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Education about Human-Animal Interactions

IHAC Programs for Graduate Students and Professionals

Education is a core part of our mission. In fact, it’s why the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) was created! Through our continuing education certificates and our master of social work (MSW) animal-assisted social work certificate, we work to elevate the value of the living world and the interrelationship and health of people, other animals and the environment with ethics and welfare at the forefront.

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“It is important to incorporate animals and the environment into social work, public health and other fields because all life is interconnected. To improve the conditions for all, we must continually study and advocate for each individual.”

Whitney Romine, Alumni, Graduate, Animals & Human Health Certificate
IHAC Alumna Whitney Romine
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MSW Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate

The first of its kind in the nation, our animal-assisted social work certificate explores partnership with animals and nature in many types of social work practice. It is paired with a Denver Campus master of social work (MSW) degree for added specialization that prepares you to work with human and nonhuman animals in a variety of practice settings.

  • Hands-On Experience

    In addition to courses and internships, students have numerous options for gaining hands-on, real-world experience incorporating animals into practice and programming, including our Scholars with Collars program, in which dogs and their handlers are trained together in preparation for the Canine Good Citizen Test and other therapy dog certifications.

  • Experiential Learning Labs

    Experiential learning labs support student learning outside of classes and internships. Labs cover a range of topics, such as advocating for animal-welfare legislation at the Colorado State Capitol, exploring nature-based therapies or practicing hands-on horse handling skills.

  • Research Opportunities

    As research assistants, students help to advance our innovative research agenda while exploring their interests in the fields of therapeutic human-animal interactions, animal-assisted interventions, animal welfare and the One Health paradigm. Research assistants are involved in a wide variety of activities— from literature reviews, to qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, to meetings, seminars and conference presentations.

  • Field Internships

    Students gain field experience through internships that match their particular interests—whether that’s animal-assisted clinical interventions, humane education, animal welfare advocacy or conservation social work. International internships have included studying biodiversity protection at the Giant Panda Research Base in China or participating in animal welfare efforts in Kenya.

Learn more about the Denver Campus MSW program and animal-assisted social work certificate.

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Woman with Goat

Continuing Education Options

Broaden your understanding and enhance your professional skills through our professional development certificate programs, which can be completed alongside full-time employment or study, regardless of where you live. Our professional development programs have enrolled students from across Colorado and throughout the U.S., as well as international locations such as Canada, China and the United Kingdom! Programs are taught primarily online, with community-based assignments and one or more in-person residential workshops.

Women with Dog

Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions Course

New to the field of human-animal interactions and looking for an introductory course? Our Orientation to Animal-Assisted Interventions professional development course provides an introduction to the field of human-animal interactions, including the impact of the human-animal bond across lifespans, animal-assisted interventions (including animal-assisted activities and therapy), and considerations for the welfare of working animals. This four-week online course is intended for those interested in the Animals and Human Health certificate program who have limited or no experience with animal-assisted interventions and for those who would like a general overview of the impact animals have on human health both psychologically and physiologically. The course can serve as a stand-alone overview or as an introduction to concepts and terminology central to the AHH certificate program.

Course Overview

  • Week 1: Human-animal bond throughout the lifespan, including physiological and psychological impacts
  • Week 2: Overview and basic understanding of service animals, psychiatric service animals, emotional support animals and therapy animals
  • Week 3: Animal-assisted interventions, including animal-assisted activities and terminology
  • Week 4: Animal-assisted therapy

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“The support I received from my professors and my internship supervisor allowed me to prepare for a career as a school social worker. I came into the program with pretty specific goals of working in schools with a therapy dog, and they helped me gain the education, connection and experience for my current role.” 

Laura McCarty, Alumni, MSW ’15
IHAC Alumna Laura McCarty

“This is an internship that I look forward to. There’s nowhere else I could be getting this great of a hands-on experience.” 

Kaylee Keuthan, Denver Campus MSW student