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Ian Rhoad
Director of Graduate Studies (Philosophy & Religion)

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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Create Ethical International Policy

Combining the study of ethics and international policy, American University's MA in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights (EPHR) will prepare you to be a responsible leader. The program is jointly administered by the Department of Philosophy and Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School for International Service to offer an ethical response to some of the world's most pressing problems.

This interdisciplinary program will train you in the practical application of ethical theory and policy analysis to complex issues in global affairs. You will build a strong foundation in international relations, moral philosophy, human rights, and peace studies with your core coursework and then expand on that knowledge in one of six tracks of specialization. You will develop your ability to grapple with the complex dynamics of war and violence, human rights, social justice, environmental issues, and peacemaking with a unique set of interdisciplinary courses that link the foundational concepts of philosophical ethics to practical applications and connect policy analysis with contemporary societal challenges.

See also our selected Graduate Student Profiles and our EPHR Graduate Handbook.

Washington, DC

A Flexible Program with Solid Results

The EPHR MA is structured around a set of core courses in ethics, peace and conflict studies, and human rights. You will build on this foundation with courses in your chosen research methodologies and develop expertise by specializing in one of six concentration areas: Human Rights and Social Justice, Peace and Conflict Resolution, Global Environmental Justice, Ethics of Development, International Economic Justice, and Global Governance and International Organizations.

For the capstone experience, you can follow the traditional academic route by writing a master’s thesis or take a more applied approach by completing a substantial research paper, engaging in a practicum experience, or taking an internship with an organization related to your intended career field. Our program is designed to give you options so you can customize your degree to fit your goals — review sample Course Sequences below.

Full-time students complete the degree in two years, and part-time study is available. See complete Admissions & Course Requirements.

World-Class Scholars And Practitioners

Ian Rhoad, the Department of Philosophy and Religion's Director of Graduate Studies, also serves as the adviser for students in the College of Arts and Sciences track of the EPHR program. For more specific information about the program, he can be reached at

Because our program is jointly administered by the Department of Philosophy and Religion and the School for International Service, you will have access to two tremendous faculties to help you synthesize your knowledge of international affairs and ethics. The Department of Philosophy and Religion has notable strengths in ethics, feminist philosophy, applied philosophy, and the history of philosophy. Students also have access to the world-class faculty of the School of International Service. Together, the combined program faculty consists of recognized, widely published scholars and practitioners who are engaged in today's most pressing issues of international relations, policy, peacemaking, and human rights.  


Study Policy Where It Is Made

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers students access to a wide-ranging network of individuals and organizations. Home to the federal government, think tanks, advocacy groups, and international organizations, DC provides unlimited opportunities in fields related to ethics, human rights, and international affairs. AU students take advantage of networking opportunities and public events addressing every imaginable policy issue.

To help our students establish lasting connections, gain practical experience, and get a head start on their careers, we provide internship opportunities at important area institutions, including congress, the Department of State, the US Institute of Peace, USAID, the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ethics Resource Center, the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the Urban Institute, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


A World of Opportunity

Your MA will prepare you for further graduate study or for a variety of careers in world-changing institutions. Some of our students pursue further education in law schools or doctoral programs. We have alumni in PhD programs at George Washington University, the New School, SUNY Binghamton, and Virginia Tech.

Many of our graduates work for the federal government in positions with the Department of State, Department of Justice, USAID, and the Peace Corps. Alumni interested in international development have found careers with the World Bank Group, Inter-American Development Bank, and Chemonics International. Other alumni work for humanitarian organizations such as the American Red Cross and Doctors without Borders or nonprofits like Planned Parenthood and the Internews Network. Across DC and around the world, EPGA MAs can be found in positions where they can make a difference.

For more information on alumni and internships, see our Career Prospects and Internships pages. 


Connect with the Experts

McDowell Conference: The professorship was established in 1937 on the basis of a gift to the Department of Philosophy and Religion from the estate of Bishop William Fraser McDowell. Every year, the chair of the department brings in a keynote speaker to speak with the AU community on issues surrounding philosophy and social policy.

