AU Core Curriculum

General Education in the 21st Century

AU Students Put Their Curiosity to Use.

The AU Core Curriculum, American University's inquiry-based liberal arts education, challenges students to put their curiosity to use inside and outside of the classroom. The AU Core fosters the agile thinking that prepares students to engage in a complex, constantly changing world. The AU Core begins with a first-year experience and foundational skills, highlights essential habits of mind, then integrates these skills and habits with the student's major, and culminates in a capstone. At each stage, the AU Core offers sustained attention to equity, diversity, and inclusion. The three components of the AU Core Curriculum include foundation courses, Habits of Mind courses, and integrative courses.

American University's New Curriculum

Our students will engage with complexity, value diversity, & understand change.

Over the last three years, our faculty have come together to design a core curriculum that highlights metacognition—that is, making students aware that learning is a recursive process that happens over time, equipping them to participate more deliberately in that process. Perhaps the most important thing a student learns in the AU Core is how to learn, whether that learning comes from books, from teachers, or from each other.


Required Coursework

The foundation courses of the AU Core, typically taken in the first year, build the foundation for academic success at American University.

  • AU Experience I (1.5 credit hours)
  • AU Experience II (1.5 credit hours)
  • Complex Problems Seminars (3 credit hours)
  • Quantitative Literacy I (3-4 credit hours)
  • Written Communication and Information Literacy I (6 credit hours)

The AU Core also includes five Habits of Mind requirements: courses that focus on asking and answering questions through a range of intellectual approaches. These courses may be taken at any time in the degree program.

  • Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry (3 credit hours)
  • Cultural Inquiry (3 credit hours)
  • Ethical Reasoning (3 credit hours)
  • Natural-Scientific Inquiry (4 credit hours)
  • Socio-Historical Inquiry (3 credit hours)

The integrative courses bring together the inquiry-based values of the AU Core with major-related work. These courses are typically taken in the major, although any appropriately designated course may satisfy the relevant integrative requirement. All students complete a capstone project that showcases their academic accomplishments at American University.

  • Diverse Experiences (3 credit hours)
  • Quantitative Literacy II (3 credit hours)
  • Written Communication and Information Literacy II (3 credit hours)
  • Capstone (3 credit hours)

Contact Us

If you have questions about AU Core, please reach out to our staff:

  • Brad Knight, Manager of AU Core and Assessment (202-885-3869)
  • Andrew Bowen, Program Coordinator of AU Core (202-885-2134)

Email AU Core

first year checklist

Implementation Timeline


  • Complex Problems, the first-year seminar course, is piloted with 42 Faculty Fellows and is expected to be rolled out to all first-year students in 2018. More than 75 additional full-time faculty have had course proposals accepted and will participate in faculty development workshops this year.
  • Habit of Mind proposals, for courses that will be offered beginning in 2018-2019, will be accepted until March 2, 2018. We will also host many opportunities for faculty to share their expertise, and build a community of shared interests in teaching and learning.
  • Campus conversations about learning outcomes and course requirements will continue for Writing-Intensive (W2) and Quantitative Reasoning (Q2) courses, and begin for the Diverse Experiences (DIV) courses.
  • New undergraduate degree-seeking students will be required to complete the AU Core Curriculum to graduate. In the first year, we expect students will take Complex Problems, AUx1 and AUx2, College Writing, and University Math. Some students may also take one Habit of Mind course.
  • Faculty will be supported through additional teaching and learning workshops, one-on-one consultations, and conversation groups. Special attention will be paid to the needs of faculty teaching Writing-Intensive (W2) and Quantitative Reasoning (Q2) courses.
  • Campus conversations about learning outcomes and course requirements will begin for the Capstone requirement, which is the culmination of students' academic journeys.
  • Undergraduates will explore and reflect as they continue their academic experience in the sophomore and junior years. We expect that students will register for Habit of Mind courses and the Integrative Courses (W2, Q2, and Diverse Experiences).
  • An initial set of Capstone courses will be offered to students completing their degrees in May 2020. These courses allow students to connect the work they've done in the Major and the Core with the world beyond college.
  • Faculty development that enhances instruction, student learning, and assessment will be an ongoing partnership between the AU Core and the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning (CTRL).

Quantitative-Intensive (Q2) Learning Outcomes

The AU Core Q2 Subcommittee has developed a draft of learning outcomes, proposal requirements, and course requirements for the Q2 courses. This draft has been discussed in two town halls, and we'd now like input from the campus community. Comment on the draft on the AU Core blog.

AU Core Blog

General Education Program

Undergraduate degree-seekers who entered American University prior to Fall 2018 complete the General Education Program, instead of the AU Core. Click "How it Works" to learn more.

How it Works