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Undergraduate Honors Program

SPA Honors Students

The SPA Honors Program is a credit-bearing academic program for outstanding SPA students that positions them for graduate or law school and other advanced work in their fields. Highly-selective, the Program offers students with exceptional academic records who are intellectually curious and especially interested in research, the opportunity to take rigorous, small courses in public affairs open only to SPA Honors Program members, and to conduct an original capstone research project mentored by two faculty members. In addition to the program’s course-work, students gain unique access to a supportive community of similarly high-achieving and academically-oriented peers as well as the chance to foster deep collaboration with faculty mentors. 

  • Complete nine SPA Honors credits consisting of a combination of SPA Honors colloquia (SPA 300), honors supplements to existing 3-credit courses at the 400 level or above, and approved independent study; and
  • Complete the Honors capstone course (SPA 480), in which you will research and write an original thesis.

In order to apply for the SPA Honors Program, students must: 

  • Be on track to complete at least 30 credits at AU by the end of the semester in which they are applying (exclusive of AP credit hours), or have completed at least 45 credit hours with a minimum of 15 credit hours completed at American University
  • Have at least four semesters remaining; and
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.67. 
  • Commit to successfully completing GOVT-310 Introduction to Political Research (3) or JLC-280 Introduction to Justice Research (3), by the end of their first semester in the SPA Honors Program.
  • What is the SPA Honors Program?
    The SPA Honors Program is a credit-bearing academic program for outstanding SPA students that positions them for graduate or law school and other advanced work in their fields. Highly-selective, the Program offers students with exceptional academic records who are intellectually curious and especially interested in research the opportunity to take rigorous, small courses in public affairs open only to SPA Honors Program members and to conduct an original capstone research project mentored by two faculty members. In addition to the program’s course-work, students gain unique access to a supportive community of similarly high-achieving and academically-oriented peers as well as the chance to foster deep collaboration with faculty mentors. 
  • Where can I find the SPA Honors Application?
    To apply to the American University Honors Program, you must complete the program application.
  • When do I apply for the SPA Honors Program?
    Students apply to the program any time starting from their second semester at AU.
  • What are the requirements for admission to the SPA Honors Program?
    Eligible students will be invited to apply as early as the second semester of their first year at AU, if they are on track to have thirty credits earned at AU by the end of that semester, although students may apply as late as second semester of sophomore year. To apply, a student must be on track to complete at least 30 credits at AU by the end of the semester in which they are applying (exclusive of AP credit hours), or have completed at least 45 credit hours with a minimum of 15 credit hours completed at American University; have at least four semesters remaining; and have a minimum 3.67 cumulative GPA.
  • Can transfer students apply?
    Qualified transfer students with a minimum of 15 credits completed at American University may apply.
  • When is the application deadline?
    October 15th, 2021 at 5PM EST.
  • How many students are accepted into the program each year?
    The SPA Honors Program admits up to 20 students per year.
  • What are the requirements for the SPA Honors Program?
    The following requirements are needed to graduate with Honors:
    • Earn minimum 3.67 cumulative GPA to apply
    • Complete one of the SPA research methods courses- GOVT 310 or JLC 280, within the first semester of enrollment in the program
    • Complete 9 SPA Honors credits, consisting of a combination of SPA Honors colloquia (SPA 300-3 credits), honors supplements to existing 3-credit courses at the 400 level or above, and approved independent study; and
    • Complete the Honors capstone course (SPA 480), in which you will research and write an original thesis.
  • What is the Spring 2022 SPA Honors Colloquium?
    The Spring 2022 SPA Honors Colloquium will be "People, Power and Punishment," taught by Professor Carter.
  • What if I want to pursue the combined Bachelor's/Master's program?
    SPA Honors students will receive priority consideration for admission and merit aid funding for SPA's Combined Bachelor's/Master's Programs.

Katherine Boyko.Katherine Boyko is a senior Honors and Politics, Policy, and Law Scholar (PPL) at American University with a double major in Economics with an International Specialization and an interdisciplinary major in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG). She is also a part of the SPA Leadership Program as well as Roosevelt and Rotaract clubs on campus. As a freshman, she started interning with the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, the leading independent organization in Washington and Kyiv promoting human rights, democratic, and economic reforms in Ukraine and supporting the mutual objectives of both countries and now works for the organization full-time. This fall, she is also interning at LanComm Business Solutions, a local business consulting firm seeking to aid small businesses and business owners from marginalized communities of D.C.. In the future, Katherine hopes to build a career in economic development and stay in the international, non-profit sector. In her role as the program assistant, she coordinates events, recruits eligible students for the program, and stays in close contact with current members and alumni.

