American University’s Honors Program is a highly selective option for students prepared to engage in scholarly and creative work of an advanced nature as part of their experience at AU. The program encourages intellectual distinction and fosters academic excellence through selected courses and a senior Capstone project, which gives students an opportunity to work closely with renowned faculty. Members of the Honors community can major in any discipline offered at the university and can enroll in their choice of numerous Honors courses every semester, including interdisciplinary Honors Colloquia courses. Students may choose to take part in the larger Honors community by living on an Honors floor in the residence halls and by participating in events on campus and in the nation’s capital, as well as abroad.
The mission of University Honors Program is to foster a life-long community of scholars by bringing together academically talented and highly motivated students to engage and innovate with outstanding scholar/teachers. Our program encourages critical and creative thinking, ethical and moral reasoning, personal and social responsibility, intellectual boldness and academic excellence. The mission is guided by the American University Statement of Common Purpose, which espouses a commitment to: interdisciplinary inquiry, international understanding, interactive teaching, research and creative endeavors and the practical application of knowledge.
The University Honors Program has developed over many years into what it is today. Prior to the creation of the University Honors Program, exceptional students at American University pursued Honors work within their majors. In addition, beginning in 1959, talented students in the College of Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to participate in an Honors Program that combined general Honors colloquia with independent study in a specialized field. As AU continued to grow, students, faculty and administrators recognized the need for a different type of program, one that had a special identity but was compatible with the needs of a wide variety of intellectual disciplines and with the character of the university as a whole.
The University Senate approved legislation for a campus-wide Honors Program in the fall of 1977. For the first time, talented students from every department and college in the University had the opportunity to interact and share ideas. The program's first students took such Honors seminars as "Personality and Politics," "The Astronomical Perspective," and "Philosophy, Science, and Religion."
The University Honors Program continued to grow and expand, each semester offering creative and challenging courses taught by outstanding faculty. An Honors community sprang into existence with the establishment of Honors floors in the residence halls and the development of social, cultural and educational programming for Honors students. The program attracted motivated and dedicated students, providing a visible manifestation of the university's commitment to excellence.
In response to the program's growth as well as to changes in the university's General Education Program, the Honors Program implemented a thorough restructuring that went into effect in the fall of 1989. In addition to Honors Colloquia, the program now entails special Honors sections of courses taken at every level of a student's academic career, from General Education courses through courses taken in all of the various majors the University has to offer and the completion of a senior Capstone project.
In 2009, the University Honors Program celebrated 50 years of Honors at American University. The program currently serves over 1,000 students.