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AU Honors Curriculum

Our curriculum is designed to be flexible so that students are able to make the most of their time at American University. Honors students can complete the Honors curriculum and still major or minor in any available subject, can double major, study abroad, participate in NCAA athletics, and even pursue early graduation or one of the five-year combined BA/MA programs.

Most importantly, our scaffolded approach to supporting student intellectual exploration allows students to pursue their scholarly passions while gaining crucial academic inquiry. Students in the AU Honors program are able to double major, can study abroad, and can complete the program in three years if they intend to graduate early.  

First Year


Begin in wonder...

Approach and explore a topic with an awareness of the strengths and limitations of diverse intellectual perspectives.


Fall Semester

CORE-106, Honors section of Complex Problems Seminar (3 credits) 

HNRS-150, AU Honors Experiential Learning (1 credit)

WRTG-100, Honors Section of College Writing --OR-- WRTG-106, College Writing, Intensive (3 credits)


Spring Semester

HNRS-151, AU Honors Inquiry Experience (1 credit)

Faculty-led projects intended to help students engage in the process of knowledge-creation and knowledge presentation.


Second Year


Journey in curiosity...

Develop and execute a rigorous scholarly plan for generating knowledge, in dialogue with a variety of traditions of inquiry.

Fall Semester

HNRS-395, Theories of Inquiry 
A broad conceptual exploration of different ways of producing and presenting knowledge across fields and disciplines; emphasis is on developing an appreciation of the strengths and limitations of different approaches, and on the formation of research questions in different traditions (3 credits). 

Spring Semester

HNRS-398, Honors Challenge Course
Building on skills learned in ToI, students form groups, choose an AU faculty mentor, and tackle a research question of their own design. Students share their research with a larger audience during the Challenge Course Showcase (3 credits). 

Learn More About HNRS-398

Third and Fourth Year


Dare to Know...

Students participate in increasingly independent inquiry experiences and contribute to knowledge, creative expression, and meaningful change. 


Honors Colloquium
Honors students take 2 Honors Colloquium courses. 3 credits must be either HNRS-400 Advanced Honors Colloquium OR another upper-division Honors offering elsewhere on campus.
3 credits can be another of the above OR an Honors supplement affixed to an upper-division course on campus or abroad. These courses are most often taken junior and/or senior year (6 credits). 


Honors Capstone

Create a capstone in your major or through Honors. Examples: traditional scholarly thesis, creative work, case study, business plan, media project, etc. 

Learn More About HNRS-498

Fall 2022 CORE-106

An Honors section of the Complex Problems Seminar, taken the fall semester of the first year (3 credits). Must be simultaneously registered with the corresponding section of HNRS-150, AU Honors Experiential Learning course(1 credit).

Prof. Jeff Middents

This seminar examines questions of contemporary world cinema from multiple perspectives by working back and forth between concepts of examining single, individual texts and broader, globally relevant contexts. As part of that project, each student studies in detail a single international film of their choice made between 2002 and 2017. In addition to traditional writing and research projects, all students craft a 5- to 7-minute short film that visually presents their argument concerning their film. No previous editing experience required.

Prof. Joanne Allen

When a New York resident sued the Metropolitan Museum in 2015 for displaying allegedly ‘racist’ paintings of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus, it was simply the latest iteration of an enduring philosophical debate. What does God look like? Is the divine representable? Is it morally dangerous to visualize divinity? With such high potential for error or offense, why even bother? Utilizing DC’s rich art museums and centers of contemporary religious practice, ‘Depicting the Divine’ explores the controversies and orthodoxies surrounding godly representations across geographies, temporalities, and cultures. We will attend to issues such as politics, race, and gender through case studies from across the geohistorical spectrum. For example, why did fifteenth-century Persian leaders sanction manuscripts depicting an extravagantly dressed, haloed Mohammed? What can the reactions to a modern sculpture of a female crucified figure tell us about associations between godliness and the male physique? How can a Russian abstract artist claim that a single black square represents ‘the face of God’? Drawing on a wide range of sources – from analysis of ancient scriptural texts to engagement with DC community leaders – students will investigate arguments for and against representation of the divine, and analyze the visual strategies used by artists constrained by dogmatic limitations. In a globalized society which regularly witnesses terrorist destruction of religious images, depicting the divine is a complex and ancient problem still relevant today.

Prof. Keith Leonard

When 1960s civil rights activists chanted “black is beautiful,” they were placing the beauty of black people and black culture at the center of their pursuit of justice.  Why would they do such a thing?  In this course we will try to answer this question by wondering aloud about the social force of artistic beauty.  Many classic theorists framed aesthetic experience as happily, affirmatively separate from petty social concerns, and that might be your wise intuition too.  Yet many a dictator has banished dissident writers.  Moreover, the fact that a disproportionate majority of beauty queens, literary prize winners, and esteemed artists in the US are of European descent suggests that our aesthetic values are very much informed by our social ones. By comparing the diverse perspectives of theorists like Aristotle, African Americans artist and intellectuals, and several contemporary scholars, and by attending several literary and cultural events at AU or in DC, we will explore this relationship between aesthetic values and social values so that we can understand, for example, the social significance of Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer prize or the power of Beyonce’s sashay.  We will do so because, as those 1960s activists recognized, aesthetic judgment not only makes and breaks careers, it can affect how entire communities are treated, from homelessness to gentrification. Taking up a problem urgent even in Aristotle’s time, we will try to capture with precision how beautiful things elicit emotions, what kinds of emotions are produced, and how those experiences move people, maybe even to just social action.  

Prof. David Pike

This course studies two complex problems, migration and contemporary cities, in the context of Washington, DC and the greater DC area, often referred to as the DMV (District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia). The course uses the DMV area as a laboratory to focus on the intersectionality of these complex problems, to grasp the simultaneously local and transnational composition of each problem, to learn different humanities and social sciences approaches to these problems, and to formulate research projects within a local community. It begins with an introduction to Washington DC; questions about race, gentrification, and community in the DMV; key issues in migration studies and in the study of cities; and basic field and library research skills. The course then features units devoted to drivers of migration and migrant experiences in the DC area. During the final third of the course, the course focuses on student projects and videos building on their research.

Fall 2022 HNRS-395

Theories of Inquiry helps students grapple with the difficulties of identifying a strong question to inaugurate a process of inquiry, how to refine the question in dialogue with different research traditions, and then how to identify and locate the right material and methods for answering the question. 

Tuesdays and Fridays 2:30-3:45 PM

Learn more about Professor Adcock

Tuesdays 5:30-8:00 PM

Learn more about Professor Comstock

Mondays and Thursdays 9:45-11:00 AM

Learn more about Professor Dietz

Tuesdays and Fridays 12:55-2:10 PM

Learn more about Professor Salois

Wednesdays 2:30-5:20 PM

Learn more about Professor Campbell

Mondays 2:30-5:20 PM

Learn more about Professor Morosini

Fall 2022 HNRS-400

The Honors Colloqiua allow both students and professors to engage with interesting topics they may not get to explore in their other courses. 

W. Joseph Campbell

This course examines the problem and implications of polling inaccuracy in U.S. national elections. The course is pegged to the upcoming midterm elections and taps scholarship of survey research, political science, media studies, and social history in pursuing a discussion-based inquiry.