AU Experience in the News


Reinventing the First-year College Experience

With an innovative program, American University is equipping first-year students with the tools to succeed.


First-Year Students Dive Deeper in New Class on Race

Get to the Core of AU’s New First-Year Experience

Equipping students for success in and out of class.



A Transformative First Year

AU took on the challenge of creating a first-year experience that empowers students to learn, grow, and become leaders in our changing world.


Conference Highlights

Presenters: Izzi Stern & Michelle Swiger

2024 Annual Conference - February 2024 - Seattle, WA

Presentation Title: Making Every Credit Count: Redefining the First-Year Experience

Description: This session will explore the challenges and opportunities staff face as they pilot a condensed 1-credit version of the first-year experience course, typically offered as a 1.5-credit course. This session delves into the strategies employed to streamline a 14-class course into a 10-class course, highlighting the importance of adaptability and considerations that went into refining the standardized curriculum a tight timeframe to make changes. Through this session, participants will discover how universities can effectively balance efficiency with quality in reshaping the first-year experience for incoming students.

Presenters: Jimmy Ellis, Amanda Getz, Rachel Wu-Pong, & Izzi Stern

January 2024 - Washington, DC

Presentation Title: Empowering First-Year Students—Holistic Support and Horizontal Leadership at American University/strong>

Description: American University's first-year experience prioritizes comprehensive support for incoming students, emphasizing holistic advising and evidence-informed pedagogy to create an inclusive learning environment. Instructor/advisors play a pivotal role, addressing academic, emotional, and social challenges, guiding students through a successful transition into college life. The evidence-informed curriculum focuses on empathy-based educational environments, celebrating each student's unique background. The First Year Advising office and the American University Experience team embrace a collaborative model with horizontal leadership, involving various stakeholders in decision-making. This innovative approach flattens traditional hierarchies, fostering open communication, creativity, and a sense of ownership among team members. The panel aims to discuss this first-year experience model and highlight the benefits of horizontal leadership in higher education, emphasizing the importance of diverse perspectives in crafting thoughtful solutions to challenges during the initial year of college.

Presenters: Rebecca Comfort, Izzi Stern, Alexis Glasgow, Esteban Garcia, Lexie Osbourne, Maddy deVega, & Anand Balan

January 2024 - American University - Virtual

Presentation Title: Belonging, Connection, and Technology from the Perspective of Student Leaders/strong>

Description: The student leader panel for this session will be composed of CP Program Leaders, AUx Peer Facilitators, and student participants in the Academic Integrity Code revision process, who will discuss their role in creating a sense of belonging and connection for students. Session attendees will have the opportunity to hear directly from student leaders about strategies for promoting belonging and connection in a moment where technology has the potential to impact critical thinking, academic community, and human interaction in AU classes.

Presenters: Izzi Stern & Michelle Swiger

2023 Annual Conference - February 2023 - Los Angeles, CA

Presentation Title: Towards an Anti-Oppressive Structure: Successes & Challenges with Structural Change

Description: The American University Experience (AUx) Program has evolved its curriculum development process to align with institutional, student, and instructor needs as the program has expanded. The AUx Program has tried various models while still maintaining the academic standards of a course in the core curriculum. As a program, AUx has always adapted models and curricula based on feedback and has strived to be anti-oppressive in practices. The purpose of this session is to support other institutions in developing a model of making curricular edits to large-scale programs while keeping the integrity of the curriculum and supporting faculty and staff.

Presenters: Rebecca Comfort, Izzi Stern & Michelle Swiger

2023 Annual Conference - February 2023 - Los Angeles, CA

Presentation Title: From Campus to City: First-year Experiential & Reflective Learning Opportunities

Description: In fall 2018, American University (AU) rolled out the American University Experience (AUx) Program courses and Complex Problems (CP) courses as requirements for all incoming first-year students. Now in their fifth year of implementation, AUx and CP have evolved to better meet the learning needs of students by providing holistic opportunities to participate in experiential learning on campus and within the greater Washington, DC at a low cost. AUx and CP courses approach experiential learning opportunities in different but complementary ways. During this session, we will engage participants by sharing our approaches and how we have implemented experiential learning.

Presenters: Izzi Stern, Rebecca Comfort, Stacia Tomlinson-Elliotte, Rebeka Rafi, Nick Caraballo, Josiah Carolina, Lauren Foster, & Olivia Traub

January 2023 - American University - Virtual

Presentation Title: Experiential Learning Through Student Leadership Opportunities in the Core

Description: The student leader panel for this session will be composed of Complex Problems (CP) Program Leaders and American University Experience (AUx) Peer Facilitators, who will discuss their experiences as student leaders and how they have engaged in experiential learning. From this session, faculty will be able to assess how they can facilitate experiential learning opportunities for teaching assistants or Core Leaders in their courses.

