You are here: American University College of Arts & Sciences Philosophy & Religion

Department of Philosophy and Religion

Our philosophy program exposes students to multiple disciplines including bioethics, ethical theory, feminist philosophy, and phenomenology, while religious studies allows students to explore and critique areas in Eastern and Western religions.

Undergraduate Advising

Undergraduates in Philosophy and Religious Studies have two kinds of advisors:

  1. A general academic advisor who helps with overall degree and core requirements, Hadiya Alexander,
  2. An advisor for
    1. Philosophy, Dr. Lauren Weis, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Philosophy,; or
    2. Religious Studies, Dr. Nicholas Buck, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Religious Studies,

Students may also contact Philosophy and Religious Studies double major, Andrew Wagner,, who has served as a Core Leader in both disciplines and can answer questions about both majors.

Graduate Advising

Graduate students may contact Dr. Ian Rhoad, Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy,

Time to Think, Time to Re-Think

As we face unprecedented situations in our personal lives and our society, we ponder: What are the important things in life? How do we know what is the right thing to do? How do we achieve justice, equality, and freedom? How do we define values and for whom those values are valuable?

The Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University offers unique undergraduate and graduate programs in which students navigate these questions and explore their futures while deeply engaging with the issues in our lives.

Our curriculum enables students to learn from diverse thought traditions from around the world, enriching their understanding of people and society. This curriculum equips students with tools to analyze diverse aspects of human existence and helps them get ready for the challenges of the global community as well as local ones. Our faculty is made up of dedicated educators and leading scholars in the field, and our faculty members challenge students with questions about life and work with them to explore possible answers.

Located in the capital of the United States, the Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University offers students opportunities to witness political life and history as it enfolds in the real world. Easy access to the Smithsonian Institution, museums, national monuments, and the Library of Congress provides a wealth of varied and diverse internship and service opportunities with the federal government and non-profit organizations.

In our program, the world and ideas come together. Join us in your journey to find your future.

News & Notes

Philosophy Club

The Philosophy Club meets weekly to discuss various philosophical questions and historical topics. The club brings in a wide and diverse range of philosophical perspectives and puts them into conversation with each other. Alongside discussions, we will be holding movie nights and eventual speaker events in the future. Anyone who has philosophical interest or wants to learn more is welcome to join. Contact for more info!

Buddhism and Nonviolence Keynote

The department, with the Asia, Pacific, & Diaspora Studies Program, recently hosted Professor Duncan Williams (University Of Southern California) as the Keynote Speaker for the 2023 Buddhism and Nonviolence Conference. View the keynote video: “Building the WWII National Japanese American Incarceration Monument: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming the Racial Karma of America” (or an abstract).

Department Hires Jerome Clarke

We are pleased to announce that Jerome Clarke has joined the department in Fall 2023 as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Clarke writes on Technology Ethics (esp. AI/ML), the Critical Philosophy of Race, and 20th-century Social Philosophy. His book manuscript (under construction) reformulates the theory of racism in light of algorithmic harms in contemporary, institutional life. The project prominently features a reevaluation of W.E.B. Du Bois' critique of empiricism in governance and social science. Dr. Clarke's other research intervenes on recent debates in Black Studies and the Philosophy of Technology under the principle of bridging conceptual discussion and applied inquiry. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Clarke!

Department Hires Kiesha Martin

We are pleased to announce that Kiesha Martin joined the department in Fall 2023 as an Instructor. Kiesha is a Jamaican, PhD Candidate in the department of Philosophy at Marquette University. Her research lies along the interface between Philosophy and Caribbean Theory. Her dissertation, “I am my language: A Philosophical Definition of Linguistic Identity” develops and defends a concept of linguistic identity, which builds upon Gloria Anzaldúa’s notion of the inextricable link between language and identity. More broadly her scholarship focuses on diverse representation in historically demographically homogenous spaces. She focusses on the -socio- construction of the “self” in relation to the “other,” particularly as this happens through language in social spheres. This research is both theoretical and practical, with implications for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in higher education. Please join us in welcoming Kiesha!