Durfee Lecture: The Annual Durfee Lecture was initiated by a generous gift from Harold A. Durfee and Doris G. Durfee. Held every spring, the series provides our students and colleagues with the opportunity to meet distinguished thinkers.

Bishop Hurst Lecture: The Bishop John Fletcher Hurst Philosophy Lecture was initiated by the Department of Philosophy and Religion and named for the founder of American University, who was himself a philosopher. Offered annually in the spring, it brings to the American University campus some of the most distinguished thinkers from this country and abroad.

Ethics Bowl: The Ethics Bowl is a fun and rewarding way to get high school students thinking about the challenging ethical and political issues of our time. High school students are coached by current AU students to investigate and debate such issues as medical ethics, censorship, violence in schools, and the financial practices of world governments, all in a chiefly collaborative manner.

News and Notes

Jin Y. Park has been awarded the Uberoi Foundation Religious Studies Grant in the amount of $25,000 for her project “Buddhism and Nonviolence.”

Onaje Woodbine received a $40,000 First Book Grant for Scholars of Color from the Louisville Institute for his book, Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World.

Professor Perry Zurn published, Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry, available on Amazon.  


Sarah Salkowski


Sarah Salkowski
MA in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights

Sarah Salkowski envisions a world where all people going through the pregnancy and birthing process are empowered to make informed decisions and successfully navigate the healthcare system. While earning her MA at American University in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights, she has found the perfect place to work towards achieving these goals.  

Sarah works for the German nonprofit, Empowered Birth Movement (EBM), which confronts maternal health inequities by advancing the availability, affordability, and accessibility of multilingual health information and community-based support throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. At EBM, she began by reading and writing briefs on existing research in the field. She’s moved on to assist all of EBM’s programs, including outreach, university partnerships, the community peer-support course, fact sheets, and research.

Sarah says AU has prepared her for her dream career in the nonprofit sector, impacting people's lives and empowering future generations. “The lessons I have learned during my degree have allowed me to develop as a human, a student, and as a professional in the nonprofit world. AU has given me the confidence I need to bring forth the kind of change I want to see,” she says. 

Sarah especially appreciates her AU peers.

They've challenged me in so many ways and pushed me to do my absolute best. You could not ask for a better group of people to grow with, especially through the challenging times we've had in this pandemic.”


EPHR students will select one of six concentrations to expand and deepen their understanding of peace strategies, justice, ethics, development, and more. EPHR’s degree requirements are designed to maximize flexibility and to allow students to focus course work on areas that are most appropriate to their goals and interests.