Presenters: Roshan Abraham, Caroline Figueiredo Hausmann, Sarah Jones, Juliana Martinez, and Izzi Stern

January 2022 - American University - Virtual

Presentation Title: Creating an Antiracist Class: Lessons Learned from Remaking the AUx2 Curriculum

Description: In the Summer of 2020, the AUx2 working group was formed and began to redesign the AUx2 curriculum on a foundation of antiracist practices and pedagogy. In this session, we will discuss how the working group identified and responded to common issues in the classroom, identify institutional roadblocks encountered, and consider lessons learned for our campus community.

Presenters: Izzi Stern & Sarah Jones

2021 Annual Conference - February 2021 - Virtual

Presentation Title: Building an Antiracist FYE Program: Successes & Challenges

Description: American University (AU) has created and implemented a first-year experience program that directly focuses on helping students transition to college and learn about race, power, privilege, and inequality. The American University Experience (AUx) Program has deepened its focus this year with an emphasis on incorporating antiracist pedagogy and practices into both the AUx1 and AUx2 courses. Confronting existing power structures and examining pedagogical practices were part of this transition, along with a reflection on how we work. We will engage in an honest conversation about the successes and challenges we have and continue to experience during this session.

Presenters: Izzi Stern, Richard Duncan, Alyssa Bursie, Nisaa Chaudhry, Dana Colarocco, Edmée Marie Faal, Eden Kinlock, & Therese Wilson

Building Community - January 2021 - American University - Virtual

Presentation Title: Students Lead the Way

Description: This session will explore how student leaders are a central component to Complex Problems (CP) seminars and American University Experience (AUx) courses. The panel for this session comprises CP Program Leaders and AUx Peer Facilitators, who will share their experiences as student leaders in these classes.

Presenters: Izzi Stern & Zshekinah Collier

2020 Annual Conference - February 2020 - Washington, DC

Presentation Title: On-Going Development: A Model for Investing in Student Leaders

Description: The AUx Peer Facilitator co-facilitation model was piloted in 2016-17, engaging four students in the fall and four in the spring. As of fall 2019, the AUx Program employed more than 60 peer facilitators as supportive and collaborative peer-educators and mentors in every section of AUx. This presentation explains the recruitment, retention, and ongoing professional development for peer facilitators over the course of their employment. Attendees will learn insights into the necessity for peer mentorship in the classroom, the rigorous selection process, and how student leaders add to the first-year student experience and to their own professional development.

Presenters: Izzi Stern, Priya Doshi, & Justin Bernstine

Thriving as Teachers and Scholars - January 2020 - American University

Presentation Title: AUx2, DIV, & Beyond: A Pipeline of Student Learning (AUx)

Description: This session will cover how AUx2 begins to set the stage for further learning in Diversity and Equity (DIV) courses and serves as a pipeline to other AU Core requirements and to university-wide programming initiatives. In particular, participants will be able to examine how DIV courses and departmental programming based on the foundation of the AUx2 curriculum can serve as next steps in students’ learning.

Presenters: Christina Colasanto and Izzi Stern

2019 Annual Conference - February 2019 - Las Vegas, NV

Presentation Title: Hitting the Jackpot: Building Partnerships Between Residence Life & FYE

Description: Participants will learn strategies developed to bridge the First-Year Residential Experience (FYRE) program with a first-year experience course, American University Experience (AUx). Presenters will discuss the collaboration between academic and student affairs, the institutional grant writing process, the creation and implementation of out-of-the-classroom residence hall programs that align with the learning objectives of the first-year course, and assessment methods used to evaluate the effort as well as student learning. Participants will engage in discussion and leave with tangible theories and practices that they can utilize when engaging campus partners to create similar efforts on their own campuses.

Presenters: Michelle M. Swiger and Jorge Maldonado

Our Students, Our Skills, Our Communities – December 2018 – Washington, DC

Presentation Title: Exploring Our Multifaceted Roles: The Impact of Defining Roles and Techniques for Navigating the Holistic Student Experience

Description: Across the university faculty and staff each have multiple roles that they are navigating as they work with students and other departments. This program will allow participants to explore in a workshop setting the value of having multiple roles, both formal and informal, and provide the opportunity to share best practices and techniques on how to operate in these roles when they overlap.

