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Undergraduate Research at SPA

Research is an integral part of the American University and School of Public Affairs (SPA) undergraduate experience. Students take a major-specific research methods course (GOVT-310 or JLC-280) designed to help you learn the critical skills and competencies of research, to put those skills into practice, and to take your research beyond the classroom by publishing or presenting your work. More than just a set of skills, though, research is a mindset. We are committed to supporting undergraduate research because learning how to conduct research empowers students to be critical consumers and producers of knowledge and equips them with the skills critical for success in future courses and careers.

There are also numerous opportunities for SPA students to take their research beyond the classroom, including the annual SPA Undergraduate Research Symposium, regional conferences and symposiums hosted by other universities, and national forums such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Presenting research at an academic conference is an excellent way to meet other researchers interested in similar topics, to engage in discussion and debate, to learn from others, and to expand your network. Preparing your work for an academic conference or for publication provides an opportunity to develop an existing research project or to further a research topic that you may have examined in a class. Independent research experience is also essential to successful applications for competitive national merit scholarships. Moreover, research experience prepares you for post-graduation plans such as professional career paths or graduate/professional school.

The School of Public Affairs is committed to supporting undergraduate research and offers a wide range of resources to support students in the conduct of research and in the presentation and publication of their research. The links to the left provide detailed information about these opportunities and resources for undergraduate research. If you have questions you should speak with a faculty member or email aupublicaffairs@american.edu.


  1. Justin Williams, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Recruitment & Retention

    SPA - Dean's Office

    Justin is the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Recruitment & Retention for the School of Public Affairs. In this role he meets with any prospective and admitted students interested in any of the undergraduate majors offered. He also works closely … More

    Send email to Justin Williams

    (202) 885-6480