Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

About Honors

AU Honors Overview

The American University Honors Program (AU Honors) is a rigorous, hands-on, four-year program dedicated to exploring real world issues through an interdisciplinary lens.

AU Honors students are dedicated, hard-working, intelligent, and committed to expanding their worldview. Enrolling 25 students each year, the program is designed to challenge students with the desire and ability to perform at the highest level.

The Honors Idea

No single academic discipline can fully solve the problems faced in contemporary society. Employers and communities are looking for those who can examine an issue and bring forward responses that transcend any single disciplinary perspective. The program looks to educate individuals capable of responding to the challenges encountered now and in the future. The world needs creative and informed responses to “wicked problems” like climate change, inequality, access, and healthcare.


The mission of the AU Honors program is to provide students with advanced skills in research, communication, and innovation. The curriculum aims to train students to become problem solvers and learn the concepts of interdisciplinary thinking.

The final programming objective is to help students foster a network of alumni, faculty, and fellow students from a variety of disciplines. With Honors programming, we hope to connect students to resources that will help them reach their goals at AU and after graduation. The living-learning experience helps to create the beginnings of these networks and to support the topics learned in class through discussions outside of class time.


Prior to the creation of the Honors Program, students at American University pursued Honors work within their majors. Beginning in 1959, students in the College of Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to participate in an Honors Program that combined general Honors colloquia with independent study in a specialized field. As AU continued to grow, students, faculty and administrators recognized the need for a different type of program, one that had a special identity but was compatible with the needs of a wide variety of intellectual disciplines and with the character of the university as a whole.

The University Senate approved legislation for a campus-wide Honors Program in the fall of 1977. Students and faculty from every department and college in the University had the opportunity to interact and share ideas. The program's first students took such Honors seminars such as "Personality and Politics," "The Astronomical Perspective," and "Philosophy, Science, and Religion."

The Honors Program continued to grow and expand, each semester offering creative and challenging topic courses taught by specially selected faculty. An Honors community developed with the establishment of Honors floors in the residence halls and the development of social, cultural and educational programming for Honors students.

In response to the program's growth as well as to changes in the university's General Education Program, the Honors Program implemented a thorough restructuring that went into effect in the fall of 1989. In addition to Honors Colloquia, the program included special Honors sections of courses taken at every level of a student's academic career, from General Education courses through courses taken in all of the various majors the University has to offer and the completion of a senior Capstone project.

In Fall 2014, the university welcomed the inaugural class of the new AU Honors program. The inaugural class was originally composed of approximately 45 students each year. In Fall 2016, the program reduced its incoming class size to 25 students.