Presenters: Andrea Brenner and Izzi Stern

Foundations for Democracy - February 2018 - Philadelphia, PA

Presentation Title: Interactive Teaching Strategies for a First-Year Class Focused on Race & Identity

Description: Session facilitators will introduce American University's new mandatory general education course, the American University Experience II (AUx2), that creates a platform for small-group discussion and learning about race and social identity. The course was created by the university to respond to a demographically changing student body and to help entering students begin a discussion across social identity lines. AUx2 sections are taught by a faculty or staff instructor and supported by an upper-class student peer facilitator. Teaching strategies that address the common touchstones of cross-cultural exploration and civil debate related to bias, privilege, structural discrimination, and allyship in past and present society will be introduced. Participants will learn how students are taught about historical and sociological events and concepts focused on race, gender, sexual expression, class, religion, disability, and other identities. They will identify new techniques for teaching first-year students about diversity, bias, and privilege and assess how these teaching activities and discussions can be reimagined for an alternative general education instructional model or cohort experience.

Presenters: Andrea Brenner and Izzi Stern

2018 Annual Conference - February 2018 - San Antonio, TX

Presentation Title: AUx: Development and Impact of a Unique First-Year Experience Course

Description: In Fall 2018, every American University first-year student will complete a full-year general education course designed to ensure that diversity, inclusion, and free speech are part of the core curriculum. This presentation explains the class themes, assessment, and plan to roll out the course to nearly 1,800 students in 2018-2019. Attendees will learn insights into making the case for, and ultimately creating and implementing a course designed to help students transition to college, in doing so becoming part of a community of learners from a variety of backgrounds and with a range of experiences.

Presenters: Andrea Brenner and Jimmy Ellis

Can Higher Education Recapture the Elusive American Dream? - January 2018 - Washington, DC

Presentation Title: AUx: The Need, Development, and Impact of a Unique First-Year Experience Course

Description: In fall 2018, every American University (AU) first-year student will complete a full-year general education course designed to ensure that diversity, inclusion, free speech, and freedom of expression are part of the core curriculum of the university. This presentation shares the powerful call to action by AU students, staff, and faculty that led to the design of the course, reports assessment from a 2016 research project that randomly assigned students to the course, and shares the road map for how AU plans to roll out the course to nearly 1,800 students. Attendees will learn insights into what it takes to make the case for, and ultimately create and implement, a course designed to help students transition to college and become part of a community of learners whose members come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a range of experiences.

Presenters: Andrea Brenner, Randa Serhan, Briana Weadock, and Izzi Stern

Reimagining the Educator for the 21st Century - January 2018 - American University

Presentation Title: AUx2: A Pipeline of Student Learning for Your Courses and Campus Involvement

Description: This session will introduce AUx2, AU's new mandatory Core requirement that creates a platform for small-group discussion and introductory learning about inequality and social identity. The presentation will acquaint participants with the AUx2 curriculum and help them examine how their courses, workshops, and departmental programming can serve as next steps in students' learning.

Presenters: Andrea Brenner, Izzi Stern, Jimmy Ellis, & Briana Weadock

28th Annual Conference- January 13 - American University

Presentation Title: Students in Transition: The American University Experience (AUx)

Description: This panel presentation will update attendees on the first fall pilot of the American University Experience (AUx1), American University's new mandatory transition class for first year students. Excerpts from students' written reflections and experiential assignments from the first pilot will spark a discussion on the diverse experiences and skills that first year students are bringing to American University. Following a brief introduction to Student Development Theory, the foundational discipline of the course, the panel will discuss how AUx1 has provided a supportive atmosphere for first year students to grow and develop academically, socially and culturally. The scope of the AUx1 pilot, the course description, and the learning goals will be shared and examples of instructional videos, readings, the Blackboard course site, and class assignments will be shown. A preliminary pilot assessment will also be included.

Program Articles & Highlights

In Spring 2021, the AUx Program launched its first Black affinity sections for AUx2. AUx2 Black affinity sections provide an intentional space dedicated to celebrating and affirming Black student experiences. Black affinity sections promote solidarity among students by encouraging dialogue and community building that is mindful of the diverse social, cultural, and academic needs of students from all backgrounds and identities. In spring 2021, 3 of the 93 sections of AUx2 offered were designated with this purpose.

“Students felt more comfortable sharing their experiences with other Black students because we could all relate, we could all understand and we weren’t sharing necessarily to gain something or to invalidate one’s experience,” Washington said. “We were sharing because we know we’ve all been through something similar.” 

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The AUx2 working group is helping AU make strides in building and enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across our campus and serves as an example of the outstanding talent and progress our community offers to develop and improve inclusive excellence. For their efforts, members of the 2020-2021 AUx2 Working Group were awarded the Inclusive Excellence Award.

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Author asha bandele's book with a Black Lives Matter co-founder is part of the AUx2 curriculum. bandele spoke to AUx students about her book, the inaugural selection for the new Raise Your Voice Program within the AUx curriculum, on March 12.