Name: Denton Cohen (He/Him/His)
Current Job Position: Masters of Public Policy Student and Graduate Researcher at the USC Price School

Bio: 
Born in Columbia, SC and raised in Akron, OH, Denton attended American University from Fall, 2018 to Spring, 2021, studying political science and spanish. As an undergraduate, Denton was involved in several activities on campus, joining AU Chamber Singers, serving as assistant managing editor for Clocks and Clouds, and singing in an a capella group (On A Sensual Note). After taking research methods with Dr. Cowell-Meyers and environmental policy analysis with Dr. Fiorino--in addition to working as a correspondence & environmental policy intern with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)--Denton decided to pursue a Masters in Public Policy directly after graduation. Denton is currently a first-year student in the USC Price School, where he works as a graduate research assistant and studies environmental policy & justice.

SPA Honors Impact Statement:
The SPA Honors Program is not merely a career launching pad: it is a dynamic, intersectional academic program that embraces both liberal arts inquiry and cutting-edge research. I never thought I would enjoy a legal studies course; that is, until my first-ever practicum class revolutionized how I see the American legal system. Moreover, the honors program allowed me to pursue a long-standing academic interest of mine (environmental justice & Superfund) as an independent study--an experience that made me realize policy research was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As a member of the SPA Honors Program, you’ll be part of a highly motivated academic cohort, benefitting from the close mentorship of its affiliated faculty and a tight-knit support system of your fellow students. I would not be where I am today without Dr. Cowell-Meyers and my time as an honors student.

Name: Harrison Eichelberger (he/him/his)
Current Job Position: Economist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Harrison Eichelberger was born in New Hampshire but grew up in Lancaster, PA. He chose American University because he was interested in politics and public service, and it was one of the best decisions Harrison says he ever made. Double-majoring in political science and economics, he was able to learn the fundamentals of government, public policy, and economic theory. Harrison participated in two research programs: Community-Based Research Scholars (CBRS) and the School of Public Affairs Honors Program. He also had the honor of interning for a Democratic congressional campaign, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Treasury Department. Harrison’s experience at AU, along with the internships, helped him achieve a lifelong goal of government service this summer by becoming an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he now helps in calculating the inflation rate.

SPA Honors Impact Statement: The School of Public Affairs Honors Program was extremely valuable in furthering my career. I learned how to conduct formal public policy research and became familiar with a number of statistical programs such as STATA and R. I also learned to be more analytical and to work effectively on a team. I genuinely believe that SPA Honors was a big factor in getting me a job after college.


Name: Gaby Dell (she/her/hers)
Current Job Position: Director of Alumni Relations at Leading Women of Tomorrow

Gabrielle Dell graduated magna cum laude from the School of Public Affairs Honors Program in May of 2021, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science. Gaby was also the SPA Honors Program Assistant for the 2020-2021 academic year, navigating the position virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At American, Gaby was very active on campus and interned for members of Congress, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and for a congressional re-election campaign in the swing state of Iowa. Gaby also worked as a research assistant for SPA, conducting research into the Affordable Care Act’s impact on minority communities and child marriage laws amongst all 50 states.

Originally from Queens, New York, Gaby is passionate about criminal law and is planning to attend law school in the fall of 2022. Gaby is currently serving as the Director of Alumni Relations for Leading Women of Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage young women to pursue careers in public service. She credits the skills she has acquired from the SPA Honors Program for helping her attain this position.

SPA Honors Impact Statement: Being in the SPA Honors Program has truly allowed me to go above and beyond course requirements and has enabled me to showcase my talents and potential. In the spring of 2020, I took an honors supplemented course that is offered every four years known as the “Presidential Primaries”. Because I took the course on an honors level, I was able to conduct special interviews with presidential candidates like Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard. I would not have been able to do this without the program’s guidance and reputation.

More Information
For more information, contact SPA Honors Program spahonors@american.edu.

Program Director

Kimberly Cowell-Meyers Assoc Professor SPA - Government

Kimberly Cowell-Meyers is an Associate Professor of Government and affiliated faculty with the Women & Politics Institute at American University. Her work focuses on how representative democracy f

  kcowell@american.edu

  (202) 885-6223