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Leadership Program


  • Leadership Program
    (202) 885-2308
    Ward Circle Building, Room 250

    Margaret Marr

Mailing Address
SPA Leadership Class at MLK Memorial

“I cannot count the number of times I have taken a concept that I learned from this program and applied it to a real-life leadership situation in the classroom, on campus, or at work. I feel more prepared to assert myself as a young professional in Washington, DC after completing the Leadership Program.”
- Zach Baldwin (’14)

Program Overview

The SPA Leadership Program, created in 1990, offers a students the experience, skills, and knowledge to prepare them for leadership roles in public service. 

Following a competitive application process, students advance together through the four- year, 15-unit course of study that culminates in a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies.

In order to prepare students for leadership roles in public service, the Leadership Program has three components: a classroom component, an experiential learning component, and a Program community building component.

In the classroom, the program offers a space each week to be with a group of people who all want to have a positive impact on society. Together they explore questions of common concern. They study leaders and their causes, leadership theory, and best leadership practices, trying always to apply what we are learning to our own development as leaders.

We also practice essential leadership skills, like effective communication. We practice active listening, public speaking, debate, consensus building and making our way through those difficult conversations that every leader encounters. We engage in team-building and decision-making exercises, and practice negotiation. We take a variety of personality assessments, to better understand ourselves as developing leaders, and gain skills at looking for internships and jobs.

We apply what we learn about leadership with experiential learning outside the classroom. In the first and second years students design and implement their own social action projects. Students choose a social problem of concern to them, research it, talk to people affected by it, find out what others are doing to address it, and then design a unique project to address the problem, whatever they want, that they execute in the spring semester.

We also strive to build a community among all the four years of Leadership students. During orientation week and throughout the year, we hold numerous events for you to come to know each other, older students in the Program, and alumni, people you will spend all of your years at AU with, and many thereafter.

Throughout the Program, day and overnight trips are organized by the students to locations related to their studies. These and other activities enhance learning and deepen relationships between students. What students in the Leadership Program share is a deep commitment to making the world a better place, a strong desire to acquire the skills necessary to do so, and a willingness to work hard to achieve this important goal.

We send our seniors off to amazing careers in law, politics, international relations, education, public policy - a wide variety of fields – with a Leadership alumni network to support them. Students find that their experiences in the Leadership Program valuable in securing rewarding internships, graduate school opportunities, winning scholarships and pursuing fulfilling careers.

By the Numbers

Of the 32 students in the Leadership Program's Class of 2015: 

Class of 2019

The Leadership Program application deadline is July 17, 2015 at 12 noon. Read about how to apply »


Leadership roles held on campus.


Internships during their undergraduate studies.


Hours devoted to service during their undergraduate studies.