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"Many first-year students have strong opinions about AUx, ranging from utter opposition to gratitude for the valuable lessons they believe the course offers. Whether they love it or hate it... the administration is highly interested in hearing student feedback in order to make the needed changes and improvements that students want to see."

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Waters and other key officials charged with developing the AUx curriculum said feedback is extremely important when it comes to tweaking the course for next year’s incoming class. A group of administrators and faculty has been formed to look at what can be changed, Waters said.

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The one-year progress report lists accomplishments of AU's new Inclusive Excellence plan.

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As part of the update on how AU is beginning to move forward toward achieving inclusive excellence goals, Priya Doshi, Professorial Lecturer in the School of Communication and AUx2 Instructor, along with Nickolaus Mack, AUx2 Peer Facilitator, spoke about their experience co-facilitating AUx2 in spring 2018.

read the update

The new curriculum and first year experience class are making their official debut in fall 2018.

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Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner, Director of the American University Experience (AUx) Program, was awarded the Cutting Edge Curriculum Award for her work in designing and implementing the AUx curriculum.

As was noted in the award letter, “The American University Experience Program exemplifies how faculty can craft a program that not only shapes the intellectual life of their students but can also create a foundation for continued success throughout their college career.”

When the new academic year begins, American University Experience courses will become mandatory for all first year students. Get a window into the AUx2 pilot courses with facilitators Andrea Malamisura and Brazil McCray.

We're coming to college so that we can be professionals in a certain major. But when you step out of college, I think it's important to be able to have conversations with people who don't necessarily look like you. At least from my perspective, that's why this course is so great.

-Brazil McCray


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During the recent RiSE town hall discussions, Jessica Waters, Dean of Undergraduate Education & Vice Provost for Academic Student Services, talked about how AUx is impacting students' experiences in and out of the classroom. Dean Waters shared that "the initial results from our AUx pilots have been pretty astounding."

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The AUx Program was named a Green Office by the Office of Sustainability after completing the Bronze Checklist. The AUx Program is committed to contributing directly to achieving the university's sustainability goals by promoting the adoption of sustainable practices.

Alexis Arnold, News Editor at The Blackprint, interviewed Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner, Director of the American University Experience (AUx) Program to learn more about AUx1 and AUx2.

read the full article

NBC4 Washington reports on the new Inclusive Excellence Plan.WATCH THE VIDEO

WAMU 88.5 report on AU's Plan for Inclusive Excellence.


Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner, Director of the American University Experience (AUx) Program, was featured in an article written by Lydia Calitri and Maria Carrasco of The Eagle. The article discusses AU's Plan for Inclusive Excellence, which was announced by President Sylvia M. Burwell.

Read The Eagle's Article

President Sylvia M. Burwell announced American University's Plan for Inclusive Excellence and discussed the opportunities and challenges the university faces with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The 25-page document details how the university will tackle issues surrounding diversity and inclusion, including implementation of the AU Experience (AUx) courses for all incoming first-year students.

Read the plan

Provost Scott A. Bass and Jessica L. Waters, Dean of Undergraduate Education & Vice Provost for Academic Student Services, released a memo on October 4, 2017 that provided updates about the rollout of the American University Experience (AUx) and Complex Problems programs, changes in first-year academic advising, and the creation of the Center for the Undergraduate Experience.

Read the full memo

"Vignola's game is called Code Switch, relating to the practice of adapting speaking styles to specific racial, cultural, or ethnic groups. As part of the game, you might control a character who is purple, or you may be able to change a character's color from purple to blue. The surrounding environment will react differently to a game character depending on his or her color at a particular moment."

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Yesenia Jones highlights AU's new General Education requirement and the AUx1 and AUx2 curriculum.

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"For an introductory class for first-year students, it looks quite ambitious. It touches on everything from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to immigration to Native American rights. Yet it's not meant to stand as the be-all, end-all class on the matter. If anything, this course will be a gateway for further study."

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American University's Center for Teaching Research and Learning (CTRL) presented Professors Andrea Malkin Brenner and Angie Chuang the Ann S. Ferren Curriculum Design Award at the Ann Ferren Conference on Teaching, Research and Learning held on January 13, 2017 for their work on the American University Experience I and II (AUx1 and AUx2).

The Ann S. Ferren Curriculum Design Award recognizes the collaborative work of two or more faculty who creatively enable students to integrate their learning over the course of their undergraduate experience. Such innovative facilitation could be manifested in a variety of ways, such as deeper development of the learning outcomes of general education through the intentional design of an undergraduate major, problem-based course sequences calling for the application of inquiry methods from several disciplines, meaningful blending of experiential learning with classroom activity to promote intellectual and personal development, or designing capstone experiences through which students demonstrate synthesis of their undergraduate learning.

Students and faculty discuss ideas for the new general education curriculum that will be piloted in fall 2016.

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