Proximity Matters

Why D.C. is the place to be

Situated in the epicenter of the field of public affairs, American University has deep roots throughout Washington, D.C. The School of Public Affairs is at the heart of it all, located just four miles from the White House and easily accessible to all parts of the city. Since 1934, we have offered opportunities for our students to dive deeply into the policy and politics of official Washington, side-by-side with world-class practitioners, theorists, and thought leaders.

Our programs are designed for scholars who seek to understand how justice, law, criminology, government, and public administration and policy interact with democratic life and participation in an open society--a theme consistent with the core public service mission of American University. SPA students come here for the academics and for the chance to experience their field of study firsthand, in the midst of our nation's political arena. These experiences help shape and drive their passion for public service.

With Washington as your classroom, the multitude of cultural and educational offerings guarantee that you'll be exposed to and inspired by new ideas and new people each day, making your graduate school experience even richer and more profound.

Student Life, Your Way

At SPA and throughout American University, there are many chances for engagement. Most SPA students will tell you that they're drawn to the school's unusually close-knit and active community. This is a place where you can pursue your many interests, while making connections that will serve you for the rest of your life. You can serve in leadership positions, participate in policy-making and advocacy projects, and get involved in the array of student organizations that cater to virtually every interest. If you can't find exactly what you want, you can create it yourself. SPA students are known for organizing, initiating, and leading their own special interest groups.

Student life also extends far beyond the AU campus. Washington, D.C. serves as an incubator for incredible personal and professional growth. You'll have access to a long list of career-related opportunities and the robust network of alumni living and working in the area. You can take full advantage of the other resources Washington has to offer--world-class museums, performing arts, festivals, sports, and restaurants.

SPA students are particularly engaged in:

  • SPA Graduate Council
    The SPA Graduate Council provides opportunities to serve, network, and develop both academically and professionally through faculty talks, policy discussions, community service opportunities, and a Spring Giving Gala. They also sponsor a robust student mentoring program and support the publication of SPA's graduate journal, The Public Purpose. The council advocates for the concerns and needs of the student body.
  • The Public Purpose (SPA Graduate Journal)
    The Public Purpose is an annual peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal presenting the work of SPA graduate students. Founded in 2003, The Public Purpose is supported by the SPA Graduate Council, with involvement and guidance of SPA faculty from the Departments of Government; Justice, Law & Criminology; and Public Administration and Policy.
  • Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society
    Pi Alpha Alpha (PAA) is a national honor society that recognizes and promotes excellence in the field of public affairs and administration. Graduate students who have demonstrated significant academic achievement are eligible to become members of PAA.

Choose the School of Public Affairs for the chance to study in the heart of our nation's capital and to take advantage of the access and opportunities unique to this region.

  • From Capitol Hill to Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C. is a vibrant, diverse city. There are more than two dozen different neighborhoods here, each with its own unique sense of community.
  • With 91 stations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, Metro offers access to much of the region. You can easily commute to class using public transportation. American University offers free shuttle service that runs regularly between a nearby Metro stop and campus. Other options for getting around the city include MetroBus and Capital Bikeshare.
  • There are more than 175 foreign embassies, residences, chanceries, and diplomatic missions within the city, bringing the world right to AU's doorstep.
  • Washington, D.C. is home to a long list of world-class cultural institutions. The Library of Congress, dozens of museums and galleries (including 17 that are part of the Smithsonian), and the Kennedy Center are just some of the institutions that enrich the cultural, artistic, and academic life of our city.
  • As the nation's capital and the seat of federal government, Washington, D.C. is a multicultural hub, attracting people from across the country and around the world. At least 168 different languages are spoken at homes in the metro area.
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Activity Guides
Getting Around

Metrorail (Red Line) & AU Shuttle Bus

From the Tenleytown/AU Metrorail red line east exit (escalator or elevator), simply walk straight ahead 100 feet to the bus stops at the corner of Albemarle and 40th Streets. Both shuttle bus routes - Main Campus and Law School - lead to the main campus and Katzen Arts Center.

Metrobus Routes

N3, N4, N6, N8 pass AU on Massachusetts Avenue
M4 and N2 pass AU on Nebraska Avenue at Ward Circle

Washington Metro
AU Shuttle Bus

Still Have Questions?

Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions (OGA) at 202-885-6230 or We're here to help!

Proximity Matters

There are more than 175 foreign embassies, residences, chanceries, and diplomatic missions within the city, bringing the world right to AU’s doorstep.

Professional Development Series

SPA provides workshops to help our graduate students prepare for their careers.

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Alumni Milestones

Alumni Milestones

View some of our professional milestones our SPA alumni have achieved during their careers.

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