is more opportunity than ever for passionate, committed and well-trained practitioners to positively impact their communities,” says Petersen. “Erika has a clear vision for ACHS’s role in this global health and wellness transformation, and I am very excited to see her realize her goals for the college to continue its ability to make a real difference in the lives of our international family of students, graduates, faculty, staff and supporters. I am looking forward to continuing to contribute to the college in my new role, including the ongoing research and editing of many of ACHS’s published textbooks and continuing to lead many of our service initiatives such as funding wells in Nepal for villagers to practice sustainable farming.”
For questions about this press release or to schedule an interview with Erika Yigzaw, email Lauren Torchia at or call (800) 487-8839.