  • PHIL-655 Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL-702 Phenomenologies of Violence 
  • PHIL-702 Philosophy of Human Rights 
  • RELG-675 Religion & Violence
  • SIS-610 Theories of Conflict Violence & War
  • SIS-611 International Negotiation
  • SIS-619 Comparative Peace Processes 
  • SIS-619 Conflict Prevention Analysis
  • SIS-619 Youth and Conflict Gender, Conflict & Security
  • SIS-619 Localizing Peace
  • SIS-619 Economics of Violence & Peace
  • SIS-619 Negotiation Analysis & Skills 
  • SIS-733 Int’l Peace & Conflict Resolution Seminar II
  • SIS-619 Environment, Peace & Conflict
  • SIS-620 Intro to Environmental Economics
  • SIS-620 Water Governance 
  • SIS-620 Political Ecology of Food & Agriculture 
  • SIS-620 Global Climate Change 
  • SIS-620 Urban Political Economy 
  • SIS-620 Building a Post-Carbon World  
  • SIS-620 The Future of Environmentalism 
  • SIS-620 The Politics of Conservation 
  • SIS-635 Food Security: An Institutional Perspectives
  • SIS-649 Environment & Development
  • SIS-660 Environment & Politics
  • PHIL-616 Feminist Philosophy
  • PHIL-617 Race and Philosophy
  • PHIL-655 Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL-685 Latin American Philosophy
  • PHIL-702 Phenomenologies of Violence
  • PHIL-702 Philosophy of Human Rights 
  • RELG-675 Religion & Violence
  • SIS-610 Theories of Violence and War
  • SIS-613 Reconciliation & Justice
  • SIS-619 Human Rights & Conflict
  • SIS-619 Gender, Conflict & Security
  • SIS-619 Transitional Justice
  • SIS-619 Human Rights Impact Analysis
  • SIS-619 Human Rights in the Middle East
  • SIS-635 Human Trafficking in Global Society
  • SIS-616 International Economics
  • SIS-619 Latin American Political Economy
  • SIS-619 Demilitarizing the U.S. Economy
  • SIS-627 International Finance & Emerging Markets
  • SIS-630 Economic Politics in the EU
  • SIS-635 Social Accountability
  • SIS-649 Governance and Development
  • SIS-650 Global Economy & Sustainable Development
  • SIS-665 International Trade & Investment Relations 
  • SIS-666 International Financial Relations 
  • SIS-673 Comparative Political Economy
  • SIS-752 Global Economic Governance 
  • SIS-619 Conflict & Development
  • SIS-635 Social Accountability
  • SIS-635 Food Security: An Institutional Perspective
  • SIS-635 Human Trafficking and Globalization
  • SIS-635 Population and Development
  • SIS-635 Community Development
  • SIS-635 Rural Development
  • SIS-635 Urban Development
  • SIS-635 Children, Youth & International Development
  • SIS-635 Education & Development 
  • SIS-635 Global Health 
  • SIS-636 Micropolitics of Development 
  • SIS-648 Gender and Development
  • SIS-649 Governance & Development
  • SIS-650 Global Economy & Sustainable Development
  • SIS-610 Theories of Violence & War
  • SIS-619 Unpacking Intervention and Civil War Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration (DDR)
  • SIS-619 Weak States and War
  • SIS-619 Foundations of Global Governance
  • SIS-619 The United Nations
  • SIS-625 International Organizations
  • SIS-635 Social Accountability
  • SIS-635 Food Security: Institutional Perspectives
  • SIS-635 Community Development
  • SIS-635 Rural Development
  • SIS-635 Urban Development
  • SIS-648 Gender and Development
  • SIS-649 Governance & Development
  • SIS-650 Global Economy & Sustainable Development

Sample Course Sequences for the MAEthics, Peace & Human Rights

Below are examples of courses fictional former students have taken, or MA Philosophy course sequence comparisons.

Sample 1Course Sequence

  • GOVT-622-001
    Political Psychology
  • PHIL-693-001
    Global Ethics
  • SIS-622-001
    Human Rights
  • GOVT-605-001
    Modern Political Thought
  • SIS-612-001
    Qualitative Research Methods in PCR
  • SIS-619-002
    Democratic Decay & Authoritarianism
  • PHIL-620-001
    Seminar on Ethical Theory
  • PHIL-691-001
    Internship in Philosophy
  • SIS-733-002
    International Peace & Conflict Resolution Seminar I
  • GOVT-606-001
    American Political Thought
  • PHIL-631-002
    Advanced Problems in Bioethics
  • SIS-750-003
    Political Risk Analysis

Sample 2Course Sequence

  • PHIL-693-001
    Global Ethics
  • SIS-619-009
    Insurgency & Counterinsurgency
  • SIS-733-004
    International Peace & Conflict Resolution Seminar I
  • RELG-686-003
    Religions of Israel
  • SIS-622-001
    Human Rights
  • PHIL-685-001
    Human Rights & Global Health
  • RELG-686-001
  • SIS-612-002
    Qualitative Research Methods in PCR
  • SIS-612-001
    Policing Practicum
  • WTS-500-002
    Rel. Violence & Peace
  • RELG-690-001
    Religion, Justice/Ancient Egypt