Frequently Asked Questions

The program helps leadership students develop their academic interests and to prepare for a future career. Each student develops a SPA leadership portfolio; career services helps students prepare a professional resume and letter of introduction. Leadership students also get to know the American University community very well, including the staff at the Office of Student Involvement; the Office of Community Service; and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research. Leadership students also work closely with the SPA librarian. All leadership students complete a series of workshops at offices across campus, which is a great way to meet people and learn all that AU has to offer. In addition, leadership students have their own student club that organizes many program events during the course of the year.

The selection committee is interested in finding out how the program can benefit you! Be sure to communicate why you are applying; be sure to tell us about any type of leadership roles, community service, or political engagement you have participated in during your high school years. Past applicants have discussed many leadership and community roles they performed in high school, including activities such as: model United Nations; campaign and political work; local government or faith-based community work; sports; chess club; tutoring; and many other activities. Be sure to tell us why you are interested in learning more about leadership based on your past experiences. Please let us know how you think you will be able to contribute to the program, and how the program will benefit you.

Every year we welcome a new class of 42 students. We usually receive around 100 applications.

We work closely with each student to help them identify their interests, and then work to develop those interests in their studies and in an internship. Students also work with SPA Career Services to identify a career path. The program is very intentional about helping students discover career options.

There are no specific program costs outside of course textbooks. American University provides students with a free metro pass to get around DC. The program does not require a study abroad experience, but many of our students complete one. Foreign travel and other off campus expenses are the responsibility of each student.

Ordinarily yes. Please check with your academic advisor to make sure that everything fits your course schedule.

Yes. Our students are enrolled in a variety schools and in many majors at American University.

Yes, there are internship opportunities in many fields, based on the interests of each student. Some leadership students do go into political work, but not all of them. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Yes, the leadership projects in both the first and second year of the project may provide opportunities for students to engage the local community.

Leadership students go into many fields after graduation. Check out their leadership portfolios to see what they are doing in the program and after. 

Please apply in the spring before you begin your studies at American University.

Please be sure to include any type of leadership roles, community service, or political engagement you have participated in during your high school years. Past applicants have discussed many leadership and community roles they performed in high school, including activities such as model United Nations, campaign and political work, faith-based community work, sports, chess, and many other activities.

They are separate programs, but it is possible to complete the requirements of at least two of them simultaneously. Please check with your academic advisor to make sure that your schedule can manage the various requirements.

Leadership students complete group projects in their freshmen year-long course (SPA 361); they complete individual projects in their sophomore year-long course (SPA 362).

There are two parts to the leadership capstone course (SPA 460). The first part of the course examines the key theoretical concerns of the fields of leadership, bureaucracy, and public affairs. Weekly readings and class discussions involve leadership in all its complexity: in the use of power (why some actors, interests, ideas and values fare well in a given institutional milieu, while others fare less well) and regarding the problem of change (the conditions under which any given state of affairs proves durable or temporary, easily replicated or difficult). Intended to promote effective functioning leadership in professional settings, students lead the second part of the course with class presentations, featuring their professional leadership portfolios.

As I mentioned in an earlier question, the selection committee is interested in finding out how the program can benefit you! Be sure to communicate why you are applying; be sure to tell us about any type of leadership roles, community service, or political engagement you have participated in during your high school years. Past applicants have discussed many leadership and community roles they performed in high school, including activities such as model United Nations; campaign and political work; local government and faith-based community work; sports; chess club; tutoring; and many other activities. Be sure to tell us why you are interested in learning more about leadership based on your past experiences. Please let us know how you think you will be able to contribute to the program, and how the program will benefit you.

We do not need to review the initial application, only the program application.

No, there is nothing actually recommended. Just be sure to communicate why you are applying to the program and be sure to tell us about any type of leadership roles, community service, or political engagement you have participated in during your high school years.

No, they do not get special access. However, the program does help to prepare our students for internships.

Yes, past leadership students have done that. You can work with the program faculty to discuss how your leadership program coursework might support your other activities.

No. The SPA Leadership Program works with any major offered at American University.

Yes, each first-year student will meet with me in the fall semester to discuss this. Program faculty continue to provide support during your time at American University.