What is Explore DC?

EDC service project

Explore DC (EDC) is a two-day program for incoming first-year and transfer students at American University. It is part of AU All American Welcome, sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement and Service. Explore DC gives new students a chance to acclimate to their new home through logistical issues like transportation and food, and to learn about how the city works by exploring the burning issues faced by community members, and to be exposed to some of the cultural and historical resources that exist.

Students will engage in one day of service and one day of immersive learning through visiting various sites in the city. Students can choose from five issue areas, depending on their interests, for the day of service.

The 2019-2020 freshman class participated in Explore DC and partnered with over 80 community partners and completed almost 1,300 hours of service! There is no better way to start the school year than by making an impact in the community. Due to COVID-19, we unfortunately will not be running the Explore DC program Fall of 2020. Although we are saddened by this cancelation, CCES is planning for a great webinar/workshop introducing new students to DC, including the elemnts that EDC would typically include. 

Be on the lookout for more information coming soon, stay healthy!

2020 Social Justice Issue Areas

Nearly 20% (110,000) of Washington DC residents struggle with finding affordable housing. Contributing factors include gentrification, inflated housing costs, poverty, and disparities in income. AU Students will explore the complex aspects of this issue and how communities are responding while engaging with multiple District neighborhoods. Food is a fundamental staple in life. However, In DC access to healthy food is beyond the reach of some residents as a result of food deserts, areas with little or no access to grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods. AU students will learn about food justice by working with nonprofits, urban farming, and understanding how to increase access to healthy food.

Public health aims to protect the health of the population, prevent disease, and promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Community health issues can range from disease and illness like HIV/AIDS and asthma, to non-traditional health concerns like domestic violence. AU students will learn about health disparities and work with organizations making preventative and routine healthcare more accessible, regardless of ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status.

DC has one of the highest achievement gaps regarding K-12 education, depending on where students reside in the city. Local organizations work to lessen inequalities and prepare students to have a successful future. AU students will learn about the city’s education system, work with local advocacy groups, and engage with programs working to close the gap.

Washington, DC has made strides to lessen human impact on the environment through sustainable policies and community organizations. However, DC lags in addressing poor air quality and water pollution which disproportionately affect low-income communities in the District. AU Students will support environmental justice programs seeking to empower residents and begin to understand their own environmental footprints.

Washington D.C. is the home of iconic events such as the March on Washington, Million Man March, Capital Pride, and the Women’s Suffrage March. The city has also long been a destination for marginalized peoples looking to build a better life for themselves and their families. Students will learn how organizations are working to support newcomers and historically marginalized groups in DC, and will have a chance to engage with advocates and activists working on diverse topics in community organizing at the local and national level. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to explore neighborhoods that have been transformed and enriched by immigrant and minority communities in Washington.




Explore DC is a two day program for incoming first year students at American University. This year the program celebrated it 29th year of service and dedication to the D.C. community. Please directly contact Explore DC Coordinators at ejfinger@american.edu or at 202.885.7378 with any questions!