AU and University Honors | Honors Curriculum

1989 Program

For information about the curriculum for the Honors Program that began in 1989, see the Graduation Requirements page.

2014 Program

The curriculum for the AU Honors Program that begins in the fall of 2014 has six required courses, for a total of 22 credits. Some of these credits will also count toward General Education credit and toward your major. The program is flexible enough to accommodate students who plan to graduate in three years or study abroad.

Each of the four core courses in the AU Honors Program is newly created every three years by the faculty, who consider which issues are pressing and require interdisciplinary investigation. They then form interdisciplinary teaching teams, drawing from leading scholars in diverse fields. They want your help in understanding what recent developments mean, and so our core courses rely on faculty and students working together to understand today's most vexing and exciting problems.


Your Courses
Freshmen entering in Fall 2014, 2015, and 2016 will take "Climate Change Science, Politics, and Policy," taught by Professors Todd Eisenstadt (Government), Sikina Jinnah (International Service), and Stephen MacAvoy (Environmental Science).

In addition to learning how scientists model climate changes, students will simulate international negotiations like those taking place at the 2014 Peru Climate Change Conference so that you will get a taste of the possibilities and limitations of international policymaking.

In the spring, you will take "Burden of Proof: Forensic Science and Criminal Justice," taught by Professors Richard Bennett (Justice, Law, and Criminology), James Girard (Chemistry), and Elizabeth Malloy (Statistics).

In this course, you will learn how physical evidence is analyzed, how the results of the analysis are reviewed and statistically validated, and how evidence is used in the courtroom to convict or exculpate people accused of crimes.

Each course includes a three-hour lab in which you will apply the concepts and expertise learned in class in excursions into Washington, D.C., or develop the research and communication skills required for the program. The course on climate change may take you to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center or to the Woodrow Wilson Center to hear briefings on the 2014 Peru Climate Change Conference.

2 courses, 1 per semester
4 credits each
8 credits total

Your Development
In the fall, you will meet your faculty mentor; set some personal, academic, and professional goals; and begin keeping an e-portfolio where you can reflect on your growth and record your accomplishments. Your faculty mentor will serve as your guide through graduation and beyond.


Sophomore year will begin with the course "Thinking Emotion: From Physiology to Ethics," taught by Professors Bryan Fantie (Psychology), Richard Sha (Literature), and April Shelford (History).

Neuroscientists are mapping the brain, but they are hardly the first to think about the emotions. You will draw upon a rich archive of thought about the emotions, asking how such thinking is shaped by history and language, and considering what science can or cannot tell us about the emotions.

In the spring, you will take a course in which you will investigate what we know about creativity and create your own innovations.

You will take labs in both courses, and you will continue to set new goals and build your e-portfolio.

2 courses, 1 per semester
4 credits each
8 credits total


In these years, you are required to complete an Honors Challenge course and a capstone, but when you complete these requirements is up to you. This flexibility enables you to finish college in three years, study abroad, or take advantage of other opportunities.

In the Honors Challenge course, you and some of your Honors classmates will form an interdisciplinary team. Working across fields, you will develop and complete a project in collaboration with an institution in D.C., elsewhere in the U.S., or abroad. The course will give you an occasion that puts into practice your skills in interdisciplinary thinking, research, communication, and innovation.

Many majors at AU require a capstone, but you will be able to enhance the capstone in your major with the skills you have developed in the Honors Program.

2 courses
6 credits total (or more, depending on your preferences)