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, Director of AU Core (202-885-3869)

Email AU Core

first year checklist

Spring 2019 Call for Proposals

AU Core Curriculum faculty committees are now accepting proposals for AY19-20 in the following areas: Complex Problems, Habits of Mind, Writing and Information Literacy II (W2), and Quantitative Literacy II (Q2), and Diversity & Equity (DIV).

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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