You are here: American University Learning Communities Honors Honors Curriculum

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.
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). 


Learn More About Honors Colloquium

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

Spring 2024 HNRS-151

The Honors Inquiry Experience: a one-credit course representing faculty-led projects intended to help students engage in the process of knowledge creation and knowledge presentation. Students will work in groups on research projects of their own design, which they present at the Honors Research Conference in April. 

Prof. Patrick Jackson

If we live our lives not just as servants of our instincts and our interests, but also as deliberative beings striving to make meaningful sense of the world, it stands to reason that our stories and other narrative representations ought to be somehow important to our political and social lives, including our lives as globally-engaged reflective practitioners. This course takes a serious look at the pop-cultural artifacts that make up the broad ecology of our media-saturated lives, and asks what can be learned about politics broadly understood by examining such artifacts. We will examine a variety of ways that the analysis of pop-cultural artifacts can figure into both causal and interpretive explanations of outcomes, and also consider ways of communicating knowledge that fall outside of the traditional research paper.

Prof. Cathy Schaeff

Our sense of well-being, or quality of life (QoL), is an important component of our experience. Because QoL is highly subjective, individuals vary in the markers they use to anchor their sense of well-being and also in the degree to which they orient to their own experience versus social norms or expectations. This semester we will be exploring how individuals’ identity and life experience influence their QoL and the markers that they use to assess how they are doing. Students, alone or in groups, will develop their focal research question as they explore the research methods typically associated with this field of investigation and learn about the types of outcomes that are generated across different types of data. Students may use a particular methodology and explore the relationship between what we experience and how it feels to us or they can work with existing data and explore how our interpretation is influenced by the methodologies we utilize.

Prof. Nancy Snider

Decolonizing the Mind through the Arts will focus on the singular theme of transforming people through the arts using proven teaching and performance models. In this lab we will explore ways that art and artists serve the world by examining work that contributes to decolonizing ideologies in multiple forms through identification and the measuring of tangibly positive results.

Prof. Shawn Bates

This course offers students the opportunity to explore current issues in international peace, security, and human rights through guided research and immersive experiential learning. Students will engage with questions at the intersection of human and civil rights, governance, and international humanitarian law (the law of war). The course examines some of the most important institutional actors in these areas, and their intersections with civil society organizations (CSOs), fundamental concepts of governance, and evolving understandings of the appropriate use of power. We will look at all of these through lenses of some of the egregious violations of international norms in generations – the war in Ukraine, the massive flow of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, and the potential use of weapons of mass destruction. The experience will be significantly enhanced by participation in research travel to Belgium and The Netherlands to engage with international institutions including the European Commission, NATO, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court, as well as the civil society organizations seeking to keep these institutions accountable.

Prof. Mohamed Nimer

This course focuses on the interaction of religion and politics across the globe. Methodically evaluating case studies of movements in different religious systems, you will examine the very nature of religiously-inspired ideologies and the practice of politics across different contexts. Students will examine how different religious and political ideas and groups have shaped the struggles for identity, democracy, and peace. We will zero in on the meaning of the mixed impacts of religion as a source of harmony and peacemaking and a driver of division and conflict.  


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

Prof. Kylos Brannon

This 15-week course invites students to uncover and share the lesser-known narratives of Washington, D.C. through the medium of documentary filmmaking. Participants will delve into the rich history, culture, and untold stories of the nation’s capital, aiming to shed light on aspects often overlooked by mainstream media. Through a combination of research, practical filmmaking skills, and hands-on projects, students will produce thought-provoking and informative documentaries that highlight the hidden gems of Washington, D.C. Students will be encouraged to explore stories that connect with their majors or areas of studies. There is no expectation of experience on the part of the students. Best practices in filmmaking will be covered in the first 3rd of the course.

Prof. Scott Bass

There is an extensive volume of literature on the topic of leadership; in one year alone, there were over 2,000 books written on the topic. The study of leadership involves scholars from the disciplines of political science, sociology, psychology, communications, public administration, public policy, business, and history. This course focuses on a less examined aspect of leadership that is embedded in social and political movements. This includes the forms of leadership exhibited in protests, uprisings, civil disobedience, hunger strikes, self-mutilation, symbolic acts, occupations, conflicts, disruptions, marches, property damage, theft, riots, and different forms of activism designed for social change. Leadership takes place within all forms of human interaction, organizations, and collectives. The course draws upon examples of social or political confrontation and change.