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Learn to Lead

Established in 1990, the Leadership Program prepares students to lead in public service.
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The leadership program application is now open. The application and recommendation letter deadline are Monday, May 10, 2021 at 12 noon (EST). If you have any questions, please reach out to

Welcome to the Certificate Program in Advanced Leadership Studies at the School of Public Affairs at American University! This program was launched in 1990 in order to offer students the experience, skills, and knowledge to prepare them for leadership roles in public service. Following a competitive application process, students complete the 15-credit course of study that culminates in a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies.

The mission of the certificate program in advanced leadership studies at the American University School of Public Affairs is to empower students by providing the requisite leadership knowledge, skills and experiences needed to lead creative and generous lives in public affairs, with intelligence and compassion.

Our webpage details how the program takes students from the theory to the practice of leadership. Thank you for visiting.

Paul Christopher Manuel, Ph.D.
Director, School of Public Affairs Leadership Program & Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer
Program Overview

Welcome Class of 2024!

This year we proudly welcome 44 exemplary first-year students into the American University SPA Leadership Program. These students come to American University from 20 different states, as well as Canada and India. They each bring a unique skill set and perspective, from an extensive list of leadership positions including, but not limited to, model United Nations, Interact Clubs, Black affinity groups, baseball teams, track teams, tennis teams, student governments, environmental clubs, and Boy Scouts. These students outperformed in extracurricular, employment, and academic positions: they enrolled in AP/IB programs, were accepted into honors societies, and worked as food servers, lifeguards, tutors, camp counselors, babysitters, and much more. The SPA Leadership Program eagerly anticipates welcoming these new members to our community, and watching them grow into changemakers in a changing world.

Building Social Capital

Social Action team

All members of the Leadership Program complete two social action projects designed to build social capital. These projects help each student understand how individual leadership functions in society; 'social' refers to the larger community, or society, and 'action' refers to individual decision-making, or agency.
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Leadership students in audience

John F. Kennedy speaking at American University

Bringing Leadership Theory to Practice

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Quote from the speech that John F. Kennedy had planned to deliver in Dallas before his assassination on 22 November 1963.

Program Goals

Class of 2024 Numbers

44 Students Admitted

20 States, Canada, & India

170 total leadership positions

34 Students employed while in school

41 enrolled in AP/IB Programs