The Washington Semester Program provides a platform for ambitious and diverse learners to explore headline topics from a distinctly DC perspective. These courses are available in an online format for the spring semester; if University and DC Health Department regulations allow, we will add in-person/hybrid instruction to the course delivery.
During the semester you can expect to meet with engaging guest speakers. These experts are the leaders in their field, those impacting students’ lives today. Additionally, you may choose to enroll in an American University elective or online courses from your home academic institution during your WSP semester.
Supplementing the professional internship experience, you will participate in an internship class. This course focuses on the key skills you need to successfully land an internship and become a successful employee in today's workplace. You will use these same skills to secure your first job out of college.
Led by an experienced American University instructor, this course enables you to have a successful experience at your internship, as it provides a forum for exploring common challenges and opportunities in the workplace, including goal setting, job responsibilities, communication with co-workers, and diversity in the workplace. View course syllabus.
In order to curate your Washington Semester, we have designed these interdisciplinary seminars to provide broad opportunities for students pursuing diverse academic fields, including but not limited to: US and Global Politics, Development, Justice, Communications, and Journalism.
You may select from the following interdisciplinary seminars:
Political Transitions and Policy Implications American Politics, Justice & Law Concentrations
Every two and four years, our nation experiences the departure of mayors, governors, members of Congress, presidential appointees, and many other officials at all levels of government. How are these transitions handled operationally and politically? How have these transitions impacted politics and policy throughout U.S. history? This course will examine U.S. politics, policies, and institutions through the lens of governmental transitions utilizing lectures, simulations, and guest speakers.
Managing the Pandemic in Globalized SocietiesForeign Policy, Global Economics & Business, Public Health Concentrations
Not since the 1918 Flu Pandemic have the fields of international relations, public health, and global business and economics come into such a degree of overlap and interdependency. How did the political and diplomatic actions of China, the U.S., and other world powers influence the spread of COVID-19 across the globe? How has the public understanding of medical science impacted trade and the global economy? How will the innovation of science and industry prepare us to recover from markets and industries thrust into steep depression? This course will explore the complex consequences and intersections brought about by a global pandemic through lectures, guest speakers from the various fields, and critical analysis.
National Conversations in Times of CrisisJournalism & New Media Concentration
The modes of conversation from the individual level to the societal level have undergone swift evolution due to declining print media, the growth of internet forums and social media, and the increasing polarization on how we should live and govern our society. All of these points have now crashed into the upset of daily life due to pandemic and the poignant fight against racial injustice. This course will explore how journalism, public relations, the public health community, and diplomacy are tackling these realities from their various professional lenses. The course will include lectures and guest speakers from these different fields offering insights on the changing communication landscape in 2021 and beyond.
Criminal Legal System: Roots of Mass Incarceration and Racial DisparityJustice & Law Concentration
This course will explore the roots of mass incarceration and racial disparity in the Criminal Legal System. The course will critically analyze policing that precedes incarceration, and recent calls for defunding the police. Students will learn the intersections of public law and how it impacts the way society is policed and has led to a massive increase of those incarcerated particularly of underrepresented racial and social identities. Students will discover the foundations of rioting historically and recently that challenge the underpinnings of how our society has its laws enforced.
There are so many AU electives that you can choose from! Here's a sampling of electives you can take:
AMST-340-001 Community Activism & Regional Studies:
Latinx Community of DC Metro Area
Topics vary by section. Explores the contemporary and historical development of Washington D.C. and the Chesapeake region; or invites students to interact with communities and the environment in the area.
COMM-439 Political Communication
Examines the role of communication in politics and advocacy and applies public communication principles to advocacy and political campaigns. Includes the role of media relations in politics, the impact of television on political discourse, political message development, political advertising, ethics in political persuasion, and the impact of political communication on our democratic institutions, as well as how to interpret public opinion, identify and reach constituencies, and develop political communication strategies.
COMM-443 Foreign Policy and the Press
The role of the American news media in the coverage of foreign policy issues. Philosophical issues include whether freedom of the press is adequately exercised in the foreign policy field and whether the national media sometimes serve as propagandists for the United States government. Students should be prepared to engage in adversarial debates over key issues.
ECON-317 Political Economy
Survey of alternative theories of political economy (e.g., Marxian, Feminist, and Institutionalist) with applications to current economic problems and institutions.
GOVT-320 The Presidency
The role of the presidency in the political system, including presidential power, personality, response to public opinion, interaction with the cabinet and bureaucracy, Congress, and political parties.
GOVT-322 American Political Parties
As they often are, American political parties are in an era of great changes and great challenges. This course introduces students to the big ideas of American political parties, such as the original conflicts between Hamilton and Jefferson and key nineteenth and twentieth century party debates. Students learn from original documents and traditional scholarship, along with fiction and non-fiction that includes William L. Riordan's Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, Ayn Rand's Anthem, Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries, and Hamilton: An American Musical. Students also study current questions and look ahead. AU Core Habits of Mind: Socio-Historical Inquiry.
GOVT-325 Minority Politics in the US
Topics vary by section. This course explains how various minority groups have shaped the American political system, and how American political structures have affected their involvement in the political process at the local, state, and national levels. The course looks at the impact that African Americans and Hispanics have had upon urban politics, the politics of Asian Americans, indigenous Americans and their quest for autonomy and for equal rights, and European ethnic and religious groups and their journey from isolation to assimilation. The students read textbooks written by members of the various minority groups discussed in the course, view movies and read court cases.
IBUS-340 Sustainability & Global Strategy
This course provides students with an advanced analysis of how and why corporations consider sustainability in their global strategy. First, the course analyses how social, economic, and environmental issues can have a major impact on business, and why firms must consider the so-called triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial) rather than just financial performance for long-term success. Second, how a sustainable approach to business may enable firms to better manage a wide variety of external risks is discussed. For sustainable strategies to be effective, however, they must be core to the firm's business. The strategies must be based on a company's core competencies so that the strategy is meaningful, targeted, and positively impacts firm performance and the social issues in question. Students apply what they have learned in a group project that is presented to the class.
Justice, Law, and Criminology
JLC-440 Intro to U.S. Cyber Policy
This course provides an introduction to the big questions of U.S. cyber policy, starting with defining cyber in the context of public policy with a focus on security implications and options for building resiliency. This course utilizes case studies and discussions of contemporary cyber topics including cyber attacks, network intrusion, disinformation, and questions related to lawful access to information. The course further focuses on identifying key stakeholders and the diverse policy disciplines where cyber policy is being crafted so as to help ascertain perspectives on the complex and unique challenges facing decision makers in this continuously advancing field.
MGMT-361 Global Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is a driving and dynamic force in developed, developing, and less developed counties around the world. This course explores the complex considerations in developing, starting, and growing an entrepreneurship enterprise in multiple contexts and cultures. The utilization of alternative entrepreneurship and micro ventures strategies are also explored. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing.
PUAD-300 Space Exploration Policy
This course examines how discoveries in the natural sciences merge with sociological values to elicit government support for space exploration. Students examine policies that fostered the first astronomical observatories, the development of rocketry, the first landings on the Moon, the reusable space shuttle, planetary exploration with robotic spacecraft, space observatories, the International Space Station, efforts to establish settlements in space, and space commercialization, as well as future possibilities. The course employs a sociological and cultural approach drawn from the history of technology to analyze how science, ideology and popular culture affect the creation of governmental policies. Students analyze historical documents proposing established space policies and work in teams to develop a proposal for a space exploration mission that would elicit government support.