64th Annual Hurst Lecture

The department hosted its 64th Annual Hurst Lecture in Spring 2023. Speaker John Maraldo, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of North Florida, presented on “The ‘Anthropocene’: Through the Lens of a Modern Japanese Philosopher.” Offered annually in the spring, the Bishop John Fletcher Hurst Philosophy Lecture series brings some of the most distinguished thinkers from this country and abroad. As a result, our students have immediate contact with those shaping philosophical theory in many fields. More information about previous lectures, including recordings, is available at the lecture series page.

15th Annual Durfee Lecture

The department hosted its 15th Annual Durfee Lecture in Spring 2023. Alex Nava, Professor of Religious Studies and Classics at the University of Arizona, presented on “God and Hip Hop.” Professor Nava’s talk considered major trends in hip-hop, past and present, with a focus on echoes of religion and spirituality in the culture. From Rakim and KRS-One to Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar, religious passions and appetites have been a strong element in the history the hip-hop, the beating pulse of the genre. This element, however, is often overlooked by many critics, relegated to insignificance. As a corrective to such approaches, this lecture explored affinities between hip-hop and central themes in African American and Latin American religious traditions, particularly the tradition of liberation theology. See the Durfee Lecture Series page for information about previous lectures.

Black Lives Matter

At virtual Black Lives Matter rally, alumni share thoughts and experiences with racism and activism.

Alumni Spotlight

AU PHIL/REL alum Rory Kraft penned an op-ed in the York Daily Record: The trouble with the 'college is not for everyone' mantra.

Philosophy student Angelica Vega was a fellow this summer at RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that understands we are a stronger community when we live up to our values: when we are welcoming, diverse, moral and respect one another. Read about her work: Book worm to policy wonk: Disability advocate brings her knowledge to Washington, DC.


Hannah Busing

On Campus ·

Disability, Health, and Bodies: How We View Each Other

Read More

In Memoriam

Andrea Tschemplik

Andrea Tschemplik.

The “Andrea Tschemplik Prize for Philosophy and Religion Students” has now been established. When sufficient monies are collected, the fund will convert from a prize to a scholarship intended for first-generation college students in Professor Tschemplik’s memory.

Your donation will help us keep Professor Tschempliks' memory alive. You can donate here or mail your gift to the address below. Checks can be made to American University with “Andrea Tschemplik Prize for Philosophy and Religion Students” in the memo.

American University
Office of Development
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

We encourage you to visit her virtual memorial page and post a memory. You can also donate to Second Chance Wildlife Center in memory of Andrea Tschemplik.

The memorial service program, remarks, slideshow, and audio recordings from the AU Chamber Singers and arranged by Dan Abraham, Professor and Department Chair, Department of Performing Arts are available.

Filosofía en Español


Para más información, visite nuestra página en español.

Catherine Hou

BA/MA, PhilosophyCatherine Hou

Catherine Hou's research at American University has focused on feminist philosophy, trans and nonbinary studies, and ludology. They are interested in understanding how we construct ourselves with and against others, how the concepts we think with limit our ability to make sense of ourselves, and how we might envision pathways of thought and ways of existence beyond those limitations. Catherine was also a research assistant for the Lab for the Study of Perception, Reality, and Illusions, working at the intersection of philosophy and neurophysics to explore questions about how we construct our everyday reality. They plan on pursuing a combined JD/PhD in Philosophy after graduating with their MA.

"The Philosophy department has been invaluable for my intellectual development, both as a scholar and a professional outside academia. The critical thinking skills and frameworks of thinking I have gained here have equipped me with the tools to excel in my future endeavors. I am also particularly grateful for the faculty's dedication to supporting their students; much of what I have accomplished was only possible because of the wonderful guidance of the professors here."

Haley Stevens

MA '07Haley Stevens, US Congress

Congresswoman Haley Stevens earned a master’s degree in social policy and philosophy and a bachelor’s in political science and philosophy from American University.

After graduating from American University and before being elected to Congress, Congresswoman Stevens served as the Chief of Staff to the U.S. Auto Rescue Task Force, the federal initiative responsible for saving General Motors, Chrysler, and 200,000 Michigan Jobs. She also played a crucial role in setting up the Office of Recovery for Automotive Communities and Workers and the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. After serving in the Obama Administration, Congresswoman Stevens worked in a manufacturing research lab focused on the future of work in the digital age.

She writes of her philosophy studies:

Inspiring material that I continue to draw from to this day.